Cook Islands — Festivals and Events
Celebrations are an integral part of the preservation of culture on the Cook Islands. In addition to local holidays that mark historic dates, many interesting events are held throughout the year to showcase fascinating traditions, important art forms and promote camaraderie and solidarity amongst the islanders with dance and music.
Dancer of the Year (Te Mire Ura) Contest
One of the most popular events of the year, the Cook Islands dance-off is held annually at the National Auditorium of Rarotonga sometime in April or May. Bringing together some of the best dancers from across the land, the competition is divided by age group, from juniors to intermediates, seniors, and the “golden ladies.”
International Kite Surfing Contest
Held on Aitutaki in late June, the International Kite Surfing Contest is an annual festival that celebrates the rich natural gifts of the Cook Islands. The event attracts kite surfing enthusiasts and competitors from all over the world.
Whale Watching Season
Those who want to catch a glimpse of the gigantic whales that grace the shoreline should visit between the months of July and October. The waters are swarmed by gentle giants that show-off their aquatic skills, playfully flipping and jumping.
Te Maeva Nui
This cultural holiday on August 4 marks the annual celebration of the Cook Islands’ self-rule, which was granted in 1965. The festival is a fusion of musical and dance extravaganzas, costume showcases, craft and art exhibits, and an exciting array of food that revolve around a different theme each year.
The Tiare Festival is an annual flower show held in Rarotonga in October. Among the highlights are the Miss Tiare Pageant and the Young Warrior Contest.
Gospel Days celebrates the missions that brought Christianity to the Cook Islands. It is commemorated on October 26 with all kinds of presentations and dramatic religious reenactments.
Turama is the local celebration of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, which sees family members decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers and candles. People gather in cemeteries and share stories, usually after attending a requiem mass at the Avarua Cathedral. While not exactly a festive occasion, this November 1 event is an important part of the Cook Islands culture.
Vaka Eiva or the Canoeing Festival is held during mid-November. The annual event hosts races around Rarotonga and attracts more than 850 competitors, divided into 100 teams. The winners receive the prestigious Pacific Cup.