Air New Zealand is the primary airline servicing the Cook Islands. It offers flights from Los Angeles, Hawaii, Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand. Pacific Blue offers flights from Australia and New Zealand.
The international airport and point of entry for most visitors to the islands is the airport at Avarua on the north shore of Rarotonga. Inter-island flights are via Air Rarotonga, which maintains service to Aitutaki, Atiu and other islands. While more than 90% of visitors arrive by air, there are also cruise ships that visit the Cooks and the occasional private yacht.
Visitors to Rarotonga have a variety of choices for transportation on the island. There is a reliable bus system that travels around the main road that circles the island – buses leave about once per hour in both a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction.
Try this option out – you’ll get a chance to meet the locals as well as other visitors to the island! If you like the bus, you can buy multiple tickets at the same time and save a bit of money. There are regular bus stops on the ring road, but you can usually flag one down as well. Many visitors choose the option of renting a car or motor scooter (one of the primary choices of the locals). There are several vendors that provide these on the island, but be aware that anyone who drives is required to get a Cook Islands driving license – the driving test is described as a ‘formality’ and the cost for the license is NZ$10.00. The license itself is a souvenir! Like the rest of the Commonwealth – and the countries associated with them – driving is on the left hand side of the road.
You will find that some restaurants will send a car to pick you up if you make a reservation for dinner or for an island night show. Many resorts also have bicycles for hire or loan. Since the island is only 21 miles in circumference, you can reach most destinations by bicycle in a very short period of time.
Aitutaki does not have a bus system, but if you head out on foot you may find that someone driving by will offer you a ride. Walking is actually one of the best ways to get around the island, whether you decide to do so on the road or on the beach, which is safer and more interesting. Another good option is to rent or borrow a bicycle or moped from the resort where you are staying. Generally, it is not necessary to rent a car and taxi service can be somewhat inconvenient. Once again, left-hand drive is the rule and you will need that souvenir driver’s license.
On the outer islands transportation options will be more limited.