Cook Islands, a group of 15 small volcanic islands and coral atolls in the South Pacific, stretching over a distance of 800 miles (1,300 km) between Samoa and Tahiti. They have a total area of 90 square miles (233 km2), three-fourths of which is made up by Rarotonga and Mangaia—two mountainous islands in the south. The people are Polynesian. They live mainly by fishing and by raising such crops as coconuts, pineapples, and citrus fruits.
The first European to visit the islands was Captain James Cook, in the 1770's. They were made a British protectorate in 1888 and were annexed to New Zealand in 1901. In 1965 the islands received self-government but remained associated with New Zealand. Avarua, on Rarotonga, is the administrative center.