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Cook Islands Calendar of Events 2024

The purpose of this page is to give you an idea of what main events take place when if you're planning a visit to the Islands

Dates for some events in 2024 have not been announced yet and will be added to this page when they are. Where dates are shown these are confirmed. For the rest, you can see when they took place in 2023. All events are in Rarotonga unless otherwise stated. 
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this CALENDAR in summary

MARCH

COMPOSERS C​OMPETITION (TE MIRE ATU) 15 MARCH

The competition is a celebration of original Cook Islands compositions. This is also a great chance to listen to some beautiful, traditional music from the Cook Islands as composers and singers vie for the top honours.  Held at the Edgewater Resort and Spa  

LGBT+ CELEBRATIONS  12-20 APRIL

A week long celebration of love acceptance and unity is how 'Anuanua' is being described by 'Pride Cook Islands' and it will mark the first anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality (Click here to find out more about that).  A stunning wearable arts element, locally produced drama exploring life, a day of LGBT+ centred cinema and panel discussions on hard-hitting topics are all planned. There's also a Ms. Thunderhips contest (19 April) and a night of dancing. "See you there as we paint the island with love, laughter and togetherness", say the organisers

APRIL/MAY

DANCER OF THE YEAR (Te Mire Ura)

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. Held 27 April-12 May in 2023

TRIATHLON FESTIVAL
2-7 MAY

The organisers describe this as "a fun packed week of island fun and fitness" as well as an Olympic distance triathlon race.
Events include a social mountain bike tour, a fun run and Tour de Raro cycle race. If you want to enter all the events and the triathlon itself there's was a NZ$350 entry fee in 2023 (which included meals). But it costs nothing to watch and little to join in the  the other fun events.  

PURSUIT IN PARADISE MARATHON, AITUTAKI
29 APRIL-2 MAY

First held in 2018, this event is now a regular part of the calendar and attracts entrants from all over the world, as well as Cook Islanders. Australian Stuart Price holds the record for the fastest time; he was first over the line in 2019 in 3 hours 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. A 5k fun run is also 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 as stunning 

JUNE

BICENTENNIAL GOSPEL CELEBRATIONS, MANGAIA  9-16 JUNE

2024 is the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity on Mangaia (Te Arikianga o te Evangelia) and more than a thousand people are expected to join the celebrations. Around NZ$1 million has been raised for the festivities and future renovation work on the island. Members of all 10 churches on Mangaia will play a part in a host of events. A new memorial stone is being built at the harbour and island mamas are busy creating dozens of tivaevae (quilted items). The main events (still to be announced) will be on the morning of 15 June

JULY TO OCTOBER: WHALE WATCHING SEASON

Nobody organises this one, but for many visitors it's a highlight not to be missed. ​​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)  Photos: Cook Islands News

Find out where and how to watch responsibly

NOVEMBER

TURAMA  1 NOVEMBER

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 when people gather at gravesides, laugh about happy times and tell stories of their departed loved ones. These days other denominations also join in.

On 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

VAKA EIVA (Canoeing festival)   22-29 NOVEMBER

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 with a host of fun activities as well as the races. Previously, upwards of 850 people have competed in around 100 teams. After being scaled back to a local event it's now an international competition again

The festival - the biggest sporting event in the islands - normally also includes a competition among the Islands to build and race a canoe built in the traditional manner by carving a tree trunk...like this entry from Mangaia

FITNESS FESTIVAL, AITUTAKI

This community initiative was established in 2021 to promote health and fitness on Aitutaki but it's now much more than just that. Competitors from Australia and New Zealand were among nearly 100 people showing their weightlifting skills in individual and team events in 2023. And there was also a beginners category which the organisers hoped would encourage islanders to have some fun while getting fitter Held 31 August-2 September in 2023 but expected to be in November in 2024

TE MIRE TIARE (Flower) FESTIVAL

The sight and scent of flowers is everywhere on Rarotonga during this annual festival. Highlights include a float parade, a pageant to choose Miss Tiare and competitions for the best decorated businesses and government buildings Held from 27-29 November in 2023

DECEMBER

MOTU2M​​OTU, AITUTAKI

Motus are tiny islets in the Aitutaki lagoon and these are races around and between them. This multi-award winning annual event has been going since 2011 (2020 and 2021 excepted) and attracts entrants from all over the world who compete in what must be the most stunning location in the world - the picture perfect blue waters of the Aitutaki lagoon. The races range from those for novices to iron man events.  And if you're still wondering if it's worth watching, the organisers sum it up as "the most unique paddling event on the most stunning lagoon on the planet!" Held from 4-8 December in 2023

CHRISTM​​AS EVENTS

ROTORACT CHRISTMAS IN THE PARK, National Auditorium - entertainment, food and children's activities Typically around 15 December
SANTA PARADES through Avarua from the start of December with festive floats and more. And don't forget to take a stroll through town where the main street has a fun way of decorating for the season, including coloured street lights, palm frond Island-styled Christmas trees and lots of decorations  

HOTELS AND RESORTS also have special events for their guests. And even if you're not a regular church-goer, a visit to one of the many services will not only remind you of the true meaning of Christmas it will leave you with memories of some amazing harmony singing

And here's a look ahead to next year...

JANUARY 2025

KONI RAONI, AITUTAKI 2   JANUARY

Unique to Aitutaki, Koni Raoni loosely translates as "to dance around", and each year one of the villages on the island takes a turn at hosting the event to raise funds  for that village. Fresh ei (flower garlands) and kai manga (a heavy duty kaikai feast) welcome the dancers wherever they go. A similar event also takes place on 26 December.  

BEACH GAMES

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 in seven sports over the course of the games...netball, handball, football, air badminton, 3v3 basketball, beach touch and volleyball. And of course it's all on the beach  Held from 6-20 January in 2024

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT/COPYRIGHT: The Te Maeva Nui and Vaka Eiva photos on this page are the work of a great 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 a look at his website which includes many more superb photographs.