Awake amongst sincere beauty, discover the vast reef, soak up the afternoon rays and unwind in absolute sheer indulgence and luxury. The Cook Islands are the perfect Polynesian destination for wedding bliss! Located in the South Pacific Ocean, The Cook Islands glisten like white diamonds against the deep blue sea, welcoming visitors to this exotic part of the world.
The Cook Islands have long stolen the hearts of many Australians, boasting superior weather, five star comfort and boundless adventure. They are an ideal destination for weddings and honeymoons, with some of the finest diving in the world, a plethora of water sports, lazy lagoons, and a vibrancy of tradition, cultural history and warmth of the islander locals. The Cook Islands are spread over 15 islands, all of which can be reached by domestic flights from the commercial centre of the islands - the friendly, lively island, Rarotonga.
This middle-aged volcanic land mass and the remainder of the lush, fertile Southern islands account for 89% of the Cook's land area and population of 19,569. Should you choose to go no further than Rarotonga or even Aitutaki, the second largest island, you will be ensured of a dream 'South Seas' experience on the immaculate beaches, snorkelling the reef, or exploring the island. Since few tourists manage to endeavour beyond the two main islands, a trip to Atiu, Mangaia or Mauke can be a fascinating journey and take you far off the beaten track.
Amongst these secluded retreats, take a step back in time and marvel at the island traditions that are still so rich and abundantly found at every reef and village. The vibrancy of the colourful Tivaevae (patchwork quilting) and the carving of traditional drums, bowls and ornaments are still very popular among the locals. So much of these vast, breathtaking lands have survived the explosion of global modernisation. Speaking of which, move over Starbucks, for those of you who simply can't function without their daily caffeine fix, visit the island of Atiu, where you'll unearth a coffee plantation boasting authentic world-class coffee. Atiu is also home to many caves, riddled with limestone caverns, ancient stalactites and stalagmites, the most famous being the "Kopeka Cave". Hauntingly large and beautiful, in this cave dwells the Kopeka, an extremely rare bird solely found on this island. To visit this natural sub-terrane, you must have a local guide present and (of course) leave that coffee back at the car.
The South Pacific climate is so perfect that you could almost believe an island thermostat regulates the area ensuring that it is never too hot or too cold. The dry season lasts from May to October where the temperature can range from 20C to 26C. The wet season lasts from November to April where the temperature ranges from 25C to 30C with a higher level of humidity. Whether it be a cool-down leisurely dip, morning laps in the ocean or a dive among island treasures, the water temperature is pleasant year round with a typical temperature of 25C during the winter months (June, July, August) and 29C during the summer (December, January and February).
Why the Cook Islands?
The Cook Islands have long been the secret of the South Pacific. The 15 islands that make up the nation are scattered like flower petals between New Zealand and Hawaii, floating in 2.2 million square kilometres of dazzling ocean. The islands boast rare, untouched beauty, an exquisite climate, warm and welcoming people, some of the widest smiles you will ever see, and a pace of life that is unsurpassed for peace and relaxation. The southern islands, which include the main island of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, are a mix of coral atolls and volcanic islands. The deeply forested volcanic peaks descend lazily into shimmering white sands and the inevitable, yet wonderfully welcome palm-fringed blue lagoons.
To the north lie the northern Cook Islands. Described by some as "the stuff that dreams are made of" their wonderfully secluded appeal tugs at the hearts of visitors and explorers alike. The term "hurry" is not used here, making the Cook Islands a perfect location for those who find it hard to slow down. The way of life that you will experience here will change you. For those seeking a chance to unwind and kick back, you will not be disappointed. Each island is completely unique, and breathtakingly beautiful. This is the epitome of an island paradise, offering a perfect place for two hearts and two lives to become one.
What you'll need
To enter the Cook Islands
Australian residents are not required to obtain a visa before entering the Cook Islands as a visitor, provided your stay will not exceed 31 days, on the condition that you hold: a passport that is valid for at least six months from the intended date of departure from the Cook Islands, adequate funds to support yourself during your stay and evidence of a return or outbound ticket. New Zealand citizens travelling on New Zealand passports are not required to have proof of onward passage.
To be married in the Cook Islands
To be legally married in The Cook Islands, you must both be 21 years of age or older (anyone under this age must provide written consent of their parents or legal guardians), you must also be in the Cook Islands at least three working days prior to the intended wedding date, as you're required to obtain a marriage license from the nearest marriage registry three days before the ceremony. You must also be able to provide the following documentation:
- Original or certified copies of both of your birth certificates
- Divorce papers if you have previously been married
- Certificate of Death if your previous spouse has died
While you're there
Immerse yourself in the jewel of the South Pacific. Share the rich tapestry of traditions, customs and cultures that make up the Cook Islands. Whether you're indulging in some of the freshest seafood you will ever find (look specifically for big game fish like mahi mahi, tuna and broadbill), snorkelling, diving, paddle-boarding or just laying back and floating in the brilliant blue sea and watching the sun sparkle, there is a plethora of options for entertainment, exploration or simply kicking back and relaxing.
Climb the towering mountain peaks, alive with rich tropical vegetation and reverberating with the calls of songbirds, take a cruise on glorious Koka Lagoon in a glass-bottomed boat and delight in the colourful, spectacular and plentiful marine life. Swim and snorkel at One Foot, Moturakau, Maina and Honeymoon islands, feed the fish and see the renowned giant clams. Go Bonefishing at Aitutaki with your experienced personal guides or just wander through some of the local markets where you can purchase arts and crafts from all over the Cook Islands, including local therapeutic oils and fragrances, carved wooden bowls, bikinis, pupu necklaces and above all, the prized black pearls that the islands are famous for. The quality is impeccable, and the prices are superb.
And if you'd prefer to kick back and do nothing? That's absolutely an acceptable option. Whether you're wandering along the beach, dangling your feet in the perfectly turquoise lagoon while the wind tousles your hair, or sitting in a local bar sipping a coconut cocktail and just enjoying the fragrant air and the far-away sounds of a ukulele strumming, you're enjoying the very best that the South Pacific has to offer, and you're feeling the profoundly peaceful vibe of one of the world's best kept secrets.
For more information visit the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation website: www.cookislands.travel
Less than an hour's flight from Rarotonga lies the inticing island of Aitutaki. Nicknamed Honeymoon Island (for obvious reasons) it is the quintessential pacific paradise: a modern day Eden. Its crystal-clear lagoons are surrounded by the very finest white sand and crowded with palms that swing lazily in the breeze. Vows against the vivid sunset of this magical atoll can easily transform a daydream into reality.
Currencies: Cook Islands Dollar, New Zealand Dollar.
Current exchange rate: 1.13 NZD for 1.00 AUD
Official Languages: English, Rarotongan (also called Maori Kuki 'Airani)
At time of publishing.