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Last updated on April 14, 2023 by Wandering our World

If you’ve never visited Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands before, but you’re looking for paradise in the South Pacific, then you are looking in the right place. These islands have a beautiful tropical environment all year round, and so the best time to visit depends completely on your own personal preference.

The Cook Islands are a family of 15 islands located halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. They boast an idyllic climate and endless adventure filled with romance and pure relaxation. Just what the Dr. ordered!

These islands have remained unspoiled. They are remote and suit an adventurous spirit, and are perfect to appease the explorer in all of us.

We know this gorgeous place well, so will give you a run down of the best Cook Islands resorts right here.

However first, it’s worth quickly showing you what each of the main islands has to offer. Then you will know which resort – and island – may suit you best.

Sailing yacht anchoring in the shallow waters of suwarrow atoll, cook islands, polynesia, pacific ocean
iStock.com/Uwe Moser

The Islands That Make Up The Cook Islands 

Below are the five main islands, and what makes each unique.

1. Rarotonga 

This is the Cook Islands’ main island. Accessibility and ease of everything makes Rarotonga stand out from the rest of its sister destinations.

It’s 32km in circumference, is accessible by vehicle, and you can drive around the entire island in 45 minutes! But it’s also the hub of the Cook Islands, with so many excursions, restaurants and more.

2. Aitutaki 

Aitutaki is “The world’s most gorgeous lagoon,” according to Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet. The immaculate white-sand beaches are quiet and isolated, and the crystal-clear water is home to a diversity of tropical fish.

3. Atiu 

This remote, ancient island is estimated to be over 8 million years old. It is lush with dense coastal bush and rain forests. Atiu is about half the size of Rarotonga. 

4. Mangaia 

This island stakes claim to being the oldest island in the entire Pacific, with geologists estimating that the island is over 18 million years old. Mangaia is the second-largest and southernmost island of the Cooks. 

5. Mauke  

Mauke is hugged by a close reef where locals often catch fish to feed their families. This island is often described as the garden island of the Cook Islands.

Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, South Pacific has the most idyllic lagoon in the world
iStock.com/Paul Szigety

The Other Ten: Remote and Perfect for the Adventurous

The following islands are more remote and are perfect for adventurers wanting to get off the beaten track.

These islands are accessible by boat at various times, and some of the islands are accessible by local flights.

They are spread over 700,000 square miles across the South Pacific Ocean. The uniqueness and timelessness of these beautiful islands are worth a visit alone.

  1. Mitiaro 
  2. Manuae
  3. Takutea
  4. Manihiki
  5. Penrhyn
  6. Rakahanga
  7. Pukapuka
  8. Nassau
  9. Suwarrow
  10. Palmerston
Motor boat near the coast, Cook Islands, South Pacific.
iStock.com/Gerold Grotelueschen

The Ten Best Cook Islands Resorts

So, are you ready to dive in and book accommodation already?

We understand how time-consuming finding the best deal can be. So as we know these islands well, we have taken the hassle out of finding the best Cook Islands resorts.

Almost all of the Cook Islands resorts are based in Rarotonga or Aitutaki. You’ll find that some resorts remain independently owned, so expect a truly unique experience.

Accommodation options in the more remote, and less visited islands, are often more basic. However we certainly recommend exploring the Cooks and getting out to one or two of the more remote islands during your stay.

1. Pacific Resort Rarotonga (Rarotonga)

This 4.5-star full-service boutique resort is wonderfully situated on 5.5 acres of landscaped beachfront. Despite all that space, Pacific Resort Rarotonga offers an exclusive selection of just 64 rooms, suites, and villas. 

Each accommodation is elegantly designed in a contemporary Polynesian style and features a view of the lush tropical gardens or the beautiful white sands of Muri Beach and the changing colors of the lagoon.

At their Sandals Restaurant, dine among the gardens, or relax with a cocktail at the Barefoot Bar, which offers stunning views of the lagoon too. 

They offer a complimentary Kids Club, as well as a variety of aquatic activities. The resort’s swimming pool and beauty salon are available to you as well.

