A tiny chain of only 15 islands, the Cook Islands offer the ultimate escape from the civilized world. There are no high rises and only four beach buggies, providing the kind of South Seas seclusion many can only dream about. From walking along idyllic, palm-shaded white sand beaches to snorkeling in the most crystal-clear waters to be found in the world, a visit to the Cooks promises to be as memorable as it is relaxing. Boasting precipitous peaks and lush valleys, Rarotonga is an iconic South Pacific island that is much less traveled than most. Rented motor scooters take travelers past snow white beaches and inland paw-paw fields, and there is ample time to learn about the native Maori culture and shop for souvenirs such as wooden carvings of the fisherman god ‘Tangaroa’.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Bora Bora of the Cook Islands’, Aitutaki offers the chance to step back in time to authentic old Polynesia. Coconut, banana and pineapple plantations dot the island, and multi-hued Aitutaki Lagoon boasts some of the most vivid colors in the Pacific amidst its reef. Fishing, diving, snorkeling and windsurfing are among the most popular activities here, and the lagoon is the perfect place for any of these endeavors when not lazing in a shady hammock.