The Cook Islands as a Wedding DestinationTurou Oro Mai
When you dream of getting married in a tropical paradise, you're imagining the Cook Islands.
Located in the middle of the Polynesian triangle in the South Pacific, the Cook Islands is home to 15 beautiful and unique tropical islands.
The islands of the Cook Islands range from the mountainous jungle beauty of Rarotonga - the main island - through to the azure lagoon of Aitutaki, to the remote 'castaway' island atoll of Manihiki located in the northern group.
How do I get there?
The Cook Islands is located approximately 3.5 hours flying time from Auckland, New Zealand and 9 hours flight time from Los Angeles. Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue are the two Airlines that service the Cook Islands out of New Zealand and Air New Zealand flys from Los Angeles.
To reinforce how stress-free the Cook Islands truly is, visitors on arrival are provided with an entry permit for 31 days visa free. Nothing here is hurried, but everything happens when you need it too. It truly is the island paradise you dreamed of.
Spread over 2 million square kilometres of stunning ocean, this dream country has divided its islands into a northern and southern group featuring some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the South Pacific.
To access the outer-lying Islands, the national airline Air Rarotonga can transport you. The main island of Rarotonga and her northern sister Aitutaki offer dream beach holidays. Rarotonga is the largest of all the Cook Islands and is the hub for visitor arrivals. The award-winning destination of Aitutaki is just a 45 minute flight north of Rarotonga.
Rarotonga – The Main Island
Only 32 kilometres in circumference, Rarotonga is encircled by a turquoise lagoon and white sandy beaches that provide the picture-perfect location for your Rarotonga Wedding and Honeymoon - whether you seek moments of romantic solitude or a rousing beach party with family and friends.
There are two main roads on Rarotonga - you can circle the island on the Ara Tapu, the coastal sealed road. This will take you through the villages and past the beaches and the road that most people use; or alternatively you can take the older inland road, Te Ara o Toi, the original road which winds through plantations of taro, pawpaw, bananas and local farmlands. Driving is on the left hand side of the road and the Cook Islands drivers license, which is required to drive, can be easily obtained.
The southern side of Rarotonga features the iconic, breathtaking Muri Beach. Many superb Lagoon Cruises depart from Muri Beach, an experience that sees you exploring the many off-shore, uninhabited motus (or small lagoon islets).
These secluded islets are beautiful locations for a Rarotonga wedding ceremony - imagine sharing your vows on a tiny tropical island, just two of you.
The western coastline of Rarotonga boasts some of the world's most beautiful sunsets, that when partnered with a relaxing evening cocktail provide the most romantic picture show. This side of Rarotonga is also a wonderful viewing platform to observe the giant Humpback Whales, as they migrate enroute to Antarctica during the months of August to October. The Cook Islands prides itself in being a Whale sanctuary.
Avarua – Our town
The main township and capital, Avarua, is located on the northern side of Rarotonga and is a small humming village where good cafes, galleries, souvenir shops, retail stores and supermarkets reside. This is where key government departments, banks and telecom outlets can be found and in the daytime is an entertaining place to spend a morning or afternoon.
The township operates Monday to Friday from 8.00am – 4.00pm and Saturdays from 8.00am – 12.00 noon.
The currency in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand Dollar but the Cook Islands do have their own 1, 2 and 5 dollar coins along with a popular collectable item for many tourists, a three dollar note! Avarua township is flanked by two harbours, Avarua and Avatiu, and is easily walkable.
Avatiu harbour is a short walk west of central Avarua and has a constant stream of activity with private yachts calling in from all parts of the globe, and fishing boats, diving charters, inter-island freighting and many cruise liners frequenting the port.
Avarua harbour at the other end of the township is a haven for many water sport activities with outrigger canoe paddlers and ocean swimmers using this area as a training ground. This is the harbour where the well know Trader Jacks Restaurant can be found and the Wreck of the SS Maitai which met a watery end in 1916. No lives were lost but the remains of the boiler can be seen from the harbour. The boiler now makes a popular swimming buoy for training athletes.
Punanga Nui market has a good selection of stalls throughout the week offering local food, excellent produce and arts and crafts but on Saturday mornings the market truly comes alive - showcasing a huge variety of stalls, entertainment and community projects. Just make sure you get there before midday as everything starts to shut down around noon - we like to relax here in the Cook Islands!
Aitutaki – Heaven on Earth
To discover Aitutaki is to truly discover paradise. Aitutaki is an award-winning tropical destination, which has been listed as one of the best beach locations in the world. Aitutaki is ranked in Steve Davey’s 'World Top 40 Unforgettable Places to See before you Die'. Often referred to as heaven on earth, this tropical atoll lies 230 kilometres north of Rarotonga and is only a 45 minute flight away.
The famous turquoise Aitutaki lagoon rivals the world’s leading beach destinations and is home to 15 small islets (or, as we say, motus) with the main island where most of the accommodation is located.
It is truly the destination to get away from it all with a gentle and relaxed pace of life. Swim, snorkel, sun bathe and just soak up the beauty of the calm turquoise lagoon. Day trips out to the smaller islands within the lagoon offer unforgettable experiences. Aitutaki offers you all the modern tourist necessities with great accommodation and dining options to cater to your needs, and a community that is friendly and welcoming.
Tastes of the Islands
The Cook Islands is often compared and partnered to its closest cousin Tahiti with its white sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, turquoise azure lagoons and lush volcanic jungle and gardens. Many visitors say the true surprise is the level of sophistication and culinary prowess that the Cook Islands has. Our cuisine has developed over the years and is a unique form of Polynesian fusion cooking.
The Cook Islands style utilises the rich flavours of local tropical fruit and vegetables, combining with fresh fish, other fresh seafood and local pork. Rarotonga and Aitutaki have a broad selection of restaurants, cafes, bars and takeaway outlets all at varying price points and all well worth experiencing.
Shopping & Activities – The Fun
A trip to the Cook Islands is not complete without taking a local souvenir home and this country is a leader in Black Pearl farming. These gifts from the sea are highly treasured for their lustrous beauty and highly sought for jewellery manufacture.
You can find Black Pearl shops dotted around Rarotonga and all offer a range of beautiful items for all budgets. If jewellery is not what you are after, the Cook Islands has a thriving visual art community with many art galleries located around Rarotonga featuring carvings, artists impressions and the true Cook Islands souvenir - Tivaevae - our traditional, intricate embroidery and needlework on patchwork quilts and bedding.
The Cook Islands has a bounty of activities on offer; so depending on what level of adventure you are after, your holiday time can be spent relaxing in the sun, soaking up the bliss of a massage, facial or pedicure, joining a 4 Wheel Drive jungle safari, trekking across the island, or enjoying a round of golf, a deep ocean dive or just a languid snorkel in the clear Lagoon with tropical fish, the Cook Islands is paradise.
The Cook Islands is the ultimate destination for your wedding!