The Cook Islands is a South Pacific nation comprising 15 islands, such as Rarotonga, Mangaia, or Aitutaki. Rarotonga is home to the nation’s capital, Avarua. It is currently a parliamentary democracy and its almost 20,000 people are considered citizens of New Zealand, due to Cook Islands’ free association with the latter country. New Zealand is responsible for external affairs and defence and the head of state is the Queen, who has a local representative.
The Cook Islands have a volcanic origin, and the climate is a hybrid between moderate and tropical. The country is located between American Samoa and French Polynesia, northeast of New Zealand.
Cook Islands’ economical growth faces several roadblocks such as the country’s isolation and the lack of natural resources. The most lucrative industry is tourism, generating more than half of the country’s GDP. Offshore banking also has a small positive effect. Major exports include pearls, fish, and various fruits. The local currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZD), however coins specifically for Cook Islands are issued. The Cook Islands dollar is fixed at the value of the New Zealand dollar.
There are two official languages in Cook Islands: English and Cook Islands Maori, also referred to as Rarotongan. Pukapukan is also relatively widely-spoken language and there are several other dialects used by the local population.
Rugby league and football (soccer) are the most popular sports in Cook Islands. The most common forms of art are woodcarving, weaving, and manufacturing quilts.