Cook Islands: Rarotonga and Aitutaki, South Pacific
The Cook Islands is a small island nation nestled deep in the South Pacific Ocean, in between Tahiti and Fiji. With a population of just over 14,000 residents on the main island of Rarotonga and only 2,000 on Aitutaki, it is very much an un-spoilt and un-crowded kiteboarding destination. Tourism, the main industry, brings over 90,000 visitors annually, and the Cook Islands are incredibly well set up for tourism, honeymooning in particular is very popular. Aitutaki’s claim to fame (other than the legendary kiteboarding) is having hosting the 13th season of “Survivor” – a controversial season where teams were divided by ethnic race.
The kiting is in one word: Dreamy. The Cook Islands are flat water paradise. The shallow depths make it ideal for learning, this is the place to bring your partner who has always been a bit intimidated by the prospect of learning kiting and for the rider who wants to push and progress on the freestyle front. One more word: Uncrowded.
Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding (LEK) is the school of professional kiteboarder Laurel Eastman, an IKO approved center. With the highest attention to safety and small details to make your experience the best one possible, you can enjoy a full kiteboarding course, an advanced or refresher lesson, a free introduction to kiteboarding with the trainer kite and boat transfers to the outer islands. Beyond kiteboarding LEK Cook Islands also offers a challenging menu of fitness classes including SUP Fit, Yoga, Pilates and more. Must try Aitutaki Beach Massage is also available. LEK is your one stop concierge/holiday planning team! Check it all out on www.laureleastman.com
International flights arrive in Rarotonga (RAR) daily from New Zealand and Australia. From Los Angeles (LAX) there is one non-stop flight each week with Air New Zealand, leaving LA late Sunday night. It lands at 6am and you can be on the water kiting straight away the day you arrive!
Aitutaki is non-negotiable for kiteboarders, a trip to this “almost atoll” and its surrounding lagoon is absolutely required. Many flights daily depart RAR for AIT with the reliable and professional Cooks Islands airline – Air Rarotonga. Online bookings via their website are easy: www.airraro.com and the flights average around 350 USD.
In Rarotonga there is an excellent bus system that circles the 32km circumference of the tropical island both clockwise and counterclockwise hourly. Rental cars and scooters are also widely available.
On Aitutaki the most “getting around” will be via boat transfer out to One Foot and Honeymoon islands for a day of kiting and adventure. The resort offers transfers into the main town where the bank and shops are located, as well as free bicycles for guests and a rental car fleet to explore the small island one day if you would like.
New Zealand Dollars is the official currency, change money at the Western Union in Rarotonga or withdraw cash from the bank. Credit cards are widely accepted.
The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa and The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa are our partners here in The Cook Islands. The Rarotongan is The Cook Islands iconic signature resort. Built for families it boasts a baby “crèche”, a huge kid’s club, and a “teen zone” all specifically dedicated to keeping kids happy and entertained. Adjacent to the Rarotongan is the newly launched Sanctuary Rarotongan, an adult’s only absolute beachfront resort with distinct Polynesian flair.
The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa is the only private island resort in The Cook Islands, boasting surreal views of the stunningly spectacular Aitutaki Lagoon from your doorstep. The exclusive all bungalow resort has two fabulous restaurants, on site spa and arguably one of the best views in the entire world.
Check out the hotel websites:
Budget accommodation options are also available, just ask the LEK team, however this is a kiteboarding vacation spot where we recommend to indulge, pamper, and treat yourselves to a bit of tropical luxury.
Food in the Cook Islands is simply delicious. Pacific Rim influenced restaurants abound, all serving up fresh tasty fare. Each resort has their own in-house restaurant and there are many others to choose from. Grocery stores are also plentiful; however in Aitutaki the selection at times may be limited.
Islands of this size are not able to produce food for the volume of visitors; so much of what we eat there is imported. This results in a higher cost, as to be expected, but it is excellent value and really it’s a good thing we are there to kiteboard and get some exercise to balance out all the fabulous meals.
Crystal clear, warm and shallow. Year round bliss.
Officially the windy season is May through October, however like many blessed tropical destinations the Cook Islands is a year-round destination for kiting with a high percentage of windy days all year.
Our favorite non-windy day activities in Rarotonga are: snorkeling the Marine Reserve directly in front of the resort and hiking the “Avataresque” mountains in the center of the island. On Aitutaki hop on a lagoon cruise to snorkel with GIANT clams, try a round of golf at the local course, or set out for a great day fishing.