The Cook Islands are a beautiful part of the world with tropical surroundings of blue lagoons, golden sandy beaches, amazing marine and wildlife, picturesque sunsets and more.
They’re also an exciting place to visit thanks to the people and celebratory festivals that take place throughout the year. Going to one yourself can add an extra authentic dimension to your vacation, making it that much more special and unique.
The festivals in the Cook Islands aren’t always the most publicised so we decided to put together a list of the best events so you know what’s happening and when they are!
Te Mire Ura (Dancer of the Year) Contest
Te Mire Ura (Dancer of the Year) Contest is one of the most anticipated and popular events of the year. Held in Rarotonga in April of every year, the national dance competition is an exhilarating cultural experience you are sure to enjoy.
The competition brings together the best dancers from across all 15 of the Cook Islands, many of whom have been training since very young ages, showing their skills and talents through the Cook Islands culture of dance. Cook Islanders are passionate about their dance and for them it’s the ultimate way to express joy and happiness with respect to their culture and history.
The competition is great fun and taken extremely seriously by the performers, making for a great spectacle for all. The sets, costumes, music and movement make this a wonderfully colourful and festive event.
There are a number of categories that include junior, intermediate, senior and the crowd-pleasing ‘golden oldies’ category. At the end of it all you’ll get to see the crowning of the best male and female dancers.
It’s a fantastic event and a great way to experience the Cook Islands culture.
When: 27th April – 10th May 2018
Te Maeva Nui
Te Maeva Nui Festival is the largest celebration for the Cook Islands as it marks its independence as a nation since 1965 and brings all 15 islands together for a week of festivities.
Thousands of Cook Islanders are involved with big crowds creating great atmosphere for events running right throughout the week. As a tourist, it’s amazing to see the colour and pride on show here especially during the opening Te Maeva Nui float parade.
Not only is it a celebration of culture however, but a celebration of food with markets operating during the day selling beautiful and fresh island cuisine. To food is delicious and it also helps support sustainability on the island for the local farmers and fishermen.
The evening events held at the National Auditorium include choir performances, dance and drumming performances.
It finishes with a celebratory parade and awe-inspiring fireworks display that the whole island can enjoy. It’s hard to find a more immersive and enjoyable Cook Island experience than this.
Event: Te Maeva Nui
When: 27th July – 6th August 2018
The festivals in the Cook Islands aren’t all just about tradition and culture (not that there’s anything wrong with that). They are just as enthusiastic about modern interests as well as historical, which is proven by the Manureva Aquafest, a five-day action-packed water sports festival!
The Manureva Aquafest focusses specifically on kiteboarding. For those who haven’t heard of or seen kiteboarding in action, it involves individuals harnessing the power of the wind with large controllable kites, being propelled into the air off waves via a board.
Exhilarating for kitesurfers and exciting for spectators alike as the festival showcases the very best talent from all around the world across a variety of different events and races. Highlights include the Freestyle section, the Twin-Tip Race and Big Air competition.
Unlike the other festivals listed, the Manureva Aquafest takes place in Aitutaki, which is smaller and quieter, but no less beautiful than Rarotonga.
The event has many more things going for it like BBQs, events for the kids, a night market, prizegiving with closing ceremony, a traditional dance troop with fire dancers, and a good party atmosphere to boot!
Adventurer’s can’t go wrong with this one and it’s a great event to include as part of your Pacific getaway!
Event: Manureva Aquafest
When: 20th – 24th August 2018
The Tiare Festival is a Cook Islands flower festival that showcases the best and brightest botanicals in the Pacific. The Cook Islands are known throughout the world for their natural beauty and take great pride in the flowers that contribute to this. As much as it is a celebration, it’s also about raising awareness in the importance of protecting local flowers and plants.
The festival typically spans the week and includes a parade of floats adorned with beautiful flowers, flower arranging competitions, flower shows and flower displays.
There’s also the Miss Tiare Pageant and a Cook Islands Maori speech competition for the local school students. Even the local businesses get involved, decorating their buildings and offices with flowers all around with incredible Instagram opportunities everywhere!
It’s an amazing festival to experience as you not only take in the sights and sounds, but the beautiful floral aromas that fill the Pacific air.
Event: Tiare Festival
When: 23nd – 30th November 2018
Vaka Eiva is probably the single biggest sporting event in the Cook Islands that attracts people from all around the world. For those who aren’t familiar with it, Vaka Eiva is an annual canoeing festival with over 850 competitors across 100 different teams each year. They compete for a range of prizes including the illustrious ‘Pacific Cup’ and ‘Pacific Paddle’ trophies for the Open Women and Men’s 36km.
Based in a hub around the Avarua Harbour, it’s a festival that’s so big it actually spans an entire week with a wide variety of racing events to keep you entertained. As well as the aforementioned Open Women and Men’s 36km, there’s also the junior division, iron and marathon races, sprint races and even a golden master’s division.
Spectators can get good viewing points all around the shore with the most enthusiastic enjoying the action from spectator boats around the courses. The finish line for most of the races is just in front of the legendary Trader Jack’s Bar and Restaurant, which is pleasantly convenient and a great place to cheer your favourite teams on!
Really good fun and adds to the nightlife of the Island with the competitors looking to celebrate after the end of a hard day’s racing.
Event: Vaka Eiva
When: 23rd – 30th November 2018
So there it is! Five great festivals in the Cook Islands to look out for and experience as part of your next trip to this beautiful part of the world proving just how much there is on offer beyond the beaches and sunset cocktails.