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The Travel Guides Are Captivated by the Cook Islands

8th July 2024

The Cook Islands are calling! This week, the Travel Guides are taking off to this South Pacific gem and Travel Money Oz is joining them as the Official Currency Card of Travel Guides.

With its postcard-perfect islands, crystal blue waters and friendly locals, it’s surprising Aussies don’t flock to the Cook Islands in droves. While it’s a popular destination for New Zealanders, less than 30,000 Australians visit each year. It takes less than six hours to fly to the country’s main island, Rarotonga, from Sydney – but this island paradise feels like a world away.

There’s no proper off season in the Cook Islands because there are pleasant temperatures all year round. However, the dry season runs from April to November and the most popular time to travel is from June to August. You can expect daytime temps in the mid to high 20s, depending on the time of year. 

The Cook Islands’ official currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). If you’re planning a trip to the Cook Islands, you can load our Currency Pass with NZD, secure your exchange rate and use it to pay for your cocktails and coconuts on the islands.

Want to learn more about this tropical paradise? Here’s exactly where the Guides went in the Cook Islands…

Your Complete Travel Guides Itinerary for the Cook Islands


Stop one: Rarotonga

The Guides walk off the plane and straight onto the tarmac in sunny Rarotonga to a bright welcome from the locals. They’re headed to the Pacific Resort Rarotonga on the island’s east coast. The boutique resort sits right on the shores of Muri Beach and boasts 64 studios, suites, spacious villas and family rooms.

One of those family rooms is assigned to the Frens. With just a thin curtain dividing Vic and Jono from their parents Mark and Cathy, the room is perhaps a little too family friendly for this particular family unit. However, Kevin calls their stunning beachfront suite with its breathtaking view the “stuff of dreams”.

There is a big range of aquatic activities available at the resort including kayaking, snorkelling and a twist on classic stand up paddleboarding that you can try at twilight. On the Fire on Water Night Paddle Tour, you can see the sea life at night thanks to LED lights built into the bottom of the paddleboard.

The Guides have mixed success on their boards – Matt and Brett have only done “lie down paddleboarding” before, while Mark Fren says their “top heavy” family isn’t suited to the sport. Luckily, Bri and Karly can stay upright long enough to see the sea cucumbers scattered on the ocean floor. Once they make it to the nearby island, the Guides get some hands-on experience with fire twirling.

The next morning, Matt and Brett start their day with a breakfast cocktail at the resort’s Barefoot Bar. Brett thinks they’ve mixed in every available type of alcohol in the cocktail, but they pay for their drinks with their Travel Money Oz Currency Pass while they’re still sober.

The Guides then head to the south side of the island to embark on the Ariki Adventures Sea Scooter Turtle Safari. This tour takes you through the deep Avaavaroa Passage, which connects the main island to the sea. The sea scooters are a nifty way to help propel swimmers through the water, so they can focus on spotting the native Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles.

Matt describes the scooter as like an “underwater dust buster” – but it’s surprisingly powerful. While Mark Fren thought he’d need a Newcastle tug boat to pull him along, he was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to glide through the water with the sea scooter. All the Guides are blown away by the experience with Bri and Karly even moved to tears by their sea turtle encounter.

The Guides’ next activity moves at a slightly slower place. On the west side of Rarotonga, the Edgewater Resort hosts the International Crab Race. Think: a super low stakes Melbourne Cup where you can bet on which crab will make it outside of the ring first. Bri puts her money on “Mr Useless” because she says it’s what she knows best, while Brett goes for “All Blacks” because they win everything. To add extra obstacles on the course, everyone is asked to chuck their shoes into the ring – at this point Bri regrets bringing her $1500 Louis Vuitton slides to the Cook Islands. Ultimately, none of the guides win.

Next up is a class with the Akirata Dance Troupe who do weekly performances at the Islander Hotel. Seasoned dancer Bri picks up the moves quick – once figuring out her right from left – but the Fren Family seem to have less natural rhythm, even though Victoria reckons they have the figure for it.

