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FIVE FAB FINDS In The Cook Islands

This tropical paradise is comprised of 15 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, northeast of New Zealand with Tahiti to the East and Fiji to the West. Lush vegetation, warm blue lagoon waters, secluded white sand beaches, and the local charm make The Cook Islands a Garden of Eden.

Here are Five Fab Finds that can’t be missed.

1. Anatakitaki Cave (Island of Atiu)

The island of Atiu (pronounced “A-chew”), a 1-hour flight Northeast of Rarotonga, the largest of the islands, boasts colourful flora, abundant greenery, a flat terrain and underground caves carved out over the millenniums by the ocean.

Anatakitaki (pronounced Ana-taki-taki) is a large mystical cave. Hike through an unspoiled tropical rainforest and rugged/jagged coral rock formations to get to the entry point. Enter through a ground opening by climbing down a ladder to a magnificent chamber. The cave gets more inspiring and intriguing with each chamber explored. A jump in the water pool in the hidden candle lit cavern is a must.

2. Walk from Motu to Motu (Aitutaki Lagoon)

Approximately a 1-hour flight north of Rarotonga is the breathtakingly beautiful island of Aitutaki (pronounced At-u-taki) surrounded by a triangular shaped blue lagoon containing 21 tiny islets (motus).

The blue lagoon becomes shallow at low tide and the warm waters lazily crawl over the Motus’ sandy beaches making for an inviting walk from one Motu to another. This is what paradise should be-Motu hopping in knee deep water, delightfully knowing that you will be setting foot on many glistening sandy beaches and refreshing yourself with a dip and a drink of fresh coconut water from the trees shaping the skyline.

3. “One Foot Island” (Aitutaki Lagoon)

One Foot Island is a very popular spot within Aitutaki’s Blue Lagoon. This tiny, uninhabited Motu has the best beach in the Pacific Region. If the beauty and tranquility of the beach isn’t enough, how about the most remote post office in the Pacific, a small restaurant, souvenier counter (all open only when tour groups visit) and a vast supply of coconuts-just grab your own. Tourists love sending a postcard from “One Foot Island” or getting their passport endorsed with the collectible Motu stamp.

A boat from Aitutaki will get you to “One Foot Island” where the guide will tell the local legend of how this Motu was named. Contrary to the legend and looking at the island from a bird’s point of view, it’s actually shaped like a foot.

4. The Best Fish Sandwich in the World

The Mooring Fish Café is located in Rarotonga (the main island) at Avana Harbour. A converted blue shipping container houses this eatery. Captain Moko delivers the fresh catch of the day to owner Jilly and her team of ladies who prepare the most delectable fish sandwiches anywhere.

The menu features mahi mahi, tuna, wahoo and other fish straight from Captain Moko’s boat. Their most popular sandwich is the FOB (Fresh Off the Boat), consisting of fresh Turkish bread, local organic lettuce, tomatoes, breadcrumbs, and mahi mahi, topped off with their own delicious lime mayo. It will take your taste buds to culinary paradise.

5. Scuba or Snorkel the SS Mai Tai

A popular dive site in Rarotonga, is the “SS Mai Tai.” Wrecked in 1916, the ship lies in 10m to 18m of water. The main engine block/boiler is sticking out of the water and can be seen from the town of Avarua (Northwest side of the island). Underwater, the ship is scattered over a large area, making this site fun to scuba dive and explore.

Diving or snorkeling should only be done when ocean conditions are extremely good due to the heavy undertow in rough conditions. Book through a certified dive operator for a great and safe experience.

Locals welcome everyone with a smile and say; Kia Orana, meaning “may you live long,” it should mean, “may you stay long.” Leaving the unspoiled charm, calm blue lagoons, ideal climate and the welcoming people is difficult- It is truly an island paradise.

Frank Greco is a world traveler and television producer of two culinary series called Gourmet Escapes and The Mangia Cake Boys; and host of his own internationally broadcast travel show-The Travel Guy.  Follow Frank on Twitter (www.twitter.com/iamthetravelguy) or become his friend on Facebook.

To Plan A Trip, Visit:
www.cookislands.travel

Getting there from Los Angeles:
www.airnewzealand.co.nz

Travelling between islands:
www.airraro.com/en

What to do:
www.atiutoursaccommodation.com/AnatakitakiCaveTour
www.facebook.com/themooringfishcafe
www.cookislands.travel/aitutaki
www.kitesup.co

Where to Stay:
(Atiu) www.atiuvillas.com
(Rarotonga, Aitutaki) www.pacificresort.com
(Rarotonga) www.muribeachclubhotel.com, www.muribeachresort.com