Become part of the welcoming Cook Islands community by joining in a local event or festival. Sport, dance and national pride are celebrated with gusto and great food, and will provide visitors with plenty of terrific photo opportunities. Here's our top 10 favourite festivals and events to mark down in the diary:
April / May: Te Mire Kapa Festival
Hips will swivel, shoulders will shimmy, smiles will dazzle as spectacularly decked-out islanders compete to be named Dancer of the Year. There's even a category for expats and visitors to enter.
May: Air New Zealand Rarotonga Triathlon
Stay motivated during those long hours of fitness training by daydreaming of powder-white sands and brilliant blue lagoons. The Raro triathlon pits athletes against their own run/swim/cycle PBs, in scenic surrounds.
July: Miss Cook Islands Pageant
Hotly contested, this beauty and poise pageant draws gorgeous entrants from many islands all vying for the crown. Stakes are high as the winner goes on to represent Cook Islands in other pageants, including Miss World.
July / August: Te Maeva Nui Festival
The islands burst with colourful life for this celebration of the nation's self-governance. Imagine a frangipani-laced version of the United States' 4th of July or Australia Day Down Under, as Cook Islanders come together to cheer for float parades, and exhibitions of dancing, drumming and sports prowess. Constitution Day is a public holiday.
August: Cook Islands Games
Sporting nation? You can bet your coconuts on it. During eight days in August, the Cook Islands Games pits the best of the nation's athletes against each other in impressive displays of sporting ability. Administered by the Cook Islands Sports & National Olympic Committee, the Games are a springboard for athletes who may go on to compete in the Pacific Games, Commonwealth Games and ultimately, the Olympic Games.
September: Round Raro Road Race
Now in its 39th year, this annual event for runners is a great opportunity for visitors to combine a holiday with a sporting achievement. Participate in the fun run or test your endurance during the main event, a 32-kilometre race around Rarotonga.
October: Nuku / National Gospel Day
Gospel Days are an opportunity for islanders to raise their voices in joyful noise at local churches as they celebrate the arrival of Christianity, introduced to the islands by missionaries 200 years ago. Organised by the Cook Islands Christian Church, locals dress up, sing, dance and perform religious plays. Regional events are held throughout the year, with National Gospel Day in October.
November: International Rugby 7s
'Sevens in Heaven' is as much fun for spectators as participants, with 16 men's teams and three women's teams battling it out with skillful rugby action.
November: Vaka Eiva
Learn more about the Cook Islands' maritime history and culture at this annual canoe racing competition and festival. Continuing a proud South Pacific tradition, competitors from Rarotonga and the outer islands hustle to build and race canoes constructed in the traditional manner by carving a felled tree trunk.
November: Tiare Flower Festival
This week-long floral festival blooms in November with sweet-smelling float parades, flower-arranging displays and competitions and a Miss Tiare pageant. Brush up on your tropical flower appreciation with an abundance of heavenly hibiscus, birds of paradise, ginger and tiares on display.