2. Pacific Resort Aitutaki (Aitutaki)

Expect luxury at Pacific Resort Aitutaki. This island is a beautiful tropical atoll with white sand beaches and a magnificent azure lagoon. Pacific Resort complements that wonderfully.

Each morning you’ll be welcomed by breathtaking views of the glistening lagoon, the reef, and the Pacific Ocean beyond. This Cook Island resort is a place where time appears to slow down, and the pleasures of island life are presented in exquisite circumstances.

Each of the resort’s 29 spacious, air-conditioned bungalows and villas welcomes visitors aged 12 and up, and they all have a direct beachfront location. Pacific Resort Aitutaki is a proud member of the ‘Small Luxury Hotels of the World’ group, and have been able to tastefully create rooms in a timeless colonial Pacific style with the finest amenities.

Any visit here will leave you calm and invigorated, with a strong desire to return after immersing yourself in luxurious surroundings. Easily one of the best Cook Islands resorts.

3. Rumours Luxury Villas and Spa (Rarotonga)

Rumours Luxury Villas and Spa is a top-class award-winning luxury accommodation with exceptional villas.

Each villa boasts a gorgeous private swimming pool and a private courtyard. And in each luxury villa there’s even a media area which includes a surround sound system and a 2.5-metre projector. The villas and spa were designed deliberately to depict a World-Class luxury lodging.

Each villa has a seaside position, four-poster beds, and two bathrooms. Plus, guests can take advantage of a 20% discount at their Waterfall Day Spa, which has won numerous World Travel Awards and Luxury Spa awards.

You can enter their villa courtyard, close the door, and enter your own little world. A world where you can enjoy a peaceful, relaxing, and romantic environment. In this gorgeous South Pacific setting, you can entirely disconnect from any troubles you have in this world.

The team at Rumours is kind, courteous, and will go out of their way to make your vacation everything you want it to be. While also remaining unobtrusive, fully understanding that you are there to relax and rejuvenate.

4. Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort (Aitutaki)

Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort is the Cook Islands’ only resort that offers overwater Bungalows. A romantic’s dream come true. 

If you’re looking for an overwater paradise, Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort is the place to go. This adult-only boutique bungalow is the only one set immediately on Aitutaki Lagoon, and so you’ll have unbeatable views of the lagoon from your room.

This stunning Cook Island resort is just a 2-minute private ferry ride from the main island of Aitutaki, providing the ideal blend of solitude and accessibility. It is a heavenly escape with breathtaking lagoon views alongside that quintessential South Pacific experience.

Relax in a hammock, swim in the lagoon, have a soothing massage at SpaPolynesia Aitutaki, and dine with a romantic candlelit supper on the beach as the sun sets. Then enjoy the moon and stars when they come out to play at this exquisite romantic getaway. 

There’s also a beach chapel for those who can’t get enough of saying “I do” while in Aitutaki!

5. Etu Moana (Aitutaki)

Imagine a mesmerising turquoise lagoon with crystal clear waters. A place where nature is truly untouched. Ocean waves break over the reef, and the sunsets are breathtaking. Welcome to Etu Moana!

Etu Moana is host to eight sustainable yet luxurious Polynesian villas with direct access to a long white sand beach. It was created to complement this pristine destination by creating unparalleled luxury in a romantic holiday setting.

Etu Moana Beach Villas are located directly on that lovely white sand beach and there’s a breathtaking view of the blue lagoon from each one. 

The villas are self-contained, with a king-size bed, huge covered verandas, and Tasmanian hardwood floors. The design is clean and contemporary. Smart TVs with over 40 movies on a hard drive are available in the rooms too.

They provide a free tropical breakfast, as well as kayaks, SUPs, snorkelling equipment, and bicycles so you can really explore the island and lagoon.

You can also listen to your own music by pairing your phone with a soundbar in the villas via Bluetooth. A gift USB card, coconut drink, ei’s (traditional flower garland), and airport shuttles are also available. Etu Moana’s beautiful and friendly Cook Islands resort staff awaits your arrival!

