An Australian’s essential holiday guide to the Cook Islands!

Read these tips before you go on holiday to the Cook Islands!

The hacks & facts you need to know before visiting the Cook Islands as an Australian tourist – your questions answered!

– Do I need a Visa?
– Is the water safe to drink?
– Is there WIFI?
– How long does it take to get there? & more…

Aitutaki Lagoon, Cook Islands

Cook Islands are not just beautiful – they are also a budget-savvy holiday choice for Australians

The Cook Islands have now become THE new Australian family holiday destination, and for good reason. These gorgeous little South Pacific Ocean atolls are virtually untouched by mass tourism.

Now that Jetstar Australia have just started flying direct from Sydney to Rarotonga, the Cook Islands are more accessible to Australians than ever before.

Cheap airline tickets and fast new planes mean you’ll be relaxing on a palm-fringed beach in less than six hours flying time!

Family travel tips for the Cook Islands

Like any family vacation, there are always some small but important things that you might have wished you had known before you went – even if just to save packing that extra suitcase full of the “what-ifs!”

So here is my Cook Islands essentials list from our recent trip to the Cook Islands with Jetstar on their very first flight to the Cook Islands.

The things that are handy to know before you step out of the plane and into the gorgeous island paradise that is the Cook Islands…

Basic Cook Island holiday general info

Jetstar Australia fly from Australia to the Cook Islands

Jetstar Australia fly from Australia to the Cook Islands

How long does it take to fly to the Cook Islands?

The Jetstar Australia flight from Sydney to the Cook Islands only takes about five and a half hours – that’s a whole hour shorter than Sydney to Bali! The return flight takes around seven and a half hours – two extra hours due to headwinds.

Jetstar Australia have just commenced direct flights from Australia and are the only airline to do so. You can check for the cheapest Jetstar Cook Island fares here

What is accommodation like in the Cook Islands?

The Edgewater Resort and Spa in Rarotonga

The Edgewater Resort and Spa in Rarotonga

Accommodation in the Cook Islands can be anything from luxurious to tight holiday budget! There are hotels, beach resorts, beach houses….you can take a closer look at the family beach resort accommodation we stayed at in two different Cook Island locations in our Cook Islands holiday feature here.

Is the food cheap in the Cook Islands?

There are many great Cook Islands restaurants and cafes to choose from

There are many great Cook Islands restaurants and cafes to choose from

Yes, the food in the Cook Islands is not expensive. Food prices are comparable, if not cheaper than other South Pacific Island holidays. It really depends on where you are eating.

There is a large range of restaurants and cafes in the Cook Islands, many embracing the balmy climate and idyllic location by offering outdoor tables by the sea.

With lots of delectable island specialties to try, the Cook Islands is a Foodies paradise, but if you’re just after comfort food from home you’ll still find all the usual Aussie food staples available all around the island. And that includes chicken nuggets and spaghetti bolognaise options for the kids (or maybe you)! Bon apetit!

What is there to do in the Cook Islands?

Exploring Rarotonga by car reveals lots of places to visit

Exploring Rarotonga by car reveals lots of places to visit

Relaxing around resort pools, exploring the islands in a hire car or hiking along lush mountain paths on foot – and that’s just for starters!

Aitutaki cruising with Wet N Wild

Aitutaki cruising with Wet N Wild

Watersports are huge in the Cook Islands of course.  This can include cruising, kiteboarding, diving, swimming with turtles. and eagle rays – or even just snorkeling with brightly-coloured tropical fish in knee-deep water right off your resort beach.

There’s just so much to do – or not do for that matter – in the Cook Islands!

Cook Island fast facts

You'll find island shows at many Cook Island restaurants

You’ll find island shows at many Cook Island restaurants

Where are the Cook Islands located?

The Cook Islands are located in the South Pacific Ocean, half-way between New Zealand and Hawaii.

Is the Cook Islands a country?

Yes, the Cook Islands is a country. The Cook Islands is its own self-governing nation, but it is also “part of the realm” of New Zealand.

What is the capital of the Cook Islands?

The capital of the Cook Islands is Avorua, located on the island of Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands.

How many islands are in the Cook Islands?

There are 15 islands in the Cook Islands nation. The Cook Islands are named after the explorer Captain James Cook who visited the islands in the 1770s.

What currency is used in Rarotonga?

The Cook Islands official currency is the New Zealand dollar.

Does the Cook Islands accept Australian money?

No, the Cook Islands doesn’t accept Australian cash, but you can exchange your Australian money in Avorua at Western Union for the Cook Island currency, New Zealand cash. There are also ATMs available in hotels, stores and service stations.

Do you need cash in the Cook Islands?

No, you don’t need cash in the Cook Islands. We spent a week in Rarotonga and Atutaki without buying the local NZD currency, however there was the odd occasion when it would’ve come in handy to have cash (like at the Rarotonga Airport kiosk).

Does the Cook Islands accept credit cards?

Big credit cards such as Mastercard or Visa are readily accepted all over the Cook Islands at hotels, restaurants and many souvenir stores.

