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Cook Islands or Fiji?

Kendal, United...
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Cook Islands or Fiji?

We are visiting NZ next February and would like a chill out on return to the UK. WE are torn between the Cook Islands or Fiji.

Any adivce or recommendations much appreciated. We are mid/late 50's. Not into fishing or water sports, just messing in the sea, snorkelling and chilling out. Would like to take in some local culture too - but nothing touristy.

Many thanks

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1. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

Kia Orana Jaybly, welcome to the Cook Islands forum.

The Cook Islands is a Polynesian island nation, while Fiji is a Melanesian destination. Both have very different cultural heritage, yet each shares their favoured positions as tropical South Pacific destinations. The Cook Islands has a very much smaller land mass compared to Fiji. Additionally the Cook Islands has a low population - some 18,000 people in total. The tourism industry is newer in the Cook Islands, with tourism activities being evenly dispersed around the most frequently visited islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki.

Weather-wise, February is mid-way through the summer period in both countries. But with the Cook Islands being located further south of the equator compared to Fiji, the temperatures are lower year round; especially so for the Southern group (includes Rarotonga) which is where the majority of our visitors remain.

Rarotonga having the international airport, as well as the seat of government and most of our nation's infrastructure, also receives the majority of visitor stays. The island itself is very pretty with a mountainous central interior, ringed by its inhabited coastal plain, white sandy beaches enclosed by a reefline with views to the ocean beyond. For a small island (but the biggest in the Cook group) there is diversity in scenic appeal and amenity values. Rarotonga is only 31 kms around its circumference which makes it easy to access other parts of the coastal plain and its beaches.

Each side of Rarotonga provides differences in their lagoon environments however. The deepest lagoon waters are found along the southern parts of Rarotonga. The main port and harbour is located along the northern side. West of the island is more sheltered from the prevailing wind and frequent showers, while the east has the best scenery with its offshore islets, are large clear lagoon area. Muri beach on the east has the most tourist accommodation matched by the drawcard of sights and attractions (lagoon and land). Best snorkelling opportunities are found in the marine reserves (swim off the beach) and with the lagoon cruises and glass-bottom boat tours.

The best feature about a visit to the Cook Islands is having a range of things to see and do on the one island without the need to take another journey to reach your intended accommodation. All accommodation on Rarotonga is located no further than 30 minutes away from the airport. If your primary interest for a Pacific island destination is to chill out and relax after lots of sightseeing around NZ, I suggest that one of the small to mid-sized accommodation properties around the southern or western parts of Rarotonga would probably be a good fit for you both.

Without knowing what your price-range is for accommodation, and whether you are keen to self-cater part of your stay or have the luxury of having all meals prepared at restaurant/cafes I can only make several suggestions for accommodation that you can review in order that you gain an impression of what Rarotonga offers:-

* NW Rarotonga - Sunset Resort

* West - Manuia Beach, Magic Reef

* SW - Sunhaven Villas, Aroa Beach-side Inn, Lagoon Breeze Villas, Vaikoi

* South - Cooks Bay Villas, Moana Sands Villas, Palm Grove.

* SW - Sea-Change, Bella Beach bungalows, Moana Sands hotel, Rumours.

All these properties offer peace, privacy and proximity to lovely beach/lagoon areas. Should you be interested in viewing a Polynesian floorshow the bigger resorts ffeature weekly dinner and entertainment. Although these are aimed at the entertainment market, nevertheless the vibrancy and physical skills used to perform our fluid action-dancing is a not to be missed experience if this is your first visit to Polynesia.

For a more indepth cultural immersion (less tourists and greater local population) a visit to one/several of the outer islands will provide this. Consider Aitutaki, Mangaia and Atiu islands. The major emphasis for Aitutaki is its magnificent lagoon, Mangaia has ancient history, natural beauty and underground caves, while Atiu has native birdlife, plantlife and deserted bays and beaches. Air Rarotonga is the Cook Islands only domestic airline with daily flights to/from Raro to Aitutaki, and regular weekly flights from/to Raro and Mangaia, or Atiu. It is also possible to do a 3 island hop combining Rarotonga - Atiu - Aitutaki.

