Beach lovers owe it to themselves to add the Cook Islands to their travel bucket list. Here you'll find some of the clearest, cleanest water in the world, with pristine white sand beaches, swaying coconut trees and a castaways vibe that's straight out of Daydream Central. Protected by outer reefs that catch the breaking waves, most beaches are formed around gentle lagoons that are perfect for high-visibility snorkelling.
Muri Beach, Rarotonga
Safe, calm and pretty-as-a-picture, Muri lagoon beach is popular with families and swimmers of all ages. Many of the island's best resorts are located here on the eastern side of Raro, and the white sandy beach is the place for watersports and scenic boat tours.
Located on the south coast, Tikikaveka is one of the best spots on the island for snorkelling. Brightly coloured fish and pretty coral can be spotted in the shallow water. Surf breaks out past the sheltering reef are exciting, but best left to the pros.
Aroa Beach, Rarotonga
Within metres of the white sand shore, hundreds of fish can be spotted, with large schools of trevally, butterfly fish, sea bream and eels swimming these waters. The Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve was established here, in front of the Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa, and serves as a natural breeding ground for tropical reef fish.
Black Rock & Nikao Beach, Rarotonga
This lovely lagoon, with its palm-tree-fringed sandy beach, is the go-to for locals and their families. The sheltered beach is safe and relaxed, the swimming conditions are great, and public picnic tables are built in the shade. Snorkelling here is some of the best you'll find.
One Foot Island, Aitutaki
It's been named the best beach on the planet. Wander around the tiny speck of sand in the South Pacific Ocean and you'll see nothing but coconut trees, white sand and turquoise-perfection lagoon water. One Foot Island is reached by lagoon cruise or boat transfer from the main island of Aitutaki. Don't forget to get your passport stamped.
Maina Island, Aitutaki
It's difficult to pick a favourite from the 22 islands in the Aitutaki atoll. Maina Island is in the southwest and, like many of its neighbours, boasts impossibly white sand and made-for-Instagram turquoise water. What sets Maina apart is the gorgeous sandbar known as "Honeymoon Island", a favourite photo stop for loved-up holidaymakers.
O'otu Beach, Aitutaki
There it is again, that magnificent turqoise lagoon water. Aitutaki is the stuff of dreams and here on O'otu Beach, it's the place for stand-up paddle-boarding, kayaking, swimming and kitesurfing. Snorkellers, swimmers and fishing-enthusiasts consistently say this is heaven on earth.
Pronounced Ah-choo, Atiu island is known as Land of the Birds. Reached via a short flight from Rarotonga or Aitutaki (and possible to do as a day trip), the island is sparsely populated and visited by less than a hundred visitors each week. Unspoiled and a true eco-experience, there are more than 25 coral sand beaches ringing the island. Taungaroro on the west coast is arguably the best for swimming.