Do you want a complete change of scene? A place to delight and amaze you with a mixture of enjoyable activities like a walk on the gleaming white beaches and jungle treks? Well, Sea Change Villas in the Cook Islands offers everything romantic couples could wish for. Their one or two-bedroom villas provide comfortable luxury in Rarotonga for all guests in a private setting. The villas are highly rated by previous guests and designed for couples only.
To whet your appetite, let’s discover 21 reasons to put the Cook Islands on your travel itinerary.
Intimate Island Feel
Rarotonga is the most significant island and its commercial heart. Despite this significance, it’s just 32km all around. While we don’t suggest trying to walk that distance, the friendly locals will doubtless recommend stopping for a beverage when you do venture out to walk or travel around to see more of the local sights.
Transport on the island is not difficult to find. The local bus routes run in each direction around the edge of the coastline making scheduled stops. There are many stops along the way to see different sights, which is very convenient. Here is a map to get you better oriented on the affordable bus routes.
Should you prefer renting your own vehicle during your stay on Rarotonga, then we would like to recommend Island Car & Bike Hire. They’ve been operating for years and rent both air-conditioned cars with power steering and convenient scooters. You can get a quote on the home page of their website. They also offer an airport pickup and drop off service too. Their rentals come with the necessary insurance, and no restrictions on the distance traveled.
Value for Money
The Cook Islands use the New Zealand dollar for currency. At the time of writing, it’s currently $1.04 New Zealand Dollar to a single Aussie Dollar. For New Zealanders, Aussies, and Americans on a world travel tour, the Cook Islands represent an affordable, luxurious destination.
There’s excellent dining, souvenir hunting, travel tours, and the opportunity to pick up some duty-free shopping while on the island before moving on. When getting more adventurous beyond Rarotonga, see some of the other islands within the group; they’re less touristy and subsequently offer lower prices to encourage more visitors.
When shopping, it’s worth bearing in mind that many products are imported from other countries. However, the home-produced fare uses local people and materials in its production and so offers better value. There’s no import duty on original Cook Island products too.
Lots of Local Markets to Explore
If you love to explore a market to see what the local people buy and soak up a bit of the culture, then you’ll enjoy the Punanga Nui Cultural Market especially. It’s open six days a week and has been running consistently since 1992.
While tourists are seen more often during the weekdays, on Saturday mornings the locals arrive in force. It’s a friendly place to walk around. Resplendent in colourful sights, music as a gentle background distraction and carts wheeled in to look over, you’ll happily lose hours here.
There’re locally-produced goods like organic fruit and honey, fresh vegetables and fish straight from the sea. There’s also Rarotonga-style coffee to keep you awake during your explorations. Plenty of handmade bags, quilts, pearls and necklaces fight for space with flowers and other products eager to find a buyer. With over 129 market stalls in all, you might need more than one visit to see everything.
Embracing Life on the Water
To truly enjoy Rarotonga and nearby Aitutaki, it’s necessary to take to the water. The Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruizes provides covered boats where you can sit on the edge and look over to the clear water in the Muri lagoon below. The boats have clear bottoms too, so if the edge scares you, you can just look down!
Shielded from the sun’s rays until it’s time to take a dip, the water is comfortable to swim in and rarely goes above your chest level making it suitable to wade through. You’ll likely catch a glimpse of the turtles that swim around and sometimes come up on the sandy shore. Scuba diving is possible on a trip but using a snorkel and mask ads to the enjoyment of a lagoon cruise. A barbeque lunch is put on as part of the trip consisting of exotic fruit and some fresh fish for the carnivores.
The company also has access to snorkel gear to rent, powerboats, kayaking, paddleboards, and other water sports. So, if you prefer to control where you go and what you do, then there’s that option too.
A South Pacific Cultural Experience
The culture of the Cook Islands heralds from Tahiti. The Polynesians were first to settle in the Cook Islands over 1,400 years ago. Going back to 1773, Captain Cook discovered the fifteen islands in the south Pacific. The Cook Islands became a protectorate of the British some 115 years later.
