Information for Visitors
The Cook Islands have 11 public holidays. On these days, bus
service is either irregular or non existent. The town shops are
closed. Some little shops are open either in the morning and
evening. Many restaurants are closed. If you are holidaying
during this time then please make sure you stock up and you
arrange transport to cover you over the holidays.
Our holidays are as follows:
New Years Day - 1 Jan
Day after New Years - 2 Jan
ANZAC Day - 25 Apr
Queen's Birthday - 4 Jun
Rarotonga Gospel Day - 25 Jul
Constitution Day - 4 Aug
CI Gospel Day - 26 Oct
Christmas Day - 25 Dec
Boxing Day - 26 Dec
Being stuck without food and transport on any of these days can
ruin your holidays. Please note that Sundays are similar to
Respect of Traditions
The Cook Islands is a religious nation. One of the reasons why
the country is safe is because most people go to church or
believe in God. Part of this is that the people are very modest
people. We do not appreciate nudity of any form. If you are
sunbathing please do not sunbathe naked, keep your togs or
bikinis on. Also, when driving around in town, or walking
through the town shops please do not walk around in bikinis. And
please do not wear shorts and singlets if you attend a church
Price of Goods
Some of the food prices here are better than New Zealand
although most are still just a little bit higher. But what our
philosophy is if the locals can afford to buy it and their wages
are lower, then visitors should be able to as well. There are
shops where you can get really cheap products such as Tangees in
Nikao, Manea Foods on the Nikao backroad. Just ask the locals.
But the supermarkets Foodland, CITC Supermarket, Meatco also
offer very good prices and have a wider range. There isn't
really any need of you to bring any food with you, just bring
basic toiletry items, insect repellant and tanning oils.
Some local shopkeepers complain that visitors pick up things and
study and study them before buying. They also open the fridge
and study all the products in the fridge, some reading the
labels again and again. Please be considerate, electricity is
more expensive here than in your country. Most of our food
products are New Zealand/Australian made, they don't really need
that much studying except for the expiry date.
This has become a favourite past time for many locals and an
attraction for visitors. You can watch the planes land from the
Nikao backroad or from Nikao school. Some visitors like to stand
at the seawall while the plane lands just over them, this can be
dangerous and is not encouraged.
Hitchiking is not something that amuses Cook Islanders. Please
if you cannot afford to hire a vehicle, plan your outings using
the bus. It is so unpleasant having someone frown at you because
you don't pick them up.
Getting around Rarotonga is simple, there is basically only one
main road following the coast and another inner road called the
backroad which goes most of the way around. Our roads give the
impression of a country road. There are trees and plants on
either side, the roads curve a lot, it only has two lanes going
in opposite directions, there doesn’t seem to be much indication
by users of the road, cyclist share the same road and there
isn’t much in the way of signage. So you are forgiven if you
think it is a country road.
But a road is a road and the judgement you apply to the road in
your country you should also apply here.
A lot of tourists opt to hire a scooter instead of a car. If you
have young children and you haven’t ridden a scooter before then
get a car. Why risk the safety of your child on a scooter. Some
visitors don’t have the confidence to ride a scooter but choose
it because it is cheaper and probably it is an opportunity to
actually drive one, as well as it appears to be more fun. Make
sure you get in a lot of practise on a quieter section of road
or a field before you actually take on the town. The main
problems with visitors using scooters is that they seem to be:
a) conscious of vehicle behind them and try to slow down or
drive on the side of the road. Not a good idea. Have confidence
and drive properly because sometimes the vehicle behind you is
about to turn off the road and you have slowed down.
b) they do not know how to judge animals crossing the road well
dogs in particular. Always watch the sides of the road as well
as the road and if you see a dog about to make its way across
the road, beep your horn frantically and just keep heading in
the direction you are heading, slow down if you can. But don't
try to swerve your bike as you are the one that is likely to
What is a road?
The biggest thing visitors don't know about our town is that the
cars have priority at all turn ins. Visitors sometimes cross
pathways/turn ins/roads without checking if anyone is turning
in. The worst road for this offence is where the main bus depot
is in town. That road between Cooks Corner and CITC is a real
road for cars, do not cross it without looking. Even further up
between the Energy Centre and the AVIS, please check if cars are
turning in or pulling up before crossing. These are not
We have mosquitoes here. But we don't have malaria, only dengue
carrying mosquitoes. Dengue Fever usually does not kill you and
does go away after a few days but it does bring on symptoms like
really bad headaches, fever, aching joints and bones, and rash.
The country has a regular cleaning program where homes are
required to ensure their property is tidy and free of
mosquito-breeding areas. Fines of NZ$1000 for residential and
NZ$10000 for businesses are charged for offenders. When
traveling please bring insect repellant and apply throughout the
No doubt you heard the Cook Islands is a safe place. It really
is. The only crime that you should be wary about here is theft.
As you would in your own country, keep a close eye on your
valuables. Some accommodation have safes in their rooms, use
these to protect your valuables. A tip would be to separate your
passport, credit cards and cash - well don't keep them in the
same place. Nobody wants your passport here, and there is no
credit card fraud. If you are going to lose something, it will
be cash, your digital camera, your mobile phone and your iPod.
So don't leave them lying around because they are really hard to
Many visitors over the years have been very generous people.
They have gone back to their countries and in their little
communities bought supplies for the schools and the hospital.
Your generosity is very much appreciated. Thank you.
Food to try
You should try our 'ika mata' - marinated raw fish in coconut
cream and lemon juice. Trust me, the lemon juice cooks the fish
so it's not as raw as its name suggests. It's really nice.
Other food you should try is 'poke' - banana or pawpaw pudding.
This is basically banana or pawpaw mixed with arrowroot/cassava
flour and served with coconut cream. It's rich but its an
Try our root crops, or our staples - taro, arrowroot, kumara. A
lot of visitors don't like taro, they say it tastes like soap,
but we locals like it. Maybe the trick is that you don't eat it
by itself, you cut a bit off and eat it with raw fish. Most
visitors prefer kumara, the sweet potato, we have this in many
different colours - purple, white, orange, yellow, but they are
still the same thing.
Coconut juice - we call it 'nu'. It's a very pleasant drink so
try it at least once. You can get them at the market for about
$4. The locals think $4 is expensive but that's the price you
pay if you don't want to get your own off the tree.
Mayonaise - It's a dressing in your part of the world, but we
have a potato salad that is called that. The potato salad is
mixed with beetroot, chow chow and a home made egg mayonaise.
Locals love it.
Mitiore - This is grated coconut marinated in the juice of small
white crabs with sprinklings of spring onion and sea urchins.
Seafood - If you do visit the Outer Islands there is a lot of
different kind of seafood you can try like 'remu' - sea grapes,
and all kinds of sea urchins, crabs etc. Do not eat sea urchins
straight out of the sea as you may be unfamiliar with what is