Local Customs and Traditions

Rich Cultural traditions are reflected in the songs, dances and legends passed down through the generations.

Taxes and Tipping

Tipping is not expected and is contrary to Cook Islands Custom. Accordingly no service charge is added to restaurant or service bills.

All taxes are included in prices.

Religious Observances

A variety of religions are found in the Cook Islands, and a good level of co-operation, respect and tolerance is evident between them. A memorable event for many visitors is attending a local church, and sharing a service of worship.


The following Public Holidays are celebrated each year, and some events and activities may not take place on these days:

  • Christmas Day - 25 December
  • Boxing Day - 26 December
  • New Years Day - 01 January
  • Good Friday, Easter Monday
  • Anzac Day - 25 April
  • Queens Birthday - 1st Monday in June
  • Rarotonga Gospel Day - 25 July (other islands celebrate their own Gospel Days)
  • Constitution Day - 4 August
  • Gospel Day Cook Islands - 26 October

Special events

National Dancer of the Year Held in April. This is an exciting contest to find the best male and female Cook Island Dancer. There are several eliminating competitions before the final night. You will enjoy fabulous native costumes, drumming, and dancing.

Triathlon A local Triathlon is held Anzac Day Holiday in April, and an International Triathlon is held early in May each year. Anyone is welcome to participate in these endurance events either as individuals or as part of a team. The proximity of the swim, cycle, and run components of the races, make the events easy to watch, if you prefer to cheer on the contestants.

String Band Competition Held in June. An exciting contest to find the best string band in the Cook Islands and is always fun to watch.

Fire Knife Competition Held in July. Ancient skills have been resurrected by a bunch of enthusiasts who have developed their skills to a highly proficient and entertaining level.

Constitution Day Celebrations Held around 4 August. This is the major event of the year for all Cook Islanders marking the day of independence from New Zealand. Celebrations commence with a float parade on the last Friday in July, followed by a week of sporting, cultural, and entertainment events. An Agricultural Show is also held during the week with an exhibition of flowers, plants, and produce.

Round Rarotonga Road Race Held in late September or early October each year. Overseas runners and locals alike compete in this popular international event of 31km, which encircles the Island. This is the major event in a Week of Running that includes a warm-up Fun Run, Hash House Harriers Pareu Run, Round the Rock Relay, the “Nutters” Cross Island Run - from the Vaima Restaurant to the Pandanus Petrol Station, Avatiu, as well as the Round Aitutaki Race.

Gospel Day Celebrations Held in 26 October. An interesting and entertaining event to watch for each year. Villages take turns to host the event which features open air performances of stories from the bible. Gospel Day commemorates the arrival of Christianity to the Cook Islands and is celebrated with a real island flair. You will enjoy the colourful costumes and singing.

International Food Festival Held in November. This popular event features food from around the world. People representing the diversity of resident population gather to cook their favourite dish. You can find anything from pizza to curry to oriental dishes to local island food to chocolate cake. Prices are very reasonable.

Tiare Week Held in November. This is a great week to visit the Cook Islands as many shops, restaurants, hotels and businesses are decorated with flowers. Decorated premises compete for awards as the most original and best flower displays in one of several categories. Also featured during this week is a Float Parade and a Miss Tiare Contest for teenaged young ladies.