After the British, the Cook Islands were run by New Zealand until eventually finding their own independence. Nevertheless, throughout the changes in control of the chain of islands, the local people have firmly remained strongly associated with Tahiti. Subsequently, many of the customs that you’ll observe on Rarotonga and the other islands are more Polynesian in origin.
To learn more about the history of the islands, see the Cook Islands Library and Museum which began as an idea in the 1960s and eventually become a place for tourists to visit.
The overwhelming feeling when spending time on any of the Cook Islands is that the people are friendly to newcomers. Sitting down for a beer with some locals is often going to teach you more about how regular folk live there than studying a book or pamphlet given away by a tourist company.
Certainly, the familiar Maori culture is evident in the care that the local people take with their home and the islands. While it is still very much a tropical place in the south Pacific, they keep the islands clean, well-organised and easy to get around. There are plenty of bars to try out but the main brew that is carried by most is Cooks Lager, a pale beer that’s worth a try before you move onto something stronger, perhaps?
The Cook Islanders are fans of eating delicious meals. Plenty of meals involve a gathering of friends who all get together to share the latest gossip or just to relax. Food is available in small bites from local markets and stalls you’ll spot along the roads. Plenty of home cooked meals and freshly cut fruit is easy to find. Also, if you want a romantic night out, then try the Tamarind House. Call ahead on +682 26487 to check on making a reservation.
Getting There is Easy
Air New Zealand runs regular flights to Rarotonga from Sydney, Australia. The flight is only six hours and runs at least once a week. Since it was introduced in 2011, the number of tourists visiting the Cook Island chain has multiplied, helping local businesses flourish. Virgin Australia also flies from Auckland to Rarotonga as well.
On a Mission
Since the British missionaries brought the idea of Christianity to the Cook Islands in the early 1800s, the locals still mostly follow this religion with over half still being Christian. There are at least 24 Christian churches in the Cook Islands.
Services on a Sunday are busy and joyous with loud singing and everyone dressed to impress. Attendance on Sunday usually requires wearing white, so check with the church before attending to verify their requirements for parishioners and visitors.
The interest in fishing on the islands is keen. Deep-sea fishing along with local fishing near the shore remains as popular as ever. Just getting a few minutes out beyond the reef on a fishing boat trip leads to rich waters to try your luck for a good catch and an Instagram-worthy selfie.
The Sea Fari is the ones to charter with. Their game fish fishing includes going after Mahi-Mahi, Marlin and Sailfish. Their half-day charters include IGFA lines, enticing lures, quality Shimano reels, and a simple lunch to not overload your stomach while out on the water. Bring a hat and sun protector to keep your skin from being burned.
Day Trip to Mitiaro
While on the Cook Islands, you shouldn’t miss out on a day trip to see Mitiaro. It’s a leisurely place to visit with fewer than 200 residents and only around 10 cars that are still running. You can bet that you’ll be mostly walking unless at least one of the cars doubles as a taxi for visitors!
The island is a lovely place to see the less commercial side of the Cook Islands, which benefits from a natural tourism where residents are pleased to see tourists who venture out to see their island too.
Nature Lovers’ Paradise
Whether you’re a bird watcher, a bushwalker or you just love nature in general; it’s tough to not love Atiu Island. It also goes by another name which translates to the ‘Land of the Birds,’ which is very telling. There are a few indigenous bird species on the island, which has fewer than 650 inhabitants. There are some caves that run underground, providing, a nesting place for the birds. The tropical jungle that abounds on the island provides a rich place for exploration on a tour.
Aitutaki, aka the Honeymoon Island, is a short one-hour flight taking off from Rarotonga. It makes for an interesting change of pace. The island itself is spectacularly beautiful. There are Polynesian inspired bungalows here to stay in before flying back to Rarotonga.
The island has been given its unofficial name simply because so many weddings, honeymoons and wedding vows are shared there. It’s also an excellent spot for snorkelling because the water is so blue you don’t think it’s real, but it is.
Nights that Light Up
Night-time on the island isn’t a time to go to bed. At least, not yet. There are men and women dancing in local costumes, singing, and talking late into the night. Most hotels put on their own shows that give their guests a rich cultural experience while on the island.
