For everyone dreaming of a beautiful vacation to the South Pacific, the Cook Islands are a great option. Over 100,000 people visit each year, a large number when you consider that the permanent population of this island country is just 17,000 people.
The archipelago has many natural wonders, including the volcanic island Rarotonga, the turquoise waters of Aitutaki Lagoon, and mountain formations such as Te Rua Manga.
But while it’s rich in culture and breathtaking beauty, are the Cook islands safe to visit? Allow us to break it down.
Are the Cook Islands Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. The Cook Islands are some of the safest vacation destinations on Earth. This island country is fabulously safe, and most visitors have completely carefree vacations!
The rate of crime, including petty crime that often affects tourists, is minimal, and other dangers are practically unheard of. Most travel advice for visiting is minimal since there is not much that tourists have to watch out for.
The Australian government has the Cook Islands under a green travel advisory, just telling its citizens to exercise normal precautions when they go there.
The New Zealand government is a bit more cautious, putting the islands under a Level Two travel advisory, but the New Zealand government’s travel advisories tend to be more cautious than those of other countries.
These countries do offer detailed advice on precautions to take in the Cook Islands.
Common problems to watch out for include:
- Petty theft
- Vehicle break-ins
- Accommodation break-ins
Overall, the incidence rate for all crimes is very low. The small, tight-knit community on the Cook Islands rarely experiences any crime.
However, you will have to exercise a bit more caution when it comes to other potential safety threats. As with most tropical destinations, beautiful nature is sometimes deceptively dangerous.
The Cook Islands are in the Pacific Ocean, making them vulnerable to violent storms and cyclones. Try to avoid visiting during cyclone season, which runs from November to April and peaks in December and January.
The Cook Islands doesn’t experience cyclones every cyclone season, but the risk is elevated and hard to predict.
Besides basic precautions, you don’t have to worry about anything when you visit the Cook Islands. Now that the island country has lifted all COVID-19 entry restrictions, it is a great time to visit.
Crime in the Cook Islands
When most visitors are researching a new place, they want to know about the crime rate. The crime rate is a good indication of the overall safety of a country and can help you stay alert to any potential dangers.
You don’t want to experience theft or an even worse crime on vacation when the whole point of going on vacation is to relax! You can put your fears at ease when it comes to the Cook Islands because crime is extremely rare in the island country.
The crime rate for most crimes is low and practically nonexistent.
Although that doesn’t mean you should throw all caution to the wind, you can rest assured that you will most likely have a safe time when you are in town.
According to Numbeo, which compiles a crime index, the Cook Islands scores a 35.00 out of 100, which is a low value. Respondents report low levels of crimes, such as break-ins, muggings, vehicle theft, hate crimes, drug abuse, and vandalism.
Even corruption and bribery rates are low. Respondents reported very low levels of crimes, such as vehicle break-ins, assaults, verbal harassment, and property crime rates.
Residents and visitors feel safe walking around the Cook Islands at night and during the day. Annual crime rates for the Cook Islands are very low.
For example, in 2021, police recorded 69 burglaries for the whole year and 49 motorbike and scooter thefts. However, there was a slight increase in domestic violence cases and especially in theft—there were 134 theft incidents in 2021.
Theft is expected to increase this year, as the islands will now open fully for tourism.
Theft is the most common crime affecting tourists on the Cook Islands (other common crimes, such as domestic violence and traffic violations, primarily affect locals).
As the Cook Islands have become a popular tourism destination, with annual arrivals sometimes reaching numbers that are ten times the full-time population, theft is becoming a more lucrative crime of opportunity.
However, most theft incidents are crimes of opportunity instead of premeditated, making it easy to avoid them. It shows how safe the Cook Islands are overall when a slight rise in theft is cause for concern.
There are a few reasons why the crime rate is so low and why violent crime is practically nonexistent.
Remember that we are talking about a very small island nation with barely 17,000 people. The communities are small and close-knit, making it difficult to get away with any type of criminal activity.
The police are also well-resourced and don’t have a reputation for corruption. That makes it harder for criminals to get away with their misdeeds, and the police often have the resources to prevent crime from occurring in the first place.
As with any tourist destination, the most common crime affecting tourists visiting the Cook Islands is petty theft.
The rate of petty theft here is not nearly as high as in some other tourist destinations, such as the backpacker circuit in Vietnam or many major European cities.
However, if you are completely careless, someone might think it’s their lucky day and take advantage of you. Basic precautions are usually more than enough to help you stay safe from potential thieves in the Cook Islands.
