Rarotonga has international flights to Auckland, Sydney, Los Angeles and Tahiti. Low-season travel to the Cooks is from mid-April to late August, and the high season runs from December to February. There’s heavy demand from New Zealand to the Cooks in December, and in the other direction in January. Demand for flights from New Zealand and Australia is also strong during those countries’ respective school holiday periods.
Air New Zealand Regular flights between Auckland and Rarotonga (return fares around NZ$850). Weekly direct flights between Sydney and Rarotonga on a Saturday (return fares from around A$800). Weekly direct flights between Rarotonga and Los Angeles (return fares from around US$1300).
Virgin Australia Regular flights between Auckland and Rarotonga (return fares around NZ$850).
Air Tahiti Direct code-share flights on Thursday with Air Rarotonga linking Tahiti with Rarotonga (return fares from around NZ$950).
Rarotonga is a favourite port of call for South Pacific cruise ships but they don’t take on passengers, typically arriving in the morning and departing in the afternoon after quick island tours and souvenir shopping.
The Cooks are popular with yachties except during the cyclone season (November to March). Once you arrive at Rarotonga, fly your Q flag and visit the Harbour Master. There are other official ports of entry at Aitutaki, Penrhyn and Pukapuka, which have good anchorages. Virtually uninhabited, Suwarrow Atoll is a trophy destination for cruising yachties, but isn’t an official entry.
There’s a slim chance of catching a crewing berth on a yacht from the Cook Islands to Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, French Polynesia or New Zealand. You can ask at Rarotonga’s Ports Authority, where yachties leave messages if they are looking for crew.