6. Aitutaki Escape (Aitutaki)

Aitutaki Escape is a small beachfront property with only three private villas, each elegantly decorated and luxuriously appointed, with direct access to the beach and lagoon. It’s as serene and exclusive as you can get.

Each villa has its own courtyard with a swimming pool, beachside terrace and boardwalks, full kitchen facilities, large interiors with king-size bed and luxury baths. There’s true Cook Islands friendliness, service, and exquisite attention to detail at this resort too.

All excursions and tours on Aitutaki are readily scheduled on-site, and an on-site cafe provides daily food and beverage options.

Aitutaki Escape is a quiet and secure haven where visitors may unplug from the rest of the world, in a place that exudes authentic Polynesian elegance. From your luxury beachfront villa accommodation at Aitutaki Escape, you can sit back, relax, and take in the gorgeous surroundings of Aitutaki Lagoon.

Enjoy stunning Aitutaki sunsets from your private oceanfront deck, or unwind in the privacy of your own gated courtyard, complete with a swimming pool for those hot days and slow romantic nights. Easily one of our favorite Cook Islands resorts. What a place!

7. Magic Reef Bungalows (Rarotonga)

Magic Reef Bungalows offer nine unique Polynesian-style self-contained bungalows on Arorangi beach, each with a golden sunset view. 

Sea views, romantic four-poster super-king-size mattresses, a private outdoor shower and bath, air conditioning, and a ceiling fan are all included in each bungalow. There is an extensive DVD and book library on hand as well.

Relax in the boat-shaped pool, grilling area, and petanque court. Snorkeling equipment and reef shoes are available at no cost. A complimentary breakfast is given upon arrival. 

There are a few electric vehicles available for usage by visitors too! You can also ride one of their e-bikes if you’re searching for a fun, eco-friendly way to move around Rarotonga. Definitely one of the most eco-friendly Cook Islands resorts.

8. Little Polynesian Resort (Rarotonga)

Look no further than this award-winning adults-only 5 star resort if you’re looking for romance, solitude and luxury.

Little Polynesian Resort is also a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and has become a favorite destination for honeymooners and couples looking for a romantic getaway in paradise.

The Beachfront Bungalows and Garden Studios are a dream for those seeking luxury, privacy, and romance. Why? Well they’re located just steps away from the white sands and turquoise waters of what is regarded as one of the most stunning beaches in the South Pacific. 

Enjoy an early evening cocktail while taking in the colours of a Rarotongan sunset in the resort’s gorgeous infinity pool that opens directly onto the white sand beach. The on-site restaurant and bar is the ideal spot to unwind after a long day too, as their skilled chefs create delectable local and international cuisine.

A stay with them is all about the personal touches, and the staff provide an experience unlike any other. Look no further than Little Polynesian if you’re searching for a romantic secluded environment and a unique Cook Islands resort.

9. Tamanu Beach (Aitutaki)

A warm island welcome awaits you at Tamanu Beach Hotel, a casual luxury Pacific holiday location on the pristine atoll of Aitutaki. 

The Tamanu Beach Resort is located on Aitutaki’s western shore, which means you’ll get spectacular sunset views from the beachfront restaurant and bar. 

This beautiful beachfront resort in Aitutaki has 23 bungalows, two freshwater swimming pools, a beachfront bar and restaurant, and a gift shop. Garden bungalows and one-bedroom lagoon view bungalows are among the four bungalow options that you can choose.

The garden bungalows are surrounded by lush tropical gardens, whilst the lagoon view bungalows are located right on the water’s edge, just steps from the beautiful blue lagoon.

The private white sand beach at the resort is bordered by Aitutaki’s crystal blue lagoon, providing infinite chances for island sports like swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, and SUPing in the beautiful seas. 

Tamanu Beach is also a family-run business that provides guests with a really authentic Polynesian experience. Every Thursday, you can enjoy their “Takurua” Island Feast and Show, which features a performance by a brilliant and dynamic cultural ensemble with Cook Islands music, dance, fire dancing, and more. 

