Land, air and sea travel in the Cook Islands

Photo: Cook Islands Tourism/Manine Lych

Air travel has opened up the islands like never before, but it's quite costly. Ships are still an important lifeline, particularly for the outer islands, but their irregular schedules mean that few tourists have the time to use them. This page is just giving a few pointers about getting around and the practicalities of that


Air Rarotonga is the sole internal airline and operates services to eight of the islands from its Rarotonga base. Prior to the pandemic they also ran a Northern atolls adventure tour taking in Penrhyn, Manihiki and Pukapuka but it's not operating at the moment.

If you're pushed for time, I would strongly recommend the day trip to Aitutaki. It includes flights, of course, a tour of the island and a boat trip to some of the motus in the lagoon, complete with on-board barbecue. It's not cheap at around NZ$600 but it's an experience you'll rem
ember for a lifetime. I promise!  


Islands served by Air Rarotonga from its base on the capital island are Aitutaki, Atiu, Mitiaro, Mauke, Mangaia, Manihiki and Pukapuka. There's also a service to Penrhyn but this is operated on a charter only basis


Only one shipping company currently operates services between the islands and it's a cargo service,  with very limited space for passengers, although vessels do sail from other ports. Details are published daily in Cook Islands News. Remember that if you're going to some of the outer islands, it could be many weeks or even months between ships. 

If you're planning to sail to the islands on a yacht or other sea going vessel, you MUST go via the designated ports of entry which  are currently: â€‹Rarotonga (Avatiu and Avarua Wharfs), Aitutaki, Atiu, Manihiki (Tukao and Tauhuna Wharfs), Pukapuka and Penrhyn.  These are subject to change and indeed have changed several times since Covid. There are severe penalties for unauthorised entry.

More government information for marine craft is here.  Visiting yachts must also comply with entry and departure laws. Contact the Cook Islands Customs Service for details and advice. Access to deserted islands Manuae and Takutea is restricted and you could be prosecuted if you land there without permission 

If you're a 'yachtie' I recommend a look at the Cook Islands pages in for specialist information for the cruising community.