Hello from LAX! I just arrived to the USA from the Rarotonga, Cook Islands and currently waiting for bag check to open so I can finally get home to San Francisco.
I just spent the past glorious week in Rarotonga with my college roommate Melanie, who you may recognize from my wedding, and her current roommate (and new friend!) Sarah. Robin stayed at home with Twyla – this was a girls trip!
You’re probably asking yourself: where the fuck are the Cook Islands?! A territory of New Zealand, the Cook Islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, pretty close to Fiji and Bora Bora. Since they are so close to those popular islands, the Cook Islands often get overlooked and thus are fairly quiet (aka the perfect tropical island vacation!)
We spent a week paddle boarding, reading on the beach, eating all the fresh fruit and fresh fish possible, swimming in the ocean, cruising around lagoons and so so much more.
So, how did we pick the Cook Islands of all places? Melanie and Sarah are big fans of Survivor and season 13 circa 2006 was filmed in the Cook Islands, so when she spotted an insanely great flight deal online back in January Melanie texted me this…
And that was that! We booked cheap tickets to the Cook Islands and I started shopping for new swimsuits! Well, it wasn’t that easy.We all had one heck of a time actually making our flight to the Cook Islands.
Mel and Sarah live in Chicago, so they booked flights to LAX. They had a very short window to switch terminals and check into our Air New Zeland flight. The week leading up to our trip date, flight after flight from Chicago kept getting delayed or canceled (O’hare is probably one of my least favorite airports for reasons like this!)
Their original flight got delayed. So Mel and Sarah decided to switch to an earlier flight to make sure they would make it to LAX in time. And then that flight got canceled.
So then they flew to from Chicago to Columbus to catch a flight to LAX so they could make it to the Cook Islands. Phew, that’s a lot of flights, eh? Due to the time change, I was still home getting all these text updates and I was pretty sure I would be hanging out in the Cook Islands all by myself for a whole week.
And then of course, MY flight from San Francisco to LAX got delayed, but thankfully only about 30 minutes. It really felt like the universe did not want us to go on this trip. But they made it, and just in time to gain (free) entry to a lounge via my Priority Pass. A big sigh of relief and 4 glasses of wine later, we were boarding our flight to the islands and ready for an adventure.
We stayed at the Castaway Resort in Rarotonga, right on the beach. We had fresh fruit for breakfast each morning and spent our days getting to know the island.
The best way to describe the Rarotonga is a “rustic Hawaii”. There isn’t wifi readily available, and of course, we didn’t have cell service. Most places only take cash, things are closed down on Sundays and there’s just one main road that circles the island. If you want to take the bus (which is pretty much the only transportation option minus a very expensive cab), it comes once an hour, so you may have to wait.
Everything runs on island time.
But of course, you also get near-empty beaches, the clearest water I have ever seen, fresh seafood at every restaurant, tropical hikes, waterfalls, friendly locals and tons of cute island dogs to pet. The island is small and there’s just one flight from LA to Rarotonga a week, so we ended up running into flight mates again and again, which was a lot of fun.
I have so many photos and helpful guides for you coming in the coming weeks, in case you decide to visit the Cook Islands yourself! It’s a truly unique experience … stay tuned!