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The Ultimate Travelers Guide to the Cook Islands: Top 5 Things to Do and See In Rarotonga (2023)

Incredibly blue water in Rarotonga, Cook Island. Must visit Cook Islands in 2022, 2023, 2024.
Incredibly blue water in Rarotonga.

The Cook Islands are a backpacker's paradise! Located in the central Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 miles northeast of New Zealand, lays Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands. Rarotonga is originally volcanic, with an inactive volcano at its center.

Furthermore, the beautiful island of Rarotonga is encircled by a coral reef, which provides excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. There are also numerous white sand beaches on Rarotonga and plenty of hiking trails through its lush jungle interior.

In this article, we will discuss what we consider to be the top five things to do and see on the Cook Islands!

1 - Punanga Nui Market

A fruit stand in the Punanga Nui Market, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
A fruit stand in the Punanga Nui Market.

One of the best ways to experience the culture of the Cook Islands is by visiting the local markets. The beautiful Punanga Nui market is one of the Cook Islands' most famous markets. Every Saturday, vendors from all over the island come to sell their wares, including fresh produce, handmade goods, and traditional foods. The market is also great for enjoying live music and dance performances. Visitors can find everything they need to enjoy a day on the island at the Punanga Nui market.

A visit to the Punanga Nui Market also allows you the opportunity to talk to the locals and learn about their traditions while you enjoy authentic food!

2. Snorkel at Titikaveka Beach

Aerial view of the beach; a snorkeling paradise! The best beach in the world for snorkeling 2024, 2022, 2023.
Aerial view of the beach; a snorkeling paradise!

The beaches on Cook Island are some of the best in the world for snorkeling, thanks to the coral reef that encircles the island. For a unique snorkeling experience, we recommend going to Titikaveka Beach; the crystal clear water and the beach are lined with coral reefs, making it a snorkeler's paradise. Unlike many other snorkeling spots, Titikaveka Beach is relatively quiet and secluded so you can enjoy the peace and serenity of the underwater world. Also, there is an abundance of fish in the bay, including clownfish, parrotfish, eels, and triggerfish!

Note: Don't touch the corrals! Also, be on the lookout for Scorpion fish; although not aggressive, they carry potent venom in their sharp spine!

3 - The Needle Rarotonga

Elli using a rope to climb the steep rocks to reach the Needle in Rarotonga, Cook Island.
Elli using a rope to climb the steep rocks along the trail.

The Needle Rarotonga is one of the most popular hiking trails on the Cook Islands. The trek is pretty challenging, with steep sections and rocky terrain. However, the views from the top are more than worth the effort.

The best time to hike the Needle Rarotonga is in the early morning when the air is cooler and the light is better for photography. The hike takes approximately five hours, so ensure you have enough snacks and water for the entire route.

4 - Day Trip to Aitutaki

Aitutaki Island in Cook Island.
Aitutaki Island.

Aitutaki is a gem island located south of the capital island of Rarotonga. Although small (18 square kilometers of land), Aitutaki is well known for its stunning lagoon, which is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.

Aitutaki is a popular destination for snorkeling and diving, as the lagoon is home to a wide variety of marine life. Furthermore, the island is an excellent place for taking unique destinations photography, as the lagoon's turquoise waters and white sand beaches make for some stunning photos!

You can easily reach Aitutaki by booking a 45-minute flight from the island of Rarotonga.

Traveler Tip: Most people visit Aitutaki as a day trip since accommodations on the island are expensive. The cheapest lodging option is Gina's Garden Lodges, where you can find rooms starting at $60 per night.

5 - Watch the Sunset

The best sunset in the world is in Cook Islands. A must visit destination in 2022, 2023, 2024.
Sunset colors on Rarotonga Island.

There's something genuinely magical about sunsets on the Cook Islands. As the sun dips below the horizon, the sky is set ablaze with a stunning array of orange, red, and yellow. The colors reflect off the water, creating a truly breathtaking scene. Whether you're watching from the beach or from atop a hill, a sunset on the Cook Islands is an experience you'll never forget!


In summary, the Cook Islands is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. With its white sand beaches and clear blue waters, the Cook Islands are a true paradise!

Have you ever been to the Cook Islands? What were your favorite things to do in these paradise islands? Let us know in the comments below!


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