Cook Islands Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia


Situated at the very centre of Polynesia, the Cook Islands is an archipelago nation
comprised of 15 islands. It is spread across an area in the South Pacific, three times the size of Texas. Supremely beautiful, with pristine white sands
fringed by coconut palms, the Cook Islands possesses
a castaway island magic and yet is only a four hour flight from
New Zealand. According to legend, these tiny islands, dotted amongst the vast ocean, were discovered thousands of years ago by
the very finest Polynesian seafarers. Guided by the stars and using other sophisticated
navigation techniques, they landed their legendary double hulled
Vakas and set about creating paradise. When Missionaries arrived in the 19th century, they tried to ban the locals from what they
considered to be ungodly traditions of singing, dancing and drumming. Far from being weakened, the powerful beat of Polynesian culture, with its intimate connection to nature was
blended with a deep Christian faith. Today, the Cook Islands moves to a generous
and gentle rhythm. It is a rhythm you’ll feel as soon as you
touch down in Rarotonga, the largest island in the group. You could easily drive around this sparkling
island in half an hour if you hurry, but that’s the charm of the Cook Islands….. no one does. Instead, slowly get lost amongst the pure
white coral sand beaches considered by many to be the most beautiful
in the south pacific. The island is ringed by a reef, creating a series of lagoons many of which
are perfect for swimming, boating and snorkelling. Take a safari tour inland where mountain trails
criss-cross the volcanic centre and enjoy fresh tropical fruits like guava and jackfruit. Learn to open a coconut like the locals or enjoy a locally brewed beer at the
Matutu Brewery. There is a saying in the Cook Islands, ”Kiriti maro tai,” which means there’s no such thing as a stranger. Experience true Cook Islands hospitality at
a progressive dinner, where you’ll be welcomed with a new course
at three different island homes. Experience the magic of many different generations
living under one roof, be serenaded by ukuleles and guitars and try
Ika Mata, a local delicacy. Another place you’ll be welcomed like family
is in Church, where you’ll find almost the entire population
of the islands on Sunday mornings. Early missionaries taught English hymns to
the locals, who blended the words into their own style, creating a rhythm that sweeps up to the church
rafters. Just a 45 minute flight north of Rarotonga
is tiny Aitutaki, perhaps the most beautiful of all the islands. Legend has it that this island was settled
by a famous seafaring warrior name Ru. Visit O’out beach, the tranquil lagoon where
he is said to have stepped ashore. Discover more island history on a cruise, where the Aitutakian love of song, dance and storytelling takes centre stage. Snorkel in crystal clear waters amongst tropical
fish and untouched coral reefs and explore smaller, deserted islands and atolls. Like many other polynesian countries, the Cook Islands is known for delicate handicrafts that have been an integral part of the culture
for centuries. Specialist stores throughout the islands offer
fine jewellery made from local black pearls prized for their
quality and lustre. Or, visit a vibrant local market, such as the Aitutaki Markets to purchase beautiful
hand painted and screen printed silks and sarongs. A little further afield is Atiu, also known as Enuamanu which means “Island of Birds.” This volcanic island rewards adventurers with
beautiful secluded coves and white sand beaches. Hike through untouched tropical rainforests
and explore the Anatakitaki Caves as you try to spot the Kopeka a rare bird that navigates using echoes. Another unique offering of Atiu is the fragrant, locally grown coffee, which has been grown on Atiu since it was
introduced by early missionaries. Don’t leave this special island without
a visit to the Rimau Burial Cave. It is easy to imagine the ritual drum beats that helped lay to rest the spirits of the
fearsome Polynesian warriors who are believed to lie here. It has been almost 250 years since
Captain Cook became the first European to discover these islands and yet there is a gentle timelessness that
endures here. So, come and discover the generous rhythm and warm hospitality of the Cook Islands for
yourself.

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