Dotted in the South Pacific, south of Hawaii and only six hours non-stop from Sydney, lies the small, beautiful archipelago of the Cook Islands. A group of only fifteen islands, all surrounded by topaz coloured water. At the heart of the nation is the main island, Rarotonga, home to the majority of the country’s 12,000 residents.
‘Raro’ is a large circular-shaped island with a range of mammoth tropical peaks nestled in the middle. The island’s mountains means it is only navigated by one road all the way around. Hilariously, the island therefore only has two bus routes: clockwise and anti-clockwise!
This simple bus system is reflective of the relaxed pace of the Cook Islands, where modern day-to-day life is stripped back. Lost At E Minor recently travelled there with the help of The Cook Islands Tourism Board for a tropical getaway, and we wanted to share some of our top travel secrets.
The Cook Islands are an organic mecca
Move over Bondi Markets. With the fresh markets on each Saturday in the main town of Avarua, foodies can tuck into island fusion curries, mouth-watering fresh papaya and banana smoothies, and then wash it down with a baby coconut (locally known as ‘nu’).
The Plantation Dinner also offers another unique foodie experience on Rarotonga, with chef Minar welcoming select island visitors to her refurbished colonial house to feast on the local delicacy of ‘ika mata’ – raw fish in coconut and lime juice. Minar offers a range of other fusion dishes all prepared with fresh fruits and vegetables grown on her nearby allotment. Minar and her husband Louis take the slow-food movement to the next level.
Unexpectedly the Cook Islands are also home to their own craft beer company, Matutu – the best in the Pacific.
Unlike Fiji, The Cook Islands is home to only a select few, very beautiful over-water bungalows. Less is more.
Rarotonga may be the country’s main island, but the island chain around the Aitutaki lagoon might take the prize for the bluest water. The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa offers visitors the chance to sleep in one of the country’s select few over-water bungalows (we heard the rumour there are only six in the country!).
These bungalows all offer private sun decks and pontoons, so bring along your gin and tonic from duty free and watch the sun go down.
Head up to Aitutaki on a propeller plane with the possibly the cutest airline in the world – Air Rarotonga.
Coming in at a close second, the lagoon around the Muri Beach area on Rarotonga offers visitors the chance to grab a stand up paddleboard to do a few laps around the four tropical ‘mutu’ (small islands) and the reef, or partake in a SUP yoga class.
The accommodation at the Muri Beach Resort offers direct access to this water playground. The hotel has a serene and tranquil ambience where you can wake up every morning with the sunrise over the glistening waters of Muri Lagoon and have a great brekkie in the surrounding of a tropical gardens. Make sure to check out it’s neighbouring restaurant Nautilus too.
Forget ’Beachcomber Island’ and think ‘Beachcomber Art Gallery’.
When most people think of the Pacific Islands, they think day after day of beachcombing and sunbathing. Fiji might offer the renowned backpacker ‘Beachcomber’ island, but the Cook Island’s offer the simple and refined ‘Beachcomber Art Gallery’.
BCA Gallery houses a range of work by a group of friendly local artists all exploring the island’s evolving culture.
So paradise does exist! Organic food, local art and craft beers are all accompanied by hypnotizing blue waters.