Tahiti vs Cook Islands: Which Vacation Is Better?


The South Pacific is home to some of the best islands in the world, and you shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself in a dilemma whether to go to Tahiti or Cook Islands. While these two are great options to bond with nature, each island has something special for its visitors.

Tahiti is the better destination if you’re looking for a one-on-one encounter with the elementals and mother nature, which means bonding with the Pacific waters, forests, and a touch of history. The Cook Islands is excellent for its exotic beaches, perfect for vacation and quick getaways.

CategoryTahitiCook Islands
Average weekly costs$2,399 for 2 people$700-1,000 per person
TransportTaxis, rented cars, bike, boat, airplanes (Air Tahiti & Air New Zealand), public bus, ferryCook’s Island Bus, motorbike, rented cars, taxis
AttractionsLa pLage de Maui, Three Waterfalls, Museum of Tahiti and her Islands, Place Jacques ChiracAitutaki Lagoon, One Foot Island, Muri Beach Rarotonga,  Titikaveka Beach
WeatherWarm sunny beachesWarm & sunny
Food & DrinksFafaru, Uru, Casse Croute, Hinano, Tahitian Noni juiceUmu, Rukaku, Mai, Bush beer, Poke, Ika Mata
ActivitiesSafari tours, Ziplining in the Moorea terrain, Snorkeling, HikingLagoon cruising, Fishing, Hiking, Quad bike riding across the terrain, Storytelling

Tahiti is indeed a magical place, a jewel of the South Pacific. Located 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Moorea, Tahiti comprises two ancient volcanoes Tahiti Iti and Tahiti Nui. It’s French Polynesia’s capital and a land of mountainous terrain with beautiful vegetation, streams, and beautiful beaches enriched with coral reefs, palm trees, tropical fruits, and lagoons.

The Cook Islands is also within the South Pacific region, located somewhere between Hawaii and New Zealand, a perfect stop after a long voyage across the Pacific Ocean. This group of islands has the ideal climate for beach activities, several hotels, beach resorts for a perfect romantic holiday, and adventure.

This article will unearth everything you need to know about these two great destinations, the range of activities that you can participate in, and which one is the best place to visit.

Cost of Stay

The only thing that cuts your weekend short at Tahiti or Cook Islands is the accommodation cost. Tahiti might seem more beautiful than the Cook Islands, but the prices are slightly higher. For example, a stay at the overwater bungalows might cost $1000 per night. However, other cheaper and decent places exist too.

The Cook Islands comes with a different price tag. It’s smaller, meaning lesser ground to cover and lower costs. The people are friendlier, and the accommodation and other items are a bit cheaper than Tahiti. Below are the best budget hotels in Tahiti and the Cook Islands.

Best Affordable Hotels

Tahiti

  • Tahiti Airport Motel – If you’re always worried about missing your flights or rushing to the heart of Tahiti’s capital, Tahiti Airport hotel is just about 300 meters (1,000 feet) away from the airport. The motel has decent rooms with the usual requirements we would find in an average motel; air conditioning, TV, comfortable beds, and large windows to watch the beautiful scenery.
  • Fare Nukumai – Located in Pirae, Fare Nukumai is just 2.4km (1.5 miles) from Papeete. What distinguishes this establishment from the rest is the level of hospitality. A warm welcome, excellent service, and you’ll get people willing to show you around the Island.
  • Mahana Lodge Hostel – This fine establishment is located at the heart of Papeete. It’s a great place to meet fellow tourists, has a shared lounge, kitchen, and currency exchange for visitors.

 Cook Islands

  • Manuia Beach Resort – With a perfect view of the sunset, the Manuia Beach Resort is a great place to spend your holiday. It’s an adult’s place only, and not a good place to take your kids.
  • Aitutaki Village – Best for romantic getaways, the Aitutaki Village is just a few minutes from the Aitutaki Airport. They have excellent service with friendly staff and exquisite cuisines. The live cultural performances will blow your mind as you get a taste of the people’s culture.

