One of my last conversations in the Cook Islands was with Kerryn Cook, the outstanding General Manager of Cook Islands Tourism Australia. We touched on the question ‘What words can possibly describe (and use in marketing) the magic of the Cook Islands?
We didn’t have an answer.
This is a special place that you simply have to ‘feel’.
I’m very fortunate to have experienced the beautiful Cook Islands on a recent business trip – the yearly ‘KOCI’ trade show – sponsored by the incredible crew at Cook Islands Tourism Australia, their counterparts in the Cooks, and Air New Zealand. Cook Islands Tourism Australia ~ Kerryn, Sarah and Donna ~ planned a week in paradise that I’ll never forget, showcasing a destination now forever in the heart.
You can read about the array of resorts, attend Cook Island trade shows at home for years, drool over images – but nothing beats the first-hand experience for truly understanding (and falling in love with!) ‘the Cooks’ as it’s fondly known.
After all, its magic is in how it feels, its essence, meeting the locals by stumbling into Colin’s home based jewellery shop on a walk, a child madly waving at you from the back of her mum’s scooter, the lush green landscape and colourful flowers, a night out at their club ‘Rehab’, and an unexpected experience onboard the “Anti-clockwise” (or Clockwise) bus that circumnavigates the small island of Rarotonga (which is only 40 odd minutes should you not stop).
Showcased the extensive array of hotels, villas and apartments in Rarotonga, we were also fortunate to experience an activity morning. Choosing which proved tough indeed – with quad biking, diving, lagoon cruise, and island cycle tour all on offer.
Being my first time to the Cooks I felt the lagoon cruise was a good choice, and I’m very glad to have experienced Koka Lagoon Cruises for the morning. Not just a great ‘product’ – the vessel being well equipped and even included a glass bottom – it was the crazy crew who really made it. The perfect blend of not-too-touristy banter, sarong (pareo) dressings, the crazy antics of Captain Jack Sparrow (including being hit on!), the mandatory coconut tree climbing, and an amazing BBQ feast to top it off.
And oh, the food. The Cook Islands diet is fresh and varied, the freshest of seafood on offer, local cafes, resort dining, even Raro’s Fried Chicken open 24-hours – something to suit everyone’s tastes. The must-do’s are trying the Mahi Mahi fish marinated in lime and coconut, and the incredible paw paw salad – a gluten-free girl’s paradise.
Our trip extended beyond Rarotonga and across to Aitutaki, home to its magical lagoon in every-shade-of-blue – of which photographs can’t possibly capture. Aitutaki is a must-do add-on to your visit to the Cook Islands. A small and spectacular island with its own proud and passionate people, stunning beachfront properties, and yet more amazing food.
You can’t come to the Cook Islands without seeing a Polynesian dance show. Pop on down to the Aitutaki Fishing Club. Recently revamped inside you’ll think you’re back in Aus at a surf club, not surprisingly this has become a local favourite for a drink, meal, dance and fire-twirling show, even karaoke!
One of the most memorable highlights was our visit to Plantation House back in Rarotonga, the home of Louis and Minar Enoka, a couple who have opened up their home and family life to prepare an organic feast, with almost every ingredient taken from their sprawling organic plantation behind their 1853 colonial homestead. Book in before you leave home or you’ll miss out, this unique treat is held just once every two weeks.
Of course we had to have ‘the’ big night out to finish up our time in Raro, ending up quite literally in Rehab! The Cook Islanders sure know how to party! Go Troppo, a party bus operated under the banner of Turama Pacific Travel Group, Is a must-do experience during your stay in ‘Raro’ – non stop music, dancing, for some even around a pole!
Picking up clients along the way, the group gets larger, and by the time you reach Vaiana’s Bistro for your beach party everyone’s in party mode. A real highlight here was not only the Polynesian dance show (of which we became part of), but the talented young musicians (and by young I mean 10 to 12 year olds), beating their drums and smiling away as only Cook Island kids do. Back on ‘Go Troppo’ bus and we ended up at ‘Rehab’ – the much talked about club, for yet another boogy and $2 shots.
Cook Islands. No words.
You’ll understand when you visit and feel the magic for yourself.
Written by Cris Cali, Marketing Manager, Infinity Holidays