Cook Islands map
Nine of the 15 tiny islands in the Cooks  are designated as the Southern Group, and they're home to nine out of 10 islanders according to the latest census.

They include the capital island, RAROTONGA which is home to nearly three quarters of the population of the Islands.  Avarua is the administrative and commercial centre (locals just call it "town").   Raro's nearest neighbour is the breathtakingly beautiful AITUTAKI whose turquoise blue lagoon includes the mini island or motu, One Foot Island - voted by travel agents worldwide as having the best beach in the Australia-Pacific region.  

The rest of the group comprises ATIU, MAUKE and MITIARO which together are called Nga-Pu-Toru or "the three roots", MANGAIA, PALMERSTON and two uninhabited islands, TAKUTEA and MANUAE.

The lagoon atoll of MANUAE is owned by the people of Aitutaki.  TAKUTEA is tiny sand cay owned by the people of Atui.   Special permission is needed to visit these islands.   PALMERSTON - 500 kms/300 miles west of Rarotonga -  is a lagoon atoll populated by the descendants of one English settler and his four wives!  His story has been told many times but you can read definitive account on this site.  Few tourists visit these islands as they are accessible only by sea, and sailings are very infrequent.

One Foot Island
Deserted Takutea
Part of lagoon from the air
Although every one of the islands has a unique charm and character, AITUTAKI deserves a particular mention because some say it is the most beautiful place in the world, and a good few books list it as one of the 50 or 100 places everyone should see before they die. 

Where you feel like Robinson Crusoe
The vast lagoon is a stunning turquoise blue "littered" with tiny islets where you can feel - even if only for a short while - like you're Robinson Crusoe.  

As seen on TV
Some of those islets are famous - they've been used as the location for the UK TV series, 'Shipwrecked' (5 times, most recently in 2019) and the US TV series, 'Survivor Cook Islands'.  

Favourite of the Lonely Planet boss
Aitutaki is also famous for winning awards....the best small island resort in the world in the travel industry Oscars (the World Travel Awards), one of the most romantic destinations in the world, and it's the favourite island destination of no less a person than the  boss of the Lonely Planet Guides!
Survivor Cook Islands logo
Mary Rogers
Location for the CBS TV series 'Survivor Cook Islands'
'The Aitutaki minute'
Inspiring a British artist

Southern Group    Aitutaki    Rarotonga    Mauke    Mangaia    Atiu

Muri beach, Rarotonga
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Part of the new Cook Islands marine park
 Prime Minister, Henry Puna (above right) first announced the plan in August, 2012,  when it was only going to cover the southern part of the territorial waters.  But after lengthy consultations, it was agreed in November, 2016 that it would extend across all of the Islands' Exclusive Economic Zone. Puna called it the nation's  contribution "to the well-being of not only our peoples, but also of humanity". 
Photos: Cook Islands News

PM announces marine park plan
The world's largest marine park is being created in the ocean around the Islands.  It will cover an area of 1.8 million square kilometers -  which is about the same size as Indonesia or nearly three times the size of Texas  It will include a core area where all fishing is banned and special zones where tourism is carefully and monitored fishing allowed.
Unspoiled beaches
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Rarotonga  Aitutaki  Atiu  Manuae  Mangaia  Mauke  Mitiaro  Palmerston  Takutea

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