Cook Islands Culture – Discover The Cook Islands

Posted on November 8, 2017

Covering no less than 1,800,000 square kilometres of the South Pacific Ocean, the Cook Islands are known for its crystal clear waters, blue lagoons, palm trees, and white sand beaches… But beyond this idyllic tropical setting, it is the rich uniquely Cook Island culture that truly defines this little slice of paradise, and strengthens the shared bond of its spirited, friendly inhabitants.

Beliefs and Traditions

Like its Pacific counterparts, the Cook Islands are steeped in myth and legend.

Prominent figures in historical Cook Islands beliefs include Avatea, Ina, Marama, Nganaoa, Papa, Rongo, Tangaroa, Vaitakere, Varima te takere, and Vatea – with Avaiki being the land of the gods and ancestors.

While many of those mythological figures are still revered, the Cook Islands have been a Christian domain ever since Christian missionaries came to Aitutaki in the 1820s, and the island nation converted sometime thereafter.

Perhaps owing to those old beliefs, many Cook Islanders remain deeply superstitious, with purepure (or “witchcraft”) being practiced for hundreds of years. As such, tales of spirits and the supernatural are still commonplace in the islands, and play their part in defining the nation’s rich heritage.

Music and Dance

Counted amongst the finest dancers in the world, Cook Islanders pride themselves on their ability to move with finesse and entertain a crowd.

Cook Islanders are also celebrated drummers, guitarists, ukulele players, and have their own form of unaccompanied vocal music “Imene tuki” – similar to jazz scat singing, which emphasises the singer’s voice as an instrument.

This love of music and dance is celebrated in August each year with Te Maeva Nui, which recognises and honours the Cook Islands’ Constitution Day.

However, no matter the time of year you are visiting, you can experience this uniquely Cook Island culture at Pacific Resort Aitutaki’s Island Night.


While English is the predominant language spoken in the Cook Islands today, Cook Island Maori (officially named Maori Kuki ‘Airani, but often simply referred to as “Rarotongan”) is the native tongue of the islands.

Not to be confused with New Zealand Maari (although closely related to both New Zealand Maori and Tahitian), Cook Island Maori is often called by its speakers Te reo Ipukarea, which translates literally to “the language of the Ancestral Homeland”.


As an island nation, surrounded by the South Pacific Ocean and its many plentiful fisheries, it really should come as no surprise that seafood can be found throughout the cuisine of the Cook Islands.

Locally grown fruit and vegetables are also on the menu, with fresh pawpaw, taro, mango, coconut, arrowroot, ginger, lemon, and lime featuring heavily.

Be sure to try Ika mata – a dish of raw fish marinated with lemon or lime and served with coconut cream. Absolutely delicious!

Want to visit?

Keen to soak up the sun, sand, history, and unique culture of the Cook Islands?

Pacific Resort Hotel Group operates 5 luxurious resorts across Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and would love to host you!

Contact us for details, and start planning your trip of a lifetime today.