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Northern Atolls

The Cook Islands is a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand. It comprises 15 islands whose total land area is 240 square kilometres (93 sq mi). The Cook Islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 1,800,000 square kilometres (690,000 sq mi) of ocean.

New Zealand is responsible for the Cook Islands’ defence and foreign affairs, but these responsibilities are exercised in consultation with the Cook Islands.] In recent times, the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy. Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand, but they also have the status of Cook Islands nationals, which is not given to other New Zealand citizens. The Cook Islands has been an active member of the Pacific Community since 1980.

The Cook Islands’ main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga (10,572 in 2011), where there is an international airport. There is also a larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand itself: in the 2013 census, 61,839 people said they were Cook Islanders, or of Cook Islands descent.

With over 168,000 visitors travelling to the islands in 2018, tourism is the country’s main industry, and the leading element of the economy, ahead of offshore banking, pearls, and marine and fruit exports.


What to Do In Manihiki

Good swimming and snorkelling are right in front of the guest cabins.

Many beaches on the small motus surrounding the sheltered lagoon are breathtaking and allow a view and easy access to the outer reef. With a favourable wind and tide, it is possible to walk from motu to motu – all around the Manihiki atoll.

A second smaller village is located on the opposite side of the lagoon – a 10 minute boat-ride.

The Manihiki lagoon is well known for black pearl farming and farm visits can easily be arranged.

Cyclone “Martin” devastated Manihiki in fall 1997 —- I and still today the long term impacts are noticeable in the main village of Tauhanu.

How To Get To Manihiki

Every 14 days, Air Rarotonga has a scheduled flight from Rarotonga to Manihiki . A short boat ride is required from the airport to the main village.

3 hour flying time by jet or 5 hour flying time by propeller aircraft from Rarotonga. About 1 ½ hour flying time to the western neighbour island of Pukapuka and 1 hour flying time east to Penrhyn.

Travelling by cargo / passenger ship from Rarotonga will take between 4 and 7 days — depending on weather and stop-overs. The Manihiki atoll has no suitable passage, therefore all ships have to anchor at the reef; small barges are used to transport cargo and passengers to Tauhanu harbour.

Manihiki Accommodations

Two secluded guest cabins are overlooking the lagoon which is approximately 4 miles across; an easy 30 minutes walk along “main street” to the main village.

Each cabin has 2 beds, large living area and kitchen, washroom plus a west facing overwater veranda.

One meal, using only local ingredients, is provided — other meals are self catering; the shelves are filled and nothing is missing.

Manihiki also has a small but well stocked local store — a short boat ride away.

Boating and fishing adventures will need to be pre-arranged – including a two-hour boat trip to the even more remote neighbour island of Rakahanga
With a total population of about 300 inhabitants in two villages, Manihiki has the smallest population of all three Cook Island remote northern atolls. More than half of the population left after the devastation caused by cyclone Martin in 1997 — and never returned.


What To Do In Penrhyn

Swimming and snorkelling are right in front of the house – the beach in the very large –but sheltered lagoon– is majestic.

Yes – leisurely playing with sharks is definitely a new adventure and Penrhyn atoll allows that opportunity.

The main village is a 20 to 30 minute walk away from the guest house. The village of Te Tautua is located on the opposite side of the large lagoon and can be reached by boat.

The Penrhyn airstrip was built during the “Naval War in the Pacific” (1942) and several relics of the war can still be seen and visited on the atoll.

How To Get To Penrhyn

There is no regular scheduled flight to Penrhyn – access is by Air Rarotonga charter flight only: about 3 hour flying time by jet or 5 hour flying time by propeller aircraft from Rarotonga; about ½ hour less when flying from Aitutaki.

1 hour flying time to the neighbour island of Manihiki.

Travelling by cargo / passenger ship (“Taio Shipping” on average every 3 months) will take between 4 and 7 days from Rarotonga – – depending on weather and inter-island stop-overs.

The Penrhyn lagoon has a large passage and a well maintained harbour with easy access in the sheltered lagoon.

