Culture in the Cook Islands is not as evident in everyday life as it is in other South Pacific Islands, but that's not to say it is not strong. The community remains an integral part of the individual but Cook Island Maoris are far more independent than most other Pacific islanders and it may well have to do with the strong connections it has with New Zealand. For tourists visiting Rarotonga, the easy going happy-go-lucky lifestyle of the people is immediately obvious, but it's not such a common site to see islanders gathered for traditional community events such as fishing, planting and even feasting. Kava drinking, so common in other islands, and in particular the Melanesian islands of Fiji and Vanuatu, is rarely drunk. Bush beer, known as Tamanu, is brewed in Atiu, and this is the best island to visit to experience the traditional Maori way of life.

Cook Islands dancing is one of the most exotic performances of all South Pacific dancing and can be witnessed at Island Nights at the two large resorts on Rarotonga as well as at entertainment venues in Avarua Town. Wood carving has had a recent revival as has the art of making traditional outrigger canoes, and fans and hats are woven frequently in the outer islands and imported to Rarotonga for profit. Tivaevae quilting is still commonplace in Atiu and Mauke. A good place to see these crafts is at the Museum in Avarua Town and you may be able to buy good handicrafts from the Saturday market in Avarua or at the towns leading souvenir shops.

There are several historical sites on Rarotonga worth visiting, more for the story they present than for their visual appearances, and the most important of these is beside the inland road in the north-east side of the island. More appealing visually are its churches with the most impressive built by missionaries in the late 19th Century. Christianity is very much part of the modern day culture in the Cook Islands and visiting a Sunday church service will give you a good insight into the strong community beliefs of the islanders.

Atiu Island

If you want to experience village life up close then heads to Atiu Island. This outer island has a strong village culture with the majority of its inhabitants living a subsistence lifestyle off the land. Make sure you sample the local bush beer and see some of the Tivaevae quilts hand woven by the ladies.

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Atiu Villas . 6 rooms
Bungalows
$ 200 get hotels best rate quote

Aitutaki Island

Aitutaki has a laid back island style atmosphere and there are several villages to explore. Arutanga is the main village and commerce centre or head to Vaitape on the east coast.

Rarotonga Island

The best region of Rarotonga to mingle amongst the local people is along the east coast of the island from Matavera Village to Avarua Town.

Rarotonga Hotel Directory
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Little Polynesian
South Rarotonga
. 9 rooms
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Royale Takitumu
South Rarotonga
. 10 rooms
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$ 530 - 630 get hotels best rate quote
Puaikura Reef Lodge
South-West Rarotonga
. 12 rooms
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$ 195 - 220 get hotels best rate quote