The Cook Islands are perfect for relaxation, but there’s plenty of activities to keep energetic travellers busy. Rarotonga is an excellent place for hiking, and Aitutaki’s backcountry roads and deserted beaches are good for exploring. ‘Atiu, Ma’uke, Mitiaro and Mangaia have many trails winding through the makatea. History enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the historic marae on most of the islands. Many of these traditional religious meeting grounds are still used today for formal ceremonies, such as the investiture of a new ariki or mataiapo.
The sheltered lagoons and beaches on Rarotonga and Aitutaki are great for swimming and snorkelling. Diving is also excellent, with good visibility and lots of marine life, from sea turtles and tropical fish to reef sharks and eagle rays. You can hire snorkelling gear on Aitutaki and Rarotonga, as well as kayaks, sailboards and other water-sports equipment.
Raro has just a handful of resident surfers, but there are serious waves outside Rarotonga’s perimeter reef and a budding community of bodyboard riders.
Kite surfing, paddle-boarding and small-boat sailing are popular in Rarotonga’s Muri Lagoon. Glass-bottomed boats also operate from Muri Beach, and there are several lagoon-cruise operators in Aitutaki. Deep-sea fishing boats can be chartered on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and bonefishing on Aitutaki lagoon is growing in popularity. From July to October, whale-watching trips are available on Rarotonga.
The Cook Islands has some extraordinary caves to explore including Anatakitaki and Rima Rau on ‘Atiu, Motuanga on Ma’uke, Vai Nauri on Mitiaro, and Te Rua Rere on Mangaia.