The Cook Islands
THE COOK ISLANDS (Kūki 'Āirani)
Not technically a country, being as it is a dependency of New Zealand, but there isn't much about in this corner of the world. The Cook Islands had a freshness about them that I liked, I didn't sweat all the time, like I did in Tahiti, although I mainly used motorised two wheel transport to get around. I only visited a bit of the Islands, Raratonga, the main island. Like most tropical islands, it had the dense brilliant green rainforest in the middle of the island, and lush sandy beaches surrounding the fringe of the island.
I was only there a couple of days, but I appreciated the tiny village life more here than in Tahiti, the local shop and bar and if lucky a petrol station, and that was pretty much it. A few properties scattered around. The ever dominant green mountain thrusting it's way into the background of every photo one tries to take here.
Language: English (Official) Maori
Currency: New Zealand $ (NZD) (Official) also Cook Islands $
Visa: No Visa required, although pre-booked accommodation is mandatory before arrival. An unpleasant $55NZD departure tax exists.
Plug: Australian plug (two 45degree flat pins with vertical flat pin at the top in triangle fashion)
GMT: GMT - 10
GDP Ranking (IMF): n/a (Similar to Thailand)
Communications: Country code is + 682
Health: No vaccinations are needed, although good insurance should be acquired as the islands only have two hospitals. Dengue can be a problem from time to time, so be aware of mosquitoes during the day.
When to Visit: Summer is the wettest season (November to April), it's also cyclone season. Winter (May to October) has average temperatures of 25c and is the best time to visit.
Personal Safety: Be careful if walking barefoot on beaches. There are no crime issues. F&CO up to date advice is here (under New Zealand).
Getting Around: Air Raratonga provide flights between populated islands. All islands are served by ferry/supply ship, however gaps between visits can be months for the more remote islands. Buses operate on the larger islands of Raratonga and Aitutaki. Car and the more sensible scooter hire are other means of getting around, although you'll need to acquire a license for driving in the Cook Islands. Due to the size, bicycles are another plausible option.
What to see/do: Hiking, beaches and watersports are all there is to do in The Cook Islands. And that's the reason most people come here.
Food & Drink: ika mata is a raw fish and coconut milk dish with vegetables. Curried eke is worth checking out for octopus fans, it's an octopus based coconut curry. For afters, Poke is a cooked fruit based dessert. Umu food involves traditionally prepared foods in an earth oven. The islands have a brewery, but the main product, Cooks Lager, is not good.