What is the Best Island Night in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
Part of the Cook Islands culture that has stood the test of time is traditional dancing – a must-see while visiting the Cook Islands! It’s not just a show for tourists, as dance troupes across the Cook Islands use the opportunity of “island nights” to fundraise for touring the world, as well as practice for entering the revered “Dancer of the Year” competitions held in the Cook Islands. Luckily for us, island nights provide an evening of fun, humour and pure awe as performers give their all and showcase amazing technical skills. Island nights are also an excuse to sample traditional Cook Island cuisine where you’ll taste much of what is featured in the 10 Foods to Try in the Cook Islands.
See which island nights to attend by comparing them in this list of the best island nights in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands! We also list the best island nights in Aitutaki and Atiu!
Rarotonga Island Night Schedule
- Monday – Highland Paradise, Umu Experience, Rarotongan Beach Resort, Tumutoa Tours
- Tuesday – Te Vara Nui Village, The Islander Hotel, The Edgewater Resort & Spa
- Wednesday – Highland Paradise, Tumutoa Tours
- Thursday – Te Vara Nui Village, Crown Beach Resort & Spa, Umu Experience
- Friday – Highland Paradise
- Saturday – The Edgewater Resort & Spa and Te Vara Nui Village
- Sunday – N/A
Aitutaki Island Night Schedule
- Monday – Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort
- Tuesday – Aitutaki Village
- Wednesday – N/A
- Thursday – Tamanu Beach Resort
- Friday – Avatea Cafe (fortnightly/monthly)
- Saturday – N/A
- Sunday – N/A
1. Highland Paradise – The Best Island Night in the Cook Islands
High on the hills of Arorangi, Highland Paradise offers one of the most unique island nights in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. The evening begins with a tour of a well-preserved archaeological site complete with traditional welcoming ceremonies, storytelling and crafting displays. After you’ve soaked in the views from the amazing hilltop location, you’ll return to the undercover restaurant with the ambience set by the string band. Indulge in an extensive buffet of traditional Cook Islands dishes, as well as some crowd-pleasers for the more fussy eaters. Then, it’s onto the finale with a captivating show moving through different styles of Cook Island dancing and drumming. The whole experience lasts approximately 3h30mins, starting at 6pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Location: Transfers are included. Otherwise, you can self-drive to Maungaroa Drive, Arorangi (west side of Rarotonga).
2. Te Vara Nui Village – The Best Island Night on Rarotonga
It would seem like a bit of a cop-out if we were to say how unique Te Vara Nui Village is too, but it’s true! This is the Cook Islands’ only overwater island night where performers do their thing on platforms in the middle of a gorgeous tropical water garden. Needless to say, the venue is stunning, as are the costumes that are worn by the talented dancers who tell the legend of “Tongaiti” through their performance. Of course, a buffet dinner is also included in the experience, featuring dishes from both Polynesian and Western cultures. The experience is approximately three hours, starting at 6.30pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Muri (east side of Rarotonga). Transfers are available for a fee.
3. Tamanu Island Night – The Best Island Night on Aitutaki
Bringing island nights to Aitutaki, the Tamanu Island Night at the Tamanu Beach Resort starts at around 6pm with live music from a local string band to enjoy while you sip on cocktails (not included). The buffet with both local and international food begins at 7pm, spreading from the indoor to the outdoor area with its array of options on offer! Once the buffet is over, usually around 8.30-9pm, the cultural show begins with energetic Pacifika drumming and dancing from the island’s “fierce” warriors (Ok, they actually look pretty friendly) and graceful ladies. The experience is approximately 3-3h30mins and is available every Thursday. Learn more about Aitutaki’s nightlife in The Guide to Aitutaki Nightlife + 5 Things to Do on Aitutaki at Night.
Location: Tamanu Beach Resort, Main Road on the west side of Aitutaki’s main island.
