Travel Time

The Cooks, The “Low Key” South Pacific

The Cooks consist of 15 islands located in the heart of the Pacific, halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. The main island, Rarotonga, with its large lagoon, is a continuous land mass, so you can easily explore different resorts, restaurants and attractions. The small airport is just a few minutes’ drive from most resorts. In fact, you are less than 30 minutes to any beach. So once you land, you’re there.
On a budgeting note, the 10-hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles is frequently under $900. Cook Islanders use the New Zealand dollar, which exchanges at $1.40 to our dollar, good for the American visitor.
Of course, the Cooks have the sun and sand and aqua waters you’ve always associated with the South Pacific. But there are several ways the Cooks stand out from those other major destinations.
With a strong cafe culture and a burgeoning artisan food scene, Rarotonga lives confidently in the 21st century. Fish and other seafood is the thing to have here. You eat what was caught that day. Do not forget to visit the night market where you can sample a variety of traditional foods.
Go with the flow if you’re greeted with a kiss on the cheek instead of a handshake, even on a first meeting. These people really are friendly. People speak their minds, even to strangers, so feel free.
There are several cool places to see or activities to do: visit the fabulous Punanga Nui market held every Saturday morning; Take an excursion to Aitutaki atoll, where there are essentially beach islands encompassing blue lagoons. Attend a Sunday church service, as they are colorful events where women sport elaborate Polynesian head dresses and the choirs are uplifting. Take a cultural village tour, without feeling too touristy; Taste some island wine and bush beer; swim in the underground cave pools; Take a Tik-E electric tuk-tuk tour with Karl Jackson, a New Zealander expat. Anything you ever wanted to know about the Cooks will be revealed. Of course, snorkeling and diving are in abundance.
Since November to April is rainy season, so resort prices are lower, and November to March is cyclone season, although the country hasn’t had a serious storm in many years. July to October is “whale season” during which cavorting whales and their offspring are visible from the shore.
There are no high-rises, no chain stores, no McDonald’s, not even a stoplight. This is, as they say, Hawaii like it was 50 years ago. It’s so easy to do as much or as little as you like in the Cook Islands. Oh yeah, two words to know: kia orana. It means hello, may you live long, and many other things.
Getaway Cruises n’ Tours can be contacted at 925-679-8428 or getawaycnt1@prodigy.net. Visit their website for the latest in cruise and tour specials at www.getawaycruisesntours.com.