GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT COOK ISLANDS

Kia Orana

Pronounced, kee-ya or-rana, this Cook Islands greeting translates as ‘live long and healthy’.

There is no place quite like it!

The locals are warm and friendly, the culture is attractive and engaging, the beaches, lagoons, mountains and forests are pristine. There are cafés, restaurants, beach bars and nightlife, and countless outdoor adventure and shopping experiences. It’s not hard to love this little paradise! Importantly, the pace is pleasantly ‘island time!’

Situated in the South Pacific Ocean, the Cook Islands is in the same time zone as the Hawaiian Islands, our northern hemisphere cousins. Rarotonga, Cook Islands’ biggest island and gateway, is around four hours flying time from Auckland, six hours from Sydney, nine and a half hours from Los Angeles, and two and a half hours from Tahiti.

The airlines serving the Cook Islands are Air New Zealand (to/from Auckland, Sydney and Los Angeles), Virgin Australia (to/from Auckland), Air Rarotonga (to/from Papeete) and Jetstar (to/from Auckland). Once here, Air Rarotonga provide scheduled flights to the islands of Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, and to the outer islands.

Cruise ships regularly visit Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

enjoycookislands.com is the online companion to the long-established Cook Islands Sun publications.

The current editions of the Cook Islands Sun, the Guide to Eating & Drinking in Rarotonga, the Guide to Accommodation in the Cook Islands, and maps of RarotongaAitutaki, Atiu and Mangaia, can be viewed online; simply click on the publication names highlighted above, or throughout the website.

As you navigate enjoycookislands.com you will notice Trip Favourites. Using Trip Favourites allows you to save activities, accommodation, or destinations so you can easily view them from one point later. Look for the Add to Favourites button on the pages.

Visit the Cook Islands soon: there is no place quite like it!

Kia Manuia,

Cook Islands Sun & enjoycookislands.com

History:

Polynesian migration dating back to 5th century AD

Cook Islanders have a rich oral history that, in common with other Polynesian people, tells of ancestors of ancient times originating from the homeland of Avaiki. It is uncertain when the first settlers reached the Cook Islands but modern historians believe that the Polynesian migration through the Cook Islands began around the 5th century AD. Oral history traces Rarotongan ancestry back about 1400 years.

On Aitutaki marae excavations started two years ago that are revealing information about ancient contact between Pacific Island populations and also about the ceremonies and activities that took place on these ancient marae.

On Rarotonga, Highland Paradise is an important historic site that has been set up as a cultural centre. It has interactive information, walks and tours about the lives of the early inhabitants of this ancient site.

The first European visitors

Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to sight any of the islands – Pukapuka in 1595 and Rakahanga in 1606. There is no record of further European contact for over 150 years. Captain Cook explored much of the group in 1773 and 1777 but he never saw Rarotonga. The first Europeans to arrive in Rarotonga were the mutineers on the HMS Bounty in 1789. The mutiny actually took place after the Bounty sailed from Aitutaki.

After the explorers came the missionaries. In 1821 Reverend John Williams of the London Missionary Society (LMS) came to Aitutaki. The height of the missionaries’ power was from 1835 to 1880. These European missionaries had an enormous impact on Cook Islands life – spiritual, social, economic and political. But they left the actual government of the islands to the tribal chiefs or ariki. The traditional system of land inheritance and the indigenous languages were also left intact.

The British took formal control of the Cook Islands in 1888 and then followed a debate with New Zealand about who should be responsible for the islands. The combination of disease, slavery and migration meant the islands’ population of about 17,000 just before contact with Europeans fell to less than half. The population now is about 13,000.

During WW2 the USA built airstrips on Aitutaki and Penrhyn but essentially the Cooks remained a quiet dependency. In 1965 the Cook Islands became self-governing. Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens and carry New Zealand passports

Climate

The Cook Islands is just east of the International dateline – 10 hours behind GMT. This makes it a day behind New Zealand and Australia and one of the last countries on the globe to experience a new day. Today in the Cook Islands is yesterday in many countries. Which can create a lot of confusion when visitors are organizing their arrival and departure times. According to the calendar New Zealanders arrive in the Cook Islands before they leave New Zealand. Travel agents regularly get it wrong too so it is worth checking those dates carefully because missing flights can be expensive.

To be exact, when it is midday in the Cook Islands it is 10am the next day in New Zealand; 9am the next day in Sydney and Melbourne; 2pm the same day in San Francisco & Los Angeles and 9pm the same day in London. (This makes no allowance for daylight saving.)

