There are white-sand beach destinations found across the globe but if you are seeking that true Robinson Crusoe vibe then this little collection of atolls that lie 1,800 miles northeast of Auckland must surely represent the pinnacle of tropical castaway experiences. If you prefer your islands far-flung then you have certainly come to the right place.
Our focus here are the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki; both present amazing opportunities to discover the beauty of the South Pacific. Located close to the international date line these two islands are not merely typical of the tropical islands found in this region of the world, they are outstanding examples.
If Hollywood were to create the perfect beach movie (the one with the happy ending), they would set them here; which is interesting because a stopover in Los Angeles en route to the Cook Islands is highly recommended. Not only will it allow you to take a breather on your global travels but a break in the City of Angels will add an extra dimension to your holidays – and you will appreciate that Cook Island beach just that little bit more.
Two days in LA will provide you with enough time to tour the movie studios, shop on Rodeo Drive and take a romantic cruise along Sunset Boulevard before pressing on with your holiday several thousand miles westward in the South Pacific.
But what can you expect when you touch down at Rarotonga airport? The answer is simple: beauty and laid-back luxury all the way. Some would say that the view from the air is just as captivating as the views from land or sea that you experience later. When you fly over this pretty collection of jade green islands, contrasting against the topaz blue of the Pacific, you begin to appreciate the exotic nature of the world you are about to enter.
On Rarotonga you will find ample opportunity to discover more about the culture of the Cook Islanders, who are renowned for their friendliness and warmth. English is widely spoken so you won’t have any problems getting to know the locals.
Be sure to take in the Te Vara Nui Cultural Village tour so you can learn about Polynesian heritage and the history of this seafaring nation as they demonstrate the ancient fishing and navigational techniques that brought them to these islands thousands of years ago.
Take the opportunity to partake in a tropical banquet and enjoy a Dances of Legends performance, bringing to life the ancestry of the Cook Islanders. The subsequent Overwater Night Show will make you feel like the earliest explorers in this beautiful, yet isolated, part of the world.
While avocado, grapefruit and coconuts grow freely on the shoreline, inland there are rainforests to explore, waterfalls to discover and freshwater pools to paddle in. The Cook Islands possess some of the best remaining tropical mountain forests in Eastern Polynesia that are home to a variety of wildlife species. So keep your eyes peeled for some the stunning birdlife, including the Indian mynah and the Raratonga flycatcher. Or simply visit the Maire Nui Botanical Gardens for an incredible display of passionflowers and bird of paradise orchids.
Having discovered Rarotonga prepare for the next stage of your Polynesian adventure and the short flight to the island of Aitutaki. This trip is widely considered to be one of the most scenic short flights to be found anywhere in the world. Glimpses from the air of the famed blue lagoon encircled by coral reefs will make you wish you could have the whole scene recreated as a precious stone and set upon your finger.
The famed navigator Captain Bligh aboard the HMS Bounty discovered this island in 1789; surely there must have been some members of his crew that wanted to mutiny at the very sight of the swaying palm trees.
A trip to the evocatively named One Foot Island is highly recommended, if for no other reason than to pick up one of the world’s rarest passport stamps. Otherwise, hop into a water taxi to be whisked off to your own strip of castaway sand for sunbathing, snorkelling and one of the most stunning picnic locations in the world. A few days spent in a resort on this island will make your other life back home seem a very, very distant memory.
Actually, a visit to the Cook Islands will fulfil every possible fantasy island criteria you can think of: friendly and fascinating local culture, spectacular scenery with every opportunity to discover the beauty of nature on both land and sea, plus that wonderful sense of serenity that comes from knowing you are thousands of miles from civilisation.
When you factor in a stopover in Los Angeles this will add a contrasting and yet no less fascinating aspect to your wonderful journey. In fact, it is also possible to add New Zealand to your itinerary. Well, once you have travelled this far in search of paradise – it would be rude to turn back so soon. But that’s for another blog...