Top Ten Destination Wedding Locations

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

1. Rarotonga, Cook Islands
What French Polynesia is lacking in authentic color, the Cook Islands more than make up for. A bride and groom—and their guests—will have plenty to do to pass the time: For local flavor, they can hit up the Highland Paradise Cultural Centre, where natives don the traditional Maori dress, and experience sites of former sacrificial ceremonies. They can attend Sunday morning church services—a must-do, says travel icon Peter Greenberg—or take in one of the many Island Nights, with traditional Polynesian dancing and singing galore. They can splash in the shallow lagoons with the fish (and octopi and turtles), or soak up the wildlife and history of the land through one of Pa's Nature Walks. Or they can partake in the islanders' favorite pastime: doing absolutely nothing at all. (The aquamarine water and silk-sand beaches provide the perfect backdrop for such an activity.)

Oddly enough, getting married in this far-flung South Pacific locale is far more affordable than in the United States. Prices for a beachfront wedding at one of Rarotonga's poshest resorts, the Pacific, start at just $1,300, and that includes the marriage license and a team of on-site professional planners. An additional $500 gets a bride and groom a traditional vaka lagoon ride with a warrior, a ukulele serenade, a shell horn announcement by an island warrior, and a hand-woven coconut palm and flower archway. Flights for your guests are relatively affordable and easy, too: On a ten-hour direct flight from Los Angeles, you can reach Rarotonga for as little as $800 round trip.

Following your big day, the couple of note can leave their guests behind and hop an inter-island flight to the oasis that is Aitutaki for the ultimate honeymoon getaway. The hospitality is second to none (particularly at the five-star Pacific Resort), the scenery goes unsurpassed, and fewer than 1,000 people inhabit the sparsely populated isle. Be sure to indulge in a day cruise through the surrounding lagoon, stopping over at One Foot Island, home to Survivor: Cook Islands and a small shack that doubles as both a snack bar and a post office; take a dip and snorkel in the shallow crystal clear waters, where you'll see a giant clam or two; and hit up an island show at the resort at night to see a native Polynesian song-and-dance act.


Published: 7 Dec 2009 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Rarotonga

$448
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#1
Te Vakaroa Villas
$467
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#2
Muri Beach Club Hotel Rarotonga
$259
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#4
The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa

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