4. The Edgewater Resort & Spa – The Best Value Island Night
Saturday nights are island nights at The Edgewater Resort & Spa. The largest resort in the Cook Islands puts on an epic event starting with a generous buffet of “umukai”, food that has been slow-cooked in an underground oven, as well as some crowd-pleasers. After dinner and dessert are done, along with the relaxing island sounds of a local string band, the main event begins! Watch an hour-long performance from the talented Ta’akoka Dance Troupe or Akirata Dance Troupe on the stage of the resort’s undercover restaurant. The event starts at 7pm with entertainment up until 11pm* (approximately four hours) every Saturday.
* Ending times may vary depending on which group is performing.
Location: Edgewater Resort & Spa. Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi (west side of Rarotonga).
5. The Islander Hotel – The Cheapest Island Night
The closest island night to the capital, The Islander Hotel puts on a spectacular evening featuring the Akirata Dance Troupe. The 47-member group with dynamic dancers, musicians and fire dancers are kitted up in award-winning costumes and features the Cook Islands national dancer of the year winners – see the 10 Biggest Festivals in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands to learn more. Before the dancing gets underway, however, you’re treated to a diverse island buffet! The experience lasts approximately three hours, starting at 6.30pm on a Tuesday.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), opposite Rarotonga Airport, Nikao (north side of Rarotonga).
6. Umu Experience – The Island Night with the Best Food
Specialising in umu cooking classes, Umu Experience also hosts an awesome island night at their cultural centre near Avarua. The more intimate island show begins with a freshly prepared umu platter delivered to your table with the option of salads, dessert and other international dishes at the buffet. While you let the scrumptious food digest, sit back with a cultural performance from one of the island’s dance troupes. The experience lasts approximately 2h30mins, starting at 6.30pm on a Monday and Thursday.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), between Tapae and Tupapa (north side of Rarotonga).
7. Tumutoa Tours – The Most Interactive Island Night
Not just an island night, but an experience where you prepare the food, Tumutoa Tours‘ “Umu Feast, String Band & Fire Show” is not to be missed if you’re a more active traveller. Join the characterful and charming island warrior, Tumutoa, for an evening of preparing your own umu and weaving your own food basket before the sounds of the string band soothe you through husking, opening and grating coconut for the “ika mata“! The finale is the result of your labour, deliciously home-cooked umu kai, along with a mesmerising fire show! The experience lasts approximately 4h30mins, from 3pm to 7.30pm on Monday and Wednesday. For more hands-on food experiences like this, check out the 10 Best Foodie Experiences in the Cook Islands.
Location: Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi (well signposted off the main road, west side of Rarotonga).
8. Crown Beach Resort & Spa – The Best Restaurant for an Island Night
The Akirata Dance Troupe are back, this time on Thursday nights at the Crown Beach Resort & Spa! Although the resort is adults-only, visitors of all ages are welcome to their vibrant and dynamic island night. The event takes place at one of the finest resort restaurants on Rarotonga, the Oceans Restaurant, mixing delectable cocktails (not included) and serving up an irresistible buffet with all sorts of Cook Island and Western meals along with dessert. The event starts at 6pm every Thursday, lasting approximately three hours.
Location: Crown Beach Resort & Spa. Main Road (Ara Tapu), Arorangi (west side of Rarotonga).
9. Kura’s Kitchen – The Best Island Night on Atiu
That’s right, even the lesser-visited island of Atiu has an island night! Well, it’s not exactly a weekly thing, but if there’s enough interest on the island (and some performers available) then Kura’s Kitchen, the only restaurant on the island, will put on an authentic and relaxed evening with a buffet and a show. Learn more about Atiu in our 20 Best Things to Do on Atiu.
Location: Kura’s Kitchen is at Atiu Villas, Atiu.
More About Island Nights in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for the best island nights in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. For more cultural experiences, check out the following guides:
- 10 Best Cultural Activities in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- How to Have an Authentic Cook Islander Experience
- 10 Best Cultural Shows in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, add more items to your bucket list with the 50 Best Things to Do on Rarotonga and 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.