Penrhyn Accommodations

Located a few minutes walk away from the airstrip a single family residence is used as an AirBnB type accommodation. 2 bedrooms – each with two beds-, two washrooms, large living area & kitchen plus two spacious verandas.
One meal, using local ingredients, is provided; other meals are selfcatering. Penrhyn atoll has a small local store – located in the village of Omoka.
Pedal & bikes and a small truck can be rented for a very reasonable cost.
Boating trips inside & outside of the very large lagoon and (trophy) fishing adventures can be arranged locally.


What To Do In Pukapuka

The beaches in the sheltered midsized lagoon are inviting to swim and snorkel

Boating & fishing adventures will need to be pre-arranged.

The island of Nassau (located to the south) is administratively associated to Pukapuka, but can only be reached by a locally chartered vessel.
Pukapuka is the most remote of the three Northern Atoll islands and definitely a step back in time: a traditional lifestyle is still alive.

The modern houses in the three “new” villages are clearly connected to the past by still using the “traditional” open-air beach huts for about 3 months per year.

Furthermore, the 500 Pukapuka residents are still following traditional land use & resource conservation approaches – creating a very independent & environmentally sustainable life on the atoll.

How To Get To Pukapuka

Pukapuka has no scheduled air service; access is by Air Rarotonga charter flight only. A 30 minute boat ride is required from the airport location to the main village.

About 3 hour flying time by jet or 5 hour flying time by propeller aircraft from Rarotonga. About 1 ½ hour flying time to the west to reach the neighbour island of Manihiki.

Travelling by cargo / passenger ship from Rarotonga will take between 4 and 7 days — depending on weather and stop-overs. The Pukapuka lagoon has no passage, therefore all vessels have to anchor outside the reef and small barges are used to ferry cargo and passengers to the village.

Pukapuka Accommodations

Close to the beach and the island administration buildings the former “Cook Island Government Guest House” is refurbished and has 4 bedrooms – each with two beds -, a large living area and a veranda overlooking the ocean.

An attached building houses the kitchen, eating area & washroom. All meals, using only local ingredients, are provided; there is no store in the Pukapuka atoll. A small truck can be rented for a very reasonable cost.


New on our Product list from 2021 is the Northern Atolls Experience. This excursion is a 5 days and 4 nights expedition to our remote Northern Group atolls Pukapuka, Manihiki and Penrhyn, accompanied by an experienced local guide from the Northern Group. This tour caters for a minimum of 4 people, and a maximum of 6. 

Travelling light is the way to go as taxis and wheelie bags don’t work, a carry bag or pack is preferred instead of a suitcase. Bring casual light clothing and comfortable walking shoes, sun hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and your camera. Masks and snorkels will be supplied.

Accommodation on Pukapuka is simple and provided by the Island council. Each separate room has two beds and a separate shower/toilet for male and female. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are also provided for.

Your local guide will take you on an island tour on the back of a truck, and should you have any requests for special activities, he can cater for you. American author Robert Dean Frisbie settled on Pukapuka in 1924, his son still lives on Pukapuka today, and during your stay there you may get to meet him.

On Manihiki, your villa (Manihiki Lagoon Villas) awaits you, which sits perched on the edge of the lagoon. The villas are self-contained with bathroom shower, and an open living area with full kitchen facilities. Meals are provided for as need.

There are a number of tour options available, and some activities are weather dependant. These include fishing, snorkelling, diving, coconut crab hunting, night crayfish hunting, and visiting a pearl farm.

On arrival to Penrhyn, your accommodation is a short walk just off the Airstrip. A lovely house with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and showers, each room has a double and single bed and a stocked kitchen and fridge. Lunch and dinner will be provided, while guests take care of themselves for breakfast. The house overlooks a sand bank which is good for bone fishing.

Activities can include a visit to the remains of a WWII B24 liberator bomber called ‘Go Gettin Gal’, a boat ride to Te Tautua Island (where 40% of the population reside here) if the lagoon is calm, swimming with sharks or shark feeding.

Food through this entire trip is local cuisine comprising of coconut pancakes, and lots of fresh local fish and taro. We will need to be advised of any food allergies or special food requirements well in advance. Special food and drinks requirements will be charged back to clients at cost.

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