The TeVara Nui Village is a place dedicated to putting on cultural shows including local dancing and flame tossing. A buffet spread is laid on for guests including delicacies not found when away from the islands. The village previously won the Air New Zealand tourism award for the Cook Islands.
For anyone who loves festivals, there’s no shortage of them on the Cook Islands. The local people believe in family and getting the balance right between when to work and when to play.
Some of the festivals include one in May where the best local dancer is decided, the joyful Rarotonga Gospel Day in July, and in October, with the Te Mire Tama flower festival coming around. The TeMaeva Nui is the most important festival of all and arrives every July as a huge show of local dancing and singing, which is not to be missed.
Flower Lovers’ Delight
While visiting the Cook Islands, a visit to the Maire Nui Botanical Gardens is not one to miss. The collection of tropical flowers and lush surroundings will bring a smile to your lips. The aroma of the flowers will doubtless please anyone who enjoys being around these scents. If you wish to take the scent home, then the Perfumes of Rarotonga produces plenty of natural perfumes, oils, soaps, and candles to buy that will remind you of your trip.
Trek, Safari or Wildlife Tour?
While in Rarotonga, the more adventurous among you will enjoy taking a safari tour with the assistance of a four-wheel drive vehicle (and driver) to steer you clear of major obstacles. If that seems too much for you, perhaps taking a pony to ride on a desolate beach is more your speed? There’s also the option of heading to the mountains – yes, there are mountains there – to go bike riding, quad biking or trekking. Exploring the caves or seeing the wildlife or birdlife on schedule tours are other options too.
If the exotic landscape and colorful surroundings aren’t enough for you, then it’s been captured in local artwork too. There is a mix of painstaking weavings, delicate sculptures and watercolor paintings produced by local artists. The Pacific Art gallery has an excellent collection of artwork with a distinctive tiki tribal theme that’s worth looking at in detail. Other galleries pop up from time to time. You’ll need to ask around to find where the latest ones are situated.
Luxury Accommodation at Sea Change Villas
The accommodation at the Sea Change Villas doesn’t miss a step when it comes to luxury. For couples looking for a one bedroom or a larger two-bedroom villa with enough privacy and carefully selected interior decorations, then a holiday in Rarotonga isn’t complete without a stay there.
There’s a section of beach just for guests, a swimming pool, a restaurant for relaxed meals on the grounds, or a spa treatment to ease away the aches and pains. For couples, it’s such a romantic getaway that they often want to return again and again.
The famed black pearls come from remote sections of the Cook Islands. They’re sourced in the oceansand then exported worldwide. Around 1,365km from Rarotonga on a northernly trajectory, you’ll find the atolls of Tongereva, Manihiki, and Rakahonga. There, diving for black pearls is a long-established way of life. 01
The black pearl is often misunderstood; not all of them are black in color. Some include a shade that is decidedly green or blue or silver. There are retailers in Avarua which sell pearls found in the Cook Islands. There are bracelets, rings, and pendants made from the pearls, so you have a choice what to buy and take home as a wearable souvenir of your trip to the Cook Islands.
Top Romantic Destination
For romantic couples looking for a place to visit that will enhance their experience of travelling together, the Cook Islands certainly fits the bill. The sandy beaches are incredible to walk along, and the waters are crystal clear. It feels much like paradise because it is.
CNN also agrees, naming it one of the 12 most romantic islands in the whole of the South Pacific (it was number two). It also beat out Bora Bora because it is less crowded and more affordable for visitors. Hard to go wrong with that recommendation.
A visit to the Cook Islands starting with Rarotonga delivers a wondrous experience for couples wanting a romantic spot to lose themselves. With impressively clean waters, beaches that aren’t crammed with holidaymakers, a laid-back culture, welcoming people and a delicious local cuisine, there’s much to like. The numerous tours provide excursions around the island and trips to neighboring ones offer the opportunity to mix things up. It’s just missing one thing. The two of you…
Do you have any questions about the Cook Islands? Any special needs or dietary requirements that you’re worried about? Need clarification about travel arrangements? Be sure to leave a comment and check back for our reply.