Right in the heart of the South Pacific lies the Cook Islands, some of the most scenic and unspoiled of the subregion, comprising 15 islands and atolls. Most of visitors to the Cook Islands choose to stay in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. These two islands are perfect for snorkeling in clam, shallow lagoon, well sheltered by barrier reefs. In the lagoons, you’ll discover an interesting marine life, including colorful reef fish, sea stars and sea urchins, but the coral can be in poor conditions.
The Cook Islands is comprised of 15 islands cast across 2 million sq km, in the heart of Polynesia. Rarotonga, where Avarua, the capital city, is located, Aitutaki, and, to a lesser extent, Aitu, are the most accessible and visited islands in the country.
The Cook Islands are a perfect destination for free shore snorkeling in shallow, calm lagoons. In Rarotonga, the protected waters of Aroa Marine Reserve , in front of The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium, and Tikioki Marine Reserve, aka Fruits of Rarotonga/Tikioki Beach, boast some of the most vibrant underwater life on the island. Many people consider them the best spots in “Raro”.
Black Rock, on the northwestern side of the island, and Muri Beach on the southwestern coast are also great options.
From Muri Beach, you can reach two motus. Taakoka, just in front of Nautilus Resort Rarotonga and Koromiri, facing the Pacific Resort Rarotonga, by kayak or swimming.
Apart from these spots, you can snorkel almost everywhere in the lagoon edging Rarotonga, but avoid the surroundings of the pass (or passages) connecting the lagoon and the open sea, where there are strong currents.
In Aitutaki, the northwestern tip of the lagoon, between Pacific Resort Aitutaki and the Marine Research Centre, just past the runway, offers the best shore snorkeling around the atoll.
In Both Rarotonga and Aitutaki, you can also try the lagoon snorkeling tours. These boat tours, on average NZD80pp. for 4 hours, (many options available) will take you to more remote snorkeling spots, considered to be much richer in sea life than the beach options.
In Aitutaki, One Foot Island and Honeymoon Island, two coral islands of the southern part of the lagoon, are some of the tours favorite stops.
In the Cook Islands, you’ll spot Polynesian lagoon sea life, including a vast array of fish such as parrotfish, butterflyfish, pufferfish, trevallies, surgeonfish, moray eels, sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins.
However, the coral condition is variable here, and you may find dead coral areas, sometimes covered with seaweed. If you are lucky, you may encounter around the Cook Islands sea turtles, stingrays, and reef sharks, especially in deeper and more remote areas.
The Cook Islands can be snorkeled all year round. In the archipelago, the climate is tropical, influenced by the trade winds, with a hot, humid, and rainy season from December to April (26-30°C in average) and a cooler and relatively dry season from June to August (22-27°C).
The shoulder months of May, September, October and November are usually considered as the best months to visit the Cook Islands.
450+ spots have been featured on Snorkeling Report with the help of people like you. Share your favorite snorkeling spot and help us cover the world map. Your contribution will help the snorkeling community find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
ADD A SPOT
On all reef spots.
Shallow lagoon with a great variety of reef fish
Free shore access
You must be logged in to post a comment.
In 1768, the day he got close to Tahiti for the first time, French explorer Bougainville is said to have said: “this is heaven on earth!”. There at least is one truth here: French Polynesia is an underwater paradise. With its 14 dream islands (Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora being the most well-known), (...)
The Tuamotu Islands, a remote, pristine archipelago, scarcely touched by the outside world, offers some of the best snorkeling in the South Pacific. The archipelago sit on the eastern part of French Polynesia, with 77 atolls spanning a distance of over 900 miles. The most visited atolls are Rangiroa (...)
Known as the “soft coral capital of the world” Fiji is home to healthy and thriving reefs, found almost everywhere around its more than 300 tropical islands. There, shallow coral gardens showcase an incredible diversity of reef fish, including angelfish, clownfish, butterflyfish, but also big marine (...)
Located in the heart of the South Pacific, New Caledonia is blessed with the world’s largest lagoon, offering infinite snorkeling opportunities. Although you will probably start by snorkeling from the shore around Nouméa, you shouldn’t leave New Caledonia without having explored some of the islets a (...)
Where else could you meet turtles and schools of tropical fish in healthy coral reefs, or snorkel at night with huge manta rays, or get face-to-face with a pod of spinner dolphins in shallow, clear blue water? The Big Island is full of surprises and delights - maybe the best snorkeling destination i (...)
Maui is the second biggest island in Hawaii and one of the most visited. Along with Big Island, it is one of the best snorkeling destinations in the archipelago. Its 120 miles of coastline are home to dozens of snorkeling sites for all levels, most of them with free shore access. Maui is certainly t (...)
Oahu is the most visited of the Hawaiian islands. Its sheltered waters and easy-to-access beaches make Oahu a good option for shore snorkeling. Hanauma Bay, a gorgeous turquoise bay located only a few minutes drive from Honolulu, is by far the most visited snorkeling spot in Oahu, but there some oth (...)
With its canyons, breathtaking cliffs beaten by the ocean and luxuriant vegetation, Kauai amply desserves its nickname, the Garden Island. For many people, it is the one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Snorkeling in Kauai is not considered the best in the Hawaiian archipelago, but the is (...)