Our beautiful 15 islands in the Cooks are part of Oceania, a group of islands in the South Pacific, roughly halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, lying between American Samoa and Tahiti. These jewels are dotted over 2,500,000 square kilometres of the tropical South Pacific Ocean. Our waters are also the world’s largest designated shark and whale sanctuary and one of the world’s largest marine parks named Marae Moana.
Cook Islands is in the same time zone as the Hawaiian Islands, GMT-10 hours.
Our largest island, Rarotonga, our national capital, is home to rugged mountains and Avarua, the main commercial and administration centre.
The northern islands are coral atolls that have formed over ancient sunken volcanoes and are characterized by outer reefs surrounding a lagoon. The majority of the population lives in the northern group.
Just 220kms north of Rarotonga is Aitutaki, the second most visited island in the Cook Islands. Aitutaki has a picturesque vast lagoon encircled by coral reefs and decorated with 15 small, sandy islets, including our famous One Foot Island.
The southern islands comprise of 6 true atolls.
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Cook Islands is reachable from New Zealand, Australia, French Polynesia and USA. Our airline carriers are Air New Zealand, JetStar, Virgin Australia and Air Tahiti, along with our domestic national carrier, Air Rarotonga.
Our national capital, Rarotonga is served with daily international flights from New Zealand, twice weekly from Tahiti and weekly non-stop flights from Los Angeles and Sydney.
It takes about 2 hours 45 minutes to reach Rarotonga from Tahiti, 3 and a half hours from Auckland NZ, 6 hours direct from Sydney Australia, and about 9 and a half hours direct from Los Angeles, USA.
Aitutaki has on average five domestic flight arrivals from Rarotonga daily showcasing one of the world’s favourite motu islands, One Foot Island, to our international visitors. Air Rarotonga also has scheduled flights to the islands of Atiu, Mangaia, and to the outer islands.
Cruise ships regularly visit our shores of Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
In the Cook Islands we enjoy a pleasant warm and sunny climate all year round. June to August are slightly cooler months, November to March marks the warmer season, with occasional tropical showers. The drier months, from April to November, average 26°C. The warmer, more humid and damp season is from December to March, with temperatures ranging between 22°C (min) and 30°C (max).
The Cook Islands has a very desirable relaxed, casual and easy going pace of life and a quality lifestyle. There are no high-rise buildings, no fast-food chains, no traffic lights, nor peak hour traffic. On the capital island of Rarotonga, the lifestyle is more cosmopolitan, more varied, and the standard of living appreciably of a high standard. Stores and cafés generally close around midday on Saturdays for the rest of the weekend, apart from a few convenience stores and petrol stations, however you will find restaurants open every day. Sundays are quiet days where locals often spend time with family and go to church.
Our quality lifestyle and relaxed pace of life is mixed with daily interaction with our genuine friendly and naturally warm hospitable people. As part of our culture, our local people have inherent traits of genuine care for others and love of family as part of our culture. It is no wonder that tourism and hospitality is our main economic activity.
Latest government data released in December 2016 puts our Cook Islands population at 17,459. This figure includes residents and non-residents (mostly tourists) in the Cook Islands on Census night in December 2016.
The Cook Islands’ Ministry of Finance & Economic Management estimated the resident population to have been 11,700 in September 2016.
Rarotonga remains the most populous island of the Cook Islands with 75 per cent of the population residing there. The Southern Group islands account for 19 per cent of the population while 6 per cent were in the Northern Group islands on Census night in December 2016.
The Cook Islands is a self-governing island country in free association with New Zealand.
The Cook Islands’ defence and foreign affairs are the responsibility of New Zealand, but they are exercised in consultation with the Cook Islands. New Zealand has formally allowed the Cook Islands to independently conduct its own foreign affairs since April 6, 2001. Although Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand, they have the status of Cook Islands nationals, which is not given to other New Zealand citizens.
The chiefs of state are the British monarch and the New Zealand high commissioner. The head of the government is the prime minister, who appoints a cabinet. The unicameral parliament has twenty-five members elected by popular vote for five-year terms. Twenty-four members represent different districts, and one represents Cook Islanders living in New Zealand. The prime minister is not chosen by election; this position goes to the leader of the party that wins the most seats in the parliament. The indigenous ruling body is the House of Arikis (chiefs). The chiefs advise the government on matters relating to tradition but do not have legislative power.
A range of medical and dental services are available in Rarotonga, including our 90-bed hospital on Rarotonga with trained overseas staff. There are 7 smaller hospitals and 5 healthcare centres located in the outer islands including Aitutaki. In Rarotonga there is an optometrist, physiotherapists plus several pharmacies for prescriptions.
New Zealand dollar, supplemented by local Cook Islands notes and coins
ANZ, Bank of the South Pacific (BSP), and the Bank Cook Islands (BCI)
121,458 visitors (2014)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
December Quarter 2018 at current prices was $141.7 million.
Legislated Minimum Wage
NZ$7.60 / hour