For the more adventurous & budget-minded who are determined to get to the outer islands by boat, you might check into Taio Shipping, the transport shipping line that services the Cooks.
While there are no specific multiple island cruises within the Cooks that I know of, you might be able to arrange something through the friendly people at Island Hopper Vacations. To visit their website see below.
Buses run clockwise & counterclockwise around the island throughout the day, and the native bus drivers are characters not to be missed. Even if you rent a vehicle, treat yourself to the bus ride at least once.
For information, go to the link below, click on Visitor Information / Bus Timetable (it's all in frames on the site, so I couldn't link directly to it!). The buses start their clockwise & "anti-clockwise" circuits from Cooks Corner in Avarua, but you can catch them easily along the way at a number of locations, or by flaggin them down.
Oh, and if you happen to catch Dennis' bus, sit back & enjoy a unique free guided tour with your ride.
I think having a scooter or car is essential when on the island(s). Although the bus is nice, it doesn't run very often and is a bit expensive (NZ$4 one way). I rented mine from Budget Rent-A-Car and their scooters were clean and fairly new. But, more so, Budget was very accommodating of my schedule, which was nice, and very close to where I was staying.
Especially on Aitutaki where the roads are wide open, I loved listening to my iPod and singing and just zooming along on the backroads. It was great!
It's $3.00 for the bus..tickets are available from the driver . They run until 11Pm...no night buses on Sun.
There's only one road that circles the island so...it gets you there slowly but surely.
There's a timetable on the tourist map .
The reqiirement to drive a vehicle is to pay for a Cook Island License. It was $15.00 . You rent the car a go to the police staion pay your money and an hour later you have a nice lamentated license...good souvenir. If you are renting a motor bike you have to take a little test.
We had no problem in renting a car . There are a few agencies but we found Budget was about the same price as the smaller local companies and they offered 24 emergency service.
The prices were pretty good. We rented for 5 days at $45.oo ( NZ) per day for a small car. I think it was an off season special. The island is so little a few days is all you need to drive around and explore and then try a few different resturants in the evening.
There is a convenient bus service around the island during the week. Buses during the day leave about every half hour from the main town of Avurua - one going clockwise and one going anti-clockwise. There are a few "bus stops" on the road but basically you stand where you are and flag the bus down when it comes along. To get off, just let the bus driver know where you're going. At night it's a little more tricky as there is only one bus every hour travelling clockwise - you may have yourself a long ride home depending on where you get on and where you get off. Nonetheless, travelling on the bus is thoroughly entertaing at any time and the bus drivers are friendly. If you're staying and travelling on the bus for more than a few days, you might want to enquire about a "10 ride pass".
I am pretty sure that the only international airline flying to the Cooks is Air New Zealand. Direct services from Auckland, Nadi, Papaete, and Christchurch are available. The cheapest fares are usually obtained online. See the website below. Flying time from AKL is about 4 hours. Flights do come and go at awful hours so plan carefully when booking accommodation. You may have to pay for a night's accommodation that you don't actually fully utilise in order to ensure you have somewhere wating for you upon an early morning arrival. Crossing the dateline from New Zealand, you gain a day, which is nice. Of course, you lose one coming back!
The only way to get to Aitutaki from Rarotonga (where the international airport is), is to fly Air Rarotonga. They operate a little Saab 340 between the two islands on a regular basis. Check their website for timetables and fares. The cheapest way to book a flight seems to be via the website. In late 2004 (when I organised this trip), the cheaoest fare was $127 one way, if booked on the web and if the last flight out of Rarotonga on the day of travel was taken and the first flight out of Aitutaki was taken on the return leg. The flight takes about 50 minutes, though, when we flew back to Rarotonga it took only 45 minutes.
A regular timetabled bus service operates around the island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. All services start and finish at Cook's Corner, right in the heart of Avarua. There are two routes - clockwise and anti-clockwise round the island. Fares are simple to remember: $3 for a oneway ticket and $5 for a return trip. Tell the driver where you are going when you get on and he will drop you off there. The driver will sometimes call out the names of places that he is going to stop - which is very helpful... just make sure you yell back "yes".
If you are catching the bus from somewhere else on the island, make sure you grab a timetable while in town. You will see the times that the bus passes certain key places on each route. You can then work out where those are in relation to you and either walk to them or just flag the bus down where you are. The bus will pick up people whereever they are. Of course, if you can see a bus shelter then you should walk to it out of consideration for the driver and other passengers. It is a bit silly when the bus pulls over to pick up people waiting 300 metres from what is clearly a regular bus stop!
If you are carrying large backpacks or suitcases, you will be charged extra (usually a 'student' fare) for these. Be aware of that if you are using the public bus from the airport. Only the anitclockwise bus stops at the airport proper. If you want to catch a clockwise bus after arriving by plane, you'll have to go out of the airport car park and cross the road.
Hiring a car on Rarotonga for a few days is a great way to have more freedom to explore. The island is very small, so you will circumnavigate it in less than an hour! The speed limit in Avarua and villages is 40km/hour and on the "open road" it is 60kph. A rental means that you can go out for dinner to restaurants more easily (they're spread all round the island), or pack a picnic lunch and head off to some beach for the day. Because we were in a big group, it worked out to be quite a good deal for us, but the price is prohibitive if you're single or a couple. Motorbike rental would be a better bet.
Daily charges are about $70 a day for a car.
We hired from Island Car & Bike Hire over in Arorangi.
Air Rarotonga also flies to the Outer Islands. At this link on KiaOrana.com, just click on the name of an island to see map & information about it: . From the tiny uninhabited atoll of Manuae to Mangaia, the second largest island in the Cooks, you can visit the black pearl farm or the vanilla plantations, or even the migratory bird sanctuary on Suwarrow. To visit multiple islands, check into the current rates for a 30 day Paradise Island Pass.
Whenever I think of flying over the Cooks for the first time, I always remember David Crosby's "Lee Shore", a haunting melody for all island lovers from his Crosby Still & Nash days:
"All along the lee shore shells lie scattered in the sand winking up like shining eyes at me...
From here to Venezuela there's nothing more to see than a hundred thousand islands flung like jewels upon the sea
For you and me..."
The flight to Aitutaki is approximately 45 minutes. If you don't wish to stay overnight, you can go for a day tour Monday through Saturday, which includes flights & airport transfers, lunch,a snorkeling excursion, tour of the island, and snorkeling gear (price as of 2004 is $399NZ per person).
No, you don't have to paddle an outrigger to get there! Air Rarotonga flies from the Rarotonga airport to all of the outer islands, & on weekdays there are 3 flights daily to Aitutaki. Booking online is available (see website below), or you can book through an agent in town in Avarua.
Cost varies depending on the flights you select.
This has to be the most fun you can have - driving around Raratonga in a Scootcar. We rented one for a day, and had a ball. They've easy to drive, but don't forget you need a Cook Islands Driver Licence - obtainable from the Police Station in Avarua for $10. No test necessary!
PO Box 700, Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Good for: Business
This place is amazing! The service is top notch. The resort is very nice. We were greeted by...more
Main Road, Rarotonga, Titikaveka, Cook Islands
Good for: Families