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Cook Islands tourist attractions: what to see

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Tourism is the islands’ main source of income with over 90,000 arrivals in 2006. Over half of the arrivals come from New Zealand, followed by Europe, Australia, and the United States of America. Tourism is concentrated in the two islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Here, in fact, are the main tourist attractions of the Cook Islands.

The beaches and the sea with its coral reefs rich in fish and corals are the main tourist attractions for those visiting the Cook Islands. The most visited destinations are the main island of Rarotonga, rich in vegetation and mountains. And the coral atoll of Aitutaki, famous for its immaculate beaches and for the beautiful turquoise lagoon full of small coral islets called motu.


Snorkeling is very popular in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Here, in the waters of the lagoons, you will have the opportunity to admire a great variety of fish and corals. Recommended, when entering the water, always wear a pair of coral shoes.


The trekking along the paths of the mountainous interior of Rarotonga is very beautiful. Interesting is also the visit of the caves of some islands of the southern group, in particular the islands of Atiu, Mangaia, Mitiaro and Mauke.


Between July and October, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) can be seen in the waters of the archipelago.


In the islands you can visit some old churches and ancient marae, that is, Polynesian places of worship.


On Sunday do not miss a religious function in the many churches of the archipelago to listen to the magnificent Polynesian songs.


The cultivation and sale of black pearls is one of the most flourishing activities of the archipelago. They are among the main export products. The atolls of Manihiki and Penrhyn are those where the finest Black Pearls of the Cook Islands are produced. Among the handicraft products there are above all hats, bags, clothes in natural fiber, crafts in wood, perfumes based on tiare (gardenia) and tipani (frangipani) and other exotic essences.


In the capital Avarua, on the western seafront, just outside the center of Avarua, the Punanga Nui Market takes place every Saturday from 6.30 to 12. In the market there are the typical products of Rarotonga, including fruit, fish, exotic essences, but also crafts, black pearls, wood carvings etc.

Shop Hours: Retail stores are generally open Monday to Friday from 8 to 16. While on Saturday open from 8 to 12. Two large supermarkets, Foodlands (in the city center) and CITC supermarket (between the airport and the port) are located in the capital Avarua. The two supermarkets are open Monday to Friday from 8 to 16. While on Saturday Foodlands is open from 8 to 14 and CITC supermarket is open from 8 to 16. Other small shops are located around the island of Rarotonga, are open from Monday on Saturday from 6 to 23, and also on Sunday.


Cook Islands cuisine is mainly based on fish and tropical fruit. The luxuriant nature of the islands allows the cultivation of any type of tropical fruit. The traditional dish of the Cook Islands is Umukai. This is a dish based on fish, meat and vegetables that are cooked in the Polynesian way in a hole dug in the ground covered with burning rocks.

The coconut palm provides coconut milk which is an essential ingredient in Polynesian cuisine. The pulp of the coconut is the basis of many sweets. Other fruit grown on the islands are bananas, mangoes, oranges, ananans, lemons, watermelon. Fish is used in a multitude of dishes. Octopus (eke) is delicious, as are tuna (ahi) and dolphinfish (mahi mahi). The fish is eaten cooked or raw.

Among the fruit, papaya and bananas can be found all year round. While mangoes and pineapples only in the warmer months between December and March. Other local foods are taro (a type of vegetable tuber), rukau (spinach like taro leaves), sweet potatoes (kumara), poke (papaya pudding).

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