Air New Zealand’s direct flights from Sydney to the Cook Islands (Rarotonga) from Sydney are on sale until 9 June as part of Cook Islands Tourism’s Escape the Winter Blues sale. Discounted fares start from $294 one way, seat only, for travel 8 August to 18 September, 10 October to 11 December 2015 or 23 January to 25 March 2016.
Packages to Come Visit Cook Islands start from $1097 per person twin share including flights, six nights at the Edgewater Resort in Rarotonga and breakfast daily. For airfare details and package deals at www.cookislands.travel/trade/
The weekly direct service departs Sydney on Saturday evening and lands under six hours later on the capital island of Rarotonga’s stunning airstrip, wedged between soaring volcanic peaks and sparkling lagoon. Most Australians also choose to visit Aitutaki, a 45 minute north with Air Rarotonga, to experience the vast turquoise lagoon regularly awarded the world’s best. Both Aitutaki and Rarotonga were named in the Top 10 Islands South Pacific on the newly released Trip Advisor 2015 Travellers’ Choice Awards.
Novel events celebrate Cook Islands’ ocean playground
The direct flight sale dates encompass some of the world’s most novel and spectacular annual events. These Cook Islands festivals are attracting increasing numbers of Australian visitors as participants and spectators.
Manureva Aquafest, Aitutaki 31 August – 4 September 2015
Small in scale but big on spectacle, Manureva Aquafest on the island of Aitutaki attracts some of the world’s best kitesurfers like Hawaii’s King of Air Jessie Richmond. Freestyle and twin-tip races open to participants of all abilities, plus pro demonstrations and a Big Air competition take place off sublime Honeymoon Island in the heart of the vast turquoise lagoon. On Wednesday 2 September, the action moves to the mainland for Aquafest – a fun day of amateur races for stand uppaddleboarders, swimmers or outrigger canoeists straight off the beach. Entry to Aquafest also covers two days’ boat transfers to Honeymoon to watch the kitesurfing including a BBQ lunch each day, an event shirt and cap and closing ceremony meal (NZ$160). Air Rarotonga offers discounted airfares from Rarotonga to Aitutaki for participants. For kitesurf race registration and fee details visit www.sale.cookislands.travel/events
Round Raro Running Festival – 17-23 September 2015
Runners stepping up from the half marathon distance who relish invigorating environments should take a look at the 31km Round Raro Road Race on Saturday 19 September. Run a circuit of Rarotonga between lagoon and mountains as the sun rises. The fun run is the main event of a week of sometimes wacky runs for all the family, including a team Round the Rock Relay and Nutters Cross Island Run traversing coast to coast over mountain ridges, rugged valleys and riverbeds. Contactchris@tourdetrails.com to register interest in tours to the event or for more details visit www.sale.cookislands.travel/events
Vaka Eiva Outrigger Canoe Festival – 20-27 November 2015
Now in its 12th year, this week long cultural festival attracts enthusiastic paddlers from around the world to take on the Cook Islands’ best. The vaka (Maori for outrigger canoe) racing is world class and a feast of cultural activities such as the blessing of the canoes, drumming and dance performances complement a week of exciting ocean racing. Thirty Australian teams are participating this year and ‘lost paddlers’ can still find a place in a crew. Visitors can watch the sprints in gentle Muri Lagoon from the beach or join escort boats following crews as they paddle outside the reef on the long distance races for sensational views of the action and scenery. The event is followed up by the unique Motu to Motu race around the islands of Aitutaki’s vast lagoon on Tuesday 1 December – 36km, 7 legs and 6 changeovers involving mixed crews of 12. More details www.sale.cookislands.travel/events
50 years of self-government celebrations: Te Maeva Nui – 23 July to 7 August 2015
Falling outside the sale dates is the year’s biggest event. The Cook Islands celebrates 50 years of independence from New Zealand this year and a two-week festival of nationhood known as Te Maeva Nui is on 23 July to 7 August. Visitors can look forward to many spectacular performances with the cream of the nation’s renowned dancers, drummers and singers gathering in the capital Rarotonga from all of the 15 islands for competitions and exhibitions throughout the fortnight. More details www.sale.cookislands.travel/events