Weather

Tropical, moderated by trade winds. The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasantly warm climate all year round without big seasonal variations. June to August are the cooler months; November to March marks the warmer season when it is also more humid.

The Cook Islands do not experience dramatically different wet and dry seasons although there is generally more rain during the summer months. Often, heavy tropical showers pass quickly over the islands leaving clear blue skies in their wake.

On Rarotonga, the weather is affected by its high mountainous peaks and different sides of the island can be experiencing quite different weather at the same time.

From April to November, the average maximum temperature is about 26 degrees centigrade (79F) and the average minimum temperature about 20 degrees centigrade (68F).

The wetter, more humid months, from December to March, have an average maximum temperature of 28 degrees centigrade (82.4F) and an average minimum of 22 degrees centigrade (71.6F). During these summer months, the Cook Islands can experience occasional severe tropical storms and even cyclones (hurricanes). But severe weather is rare and infrequent

Language

Each of the islands of the Cooks has its own distinct dialect of Maori, except the islands of Pukapuka and Nassau where people speak Pukapukan, a Western Polynesian language related to Samoa. Cook Islands Maori is an Eastern Polynesian language closely related to the languages of Hawaii, Tahiti and New Zealand.

The Rarotongan language is the language used in the Bible and generally by government and the education system. It has therefore heavily influenced the languages of the other islands.

English has been the official language of the Cook Islands since 1915. Nowadays many Cook Islanders are bilingual with people flowing easily between English and Maori. The challenge is to ensure that Maori is kept alive and active among young people

 Time zone

To be exact, when it is midday in the Cook Islands it is 10am the next day in New Zealand; 9am the next day in Sydney and Melbourne; 2pm the same day in San Francisco & Los Angeles and 9pm the same day in London. (This makes no allowance for daylight saving.)

Weather

Departure Tax
Departure tax is included in your outwards fare and no tax is paid at the point of departure.

No departure card is required.

Doctors and Health
Rarotonga’s main hospital, on a hill between the airport and Arorangi, attends to emergencies 24 hours a day.

Duty Free Allowance
All international visitors to the Cook Islands require a valid passport for the duration of their stay. On arrival you need to complete an arrival form, which includes details of where you are staying. This is important, because the Cook Islands has a ‘prior booking requirement’ and you can ‘technically’ be sent back if you haven’t booked a place to stay, at least for the first night of your visit. Additionally, you will need to show proof of a return or onward flight booking.

 

You will need to complete a customs form declaring food products, seeds, plants or biological material. The Cook Islands have strict quarantine rules. There’s usually no problem with canned and vacuum-packed foods, but they must be declared at customs on arrival.

Visitors are given a free 31-day visitors permit upon arrival, which can later be extended as long as you can show adequate funds and an onward passage. Those wanting to stay for longer than six months must apply for a visa from their home country.

The duty free allowance into Rarotonga is 2 litres of spirits or wine, plus 200 cigarettes or 500 grams of tobacco (please check these allowances with retailers in case of a recent change).

Further information about visas and entry requirements is available on the Cook Islands Government website.

Airlines and Airports
Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly direct from Auckland, Air New Zealand direct from Los Angeles and Sydney, and Air Tahiti (operated by Air Rarotonga) from Papeete.

Rarotonga International Airport is the gateway airport for the Cook Islands.

Approximate flight times are two and a half hours from Tahiti, four hours from Auckland, six hours from Sydney, and nine and a half hours from Los Angeles.

For flight information and fares, visit:

Air New Zealand (to/from Auckland, Sydney, Los Angeles)

Virgin Australia (to/from Auckland)

Jetstar Australia (to/from Auckland)

Air Rarotonga (to/from Papeete)

Alcohol
The cost of eating and drinking out in Rarotonga and Aitutaki is similar to New Zealand and Australia, and generally good value for money.

There is a wide variety of eating and drinking places to enjoy, many on the waterfront or beachfront, or in picturesque settings.

Cafés, restaurants, beach bars, and ‘island feasts’ almost every night of the week, offer a range of cuisine from pub meals and bakery foods, to local foods and five-star dining. Hotel and resort eating and drinking venues are particularly well priced in the Cook Islands.

As the Cook Islands are spiritually guided by the Christian religion, there are only a few venues offering alcohol on Sundays, mainly hotels and restaurants.

View and download the latest copy of the Guide to Eating & Drinking in Rarotonga. Before you arrive in Rarotonga, check out the many eating and drinking places for you to consider

Bars & Nightclubs
http://enjoycookislands.com/eat-drink/bars-nightlife

Currency and Credit cards

The currency in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). The Cook Islands also issue their own banknotes and coinage, including the unusual $3 notes and the triangular $2 coins. You cannot change Cook Islands money outside the Cook Islands, so remember to change local notes and coins before you leave, unless you want to keep them as souvenirs.

