Kia Orana and welcome to the Cook Islands!

Scattered across a vast expanse of Pacific Ocean, the Cook Islands’ innate charms, unspoiled landscapes and fun-loving people make it a natural Pacific Island holiday destination.


The Cook Islands are made up of 15 islands spread over two million square kilometres of sparkling Pacific Ocean. Discovered by early Pacific navigators, the Cook Islands were settled by Polynesian ancestry approximately 1,000 years ago. Early settlers from England were among those who brought Christianity to these shores. The Cook Islands' closest neighbours include Tahiti to the north-east, with Niue, Samoa and Tonga lying further to the west of the Cook Islands' group.

Present-day Cook Islanders share important historical and community values including a rich environmental heritage, vibrant Polynesian culture, and harmonious lifestyle practices. The high regard that Cook Islanders place upon visitors to these shores in current times, is akin to the ways that their forefathers greeted travellers in the past. This is reflected through genuine expressions of welcome and interest in the welfare of guests.

“We hope that your visit to our islands will be memorable and truly blessed.
May you encounter many rewarding experiences throughout your journey.
Enjoy the magic that our 'island time' brings to your stay.”


History & Culture


The Great Navigators

Cook Islanders look upon themselves as true Polynesians. Their proud heritage reaches back to the finest seafarers of the vast Pacific. Voyaging on handmade canoes with none of the sophisticated navigation tools of today, they made their way fearlessly across vast tracts of ocean in search of new lands and beginnings.

According to tradition, the first voyagers to arrive in the Cook Islands landed on Rarotonga around 800 AD. These people had set sail from Tupua'i in what is now French Polynesia. Continuing the Polynesian habit of seabound exploration and migration, Cook Islands tradition also has it that the great Maori migrations to New Zealand began from Rarotonga as early as the 5th century AD (modern evidence suggests the 13th to 14th century and besides, Cook Islanders could not have set sail for NZ some 400 years before they arrived from Tupua'i).


Colonial History

The first written history of the Cook Islands began in 1595, prompted by the sighting of Pukapuka by the Spanish voyager Alvaro de Mendana. It took almost 150 years for the British to arrive, beginning again with a sighting of Pukapuka in 1764. Subsequently, the infamous Captain Bligh and his ship the HMS Bounty landed on Aitutaki in 1798.

1821 saw the arrival of the first Christian missionaries. Their influence spread quickly throughout the Cook Islands. But whilst the arrival of Christianity did alter many aspects of traditional island existence, the people of the Cook Islands have been able to preserve their proud Polynesian heritage alongside their Christian faith.

Population

The total population of our islands is approximately 19,000. Some 2,000 people live on the Northern Group islands and about 5,000 on five Southern Group islands. The rest live on Rarotonga. Many of our people live overseas, including close to 50,000 in New Zealand.

Song and Dance - The heart of Cook Islands' culture

What most defines the Cook Islands and leaves a lasting impression on tourists is the grace, art and skill demonstrated in traditional song and dance – particularly a traditional dance known as the Ura.

Unlike most western dancers, the islanders tell a story with their bodies matching the words of the song. The dancing, accompanied by highly rhythmic drumming is taken very seriously, with each island having its own unique songs and dances that are practiced from an early age.

The Cook Islanders are considered among the finest Polynesian singers and dancers. There are many competitions throughout the year where the competitive spirit between each island comes to the fore. Regular international awards are a testament to this phenomenal talent.

Close harmonious singing can also be heard in churches along with the powerful and emotional impact of chants and hymns during weddings and funerals. This range and talent of popular singing can be found at numerous festivals throughout the year.

The Pacific Resort Hotel Group properties are the ideal Cook Islands accommodation options, please click here to read more about our luxurious properties.