The Cook Islands are an often eulogised destination; people talk about its serenely preserved wilderness, the vibrant and intensely welcoming culture of its people and how this has been sustainably balanced with its burgeoning tourism industry. But these things have been said about any number of Pacific Islands, what makes the 'The Cooks' so storied is that in no other place do these qualities imprint the sensation of honest euphoria that they do.
This is a special place that you simply have to ‘feel’.
After all, its magic is in how it feels, its essence, meeting the locals by stumbling into Colin’s home based jewellery shop on a walk, a child madly waving at you from the back of her mum’s scooter, the lush green landscape and colourful flowers, a night out at their club ‘Rehab’, and unexpected experiences on-board the “Anti-clockwise” bus that circumnavigates the small island of Rarotonga.
Many of the hotels, villas, and apartments on the Islands offer the added luxury of a morning activity. Choosing which proved tough indeed – with quad biking, diving, lagoon cruise, and island cycle tour all on offer.
Being my first time to the Cooks I felt the lagoon cruise was a good choice, and I’m very glad to have experienced Koka Lagoon Cruises for the morning. Not just a great ‘product’ – the vessel being well equipped and even included a glass bottom – it was the crazy crew who really made it. The perfect blend of not-too-touristy banter, sarong (pareo) dressings, the crazy antics of Captain Jack Sparrow, the mandatory coconut tree climbing, and an amazing BBQ feast to top it off.
And oh, the food. The Cook Islands diet is fresh and varied, local cafes, restaurants and resort dining showcasing all the stunning local produce and seafood; and with fantastic local haunts like Raro’s Fried Chicken, there's certainly something to suit everyone’s tastes. The must-do’s are the Mahi Mahi fish marinated in lime and coconut, and the incredible paw paw salad – a gluten-free girl’s paradise.
Our trip extended beyond Rarotonga and across to Aitutaki, home to its magical lagoon in every-shade-of-blue – of which photographs can’t possibly capture. Aitutaki is a must-do add-on to your visit to the Cook Islands. A small and spectacular island with its own proud and passionate people, stunning beachfront properties, and yet more amazing food.
You can’t come to the Cook Islands without seeing a Polynesian dance show. Pop on down to the Aitutaki Fishing Club. Recently revamped to provide a happy marriage of Antipodean beach culture and local flair, not surprisingly this has become a local favourite for a drink, meal, dance and fire-twirling show, even karaoke!
One of the most memorable highlights was our visit to Plantation House back in Rarotonga, the home of Louis and Minar Enoka, a couple who have opened up their home and family life to prepare an organic feast, with almost every ingredient taken from their sprawling organic plantation behind their 1853 colonial homestead. Book in before you leave home or you’ll miss out, this unique treat is only held once every two weeks.
Of course we had to have ‘the’ big night out to finish up our time in Raro, Go Troppo, a party bus operated under the banner of Turama Pacific Travel Group, is a must-do experience during your stay in ‘Raro’ – non-stop music, dancing, for some even around a pole!
Picking up clients along the way, the group gets larger, and by the time you reach Vaiana’s Bistro for your beach finale everyone’s in party mode. A real highlight here was not only the Polynesian dance show (of which we became part of), but the talented young musicians (and by young I mean ten to twelve year olds), beating their drums and smiling away as only Cook Island kids do. Back on ‘Go Troppo’ bus and we literally ended up at ‘Rehab’ – the much talked about club, for yet another boogie and $2 shots.
Cook Islands. No words.
You’ll understand when you visit and feel the magic for yourself.
Written by Cris Cali, Marketing Manager, Infinity Holidays