The Canadian government advises travelers to secure their valuables at all times, even though the island country feels completely safe.
You don’t have to carry around a money belt or look at everyone with suspicion, but tucking valuables away in a bag and not leaving them unattended will do enough to deter most thefts.
The beach is a common destination for theft, as travel advisories such as New Zealand’s warn travelers.
Many travelers blissfully take their bags to the beach, then jump into the waves, unaware that while they are swimming, someone could be rifling through their possessions back on shore. Luckily, this form of theft is also easy to prevent.
Don’t take all of your valuables with you to the beach, and leave everything you don’t need for the day in your accommodations, preferably in a locked area.
If you have to take your things with you, go to the beach with a buddy and alternate watching your belongings. There have been cases of accommodation break-ins and thefts from hotel rooms in the Cook Islands before.
This is easy enough to prevent — tuck your valuables somewhere out of sight so they are not tempting to passersby or cleaning staff. If you stay in a higher-end resort, use the room or hotel safe, which is usually provided.
Theft from a Scooter
Motorbikes or scooters are common ways to get around the Cook Islands, and many tourists join the trend and rent bikes. However, you need to be careful when renting a scooter or motorbike, and not just because road accidents are common throughout the Cook Islands.
As tourism increases, more and more thieves are targeting scooters for theft. If you rent a scooter, be careful about storing your things in the storage bin of a scooter, which is usually at the back of the bike.
The UK government warns about the prevalence of theft from scooter storage bins. Thieves will often target rental scooters because they know foreigners are more likely to store their valuables there (and tend to have more valuable items on hand than locals).
Thankfully, even a crime such as this one is fairly easy to prevent — just don’t leave your valuables unattended in your scooter storage compartment.
When you park the scooter and head out exploring, take your bag with you no matter what. Even if the storage compartment seems secure, they are usually easy to break open, so the safest option is to take your things with you.
Avoiding Bad Areas
There are really no bad areas on the Cook Islands since the crime rate overall is so low. Thefts primarily tend to occur on beaches, according to the Australian government warning, or in beach parking lots.
This is where tourists tend to congregate — and where people tend to get the most careless about their possessions. Don’t let the relaxed atmosphere of the beach lull you into complacency, and keep your eye on your things even while swimming.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips to keep in mind when visiting the Cook Islands:
- Like any tropical destination, the Cook Islands struggles with mosquito-borne diseases. Luckily, malaria is not present on the island, but dengue fever outbreaks occur every few years. Protect yourself by spraying bug spray regularly and using a repellent around doors and windows.
- Get comprehensive travel insurance before visiting the Cook Islands, and make sure that your policy covers medical evacuations. Medical facilities in the island country are limited, so if you get seriously ill, you will have to be evacuated to New Zealand.
- Scooters are a popular way to get around the Cook Islands, and more and more tourists are renting them as well. If you decide to rent one, you will need a temporary Cook Islands license and to pass a quick driving course. Roads are often dangerous, especially at night, so make sure your insurance covers you for accidents.
- The culture in the Cook Islands is fairly Christian and conservative. Respect local conventions by dressing modestly away from the beach and not expecting businesses to be open on Sundays.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions you might want answered before heading to the Cook Islands:
Is it expensive in the Cook Islands?
Most destinations in the South Pacific are expensive because the cost of getting there is high, and prices on the islands tend to be higher due to scarcity. However, the Cook Islands are far more affordable than other South Pacific destinations, such as Bora Bora.
What is the crime rate in the Cook Islands?
The crime rate in the Cook Islands is very low. There are only a few hundred reported crimes each year, mostly petty thefts or traffic violations.
Are the people of the Cook Islands friendly?
The people of the Cook Islands are very friendly and known for their hospitality, just like most other places in the South Pacific. Return that friendliness with your own respect by following local customs and not taking advantage of their hospitality.
Do they speak English on the Cook Islands?
Almost everyone on the Cook Islands speaks English, as this country is in an arrangement called “free association” with New Zealand. The other official language is Cook Islands Maori, and you can learn a few basic phrases in Maori to be extra polite when you visit.
What are the dangers in the Cook Islands?
The biggest dangers in the Cook Islands come from natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis. Dangerous conditions also exist year-round, such as riptides that kill swimmers. Always check safety information before swimming on a new beach.
So, Are the Cook Islands Safe to Visit?
The Cook Islands is the perfect place for a carefree vacation, thanks to the low crime rate and high safety levels. Just don’t get too careless and leave your possessions unattended and be careful when swimming; you should be fine. Happy travels!