Traveling in Cook Islands

Traveling in Cook Islands

Airplane: Air Rarotonga is the Cook Islands’ only commercial inter-island airline. The company is based at Rarotonga International Airport. Flights can be booked there.

There are regular and reliable flight connections between Rarotonga and the southern islands of Aitutaki, Atiu, Ma’uke, Mangaia and Mitiaro. Of the northern islands, only Manihiki, Penrhyn and Pukapuka have runways. There are no flights on Sundays.

Ship: Despite the increasing air traffic, ships still play an important role in the traffic and supply of the Cook Islands. The transport links to the northern archipelago are almost exclusively by cargo ship.

Narrow and often shallow reef passages and fringing reefs make it impossible to approach the Cook Islands – with the exception of Rarotonga – with larger ships. They have to anchor in front of the reefs and the passengers and goods have to be brought ashore by barge.

If you want to travel to the outer islands by ship, you should be very flexible. Timetables, if available, are difficult to keep due to the weather, breakdowns and unexpected delays. A one-month stay on one of the outer islands can, under certain circumstances, extend to two months or more.

Two shipping companies offer passenger and cargo ship connections for the Cook Islands. Both companies are based at the port of Avatui on Rarotonga. There, travelers can get information on travel times and booking options. Mataora Shipping primarily transports freight from New Zealand to Rarotonga and only operates occasionally between the individual Cook Islands.

The main inter-island shipping company with regular connections between Rarotonga and all of the major outer islands is Taio Shipping. Most ships have limited cabin space, and some have no cabins at all. Showers and toilets are for all passengers. The trips from Rarotonga to the islands of the southern group usually take one day. The Rarotonga-Mangaia-Ma’uke-Mitiaro-Atiu-Rarotonga tour takes about four days. Ship connections to Aitutaki are rarely offered. Ships usually need three and a half days to travel to the northern islands. There is a regular monthly service on the Rarotonga- Manihiki-Rakahanga-Penrhyn-Rarotonga route. The round trip takes about ten to twelve days.

The private research vessel Bounty Bay departs from Rarotonga on regular expeditions to many of the remote islands, including Takutea and Manuae.

Car: The main mode of transport in the Cook Islands, for locals and travelers alike, is the motorcycle.


Motorcycles can be rented on all of the major islands in the southern group. There are also rental cars on Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu. The minimum age to rent a vehicle is 18 years. Vehicles from larger rental companies are usually in better condition.


Standard liability insurance is usually included in the rental price. However, they often do not cover damage to your own vehicle. Extra insurance can be taken out for a small surcharge.

Bus: Rarotonga is the only island to have a bus service.

Bike: Cycling is a great way to explore the islands. Rarotonga in particular is ideal for cycling tours due to its flat coastal roads. The roads are usually quite narrow, but because of the low volume of traffic, cycling in the Cook Islands is very safe.

There are many ways to rent a bike in Rarotonga. Some hotels also lend bicycles to their guests.

Cook Islands – how to get there

Airplane: Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue are the only international airlines with regular flights to the Cook Islands. Air New Zealand operates a direct daily service between Auckland and Rarotonga. There are also Air New Zealand flights with a stopover in Fiji, as well as flights between Rarotonga and Los Angeles with a stopover in Tahiti (French Polynesia). Pacific Blue flies from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne via Auckland to Rarotonga.

Arriving by plane from Europe is usually via Los Angeles or Auckland. Numerous airlines offer flights from various European cities to Los Angeles. Those who prefer to travel via New Zealand, on the other hand, usually travel via London.

Airports: Rarotonga Airport is the Cook Islands’ international airport.

Ship: According to ehotelat, the Cook Islands are not a classic destination for cruise ships in the South Pacific. Only a few ships stop at Rarotonga for a short time.

Arriving by ship is primarily done with a private yacht. Most yachts head for the Cook Islands from November to March. If you travel to the Cook Islands with your own ship, you should first contact the respective harbor master. All immigration and customs formalities are dealt with by him.

Traveling in Cook Islands

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