Customs and Traditions

Posted on 01/11/2021


The Cook Islands is one of the few untouched places left on Earth. Cook Islands are refreshingly devoid of towering mega-resorts, and fast-food chains like elsewhere in the pacific. The rule of thumb on our islands is that no building can be taller than the palm trees.

Many different layers make up the beauty of Cook Island Culture, including expression through art and performance, fashion and cultural wear. Religion, language, nature, cuisine, history, storytelling, flowers, flora, fishing and agriculture are equally important to our culture.

Another essential part of our culture is attending the Cook Islands Christian Church services to experience traditional hymns and harmonies. These are dotted around the island and occur each Sunday with a warm welcome to visitors. Traditional Rito hats are often worn to church and are made from the stem of a young coconut frond. This is then boiled, dyed and handwoven into these stunning creations.

Cultural wear and local fashion are other forms of expression that are commonly portrayed to reflect our culture through traditional patterns, prints and colours. And Cook Islanders are known for their hand-painted and silk-screened dress fabrics. Please take some time on your next visit to check out some of our popular local designers such as TAV Pacific, Heihere Designs, Tauariki wear and Inagaro design.


Flowers, used in various ways, have always been precious to the Cook Islands’ culture. They are worn behind the ear, in the hair, like a flower crown (Ei Katu) and are also used in traditional medicines. The Ei (flower garland) is worn on many occasions, including welcoming guests, birthday celebrations, graduations, and formal events. Ei’s are a symbol of friendship, love and respect. Receiving your handmade Ei will undoubtably be a memorable highlight when you arrive at Rarotonga International Airport. Cook Islands’ artist Ani O’Neil shares a few tips in making these gifts of welcome, known in the Cook Islands as ‘Ei’.

Video on how to make a Cook Islands Ei