Tag Archives: cook islands

Hotel Profile Series: Muri Beach Club Hotel in the Cook Islands

We hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend! Is it time to think about a post-Christmas beachfront vacation?

Today we’re taking a closer look at one of our fav destinations, the Cook Islands!

The Cook Islands has been compared to “Hawaii fifty years ago,” with the two main islands Rarotonga and Aitutaki still maintaining their slow island feel. With uncrowded beaches and undeveloped infrastructure, Cook Islands are the perfect island getaway for a honeymoon, wedding, family reunion, or just to kick back and relax on a tropical vacation.

Muri Beach Club Hotel

Muri Beach Club Hotel is an adult-only resort, welcoming couples and singles at the heart of Muri Lagoon on Rarotonga’s east shore. The waters beckon for you to enjoy snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, glass-bottomed boat rides, windsurfing, sailing and other water activities. The offshore islands are just a stone’s throw away, and you can literally walk to them through four feet of water during low tide. (Just be sure to be back before high tide comes, or you’ll be swimming home!)

WIT Agent Nancy and her husband stayed a few years ago on Rarotonga at this location, and speak highly of its spacious rooms and huge verandas. The 30 rooms range from garden rooms with mountain views, pool rooms with easy access to the pool and beach, and deluxe beachfront views of Muri Lagoon.

The attentive and welcoming staff will be happy to organize some fun activities for you, like offroad adventures on a buggy or quad, an afternoon atop a paddleboard, or taking a lagoon cruise with Captain Tamas. At night, relax with live music, island night show and a Polynesian buffet dinner — as you chill out a few steps from the lagoon.

If you want to explore more of the island, or pick up fresh fruits at the Saturday market, simply catch the bus or hire a vehicle—car, scooter, bicycle—from the concierge. Just 30 minutes from airport to the beach, the Cook Islands are incredibly easy to navigate. The bus service goes around the island, one bus going clockwise and one bus going counterclockwise – it’s really a step back in time!

How to Get There: The South Pacific isn’t so tough to get from the West Coast! The flights are uncomplicated, simply fly from Portland to LAX straight to Rarotonga. Prices are cheaper than either Fiji or Tahiti. As a self-governing island country in free association with New Zealand, everyone speaks English and local currency is the New Zealand dollar. PLUS did you know you could easily combine a few days in the Cook Islands with a grand adventure in New Zealand?

Our Past Posts on the Cook Islands: 

Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel to organize special air + hotel packages for you and yours: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel. Who knew an offbeat tropical paradise was so within reach?

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Agent Profile: Nancy Fowler

Galapagos 100

How did you get into travel?

I grew up in the country near the Oregon coast, on a dead end road, with few neighbors.  Books were my escape to exotic places. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, so I attended a business school for a travel and accounting course. My first job in a travel agency was in 1978, handwriting Pan Am tickets for their Hawaii tours.  Next up was a full time position, selling air tickets (only 3 fares –remember Continental’s Chickenfeed fare?) all done via the phone, as there weren’t computers yet.  Soon I was trusted to discuss Hawaii, Mexico, some cruises with clients.  My first work trip was Amtrak to San Francisco, followed by a trip to Hawaii.  I was hooked!

What’s your favorite trip/memories of travel?

I’ve been fortunate to have so many wonderful trips over the years, and there hasn’t been a destination that didn’t become my new favorite.  Call me fickle!  A travel consultant is ALWAYS on the job, so a favorite personal escape is Hawaii.  It is exotic, only 5 hours away, and very welcoming. Memories?  Galapagos and the crazy marine iguanas!  Snorkeling in Fiji, Cook Islands, Tahiti, Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, Turks and Caicos.  Holding a young wombat and rubbing her tummy. Driving in Western Australia while a lizard races me (and wins).  Watching cattle dogs work in New Zealand. A cooking class in Vietnam. Getting lost in Provence and missing our train to Paris. A walking tour in Regensburg while on a Xmas Markets cruise with my daughter. Visiting New Orleans post-Katrina.  Attending a party on the heli-pad of the Celebrity Eclipse.  Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage.