This resort is also a popular destination for magical Cook Islands weddings and honeymoons, and it’s close to local cafés, bars, and restaurants. So you’ll have plenty of options to explore as well.

10. Sunhaven Beach Bungalows (Rarotonga)

On the western sunset side of Rarotonga is Sunhaven Beach Bungalows, a quiet secluded boutique house tucked amongst mature tropical palms on a beautiful white sand beach. This is one of the most affordable beachside Cook Islands resorts you can find.

You’ll find modern self-contained bungalows, suites, and studios with excellent amenities. Whilst from your veranda, enjoy stunning views of the lagoon and the Pacific Ocean beyond, with tropical sunsets as a backdrop. A large freshwater pool and a grilling area is available.

Are you looking for a relaxing getaway where you can de-stress and reconnect with life? The ‘No Children’ policy here provides peace and quiet, and the resort stands out amongst many others because of this policy. No, they don’t despise children! However, they want their visitors to be able to unwind, rest, and reconnect fully.

Whether you’ve been working hard or living in a house with screaming children, you owe it to yourself to have some peace and quiet from time to time! Allow them to look after you and guarantee that your stay is as relaxing and uninterrupted as possible.

Apart From Enjoying the Best Cook Islands Resorts, What Else is There to Do?

Stunning Nature to Enjoy

The shallow lagoons throughout this island nation are perfect for snorkeling. Aroa Marine Reserve – a protected marine area – is a great place to start. You can reach the reef from the shoreline which makes it perfect for kids and adults. Expect to see lots of multicolored reef fish, so make sure you take a great underwater camera with you – like this one.

While the Cook Islands are the perfect place to spend a day lazing on the beach, if you want to be active why not go for a hike. Rarotonga has a lush forested interior that is perfect for walking. There are several ancient trails that criss-cross over the island, and walking them will provide you with spectacular views.

One of our favorites is a marked trail that takes you to a dramatic peak called The Needle – you can find a map of the trail here. Plus the great thing about the Cook Islands is that there are barely any venomous insects or animals, so it’s a very safe tropical island to hike in.

Stunning panorama view from a place called "The Needle" on Rarotonga, the main island of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. The viewpoint can be reached through hiking the "Cross Island Walk".

Incredible Culture to Get Immersed In

As we’ve written about before, the culture of the Cook Islands is fascinating and well worth delving into.

Rarotonga’s traditional form of evening entertainment is the Island Night – a spectacular showcase combining traditional dance and music (karioi). Dancing, drumming, and singing are always on show, and even fire juggling, storytelling, and acrobatics. They are also staged during the annual Dance Week every April and Constitution Week in the summer.

Additionally, wood carving is a common form of craft that you’ll see around if you visit. Although in the past, it was imbued with more mythology and spirituality, it is still a common art form.

Rarotonga is known for its carving of staff-gods—a long work that combines images of gods with human descendants. Tangaroa is the Cook Islands’ god of the sea and is a common subject of carving. You can buy these carvings at handicraft markets.

Group portrait of Polynesian Pacific Islanders band plays Tahitian music on tropical beach with palm trees in the background.

Delicious Food to Get Your Teeth Into

Traditional Cook Islands cuisine often uses local produce and fresh seafood, making dishes tasty, fresh, and ethical. Something most food lovers can appreciate. (Recommended: A Foodie’s Guide to the Cook Islands).

Umukai meals are traditional feasts, and a must for any foodie to experience. The oven, or umu, is filled with wood and rocks, and a grill made of banana wood is placed over the hot stones. Umakai literally means “food from the oven,” since this implies a meal where all food is cooked in an underground earth oven called an umu.

Meat and vegetables are wrapped in banana leaves, placed in a sack, and put in the oven, and are then covered and left to cook for around three hours. It’s rather time-consuming but worth the wait!

You’ll eat tender meats, delicious vegetables, and more, leaving you happily satiated. We’ll get to it later, but you can experience this traditional feast on one of the famous “island nights” hosted by locals.


  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.