The Guides also get to try out a far less traditional kind of dancing on the Raro Pub Crawl. Rehab’s Party Bus is a hop on, hop off bus that travels around the island three nights a week and stops at a range of bars. Janetta is concerned that other partygoers will think their grandparents have boarded the bus, but ends up embracing the experience, which she says is like “an irresponsible city sights tour”. Even The Boys think the age limit for a party bus should be 19. Perhaps they’re right, as Kev has to bail before the final stop at Rehab Night Club because he’s partied too hard.

To detox from their night of partying, The Boys and Karly and Bri head inland to attempt a cross-island hike through the jungle to Needle Rock. Bri says she’s more into Bondi walks and brunches, so this six kilometre, four-hour hike is certainly a step up. Luckily, the views from Needle Rock are worth it. The Boys even scale part of the towering rock, which is taller than the Empire State Building.


Stop two: Aitutaki


The Guides head north to the remote island of Aitutaki. It’s a 50-minute flight from Rarotonga and sits on one of the world’s most beautiful lagoons. They’re staying on the beach at the 5-star Pacific Resort Aitutaki. With cool towels, flowers and coconut juice on arrival, the Fren Family are stoked by their welcome – and even more pleased that they’ll get their own rooms at this resort.

The Guides spend the day exploring the Aitutaki lagoon and the 15 small islands – known as motus – that are scattered across it. The lagoon is home to Giant Trevally which can weigh up to 80 kilos and some of the Guides hop in the water to feed them by hand. Kevin said he’d eaten, but never fed a Trevally, so there’s a first time for everything. 

The Boys go to explore One Foot Island – it has only one inhabitant who runs the post office. Teng takes the opportunity to send a postcard to his mum. Meanwhile, Kevin and Janetta stop for a luxe sandbank lunch on Honeymoon Island, complete with champagne and a white linen tablecloth on their picnic table. Janetta says the experience is their wildest dreams come true. The Fren Family’s experience is a little different – they’re almost blown away during their more basic picnic on the sand.

The Guides return to Rarotonga to wrap up their Cook Islands holiday with one last spin in the turquoise blue waters. Karly and Bri and The Boys head off for a high-octane adventure on a jet ski and sea biscuit tour, while Kevin and Janetta race around Rarotonga on a Rongohiva Watersports speedboat ride. Matt and Brett’s glass-bottom boat tour moves at much a slower pace and the Fren Family finish their trip with a banana boat ride in paradise.


It’s a landmark moment in the show… The ratings are in for the Cook Islands and for the first time ever, all the Guides give their holiday the perfect score!

Kevin and Janetta: 5/5
Bri and Karly: 5/5
The Fren Family: 5/5
Brett and Matt: 5/5
Dorian, Kev and Teng: 5/5

Top Travel Money Oz Tips for the Cook Islands


According to the Guides, the Cook Islands is officially the perfect holiday destination. If you’re convinced, check out these tips from our team.

  • It’s a good idea to get some New Zealand Dollars (NZD) before you depart. You can pick up NZD at our Travel Money stores, click and collect cash or get same day delivery. Cash is handy to have for local transport and purchases at smaller shops and markets. There are ATMs on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, but not on any of the other islands.
  • When paying in cash with NZD, you may get small change in Cook Islands notes and coins. This includes their unique triangular $2 coin! Try to exchange or use local currency before you leave as you cannot exchange it outside of the islands.
  • NZD is one of the 10 currencies you can load onto our Currency Pass – it’s an easy way to pay for day-to-day purchases on the islands. Use it just like you would a regular bank card – just opt to pay in NZD when offered the option.
  • There is not a tipping culture in the Cook Islands. Prices are fixed, so don’t haggle when shopping at markets either.

Your Dream Holiday Awaits!

Don’t miss the chance to win your dream holiday! We’re giving away a $20,000 holiday package – it includes a $10,000 Flight Centre gift card and a $10,000 Travel Money Oz Currency Pass. Get all the info and enter here!
Travel Guides airs Sunday at 7pm on Channel Nine and 9Now.

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