The purpose of this page is to give you an idea of what normally takes place when if you're planning a future visit. All events are in Rarotonga unless otherwise stated. Scheduled dates for 2022 are shown where these have been confirmed; others will be added as they're announced. Where an event has already taken place, this page will show those dates to help you with future planning. And as you might guess in this uncertain world, all upcoming dates are subject to change and, sadly, some events might not take place at all.
This community event started in 2020 and is now an annual feature organised by the Cook Islands Sports and National Olympic Committee. Islanders compete against each other at in five sports over 14 days...touch rugby, handball, volleyball, football and 3x3 basketball. And of course it's all on the beach.
Held from 10-23 January in 2022
GOLDEN UKELELE FESTIVAL
The ukulele is likley to be the first sound visitors hear as Jake Numanga snr (pictured) greets their arrival, as he's done for over 40 years. This festival which began in 2019 is a unique celebration of the instrument and has included performances by local and overseas artists, coaching, a mini expo with ukulele related stalls and a memorable climax in the form of a ukelele concert at the National Auditorium. The event was cancelled in 2021 and 2022 but there are hopes it will return, although it may not be in March as previously.
PURSUIT IN PARADISE MARATHON: AITUTAKI
First held in 2018, this event is now a regular part of the calendar. Australian Stuart Price was first over the line in 2019 with a time of 3 hour 35 minutes and 49 seconds. But if you're not up to the 26+ miles (42.2 kms), there's a half marathon, and a 10k course, all on the 22nd. A 5k fun run on the 24th is held on the airport runway..after the last plane of the day has left. Even if you're a seasoned marathon runner, it's unlikely you'll have raced anywhere quite so stunning as Aitutaki
Held from 21-24 March in 2022
DANCER OF THE YEAR CONTESTS
(Te Mire Ura)
OLDIES RUGBY FESTIVAL
Held from 29 April to 14 May in 2022
Cook Islanders have a passion for dance and each year there's a keenly fought competition to find the best dancers from across the Islands.This is one of the biggest events of the year. Contests are held for juniors and intermediates, seniors and "golden oldies". The National Auditorium in Rarotonga is the usual venue for the final and it's a spectacularly noisy and colourful event not to be missed
This bi-annual event is based on "fun, friendship and fraternity" and who wins is irrelevant! It's also great to watch. You can get more information at email@example.com Held from 7-10 May in 2022. Next festival is 2024
TE MAEVA NUI
Cultural festival and constitution celebration
30 July - 7 August
The most important event in the Cook Islands calendar is the annual celebration of self rule, granted in 1965. Formerly called the Constitution Celebrations, it was renamed in 2001 because the Prime Minister of the time wanted a Cook Islands Maori name to capture the essence and joy of the annual festival. "Te Maeva Nui" translates as "the major or most important celebration"
Each year, performing artists from Rarotonga and the outer islands gather at the National Auditorium in Rarotonga to present new dances, songs, drum beats and costumes expressing the cultural theme chosen for that particular year. And it all begins with a float parade through town.Teams from the outer islands also sell crafts and produce from their home during island days throughout the festival. Other events during the festival typically include coconut husking, and a Maori food festival. And special cultural nights will be held this year between 2nd and 6th August
The Ministry of Cultural Development also stream this event live on the internet
Nobody organises this one, but for many visitors it's the event of a lifetime!
Between mid to late July and October, the waters off the islands are full of whales. They swim close to shore as they head for warmer waters to mate, give birth and rest. In Rarotonga they come so close that you can even watch from the main road through town (Avarua)
MANUREVA AQUAFEST AITUTAKI
Islanders claim the waters around Honeymoon Island in the Aitutaki lagoon are "the best location on the planet" for kitesurfing and 2020 was going to be the 10th anniversary of the Manureva Aquafest which sees some of the best exponents in the world competing for top honours. The event also includes a whole host of other water based sports and fun activities over five days - typically at the end of August
ROUND RARO ROAD RACE
Top international athletes, veterans and "nutters" share their love of running in this annual event which kicks off with a a lighthearted fun run on 22nd where everyone is encouraged to dress up. The 31km race round Rarotonga is the main event on 24th, usually with a 530 am start. There's also a "round rock relay", an island kaikai (feast) and a "Nutters cross island relay" all on 27th. Photo: Destination Management Cook Islands
VAKA EIVA (Canoeing festival)
In 2004, the Cook Islands Canoeing Association hosted the inaugural Rarotonga Vaka Eiva - a series of canoeing races including a round-Rarotonga relay for the main prize of the Pacific Cup. Now an annual competition, and probably the biggest sporting event of the year, with a host of fun activities as well as the races. Upwards of 850 people compete in around 100 teams.
NOTE: Because of Covid, the organisers have decided the 2022 event will be a national rather than internmational competition. It will feature singles, V6 Iron races and a V6 Round Raro Relay.
The event normally also includes a competition among the Islands to build and race a canoe built in the traditional manner by carving a tree trunk
Graves may not be everyone's idea of a tourist attraction, but on Rarotonga they're a spectacular sight on 1st November each year when islanders decorate them with flowers, and candles (real and solar powered!) which burn throughout the night. Turama is a an ancient Roman Catholic celebration of All Souls Day (2nd November) when people gather at gravesides, laugh about happy times and tell stories of their departed loved ones.
O n the evening of the 1st, the church holds a requiem mass at the cathedral in Avarua. The priest blesses holy water and takes it to the nearby cemetery at Panama, close to the airport. He sprinkles it on the graves as a symbol of the water used at baptism as a sign of the promise of eternal life. After a short prayer service, and as the sun sets, people light the candles.
TE MIRE TIARE (Flower) FESTIVAL
29 November- 2 December
The sight and scent of flowers is everywhere on Rarotonga during this annual festival which normally takes place over a week. Highlights include a float parade, a pageant to choose Miss Tiare and competitions for the best decorated businesses and government buildings.
Photos: Cook Islands News and Ministry of Cultural Development
In the weeks immediately before Christmas, the Rotoract Club of Rarotonga organise events, which also raise loads of money for community projects. The emphasis is on families having fun. Details are announced around November. The pictures are of a huge picnic in the park which was the highlight some years ago and is typical of the type of events.
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS AND GOSPEL DAYS
By law the following are PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
Good Friday and Easter Monday
Christmas Day and Boxing Day
New Year's Day and 2nd January
Anzac Day, 25th April each year
Queen's Birthday (HRH Queen Elizabeth II): first week of June
Ra O Te Ui Ariki (House of Ariki) public holiday: first Friday in July
Constitution Day - 4th August
*Not Palmerston which celebrates the birthday of the late Queen Victoria instead
Gospel days are also public holidays held on each of the islands to celebrate the arrival of Christianity. And its not just church services...all kinds of special events are held and there's much partying and feasting. The days are organised by the Christian Church in the Cook Islands (CICC) and are on different dates on each island. Very photogenic...and loads of fun! There's also a national gospel day (Nuku) on Rarotonga in October
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT/COPYRIGHT: The Te Maeva Nui and Vaka Eiva photos on this page are the work of a very talented photographer, Harvie Allison. They are reproduced with his kind permission. So...do not reuse these pictures...please contact Harv for his permission. And I also recommend highly a look at his website which includes many more superb photographs.