These are very useful sites to learn more about the Cook Islands - includes accommodation choices too - http://www.ck; www.cookislands.travel

Happy planning - Kia manuia.

Edited: 10 May 2012, 18:30
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Kendal, United...
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2. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

Wow! Thank you so much Frangipani. I have spent a whole day trawling reviews and am no further on. Your response has come at a good time! I will look into your suggestions and get back to you.

We visited NZ for 4 weeks in Feb/March 2011 and are well and truly hooked on your beautiful country and friendly people. We are planning another 4 weeks in Jan/Feb next year. Our budget will not stretch to luxury (sadly) on the Cook Islands, we would rather spend our money visiting the NZ places we missed last time. So, we are looking at 4 nights maximum, somewhere private and quiet. We are not strong swimmers but would relish a bit of snorkelling in the safer shallower lagoons/sea.

Thanks again. I will contact you soon. Rgds Jan

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3. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

Hi Jan,

Let's hope that we can turn on better weather in the North Island for your return trip! Not much of a summer in the north, but ironically the best month for settled weather was during April - Waiheke has been looking a picture with its autumn vine leaves, clear sea-views but very little precipitation (although not so good for coastal gardens).

I mentioned that the best parts of Rarotonga for snorkelling are within the marine reserves. None of these are deep anyway, with Aroa beach experiencing less current action. If you are willing to provide a per night price range, I'm happy to narrow the field down to four places to stay. If you prefer to PM me with the details, I'm happy to go with this alternative mode of reply.

Hope this helps. I think that with a 4 night stay, Rarotonga lends itself well towards a short stay. Not only due to the number of beaches, but having a variety of sights on hand with easy means to access everything. Lots of rental cars available as well as our trusty bus-service. No need to convert to yet another currency on the homeward journey.

Cheers!

Frangipani

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4. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

Hi Jan,

In order to get a balanced response to your question, it would be worth your while posting the same question on the Fiji forum.

Both have much to offer and it comes down to personal preference and depends on what you want.

Fiji is much more developed towards tourism than the Cooks with larger resorts, and a real understanding of customer service.

The Cook islands is very laid back and is a great place if you want to relax before a long flight back to the UK.

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Kendal, United...
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5. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

Thanks Toddy04 We will definitely look at the Fiji forum too.

Frangipani, thanks again for your advice and info. David and I will digest it all over the weekend and let you know what we decide.

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6. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

Rarotonga!!! If you go, visit air raro online & book the aitutaiki day tour it was amazing!!!!! The highlight of our trip! :-)

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Kendal, United...
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7. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

Thanks. Yes, Cooks win! However, we are now a little concerned as we have just discovered that February is not a good time to visit - rainy, windy etc. As we only have four days it would be awful if the weather was bad the whole time. Therefore, we are going to leave it until nearer the time, check the weather and hopefully get good accommodation in Rarotonga or Aitutaki.

Cheers

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8. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

Couple of points to help you formulate your plans nearer the time -

The western side of Rarotonga receives more shelter from the prevailing SE wind

Aitutaki receives less precipitation overall compared to Rarotonga (the high island).

Happy planning - Kia manuia!

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9. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

HI,

We have just come back from Raro and have been to Fiji a couple of times too. I would strongly recommend the Cook Islands ahead of Fiji. It is more laid back, we also found it cheaper overall. Maeva House is a fantastic place to stay - right on the beach on the south side. We stayed at a beautiful house called Kathy's Retreat but is large and in the hills not far from the beach. Really well priced.

Happy Holidays!

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Kendal, United...
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10. Re: Cook Islands or Fiji?

Hi Thanks for this info and the recommendations of where to stay. It sounds like you had a great holiday!