Tourism is the main source of income of the islands with over 90,000 arrivals in 2006 (more than half of the arrivals are from New Zealand, followed by Europe, Australia, and the United States of America), tourism is concentrated in the two islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
The beaches and the sea with its coral reefs teeming with fish and corals are the main destinations for visitors to the Cook Islands, the most visited destinations are the main island of Rarotonga, plenty of greenery and mountains, and the coral atoll of Aitutaki, famous for its pristine beaches and beautiful turquoise lagoon full of small cays called motu.
Snorkeling: Snorkeling is very popular in Rarotonga and Aitutaki, with a great variety of fish and corals that you can admire in the waters of the lagoons. It’s advisable, when you enter the water, always wear a pair of coral shoes.
Trekking: very interesting is the trekking along the paths of the mountainous interior of Rarotonga. Interesting is also a visit to the caves and caverns of some islands in the southern group, in particular the islands of Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke and Mitiaro.
Whale watching: between July and October you can see in the waters of the archipelago of the Cook Islands humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae).
Historical places: in the islands can be visited some old churches and ancient marae, old places of Polynesians worship.
Polynesian songs: Sunday not to miss a church service in many churches of the archipelago to hear the wonderful Polynesians songs.
SHOPPING AND TYPICAL PRODUCTS OF THE COOK ISLANDS
Typical products: The cultivation and sale of Black Pearls is one of the most flourishing of the archipelago, they are among the major export products, Manihiki and Penrhyn atolls are those where are manufacture the finest Black Pearls of the Cook Islands. Among the crafts are hats, bags, clothes made of natural fibers, the crafts in wood, perfumes based on tiare (gardenia) and tipani (frangipani) and other exotic species.
Purchasing: In the capital, Avarua, on the western waterfront, every Saturday from 6.30 am to 12 am takes place the Punanga Nui Market, in the market are the typical products of Rarotonga, including fruits, fish, exotic essences, but also handicrafts, black pearls, woodcuts, etc..
Hours of Shops: Two large supermarkets, Foodlands (in the center of town) and CITC supermarket (between the airport and the port) are located in the capital Avarua, the two supermarkets are open from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 16 pm, while on Saturday Foodlands is open from 8 am to 14 pm and CITC supermarket is open from 8 am to 16 pm. Other small shops are located around the island of Rarotonga, they are open from Monday to Saturday from 6 am to 23 pm, and also on Sundays.
Market: the Punanga Nui Market takes place just outside the town of Avarua, on the sea side and is open on Saturdays from 6.30 am to 12. Retail stores are generally open from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 16 pm, while on Saturdays are open from 8 am to 12.
CUISINE OF THE COOK ISLANDS
The cuisine of the Cook Islands is based mainly on fish and tropical fruits, the lush vegetation of the islands allows the cultivation of all kinds of tropical fruits. The traditional dish of the Cook Islands is the Umukai, a dish made of fish, meat and vegetables that are cooked to a Polynesian in a hole dug in the ground covered with burning rocks.
The coco palm provides the coconut milk that is an essential ingredient in Polynesian cuisine, the flesh of the coconut is the basis for many desserts, other fruit on the islands are bananas, mangoes, oranges, ananans, lemons, watermelon. The fish is used in a multitude of dishes, delicious are the octopus (eke), tuna (ahi) and dolphin fish (mahi mahi), fish is eaten cooked or raw.
Among fruits, papaya and banana can be found throughout the year, while mangoes and pineapple only in the warmer months between December and March. Other local foods are taro (a type of vegetable tuber), the rukau (spinach like the leaves of taro), sweet potatoes (kumara), the poke (papaya pudding).