Major Attractions

Both Tahiti and the Cook Islands are located in a tropical climate with a majestic view of the sunset. Here are the must-visit attractions in Tahiti and Cook Island

The Overwater bungalows in Tahiti provide a sensational feeling of living in the middle of the ocean. Moorea and Bora Bora resort host the world-famous ocean huts. The cost is a bit worrying, but the experience will last a lifetime. You’ll enjoy excellent service from pool attendants and readily available butlers working 24 hours a day to give you the best experience. 

Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort is a large lagoon for tours or cruising and kayaking. A beautiful Honeymoon Island stands in Maina for a romantic getaway. You’ll never get lost here unless in the beauty, thanks to local guides who are ever ready for hire.

La Plage de Maui is Tahiti Nui’s only white sand beach. This destination is known for its activities, including swimming, snorkeling, and basking in the Tahiti sun. 

Tapuaetai, a.k.a the One foot Island, is graciously adorned with coconut palms and clear waters. Surrounded by beautiful white sand, tourists have no option but to bask in its beauty. It’s commonly used for weddings, Barbecues, and much more. 

Activities

Here’s where all the fun begins. Being tropical islands, one would expect tons of beach activity. You can do many fun activities with your loved ones, depending on the resort you choose. Some resorts allow children, while others are adults only.

Some Tahiti activities include:

  • Wine Cellar Tour with tasting
  • Take dance lessons to learn how to sway your hips like the Tahitians
  • Safari tours
  • Ziplining in the Moorea terrain
  • Snorkeling 
  • Hiking 

Cook Island Activities include:

  • Cycling tours
  • Lagoon cruising
  • Fishing 
  • Hiking
  • Quad bike riding across the terrain

Food and Drink

A classic Tahiti hotel or restaurant will serve fresh Tahiti food with Chinese, Polynesian, and French variations. Besides, it’s common to find pork, soy sauce, fish, and don’t forget coconut milk to mark people’s coastal life. Some typical food and drinks you could find include:

  • Fafaru – It is a Polynesian cuisine with marinated seawater fish, crushed crabs, and shrimp. It has a sweetish, soft taste and a unique aroma of a rotten fish.
  • Uru – A visit to Tahiti, and you’ll find this breadfruit which is used to replace flour, or eaten as a separate delicacy.
  • Casse Croute – It is a famous Tahiti style sandwich amongst locals and tourists.

The drinks include: 

  • Tahitian Noni juice – Sourced from the Noni tree and drank for its health benefits.
  • Hinano – Get a taste of the golden Tahitian beer.

Tamaaraa is a Tahitian feast marked with lots of meat, especially chicken and pork, straight from the ahima’a, an underground oven.

The Cook Islands is home to tons of tropical fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Many tourists enjoy seafood dishes from local restaurants; after all, it’s a coastal area. The foods and drinks available in Cook Islands include:

  • Ika Mata – A popular dish made of raw fish, greens, and coconut milk
  • Pok e– Consists of fruit pudding, fruits, and coconut milk
  • Curried eke – octopus drowned in coconut curry. 
  • Rukau – Staple vegetables made from cooked taro leaves.
  • Umu food – This type of food is prepared in earth ovens.

 The Cook Island drinks include:

  • Mai & Kiva– Beers produced by Matutu Brewing company located in Rarotonga.
  • Bush beer– only available in the Island of Atui after the prohibition of kava. Bush beer is made from fruits like bananas, hop, or oranges.
  • Cooks lager– Consists of the Premium Lager, Cooks Cheeky Darkie, and Cooks Original Blonde.

 Umukai is similar to Tamaara. It’s a feast that involves dancing while making food in underground ovens.

Transportation

Getting to Tahiti or Cook Islands will most likely begin with a flight. Once you get there, you’ll have to use the locally available means of transport to navigate the lands and waters. In Tahiti, local transport isn’t advanced, but they have decent roads for buses, 4WD cars, car hire, and more boats than cars. 

In the Cook Islands, residents use Polynesian Canoes, also called Vakas, to navigate lagoons’ waters. Modern tech won’t often be used, but don’t worry about getting lost. Traditional master navigators know their way around. 

Conclusion

Tahiti and Cook Island are both great destinations to spend your holiday. However, choosing the best depends entirely on you. If you’re looking to taste what nature has to offer, Tahiti is the place to be. But if you’re looking for a quality beach experience with tons of beach activities, Cook Islands is your destination.

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