Can I use my Australian Drivers Licence in the Cook Islands?

Yes. The official transport website for the Cook Islands states that Australians can drive using their full, valid Australian license (same class of motor vehicle as in Australia.

Aitutaki Airport intersection road signs

What is the speed limit in the Cook Islands?

nThe local speed limit in the Cook Islands is 30km in the main towns (such as Avorua in Rarotonga), and 50km per hour elsewhere on the islands.

The Cook Islands road rules are left-hand drive, just like Australia, so you’ll feel right at home behind the wheel.

Take your foot off the accelerator and kick back into slower island time if you’re driving. You’re on holiday, after all – just watch out for those dogs and chickens!

What is the official language of the Cook Islands?

The official languages of the Cook Islands are Maori and English.

Does the Cook Islands have WIFI?

Yes. The Cook Islands does have WIFI, however it is more expensive and slower than Australians are used to. You can purchase a Cook Islands SIM card at the Rarotonga Airport when you arrive.

Rarotonga International Airport

Rarotonga International Airport

Where is the Cook Islands airport located?

The Cook Islands airport is called the Rarotonga International Airport, located on Rarotonga – the largest of the Cook Islands. This is where you’ll land when you arrive from Sydney.

Airport processing is quick and easy, both in and out. From there you can also fly out to other Cook Islands, including Aitutaki, home to one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world!

Do Australians need a Visa to travel to the Cook Islands?

No, Australians don’t need a Cook Islands visa. But you do need the following documents.

Do I need a passport to visit the Cook Islands?

Yes. Here is exactly what you do need to enter the Cook Islands as an Australian tourist:

– Your Australian passport with at least 7 days validity beyond your booked stay date.

– Your Cook Islands travel itinerary with proof of your return flight AND your Cook Islands accommodation booking.

How long are Australians allowed to stay in the Cook Islands?

Australians are allowed to stay up to 31 days in the islands.

Do you need to be fully COVID vaccinated to enter the Cook Islands?

No, you don’t require any vaccinations to visit the Cook Islands. There are no COVID, quarantine or isolation requirements.

Are Australians covered by Medicare on the Cook Islands?

No, whilst the Cook Islands are in free association with New Zealand and New Zealand does participate in reciprocal health care with Australia, Australians are not financially covered by Medicare in the Cook Islands, or the Cook Islands medical health care system.

Should you contract COVID, have an accident or fall ill you’ll need to cover your own medical costs in the Cook Islands, which can be significant outside of Australia.

Should I get travel insurance to travel to the Cook Islands?

Travel insurance is not compulsory. That said, and not to get too preachy here, but you should always consider getting travel insurance when you leave Australia – and the Cook Islands are no different.

Medical, rental car and holiday insurance for incidents such as theft or loss is always a solid travel plan.

Are there any health risks with travelling to the Cook Islands?

Cook Island Government entry documents warn that Dengue Fever and COVID are present in the Cook Islands. For Dengue Fever protection, they recommend the wearing of long sleeve clothing and insect repellent around the active times for mosquitos of dawn and dusk.

We experienced some mosquito bites when eating outside in the evening because we were silly and forgot the Aerogard (none of us got sick).

Is the water safe to drink in the Cook Islands?

No. Unless otherwise advised at your accommodation, you are recommended to drink only bottled water, or boiled water in the Cook Islands.

Both of our beach resorts supplied freely available water dispensers or water bottles on site.

What does Kia Orana mean?

Kia Orana means, “May you live a long and happy life.”

The Cook Island locals are beyond friendly, and their welcome is warm and genuine. Everyone goes out of their way to ensure your visit is a happy one.  You’ll hear the greeting “Kia Orana” many times during your visit, and indeed, it’s even on the Cook Island car registration number plates!

Which airlines fly to the Cook Islands?

Jetstar Australia fly to the Cook Islands from New Zealand, and they are the only airline to fly from Australia to the Cook Islands.

We were invited to fly with Jetstar Australia from Australia to the Cook Islands on their inaugural flight in June 2023.

Jetstar Australia offer cheap fares from Sydney to the Cook Islands three times a week – check their website for their low Cook Island fares and frequent sales here.

Just go – the Cook Islands are an awesome close, cheap holiday!

The Cook Islands are an incredible holiday destination which will keep your family as busy – or relaxed – as you want to be. Best of all, the prices won’t blow the holiday budget, making for a great low-priced Australian family holiday that will keep everyone happy!

Snorkeling in Aitutaki Lagoon

Snorkeling in Aitutaki Lagoon

If you enjoyed reading this article or found it useful, please consider giving it a Facebook “Like” or share! We really appreciate it and it helps to keep the articles coming!

Do you have any questions about flying to the Cook Islands for your next vacation? I love questions, so do ask me in the comments below!

The Let’s Go Mum family partnered with Jetstar Australia for our flights and hosted us for a week at two different locations in the Cook Islands. As always, all opinions remain firmly our own.

This page may contain affiliate links. If you book a stay or an attraction through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for your support!

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About LetsGoMum

Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at barbara@letsgomum.com.au!