Apart from being an island paradise and one of the most beautiful and friendly places in the South Pacific, generally people who aren’t from or travelling to the Cook Islands don’t know a whole lot about this little cluster of islands.

I think we’ve made it pretty clear from our last few blog posts, but we fell absolutely head over heals for the Cook Islands. It’s somewhere we would love to return again and again to just completely relax, unwind and enjoy the simple things in life.

If you don’t know very much about the Cook Islands, here’s a quick introduction. We’ve put together some of our favourite facts about the Cook Islands that we either didn’t know or couldn’t believe when we found it. Hopefully they’ll help you out in a trivia game one day!

1. No building on Rarotonga can be taller than a coconut tree

This might just be one of my favourite laws in the world. A government mandate in the Cook Islands states that no building on the island can be taller than a coconut tree. And when you walk around the island you can see that there really is always a coconut taller than all the buildings!

The world is so different when you can always see the sky and palms and you’re not surrounded by high rise buildings. The nation is also very environmentally conscious, with an aim to use 100% renewable energy by 2020, including solar and wind power.

Check out the best places to stay in the Cook Islands.

2. The official currency in the Cook Islands is New Zealand Dollars

However, they do have their own very unique currency as well. If you pay in cash anywhere you might get a mixture of both New Zealand Dollars and Cook Island dollars back as change. They’re both worth the same amount on the island, but you can’t use Cook Island dollars anywhere off the islands.

3. There are 15 islands that make up the Cook Islands

They fall across two regions, the Northern Islands and the Southern Islands. The main island in the Cook Islands is Rarotonga, where the majority of the locals live and most of the tourists visit. Two of the other islands are actually uninhabited.

Read more: Visiting Paradise – The Aitutaki Day Tour with Air Rarotonga

4. You can’t buy a house on Rarotonga

There’s actually no real estate market or selling houses in Rarotonga. You can’t buy a house in the Cook Islands at all! Property in the Cook Islands are handed down through generations, from parents to their children, so everyone that lives on Rarotonga owns a piece of property. Because of this, you’ll notice that there are no homeless people in Raro, everyone has their own little piece of Rarotonga real estate.

Check out all the tours and experiences you can have on Rarotonga.

5. More islanders live in New Zealand and Australia than in the Cook Islands

Census data over recent years has shown that there are 18,000 people living in the Cook Islands. But there’s also 35,000 Cook Islanders living in Australia and a whopping 68,000 Cook Islanders living in New Zealand!

It seems that at some point many people head to Australia or New Zealand for a higher education or to get a better paying job and earn some money. But even after decades of living overseas, many Islanders often return to the Cook Islands later in life to kick back and soak up that island life. You can definitely see why!

Read more: 25 Things To Do On Rarotonga

6. Captain Cook actually never visited the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands got their name from the infamous British explorer Captain James Cook, who travelled through the South Pacific and was the first to map it out. However, he never actually sighted Rarotonga and only set foot on Palmerston Atoll, one of the smallest and least significant of the islands these days.

During his voyage between 1773 and 1777 Captain Cook actually named them Hervey Islands. They were renamed to honor the great explorer years later .

Read more: An Essential Guide to Rarotonga

7. There are no snakes or spiders on Rarotonga

Nothing to fear here! The Cook Islands might be home to humpback whales, sea turtles, pigs, goats, and millions of colourful little fish but you won’t find any spiders or snakes here. What a relief right?!

Find the best flight deals to Rarotonga.

8. Nobody really knows what happens “up north”

Only about 1,000 people live on the cluster of islands and atolls that make up the Northern Region of the Cook Islands. Some of the northern islands are further away from Rarotonga than New Zealand is, and can be super expensive to get to.

A cargo ship makes the journey from Rarotonga to the Northern Region once a month to stock up the islands with supplies. Air Rarotonga also offers a unique experience once a month called the Northern Islands Experience to visit some of these incredibly remote islands.

Apart from that, you’re looking at well over $1,500 for a flight from Rarotonga to this part of the country.

9. There’s no McDonalds or KFC on Rarotonga

And trust me, the locals are disappointed about that! Anyone on Rarotonga will tell you – if you want to make friends in the Cooks, hop off the plane with KFC from New Zealand and you will have people lining up to buy you a drink.

Apparently there have been several campaigns over the years to bring these fast-food giants over to the islands, but they have never been successful.

Read more: Exploring Muri Lagoon with Koka Lagoon Cruises

10. It’s still an untouched paradise

The Cook Islands are still such a remote part of the South Pacific. Last year they hit an all time high of 161,362 visitors for all of 2017. When you think that over 2 million people visit Hawaii each year, that’s an incredibly small number!

But you can see the difference here. The islands are free from cruise ships, tour buses and crowds, and it’s a beautiful place to explore without the usual overwhelm of tourism.

Without a doubt the Cook Islands are firmly cemented as one of our favourite places in the world and we could write a million blog posts on just how much we loved our time there.

How great would it be to live in a place where nothing is higher than a coconut tree!

Explore more of our adventures around the Cook Islands.

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Happy travels,



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As well as being an island paradise and one of the most beautiful and friendly places in the South Pacific, check out these 10 random things you don't know about the Cook Islands. #CookIslands #Rarotonga
Emma Shaw

Emma is a travel photographer and blogger, living in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Thom in between adventures. She started Explore Shaw to share her experiences, travel tips and destination advice, and to inspire others to travel the world and their own backyard whenever they can.

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