Though spread across a vast empty expanse of ocean, the Polynesians knew all these islands by heart long before the first Europeans came. Rarotonga was first sighted by Polynesians between 600 and 800 AD. Anthropologists believe these people may have originated in Peru and migrated to Malaya in Asia Minor and then to Polynesia. However, local legend says they came from a land called Avaiki, (place you were before) which refers to Raiatea in French Polynesia.
The Cook Islands
The Spanish explorer Alvaro De Mendana first sighted Pukapuka in 1595. He was followed by Pedro Fernandez de Quiros who discovered Rakahanga in 1606. In the 1770s Captain Cook made contact with Atiu, Mangaia, Manuae, Palmerston and Takutea which he called the Hervey Islands.
In 1789 the Bounty mutineers visited the bays of several islands on their way to Pitcairn Island. It was the Russian cartographer, Johann von Krusenstern who named the Southern Group, The Cook Islands in 1824..