Named after Captain COOK, who sighted them in 1770, the islands became a British protectorate in 1888. By 1900, administrative control was transferred to New Zealand; in 1965, residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand. The emigration of skilled workers to New Zealand and government deficits are continuing problems.
The Cook Islands are a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand, located in Polynesia, in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, between French Polynesia (Society Islands) to the east and Tonga to the west. It is an archipelago with 15 islands spread out over 2.2 million sq. km of ocean. Though quite far, there's no known land between the Cook Islands and Antarctica.
With the same time zone and latitude (disregarding north and south) as Hawaii, the islands are sometimes thought of as "Hawaii down under". Though smaller, it reminds some elderly visitors of Hawaii before statehood without all the large tourist hotels and other development.
Read more about Cook Islands in our Cook Islands travel guide »