What’s still on your bucket list?  

Norwegian fjords in the winter,  Argentina, safari somewhere in Africa, Kangaroo Island, Arctic, Myanmar, Black Sea, Ireland, Molokai.   And if time,  return visits to Galapagos, Alaska, Australia, Scotland, Fiji, and Panama Canal.

What’s one tip you always tell your clients? 

Be sure to take your brain and your common sense on every trip, along with an open mind for impromptu new adventures!

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Cook Islands

Today we’re wrapping up our week-long blog visit to the Pacific in spiritu with the Cook Islands! Call our office or email us to find out more about these island destinations!

Photo by Philby, Creative Commons

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands is an archipelago composed of 15 small islands, a mixture of coral atolls and volcanic islands. The majority of the population live and thrive on the largest, Rarotonga and Aitutaki, breathtaking with their stunning sands and blue lagoons. Rarotonga has only one flight per week from the US mainland—so factor in either a 5- or 12-night stay.

Seeking tropics but not sweltering humidity? The best time to go is from April to November, after the storms and cyclones have left the region, with cool winds from July to September. A popular tourist destination, the Cook Islands have a range of accommodation—to fit the budget-conscious, romantic, or luxury travelers. You just have to ask yourself two questions: “Do I want to watch the sunrise or sunset from my room?” And “Do I prefer an ocean beach or a lagoon beach?” The beauty of the islands has also been the backdrop to countless weddings and honeymoons.

Photo by eutrophication&hypoxia, Creative Commons

The Cook Islands offer a range of activities for every type of traveler. Go shopping for black pearl jewelry, take a dive cruise to one of the gorgeous lagoons, take a buggy tour, discover the Anatakitaki caves and the unique cavern Kopeka birds. Try the local cuisine, from ika mata (raw fish), umu food (food prepared in an earth oven), curried eke, octopus in coconut curry, and poke (cooked fruit pudding). As with many Polynesian cultures, the Cook Islanders have a rich heritage of storytelling, and frequently put on craft, dance and music performances.

photo by Akos Kokai, Creative Commons

Love the water? Head over to Muri Lagoon and hit the waves: swim, paddle, sail or kayak to and around the lagoon’s many motu (islands). Stroll along the lagoon’s long beach on the east side, or check out the old shipwreck. Locals call the islands’ numerous marine reserves “fish bowls”—because you can’t snorkel in them without encountering enormous schools of fish. Ocean temperatures average around 75°F, peaking at 80°F during January and February.

Nancy’s Must-Do List:

  • As your plane lands, watch for the line of locals at the runway edge, ducking at your jumbo jet blasts over them – this is serious local entertainment.
  • Ride the island bus; takes an hour to circumnavigate the island. The fare is only a few dollars. You can catch the buses in Avarua, the main town for banking, groceries, and shopping. It is also the school bus!
  • Thinking of doing just the day trip to Aitutaki? Go for at least 2 days/1 night or you will kick yourself.

Did you know? The Cook Islands Maori language is closely related to both Tahitian and New Zealand Maori, and by extension, Hawaiian!

Our agents Barb, Nancy and Pam have all been to the Cook Islands and would love to share their knowledge with you! Call us up for a chat at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Agent Picks: Our Top 2012 Destinations

This week we asked around the office for our agents’ top destinations for 2012, and here are some of our awesome picks:

photo by Hector Garcia

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are situated between French Polynesia and Tonga, comprised of 15 islands. Summers (Nov-Apr) are warm with afternoon rains, and winters are cooler and dry. It is largely unspoiled, with pristine beaches, coral atolls, blue lagoons and white sands. With no high rise hotels and a culture firmly based in its roots—each island offers unique ways to relax and enjoy Polynesia. The visitor can enjoy a variety of activities, including swimming in resorts, visiting the famous Aitutaki Lagoon, snorkeling, scuba diving, mountain hiking or stopping for a shore excursion at Palmerston Atoll.

