In many ways, this is the carefree tropical destination of decades ago. The sea is calm and warm, there are no shopping malls, the buildings can’t be taller than a palm tree and the kids, especially older ones, can explore to their heart’s content. (Local youngsters will likely join them.) The 15 isles that make up the Cook Islands are halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Startling turquoise lagoons, tiny villages, low-key adventures and heartfelt Polynesian hospitality combine to make this a holiday that many repeat. Take your pick of these family-focused stays.
Nautilus Resort Rarotonga
Owners Paul and Jane Pearson, an Australian couple with four kids, saw a gap for family-focused luxury on Rarotonga. At this eco-friendly Muri Beach resort, they’ve built 17 airy villas, each with up to three bedrooms, a choice of beach or garden views and a plunge pool. Chances are the children will leave it to you – they’ll be climbing trees, chasing crabs on the beach or kayaking to the deserted islet of Ta’akoka Motu. Nautilus Restaurant champions Polynesian-inspired dishes and, while there’s a kids’ menu, the chefs here will cater to almost any food fancies. There’s also a nanny service if you need it.
Pacific Resort Aitutaki
Just a 45-minute scenic flight from Rarotonga is the tropical paradise of Aitutaki, which boasts what many consider to be the most spectacular lagoon in the world. The resort has 27 bungalows and villas, all facing the beach. The Premium Bungalow Plus category has beds for two adults and two children aged up to 11; if you have older kids, there are two-bedroom Premium Bungalows. But it’s all about the water here. Snorkel off the beach, take out the kayaks or book a lagoon cruise and explore the deserted motus (islets) and underwater world.
Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa, Rarotonga
For those with little kids – and the desire to keep them entertained – this boutique resort on popular Muri Beach has just 13 one- to three-bedroom villas, each with a plunge pool. Importantly, it has access to the kids’ club at nearby Pacific Resort Rarotonga, where your children can go on kayak safaris, hunt for octopuses or learn how to weave baskets. Complimentary transfers will also take you there for meals (the villas at Te Manava have fully equipped kitchens but there’s no on-site restaurant). Older children can use the bicycles, snorkelling gear and kayaks to explore.
Cooks Bay Villas, Rarotonga
For families after more privacy and independence, Cooks Bay Villas is about seven kilometres from Muri Beach. The five two-bedroom villas with beautiful views across Vaimaanga Beach are often rented as a block to extended families looking for the ideal tropical getaway. Each villa has a spa and there’s a shared pool, hammocks and barbecue facilities, plus kayaks and snorkelling gear. There are two nearby restaurants but you’ll arrive to some basic supplies and can stock up at the local supermarket to take advantage of the full kitchens and outdoor eating areas.