Cook Islands

Cane & Able Travel can organize holiday packages to the South Pacific that include flights, accommodation, transfers and tours. We have the local knowledge of the Cook Islands, understand what is possible for the disabled traveler and we have the most competitive prices as we have negotiated rates directly with the resorts. We are a licensed Australian travel agency and a member of the Travel Compensation Fund.

The main island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands is easy to get around on the swish local buses (it takes less than an hour to circumnavigate the whole island) and hire cars work well there, too. While a visit to town, restaurants and attractions is easy, the resorts provide most of the holiday experience.

Cook Islands Aitutaki from the airA recent guest was so impressed with the facilities provided by Sunset they sent this email:

“We were travelling with a friend in a wheelchair and as we have been disappointed at the facilities offered at other resorts around the world, we went to a lot of trouble checking the facilities at Sunset Resort.

The management emailed photographs of bathrooms, entranceways to suites, paths etc. We discussed which resort in the Cook Islands had the best facilities with the Cook Island tourist bureau at the National Fieldays in NZ. The suites we were provided with were superb and the facilities for our friend could not have been bettered. Every small detail, for ease of wheelchair use, had been well thought out. Staff were considerate and helpful whilst allowing our friend his independence. Thanks again, we will return”. (Judy Sherriff, New Zealand)

 

Here’s some Cook Islands info that may be handy in an alphabetical format.

ATMS

ANZ and Westpac have ATM’s in Avarua town and at the Airport.

AVARUA

Avarua is the main town on the island of Rarotonga (Raro). The name means ‘two harbours’ and it’s a delightful little place that can be explored on foot. It has the atmosphere of a colonial trading post and you will find everything you need or want here – banks, supermarket shopping, two museums, cafes, fish and chip shops, Internet access, pharmacy, police station (for scooter or car licence) and souvenirs from the Saturday markets, handicraft stores or pearl and gemstone outlets. It has the island’s only roundabout and some good restaurants and nightspots.

BEER

There is a wide variety of imported beers and those with a sense of adventure might want to sample the home brew. Cooks Lager is produced in a back room at the Bond Liquor Store in Avarua and the brewmaster will show you around if you arrive close to 2:00pm on a weekday other than Friday and ask nicely. It’s opposite Punanga Nui Markets.

BLACK PEARLS

The are pearls of many colours and they vary in quality and price. You will find them in the jewellery stores in Avarua Bergman & Sons, Moana Gems, at the markets or by asking a local who will undoubtedly have a friend or relative who can help you out. Cook Islands pearl prices are far less expensive than in French Polynesia.

CAPTAIN TAMA

Captain Tama’s Aquasportz Centre on Muri Beach rents out kayaks, windsurfers and snorkelling gear. It also has glass-bottom boat cruises around Muri Lagoon that include lunch.

CAR HIRE

There are Avis and Budget offices in Avarua and at the airport. There are also a few local firms that rent cars and scooters. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road and drivers need to get a Cook Islands driver’s licence from the police station ($10 on producing your own licence).

CHEMIST

The CITC Pharmacy in the CITC Shopping Centre (Avarua) is well-stocked and opens from 8:00am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday and from 8:00am to midday on Saturdays.

CHURCH

Church is an important part of Cook Island society and the hymn singing is wonderful. Visitors may attend church on Sundays (the locals dress up for church) but if you only want to sample the singing, stay outside because, if you go inside, you will be expected to stay for the whole service. The CICC in Avarua (1853) has its Sunday service at 10:00am. Women need to make sure you cover your shoulders and men to wear a shirt (can be short sleeved).

CLIMATE

The climate is similar to Hawaii. It’s tropical, with the heaviest rainfall and humidity through November to February. This is also the cyclone season. The locals call rain ‘liquid sunshine’ and it can bucket down for five minutes and then be sunny again. The maximum temperature is around 28°C. The water temperature is pleasant all year round. Click here for the Raro weather forecast.

CURRENCY

The currency in the Cooks is the New Zealand dollar. You may receive strange shaped coins occasionally (Cook Island currency) – these can only be used in The Cooks – once you board the plane they become souvenirs. You can buy a mint condition Cook Islands $3 note at the Philatelic Bureau for $7 as a souvenir. Isn’t that a nice little money earner? If you don’t need one looking crisp and new, just ask a teller at the ANZ or Westpac banks if they have any. These cost $3, so it’s a bargain.

DEPARTURE TAX

Remember to keep $30 in cash for your departure tax. You pay this at Westpac at the airport. There’s no departure tax on domestic flights.

DUTY FREE

The inbound duty is two litres of spirits or two litres of wine and 200 cigarettes (or equivalent).

Personal items (including sporting equipment are not dutiable). We’re told that outbound duty free cigarettes are the cheapest in the world.  Certainly cheaper than Australia after the last budget!