photo by Arian Zwegers

Baltics

Since the fall of Soviet communism, the Baltic states—namely Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia—have slowly emerged as a major travel hub. Still under the American traveler’s radar, the capitals of Vilnius, Riga and Talinn still retain their refreshing and unspoiled vibe. With old world architecture, pastel colors, and rich cultural backgrounds, the people have been called welcoming and yet still an enigma. The Baltics are also relatively inexpensive for Europe, with boutique hotels running less than 150 USD per night and private tours available for a third of the price of their Western European equivalents. From the lively cities to the icy resorts on the Baltic Sea, there’s something for nature and culture lovers alike.

photo by xiquinhosilva

 Turkey

Turkey is a less expensive option to neighboring and popular Greece—but as equally worth your time due to its rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes—from mountains to beaches to ancient monuments and ruins. Depending on your travel tastes, spend your vacation wandering through bipolar cosmopolitan Istanbul, sunbathing on the Bodrum Peninsula, touring the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, or unwinding in a steamy hamam. If you’re feeling more adventurous, we recommend exploring the uncharted deserts of Eastern Turkey, trekking through the Ottoman and Greek ruins, or hiking through Nemrut Dagi National Park. Above all, don’t miss the food—mouthwatering mezes, olives, kebabs, anchovies, baklava, and kanafeh (a sweet and delicious pastry). WIT works with a fantastic tour guide named Meli who provides fully escorted tours through incredible historical sites, hot springs, monasteries, and the gorgeous architectural wonders of the Aya Sophia and Topkapi Palace.

photo by Maurizio Costanzo

Ecuador/Galapagos

Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, but features a biodiversity unparalleled in the Western Hemisphere. For decades a top destination for nature lovers, the country features volcanoes, tropical forests, Pacific coast, indigenous markets, and unique wildlife. Most popular are the Galapagos Islands, barren but beautiful landscapes ripe with giant tortoises, penguins, marine iguanas and sea lions. Due to the fragility of the islands, tourists’ access is limited and must be accompanied by a park-certified tour guide.

photo courtesy of Viking River Cruises

 European River Cruises

The European river cruise is a massively growing industry—not a destination, but a worthy travel experience in of itself. These cruises are often all-inclusive, allowing Americans to avoid high exchange rates by locking fares in dollars, and can include accommodations, remarkable scenery, meals from stellar chefs and occasionally shore excursions. The most popular routes are on the Douro River, the Rhone, the Rhine and the Danube. River boats travel at a leisurely pace of 5 mph, allowing travelers spectacular views of the countryside, vineyards, castles, and villages. They can accommodate from 200-300 passengers, and the tiniest barges as few as four—intimate yet never feeling claustrophobic Many ships offer deluxe cabins, or suites with balconies, and there is a small number of public rooms and plenty of deck space. Fall is a popular time to go—the time for grape harvesting, Oktoberfest brewing, and the polychromatic turning of the seasons.

photo by @Michael

USA National Parks

Summer is a time for parks, and no better place to check out wildlife than in America’s diverse and breathtaking national parks. The National Park Service protects 58 areas across America, so there’s no excuse not to find one for a hike! Lodges are already selling out in well-known destinations such as Bryce Canyon or Montana’s Glacier Park. In Oregon, check out Crater Lake, Fort Clatsop, John Day Fossil Beds, or the Oregon Caves—or hike a historical trail, such as the Lewis & Clark or Pacific Crest trails. Some of the tours WIT works with offer escorted park tours, like Tauck’s Southwestern canyon vacation or their Yosemite trail, both crafted by filmmaker Ken Burns.

Interested in traveling this year to a top destination? Email info@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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