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Cook Islands Travel Guide - Overview




The Cook Islands are situated 3500km (2200 miles) northeast of New Zealand and 1000km (600 miles) southwest of Tahiti in the South Pacific, forming part of Polynesia. The islands fall into two groups: the scattered Northern Group are all coral atolls while the Southern Group is of volcanic origin. Most of the larger islands include lagoons surrounded by small areas of fertile land above which rise volcanic hills. Unsurprisingly, given their beauty, the Cook Islands have been used as the setting for several films, the best known being Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence.

The islands were named after Captain James Cook, who became the first European to sight them in 1733. However, credit for the first discovery of these islands must go to the Polynesians who discovered them during their great migratory journeys across the Pacific in the seventh and eighth centuries. The main island, Rarotonga, was rediscovered by the Bounty Mutineers in 1789. In 1888 they became a British protectorate, and in 1901 became part of New Zealand. But in 1965, the islands achieved self-government as a New Zealand Dependency.

People come to the Cook Islands for the beaches and unspoiled ones, at that. The Cook Islands, despite covering a vast area, have a very small population, and the islands do not possess any of the large tourist resorts that some might expect from a lush holiday destination. Yet others might delight in the pristine, powdery beaches and the utter tranquillity. There are, of course, more developed resorts on certain islands than others, such as those on Rarotonga (where the airport is situated) and Aitutaki, which cater for various activities. For those simply wanting to swim, the best beaches of all are at Muri Lagoon and Titikaveka. But it won't take much to entice you to dive beneath those clear, turquoise waters, which are teeming with colourful fish and swaying coral reefs. Rarotonga also offers a variation in scenery, should you unlikely though it is grow tired of tropical paradise, since it is a mountainous island with plenty of verdant scenery. The older volcanic island of Kauai offers comparable aural treasures.

For those who also grow weary of soaking up the sun under palm trees, the Cook Islands may not be overly-developed, but there is certainly plenty to do here, whether you are canoeing, kayaking or snorkelling, attending one of the islands' many festivals or clapping along as dance groups bop at various hotels: there is always something to entertain and engage.



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