The unspoiled beauty of the Cook Islands is in no small part due to their remoteness. But that doesn't mean they're isolated from the rest of the world. With a bit of careful planning, they're accessible from wherever you live.
That said, it has become less easy post-Covid to get there by air from the USA and Europe as Air New Zealand no longer has a service out of Los Angeles which was a popular hub. But there are now direct flights from Sydney, Australia and from Honolulu. Cook Islands Tourism hope both will make it easier for US and European travellers to reach the islands as well as boosting visitor numbers from Australia.
The Covid vaccination requirement for entry to the Islands has now been dropped
All flights are to the capital island, Rarotonga. If you want to visit the other islands, click the button below for information about where it's practical to visit and where it's not impossible but quite difficultEXPLORE THE ISLANDS
IMPORTANT NOTE: The information on this page is for guidance only and is provided in good faith. Airlines sometimes change their schedules without much warning, so always check with them for up to date details
This is still the most used route although the Cook Islands government is concerned about the high cost of the Air New Zealand flights.
It typically takes 3 hours 45 minutes outbound and around four and a half hours on the return leg if you depart from Auckland. Remember also that you'll "gain" or "lose" a day as you cross the international dateline, depending on your direction of travel. And the reverse will happen on your return journey. Air New Zealand are operating flights at least once a day. They also have services from Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown which connect in Auckland, and a service to Aitutaki via Rarotonga with the domestic leg flown by Air Rarotonga
Low cost Australian carrier, Jetstar (the budget arm of Qantas) has resumed its flights between Auckland and Rarotonga. They operate three times a week, departing Auckland at 1450 (NZ time) on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, returning at 2135 (Cook Islands time) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Connecting services will also be available in and out of Christchurch and Wellington. Photos are the airlines' own and not necessarily representative of the aircraft type operated on the Rarotonga route
Jetstar has started the first non-stop flights between Sydney and Rarotonga (service commenced 29 June, 2023). The flights depart Sydney on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at
9.30 pm, arriving in Rarotonga at 7am the same day. The return service departs
Rarotonga at 9 am arriving back in Sydney at 12.30 pm the following day (all times local to the departure/destination). The airline says it will use its newest A321neo LR aircraft on all services. NEW From 27 March, 2024, the airline will be adding a Wednesday flight with the same timings.
Currently, Air New Zealand, Jetstar and Virgin Australia have services from Australia which connect with those operated out of Auckland, New Zealand. What may put you off though is a long midnight stopover in Auckland with some flights. Before the pandemic, Virgin Australia had direct flights and now have code share arrangements with both Qantas and Air New Zealand rather than operating their own services
There are two flights a week from Papeete which are a joint venture between Air Tahiti and Air Rarotonga. Air Tahiti operate the one departing Papeete at 1125 am on Saturdays, returning on Sundays at 1155 am. Air Rarotonga operate the other departing Tuesdays at 220 pm and returning at 1040 on Wednesdays. In both cases, small jet aircraft are used.
The Cook Islands prime minister Mark Brown said Papeete could become a hub for travellers from the United States and France, as the airport in Tahiti gets 27 flights from the US and 13 from Paris each week, operated by five carriers. But it does mean a longer (and potentially more expensive) journey for European and US visitors than the one previously operated by Air New Zealand from Los Angeles
Hawaiian Airlines has started flying direct to the Cook Islands from Honolulu once a week (service commenced 20 May, 2023). The flight departs Honolulu (Oahu) on Saturdays at 4 pm and arrives in Rarotonga at 10:25 pm the same day. The return service departs Rarotonga at 11:35 pm. on Sundays with a 5:50 am Monday arrival in Honolulu. On Sundays, the service departs Honolulu at 1135 pm, arriving in Rarotonga at 550 am on Monday (all times local to the departure/destination). There will also be services from other US gateway cities to connect with the flights to Rarotonga. The Cook Islands government hope the new services will help restore the US and European tourist market but it's unlikely to be an attractive option for those in the UK and Europe for whom it means a longer and more expensive journey.
What happened to the LAX flight?
Prior to the pandemic, Air New Zealand had a direct flight from Los Angeles to Rarotonga every Saturday, typically taking about nine and a half hours. The Tourism CEO has told me there are no plans to resume this service.
The best advice for those wanting to visit the islands from anywhere else in the world is to contact your travel agent or preferred airline. It's essential you also check with your own government about any Covid-related restrictions on travel which apply to your country.
Round the World tickets tickets offer substantial savings over what you would pay if you booked each flight separately and the Cook Islands can be included in some of those tickets. Again, check with your travel agent or airline
Several cruise lines often have one or more of the Cook Islands on their itineraries and travel agents and operators can advise you about this. The Islands are also popular with yachties. Entry by sea is allowed only through the designated ports of entry which are currently: 1) Avatiu Port, Rarotonga, or 2) Arutanga Port, Aitutaki. . These are subject to change and indeed have changed since Covid. However, all islands are now open. For the latest information, go to the Cook Islands Government website Visiting yachts must also comply with entry and departure laws. Contact the Cook Islands Customs Service for details and advice