Travellers to the land down under will find lots of resorts in the Cook Islands — a chain of 15 small islets in the South Pacific Ocean. A short flight from New Zealand will take you to Rarotonga (or Raro, as the locals call it), the largest and most developed of the islands, and from here you can hop on another flight to Aitutaki or the other outer islands. Cook’s climate is tropical, the beaches are pristine and the culture is a distinctive Western-Polynesian hybrid with customs and traditions centred around the indigenous Maori people. Find your own oasis in the South Pacific with our pick of the best resorts in the Cook Islands, bookable on Culture Trip.
Fronting a powdered-sugar ribbon of beach, the Pacific Resort Aitutaki is the perfect setting for a five-star sojourn. Comprising 29 opulent beachfront bungalows and villas, the uninterrupted views from private sundecks are second to none. Other extraordinary amenities include beautiful timber furnishing in the living and dining areas, as well as daybeds, open air showers, Nespresso machines and on-demand entertainment systems.
At adults-only Little Polynesian Resort, swim in a spectacular infinity pool that opens straight onto Muri Beach. Combining nature with modern design, private accommodations range from garden studios to beachfront bungalows – all just a short walk along manicured garden paths to Sandals Restaurant & Barefoot Bar. There, sip fruity cocktails and watch the sunset over the lagoon.
Part of the Pacific Resort Hotel Group, this Rarotonga, full-service resort is totally family friendly. There are 64 units – from standard garden rooms and suites to beachfront villas – that have stylish open floor plans and furnished patios. The resort has a kids’ club that offers fun activities like kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Spa aficionados are soothed into stress-free puddles by a long list of wellness and beauty treatments. Feeling peckish? The hotel’s beachside restaurant serves up crispy fish and chips and beef burgers, along with the chef’s signature dish: a sizzling platter of local fish and veggies drizzled in coconut lime sauce.
The Nautilus Resort in Rarotonga boasts 17 freestanding, ecofriendly garden or beachfront Are’ (suite style rooms), each with everything you’d find in a luxury city hotel – plus the wafting scent of tropical flowers and a liberal barefoot policy. Did we mention that every level of lodging has its own private plunge pool and elegantly furnished sundeck? Upgraded accommodations add perks like one, two or three bedrooms, outdoor stone showers and full kitchens for entertaining.
Set between jungle green mountains and the azure Pacific Ocean, the Crown Beach Resort & Spa with its 36 standalone villas is guaranteed to bring your castaway fantasies into reality. Want to take it up a notch? Splash out by booking a courtyard suite with a private pool and dining gazebo. If you don’t mind sharing, languish by the hotel’s massive swimming pool hemmed by a picturesque waterfall.
Situated on a sheltered cove, Manuia Beach Resort is an idyllic backdrop for a destination wedding, to celebrate a special anniversary or simply if you want to splash out on a memorable stay. Charming coconut thatched-roof suites and apartments might make you feel like a character in Robinson Crusoe until, that is, you realise they contain all the modern conveniences afforded guests in the 21st century – like mini-fridges, tea and coffee makers and high-speed internet.
Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort is the only adult private island with overwater bungalows in the Cook Islands. Suspended on stilts over glassy waters, the exclusive huts let you roll out of bed and right into the calm blue seas without missing a beat. The decor is thoroughly Polynesian, with walls lined in pandanus and bamboo, adorned with local artisan carvings and artefacts. Guests get access to complimentary stand-up paddle boards or kayaks for further exploration of the clear waters around the resort.
Within the Edgewater Resort & Spa’s modern, white, geometric exterior are bright and colourful rooms and suites with either ocean or garden views. The 6-acre (2.4ha) hotel complex itself has something for everyone: a large swimming pool, a sand deck, a tennis court, a spa and salon, and activity-packed programs specially designed for kids. Altogether, this makes the Edgewater popular with singles, couples and families alike.
The Sunset Resort is prominently positioned on one of Rarotonga’s premier beaches overlooking the limpid lagoon. The grounds of the resort are alive with tropical plant-lined walkways leading to not one, but two pools. Intimate studios and suites have stone-tiled floors, self-contained kitchens and covered patios or verandas with sun loungers as standard. On Sunday evenings, the hotel throws a barbecue including a rousing performance by an island string band with warrior and native dancing.
Muri Beach Resort sits on the southeast corner of Rarotonga overlooking picturesque Muri Beach. Ecofriendly and with its own self sufficient power supply, the resort uses only sulphate-free cleaning detergents, runs bottle-quality water from its taps and replenishes guest room amenities with bulk products to reduce plastic waste. The 20 self-contained, studio-style villas and apartments are all equipped with jacuzzi spa baths and kitchen/dining areas. Upgraded units add separate bedrooms and landscaped balconies with lagoon or garden views.
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