Yay, we made it through January! On one hand, we survived “Blue Monday”, but now we can look forward to an extra six weeks of winter (thanks alot Punxsutawney Phil). And to make matters worse, those of us on the Pacific ‘Wet’ Coast are suffering through our 19th day of rain…in a row. Sounds like some of us need to head south, waaay south. And the Tripzter team knows exactly where you should go.
Somewhere, amidst the 1.2 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between the Hawaiian archipelago and New Zealand, lie the idyllic Cook Islands. A tepid climate, mosaic of rich traditions, and the warmth of proud people waiting to welcome the weariest of travellers. Devoid of brash fast food chains, gargantuan tour buses, shopping malls or anything resembling its cousin to the far north (Hawaii), Islands like Raratonga, Aitutaki and Atiu are a quiet feast for the soul, and more importantly, a much needed break from all this rain. Our very own Corporate Travel Manager and perpetual globetrotter, Matthew Quinton, set off to experience the idyllic Cook Islands over New Year’s and here’s what he had to say about his unique experience:
So Matt, how do we get from Vancouver to Paradise..err…we mean the Cook Islands?
I flew with Air New Zealand through Auckland and Sydney. And on the way home, I took United Airlines from Los Angeles back home to Vancouver. One thing to consider with Air New Zealand, is opting for the upgrade to Premium Economy. You get to enjoy business class service (including a premium meal paired with complimentary wine) and of course, more legroom, all for less than you would spend on a business class ticket.
What was your favourite memory from your time in the Cook Islands?
My favourite part of the trip was a day trip we took to the island of Aitutaki. It’s only a 45 minute flight with Air Rarotonga from Rarotonga. Aitutaki is a small island protected by a series of small Atolls and a lagoon…absolutely stunning. The bluest, crystal clear water I have ever seen and soft, white, powdery sand beaches. And even, though I was on a boat with 20 other people, I still felt like I had the place to myself.
Do you have some tips or interesting tidbits our clients might want to know about travelling to the Cook Islands?
Cash or credit. Most people don’t know, but the currency used is New Zealand Dollars. And avoid using at ATM if you can, otherwise you’ll be shelling out $7.00 per withdrawl – Ouch!
Rent a car. One of the best and easiest ways to see Rarotonga on your own is to rent a car, and there are plenty of companies to rent from. You can circumnavigate the island in just over an hour, and since there’s only one main road, it’s impossible to get lost.Take a Tuk Tuk. Another great way to get around the island is by Tuk Tuk. And the best part, they’re quiet, and emissions free which means you get to sit back, relax and enjoy fresh island air while learning all about the history of this beautiful little island from a local expert. And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, hop on an electric bike and take a self-guided tour.
Stick to local drinks! There are many restaurant and café options to choose from, but if you’re trying to keep the expenses down, avoid drinking Coke and Coke Cola related products – You could be paying as much as $5.00 per can.
Leave the diet at home. We all know vacations are a time to be adventurous and enjoy local cuisine, guilt-free. These are a few of my favourite restaurants:
- Nautilus Restaurant at Nautilus Resort
- Café Salsa in Aitutaki – best coffee/lunch on the island
- Café Beluga – best breakfast on the island
- Tamarind House – Colonial upscale dining with an amazing view!
- Vaima’s – great food, right on the beach.
- The Spaghetti House for Italian food at the Edgewater resort.
Mingle on Market Day. If you happen to be on Rarotonga on a Saturday, wander down to the waterfront, and next to Avarua, the island’s main township, you’ll find the Punanga Nui Cultural Market. Here you’ll find everything from local art, clothing and jewelry to fresh fish, veggies and fruit, and a great opportunity to mingle with vendors from surrounding islands.
Enjoy a day of rest. After a day of hustle and bustle at the Saturday Market, set your soul free at Mass in any one of the beautiful local churches on the island. Christianity is a very important component of local culture, so much so, that you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant serving alcohol on a Sunday.
If you are looking for a sun-drenched alternative to Mexico, the Caribbean or even Hawaii, the Cook Islands is a great, year round option. And what’s more, if you are looking for a unique destination to ring in the new year, you won’t be dealing with swarms of other tourists.
If you’ve been dreaming of an idyllic Cook Islands escape, or if Matt’s Instagram account is making you jealous and now you can’t get visions of endless horizons and turquoise seas out of your head, we would love to offer you one of our many South Pacific promotions. Pop your details into the form below and we’ll have you on your way to the idyllic Cook Islands.