1. The Cook Islands is among the enviable locations on Lonely Planet’s top 10 islands and beaches to visit in 2014. Laze, swim or snorkel on some of the most beautiful beaches and lagoons, enjoy the whitest sand and clearest water, which rarely drops below 25˚C year round.
2. Visit Aitutaki. A snorkelling cruise on the spectacular turquoise lagoon is a must – you can even get your passport stamped on One Foot Island.
3. Have a go at scuba diving in the incredibly clear lagoons and see giant turtles, colourful fish and diverse corals. It’s so easy, gentle and affordable. Kids as young as 8 return from holiday with their scuba certificate (14 is the minimum age to learn to dive in Australia)
4. Try the fast growing sport of kite surfing, which is massive in the Cooks, in Muri Lagoon on Rarotonga and on Aitutaki.
5. Join the locals and hire a scooter – or a hybrid motorised bicycle to keep those thighs toned – to ride the beautiful 32km ring road around Rarotonga. Get your licence at the police station first for $NZ20.
6. Climb 400 metres through the lush rugged interior to Rarotonga’s highest point, The Needle, before descending to Wigmore’s Waterfall for a swim and lunch on Pa’s Cross Island Trek.
7. The islands of Atiu and Mangaia offer incredible caving adventures through coral and limestone labyrinths.
8. Watch the wonderful dancers and drummers of the Cooks at cultural shows or island nights then have a go yourself. Or learn the seductive hula-like hip rhythms at dance lessons in Avarua.
9. Don’t miss the colour and bargains of Avarua’s Saturday morning market –the Cook’ s superior quality black pearls, a rito (coconut fibre) hat or vibrant textiles make excellent souvenirs.
10. Eat – Cook Islands’ cuisine is the best in the Pacific, with plenty of fresh local fruit and vegetables and wonderful seafood and inexpensive restaurants in idyllic waterfront locations, or try the Progressive Dinner through three island homes.