Top Events in the Cook Islands
April: Te Mire Ure Traditional Dance Festival
This energetic, colourful festival gives you a first hand look at the traditional dances of the Cook Islands. Grab a drink and a seat and watch the men stomp and woman sway to wooden drums, each wearing costumes made of plants and shells, as they use their bodies to tell traditional Polynesian stories. The festival is great fun for the onlookers but for the dancers it is taken very seriously, with most contestants training from a young age. Each of the fifteen Cook Islands has their very own unique dance, and battles it out to be crowned female and male dancer of the year.
July / August: Te Maeva Nui Cultural Festival
One of Rarotonga’s biggest celebrations is the formerly named Constitution festival – but Te Maeva Nui sounds much more exciting! The festival celebrates the Cook Island’s declaration of independence in 1965 by exhibiting its own legendary culture through dance, food and music. Three of the best things on the planet! The festival is held in the National Auditorium but towards the end of the celebration there is a Float parade through the town of Avarua, so pack your camera.
November: Tiare (Floral) Festival
A festival of flowers on a Paradise Island. What could be better? Flowers are a huge part of the Polynesian culture and visitors are often greeted with Hibiscus or Gardenias. In the run up to the Tiare festival the whole Island goes mad for floral decorations with flowers being hung inside and outside buildings, as well as a floral float parade. This definitely is not a festival for the hay fever suffers. Another huge part of the festival is the crowning of Miss Tiare and the new Young Warrior competition, where the women chooses a flower which best represents her and the man picks a plant or tree, the locals also show their skills in a flower arranging contest, which sounds a bit 50+ but it might still be worth a watch.
November: Vaka Eiva
This is one of the biggest paddling competitions in the world with almost 1000 entries each year, and with warm, clear waters it’s easy to see why. The week long festival runs a number of various canoeing and paddling races, with the most famous being the Round Raro Relay where contestants hop in to a traditional canoe and paddle through the Muri lagoon around the entire Rarotonga Island. If you’ve not got the upper strength for the water, there’s plenty to do on the land. There are cultural activities and entertainment as well as traditional canoe carving and dancing, so this makes a cheap day out for the budgeting traveller.
June: Kite Surfing Competition
Kite Surfing is one of the Cook Island’s most popular water sports, and the annual Kite Surfing competition allows locals and visitors alike to put their skills to the test. The 5 day even takes place on the Aitutaki lagoon where there are some great vantage points for spectators – unless a 7ft man decides to stand in front of you. World champions alike come from all over the world to show off their talents in the course races and free style challenges. There is also a great opening and closing ceremony, it’s not quite the Olympic standards but it’s still pretty impressive.
Year round: sporting events
Perfect weather and vast amounts of oceans makes the Cook Islands a hub for sporting antics 365 days of the year. No matter what time you’re visiting there will be something to see. The most popular games are squash, triathlons, cycling and tonnes of water sports like sailing, canoeing and kayaking. These local events are great to watch when you’re resting in between activities – although some of them might make you tired just by watching!