The Cook Islands are a sovereign island country in the South Pacific Ocean. The nation has 15 islands and around 17,000 citizens and is associated with nearby New Zealand.
The islands have gained popularity with international visitors and are becoming a top tourist destination for people worldwide. Plan a trip to the Cook Islands and experience stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and quaint seaside villages.
There’s something for everyone, and it’s just an easy plane flight away. We’ll reveal the best time to visit the islands and how to score deals on accommodation and flights, so read on to discover more about the islands and why they’re perfect for a vacation.
Overall Best Time to Visit the Cook Islands
The best time to visit the Cook Islands is in the dry season, from April to June. The weather is pleasant, tourism is low, and there are plenty of fun events and festivals.
Visit in the dry season and experience the islands to their fullest extent. Temperatures range from 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit in April and reach as low as 66 degrees in June.
There’s little rain, many sunny days, and ideal swimming conditions, and you’ll enjoy water temperatures of 75 to 81 degrees.
Tourism is minimal from April to June. Peak tourist season doesn’t start until winter, around July or August, and you can enjoy smaller crowds if you visit in the early dry season. Some people don’t mind the crowds but consider visiting from April to June if you want a more peaceful vacation.
Rugby is a big deal in the Cook Islands, and the yearly rugby festival happens every May in Rarotonga, the largest island. Also, check out the International Kite Surfing Contest on Aitutaki and see professionals compete or learn surfing yourself.
Cheapest Time to Visit the Cook Islands
December is the cheapest month to visit the Cook Islands. The tourist season stops at the end of November, driving rates down, and you can enjoy lower prices on accommodation and flights if you visit in December.
The climate isn’t at its peak, so you might have to endure some less-than-ideal weather conditions. The cheapest time features increased rain, higher temperatures, and pesky insects.
December is part of the region’s cyclone season, and cyclone storms can disrupt travel or make it hard to enjoy the outdoors. Temperatures range from 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water temperature is a pleasant 79 degrees.
Tourist crowds are low in December, as many want to avoid the bad weather, and you can score deals on flights thanks to the low tourism. Consider flying into Rarotonga International Airport, a gateway airport that can get you anywhere in the Cook Islands via smaller airlines.
Be aware that there are no ferries on the islands, so you have to travel by plane. There are still ways to enjoy your trip if you visit during the worst time.
Attend the Te Mire Tiare Flower Festival, an annual event in December, and see a beauty pageant and a parade at Punanga Nui Market. Be aware that many shops and restaurants are closed for the last two weeks of December due to the holidays.
Least Busy Time to Visit the Cook Islands
The least busy time to visit the Cook Islands is from January to March. It’s hot and muggy, and there are few tourists. However, there are still fun things to do, from New Year’s celebrations to festivals.
Get a great deal on your flight and book well in advance. Aim to book your flights six weeks to three months before your trip. Also, stay flexible with your dates and consider flying midweek.
Temperatures hit 84 degrees and go as low as 73 degrees Fahrenheit, while the water is a toasty 81 to 82 degrees.
The humidity worsens the heat, and tourists from dry climates may find the muggy air unbearable. Cyclones may occur, and rain is frequent from January to March. Attend the Te Mire ‘Atu Festival in March, a traditional song competition.
Head to Rarotonga for New Year’s festivities or enjoy a romantic stroll through the Garden of Seven Stones on Valentine’s Day in February. The bad weather is a perfect excuse to check out an indoor museum, like the Cook Islands Library & Museum or the Kay George Designs Gallery.
Worst Time to Visit the Cook Islands
The worst time to visit the Cook Islands is in the peak tourist season, from July to August. Families from New Zealand and Australia are on winter break, and the islands are busy with visitors.
The climate is at its coldest, and some days are too chilly for swimming or water activities. Get a good deal by staying in a cheaper area. Aroa Beach and Avarua, both in Rarotonga, have inexpensive hostels and hotels, and the island of Aitutaki also offers low prices.
Rarotonga is our best pick for saving money because you can fly into the international airport without any extra transport. You can still find some free activities in July and August.