Banks & money exchange

There are approximately sixteen ATMs around Rarotonga and two on Aitutaki, but no ATM facilities on any of the other islands.

ANZ (Australia and New Zealand Banking Group) and BSP (Bank of South Pacific) have branches in Rarotonga and Aitutaki providing facilities for cash advances on major credit cards and other bank cards issued overseas. The locally-owned BCI (Bank of Cook Islands) have branches throughout the islands.

Most credit cards are accepted in the larger retail outlets and restaurants, but not all shops and restaurants accept cards so if in doubt check in advance. The banks in Avarua are open Monday to Thursday 9.00am-3.00pm and on Friday 9.00am-4.00pm. Banking facilities are also available at Rarotonga airport for currency exchange and cash withdrawal.

The banks will buy and sell most major world currencies at competitive exchange rates.

You can send, receive and exchange money in the Cook Islands through the Fexco Pacific in Avarua, and the banks.

Dress/Attire

Because beach attire is not appropriate in town, consider packing cotton summer attire, such as a dress, button-down shirt, and shorts or pants. Warm rain seems to penetrate the Cook Islands often.

Mobile Phones
Mobile phone services are provided by Telecom Cook Islands. You can buy a local Kokanet Sim card from the Telecom office for your mobile. You will need to make sure your handset isn’t locked to your network prior to travel. If you want to use your own telephone you will need to check with your service provider prior to travel to see they have a roaming agreement with Telecom Cook Islands. For a full list of roaming partners please go to the website www.telecom.co.ck

Visitors are able to make telephone calls from a telephone box or a landline using a Kia Orana Calling Card. Calls using a Kia Orana card are capped at set rates for up to one hour to New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, Fiji and the UK – check with Telecom for the latest capped rates. Calls from accommodations may vary depending on the hotel. You will need to contact the hotel in question for charges. For call costs to other countries please check the website www.telecom.co.ck for more information.

Internet – Telecom Cook Islands (Oyster) offers Wi-Fi in several hotels and hotspots in Rarotonga including Telecom centre in Avarua. Users with their own laptops can buy a prepaid card to use this service. There are a number of Internet lounges in Avarua on Rarotonga and there is an Internet café at Muri. On Aitutaki, the bigger resorts have Internet available for their guests, sometimes for a small fee.

Post Office
The Post office in Avarua holds general delivery mail 28 days and there’ s no charge to pick up letters. Telecom Cook Islands at the Earth Station Complex on Tutakimoa Road, Avarua, is open 24 hours a day for overseas telephone calls and internet access. TelePost (closed Sunday), in CITC Shopping Center next to ANZ bank, has Kia Orana telephone cards which can be used in the public phones outside and around town. Postage stamps are sold.

Electricity – Voltage is 220 AC/50 cycle, the same as New Zealand and Australia and the same three blade plugs (type I plug) are used. If you are traveling from a part of the world where your appliances are 110v you will need a voltage transformer. Check your specific appliances though – some can handle a range of voltages. Many of the hotels have at least one 110v ‘plug’ in their rooms, often in the bathroom. On Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu electricity is available 24 hours. On the outer islands it is more limited. Electricity is relatively expensive in the Cook Islands so remember to turn off lights and appliances when you aren’t using them.

Visa & Entry

Entry requirements for delegates and their families, as follows:

All delegates and their families will be granted visitor entry upon arrival subject to the following being provided:

  • Country passport with minimum 6 months validity beyond the intended departure date
  • Return ticket (with departure date on or before 31 days)
  • Proof of accommodation

Speedy processing at the border when delegates are aware of the name of their accommodation here on Rarotonga and also the name of the Conference they are attending.

Important to note:

  • New Zealand passport holders will not require an outward ticket
  • New Zealand and Australian passport holders require a minimum of 7 days validity on their passport (as opposed to the 6 months requirement for all other countries).

It is expected that all travelers to the Cook Islands meet the minimum passport validity requirements as mentioned above. However, should any participants leading up to July

2019 find themselves outside the minimum passport validity requirements, they can contact

Immigration Cook Islands for an exemption by email on immigration2@cookislands.gov.ck.

Religion
Cook Islands are spiritually guided by the Christian religion.

For further information:

Please contact Ms. Reena Suliana, PPA Secretariat on Tel: (679) 3306 022 or send an email to: ppa@ppa.org.fj