ELECTRICITY

You’ll find some three pronged plugs (same as in Australia and New Zealand), mainly on air-conditioners and power tools. Others are two-prong so, if you require power, invest in an adapter. Some resorts have 110V for electric shavers.

FRANGIPANI

Frangipanis are delightfully scented white flowers with yellow centres (and occasionally pink). There is a variety of frangipani in the Cook Islands and chances are you will receive a floral ei (neck garland). The name comes from the Marquis Frangipani of Rome, who invented a perfume for scenting gloves in the 16th century. So there you go…

GOLF

There is a nine hole golf courses on Raro. It’s pretty much weekend hacker type courses but it is fun and green fees and club hire costs are low ($15). Dodging radio towers can come into play (compulsory replay). The colonial style bar at The Rarotonga Golf Club is a pleasant spot for a cold beer (closed Sundays). Bookings are recommended for Saturdays. Phone 20 621.

HANDICRAFTS

For a range of handicrafts (grass skirts, baskets, hats, carvings, jewellery) head to the Punanga Nui Cultural Market near the harbour in Avarua. Saturday morning is the best time and the earlier you go, the bigger the range. There are some permanent stores there all week. Island Craft, next to Westpac, is worth a look and they also have a shop at the airport with a smaller range of goods. You’ll find a flea market at Punanga Nui on Friday nights with live entertainment and local food for $5 a plate.

HEAT

Just a reminder that The Cook Islands are in the tropics and while it never gets really ‘hot’ it can certainly feel it because of the humidity. Temps range pretty much year round between 23°C and 30°C and the water is always warm. When going on an outing or an activity like a round of golf, take a bottle of water and wear sun protection. A bit of talcum powder may come in handy for rash relief.

HORSE RIDING

Aroa Pony Trek (phone 21 415) operates two-hour pony rides to Papua Waterfall, returning along the beach weekdays at 10:00am and 3:00pm. Horses are limited so booking is recommended. They are located near the Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa.

IMODIUM

Many travellers to the tropics get mild tummy upsets. This may not be the fault of the tropics as much as a change of time zone and diet and the body doesn’t like it (who has a full cooked breakfast every day and that extra few drinks every night at home?) While there are natural remedies like lots of water, packing Imodium or similar to take with you may come in handy.

INSURANCE

Travel insurance is cheap – because most people don’t get to use it – but if you do, it could save thousands of dollars. Flights do get delayed, connections do get missed, people do get sick or have accidents and property does get stolen.

A good policy for Australians travelling to the South Pacific is SureSave Travel Insurance(even covers your pets boarding if you are delayed getting home!)

LANGUAGE

The Cook Islanders have their own Maori language and everyone speaks English. Two phrases visitors might find handy are ‘kia orana’ (may you live long) and ‘meitaki ma’ata’ (thank you very much).

MALARIA

Malaria tablets aren’t necessary for a Cook Islands holiday but insect repellent should be taken for comfort and because there have been occasional outbreaks of Dengue Fever (every five years or so). Don’t panic if you hear a buzz near your ear at night – the mossies that carry Dengue only bite during the day.

PASSPORTS

Your passport should have six months validity from your arrival date. If you lose you your passport go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Government Office Building behind the Post Office.

TAXIS

The buses are arguably more reliable than the taxi services and certainly cheaper. Ask the taxi driver for a rate before hopping in and clarify that it’s the total price and not per person.

TIME ZONE

Crossing the International Dateline can give some travellers a feeling of ‘Groundhog Day’ – leaving Australia on, say, a Thursday, arriving in the Cook Islands on a Thursday after midnight, going to bed in the wee hours and waking up with a whole Thursday ahead. Of course a Thursday can disappear in a couple of hours on the way home.

TIPPING

Tipping is not encouraged in the Cook Islands. Tip with a smile and ‘meitaki ma’ata’ (thank you). Polynesian custom says that if you give something for nothing, the person receiving will owe you – and that’s how a tip is perceived. Bargaining can also be taken as an insult.

UTO

An ‘uto’ is a baby coconut palm (the tree of life)and it is traditional for a bride and groom to plant one after the wedding, symbolising that the coconut, like the relationship, will only grow and strengthen. Woo-hoo!!!

VAT

There is a 12.5% Value added Tax on all goods and services. This is usually included in the quoted price.

WATER

The water may or may not be safe to drink depending on how sensitive your stomach is. The locals drink tap water with no upset tummies, but they are used to it.

If you are worried, bottled water is readily available. You may want to boil the jug in your room before retiring so you have cold boiled water in the morning. Whatever you choose, the important thing in the tropics is to drink plenty of it.

And just for the heck of it, here is a Cook Islands ‘Z’

ZIONA TAPU

This means “sacred zone” and you’ll find it inscribed on a church or two on Raro!