The Cook Islands has an official currency that is known quite simply as the Cook Islands dollar. Unlike many other currencies in the world however, it does not have an ISO code. This is because it is a very minor currency and it is pegged to the value of the New Zealand dollar. This latter currency can also be used in the Cook Islands, a fact that is well worth remembering if you are intending to travel here.

What coins and notes are available for this currency?

The Cook Islands dollar is, as you would expect, a decimal currency. It is divided into 100 cents but these are also called tene. The symbols for both dollars and cents ($ and c) are the same as you would expect of any other dollar symbol.

The coins available for the Cook Islands dollar are the 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins. There are also $1, $2 and $5 coins. As for banknotes you can get four of these. There is the unusual value of a $3 note, alongside the $10, $20 and $50 notes.

For ease of use and convenience, we should also look at the available coins and notes for the New Zealand dollar, since this can also be used on the islands. The coins are in 10, 20, 50, $1 and $2 denominations, so you can see there is some difference between this currency and the island’s version of the dollar. The same applies with the banknotes. The New Zealand dollar uses $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes.

From past to present – the history of the Cook Islands dollar

Many years ago the Cook Islands population relied on the New Zealand pound as its official currency. This changed in 1967 when the New Zealand dollar came into use. Five years later the islanders were given the chance to use their own coins, ones that were designed just for their version of the dollar. It would be another 15 years before their own versions of the dollar would come into circulation as well. Since that time the Cook Islands inhabitants (and visitors) have been able to use both currencies.

How to get hold of the Cook Islands dollar

If you search for the Cook Islands dollar online with the intention of buying some of this specific currency, you will probably discover nothing but the New Zealand dollar. Very often some of the currency websites that sell foreign currencies will redirect you to this currency. None of them sell the Cook Islands dollar directly. This means your only chance of getting hold of and using the currency is to find it on the islands. Even then, most of the notes are no longer easy to find and the ones that are (especially the $3 note) are little more than souvenirs for foreign travellers.

However since they also use the New Zealand dollar you shouldn’t have much trouble getting the currency you need prior to leaving home. Just find a bureau de change that offers a good rate of exchange and go from there. You can also invest in some traveller’s cheques since there are places on the islands that will happily exchange them for you.

You can use cash machines as well, although they are not located everywhere. The best card to take with you for this purpose is one that works on the Cirrus/Maestro network, since these are commonly used in the Cook Islands.

One final note – if you do happen to get any Cook Islands dollars, whether in note or coin form, while you are there, you won’t be able to do anything with them once you leave for home. This means you should keep the ones you want as souvenirs and exchange the rest for New Zealand dollars before leaving.

How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Cook Islands dollar

This is easy since all you have to do is look up the New Zealand dollar. This is available and easy to find on all good online currency converters. Most apps that work out exchange rates should have it too. You will then know what the exchange rate is since their own dollar is the same in value.

The official website for the islands is This offers plenty of useful information about visiting the islands including details about permits and so on.

Travelling safely with the Cook Islands dollar

For the most part the islands are very safe to visit. There are definitely many other parts of the world that are far from being as safe as these areas are. However this does not mean you shouldn’t exercise at least a little caution. Think about what you would do at home and take basic measures to secure your possessions and to stay safe. It is rare to encounter any crime here, but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t sometimes occur.

The islands are not a beacon for tourism in the way some other parts of the world are. As such while they do attract visitors they don’t tend to have people who are looking to rob tourists as they arrive in droves. As long as you take good precautions and don’t leave things unattended, you should be fine. The people who are more likely to run into problems are those who may end up being far more lax with their security than they would dream of being at home.

Where to spend your dollars in the Cook Islands – and what to spend them on

So where are the Cook Islands? Are they actually anywhere near New Zealand itself? Well, they can actually be found to the north-east of New Zealand, but they are some considerable distance away from it in the South Pacific Ocean. There are 15 islands in all, although by far the biggest of these is Rarotonga. This is the island many tourists will head for. There is also, rather conveniently, an international airport on this island, which is good news when you’re looking to fly there!

The capital of the Cook Islands is Avarua. This is located to the north of the island of Rarotonga, while the airport is in the north-western corner. A road known as Ara Tapu runs right round the very edge of the island, taking visitors to all locations. There are three main districts on the island too. The first is in the west, which is the Arorangi District. The Avarua District is in the north, while the Matavera District is located to the east.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that the islands main source of income is from tourism. This holds true even though it is not the busiest or most sought-after of islands in this respect. If you decide to visit you can look out for the many woodcarvings that are a main feature on this particular island. Indeed this is a skill that dates back through the centuries, and some examples have been welcomed into museums for more people to see. Weaving and other arts have also been very popular here.

Raratonga receives plenty of sunshine throughout the year, but the driest months tend to occur between April and September. If you are looking for a good hotel you are bound to find one at some point around the perimeter of the island. This is where most of the action takes place in Rarotonga. Part of the reason for this is that there is a lagoon that completely encloses the island. This means there is plenty of opportunity to indulge in a spot of snorkelling so you can see the reefs that exist around the island itself.

If you would like to see some of the other islands that form part of the Cook Islands, you would have to travel to Rarotonga first. From there you can board a flight provided by the local airline that will take you to your choice of other islands in the group.


The Cook Islands may not be that familiar to many people. However they do provide a great selection of superb sights and offer many activities and things for people to see and do. There is no real need to concern yourself with the Cook Islands dollar, since you can get along perfectly fine with the New Zealand dollar instead. Indeed, you may find there are plenty of things you can do without spending many dollars at all. For example sightseeing and walking offer plenty of chances to get your bearings on the largest island, and there is no cost for sunbathing on one of the many charming beaches it has to offer either.

So if you are looking for somewhere that offers a great selection of activities as well as wanting somewhere a little more unusual, check out the Cook Islands today. It might be just what you need for a great holiday.


Cook Islands Dollar – NZD

One thought on “Cook Islands Dollar – NZD

  • February 15, 2017 at 8:13 am

    I’ve got a Cook Island $50 COIN that’s in pretty poor condition so it’s face value is more that it’s numismatic value.

    Without actually going to CI how might I exchange it?


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