Aroa Marine Reserve is a free area ideal for snorkeling, and the hiking trails are open to everyone. Don’t forget to check out the Wreck of the Matai in Rarotonga, a 1910s-era shipwreck site where you can dive to see or view from the shore.
Things to Consider
Take these tips into consideration before you commit to traveling to the Cook Islands:
- Natural disasters are common, with around seven cyclones a year. Be aware that you may have to change travel dates with little notice.
- Tipping isn’t a thing in the Cook Islands. Staff may even see it as rude if you try to hand them a tip.
- Bring a travel adaptor unless you are from Australia or New Zealand. American or European plugs won’t fit in Cook Island wall sockets.
Frequently Asked Questions
Check out these frequently asked questions and learn more about the Cook Islands:
What is the best month to visit the Cook Islands?
May and the surrounding months are the best time for visiting the Cook Islands. The weather is in the dry season, making it ideal and temperate, with little rain and low humidity.
Tourism is low, and you don’t have to worry about crowded beaches or busy streets. Consider visiting the islands in May and have an ideal trip.
How many days do you need in the Cook Islands?
Most hotels and hostels in the Cook Islands have a three-night minimum, but you can easily spend a week or longer in the islands. The Cook Islands are isolated from other countries and take hours to get to by plane, so you may want to spend a week or two before the long return trip. Also, your trip length depends on how many islands you want to visit.
There are only a few villages on the islands, and you can do the restaurants and museums in just a few days. However, experiencing the great outdoors takes longer, and you can spend a week or more exploring beaches, marine reserves, rainforest hiking areas, and parks.
Are the Cook Islands better than Fiji?
The Cook Islands are more isolated and peaceful, while Fiji is busy and touristy. Which location you choose depends on your priorities. Fiji is better if you want more city things to do.
The Cook Islands don’t have shopping malls, theaters, or much nightlife. However, the islands are more relaxing than Fiji, and you’ll see quieter beaches and more secluded villages.
Are the Cook Islands worth visiting?
Yes, the Cook Islands are worth visiting. The area features natural beauty, warm weather, and a vibrant local Maori culture. Choose the Cook Islands for your next trip, and you’ll experience a peaceful island paradise with friendly locals and fun outdoor sports like windsurfing.
Are the Cook Islands cheap?
The Cook Islands are not a cheap travel destination. You’ll have to pay for a long and pricey flight into Rarotonga, plus transport like cars and additional planes. Hotels are expensive too, and food prices are higher due to import rates.
Consider taking the bus instead of rental cars, and check into a hostel instead of a pricey hotel. You can also save money by shopping at a local grocery store like CITC Supermarket instead of a restaurant.
Which is the best island to stay on in the Cook Islands?
Rarotonga is the best island to stay on in the Cook Islands. There are 15 islands, but most are small, and some don’t even have villages. In contrast, the island of Rarotonga has grocery stores, hotels, museums, and festivals.
You can have the best of both worlds on Rarotonga and try restaurants in a village or retreat to a secluded beach. The largest island has everything from an international airport to rustic hiking trails.
How safe are the Cook Islands?
The Cook Islands have a low crime rate and are mostly safe for tourists. However, you may encounter pickpockets in busy areas. Keep your belongings with you, and don’t leave anything unattended on the beach.
Be aware that the Cook Islands are not safe for LGBT travelers. The Cook Islands have anti-LGBT laws, and while law enforcement doesn’t always target tourists, LGBT couples may want to choose a different place for their next vacation.
Can you swim in the Cook Islands?
Yes, swimming is popular on the Cook Islands year-round. All beaches are free and always open, and the shallow bottoms make them safe to swim in, even for beginners or kids.
Do they speak English on the Cook Islands?
Yes, most people speak English in the Cook Islands. English is an official language, along with Cook Islands Maori. 86.4% of locals speak fluent English. As a result, you should have no difficulty getting around as an English speaker. Most tourists come from Australia and New Zealand, so expect to hear some non-American variations and slang.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit the Cook Islands?
The best time to visit the Cook Islands is from April to June, in the dry season. You can enjoy the islands at their best with low tourism, moderate temperatures, and clear waters. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to the Cook Islands today!