The Guide to Easter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands© David Kirkland - Cook Islands Tourism
The Guide to Easter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands

The Guide to Easter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands

© David Kirkland – Cook Islands Tourism

What is Easter Like in the Cook Islands?

Public holidays are always one for confusion when travelling anywhere in the world. What are the local celebrations? Will businesses still be open? Basically, will you be able to do anything?! Although the Cook Islands is a religious nation that celebrates the Christian holiday of Easter with enthusiasm, the Easter public holiday shouldn’t disrupt too much of your Cook Islands getaway. If anything, it will likely enhance it! Check out how the locals celebrate Easter and what there is to do for visitors in this guide to Easter in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.

When is Easter?

For those unfamiliar with the Christian holiday, Easter is in either March or April each year. The date is determined by being the first Sunday after the paschal full moon. In other words, it happens after the vernal equinox. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter will be celebrated on the following Sunday. Easter can occur on any date between March 22 and April 25 but the date is recognised well in advance each year – so just do an online search for “Easter date [year]” and you should find your answer.

Note that the public holidays observed in the Cook Islands for Easter are both Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday) and Easter Monday (the Monday after Easter Sunday). Easter Sunday is not an official public holiday, but that’s mainly because Sunday is observed as a day of rest in the Cook Islands anyway.

What is the weather like around Easter? Find out in our guide, Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in April.

The Guide to Easter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands© Lara Hotz - Cook Islands Tourism

How Do Cook Islanders Celebrate Easter?

As a Christian nation, the Cook Islands’ locals celebrate Easter as a religious holiday by going to church. Sunday church services might be part of the weekly routine in the Cook Islands but the Easter service is always noteworthy in the church calendar. Good Friday marks the memorial of the death of Jesus Christ and Easter Sunday celebrates his resurrection.

The Cook Islands has at least one church on most islands while Rarotonga has several, where the harmonious singing from the locals is reason enough to check one of these church services out, especially at Easter. Church services organised by the CICC (Cook Islands Christian Church) typically take place on Good Friday and Easter Sunday from 10 am to 12 pm.

Learn more about the Cook Islands and Christianity in The Guide to the Religions in the Cook Islands.

The Guide to Easter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands© Sean Scott - Cook Islands Tourism

What Easter Means for Tourists in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

The weekend of Good Friday to Easter Monday is observed as a long weekend of public holidays in the Cook Islands. Although only Good Friday and Easter Monday are the official public holidays, many businesses change their opening hours from Friday to the following Monday. In short, you might find that a lot of the independent restaurants (not resort restaurants), shops and services are closed during the Easter break.

If you need to do some shopping for groceries, for instance, it’s best to do it before Good Friday. For those eating out at one of the resorts for the Easter break, be sure to book your table.

Learn more about public holidays and when they are observed in Public Holidays in the Cook Islands (& Other Important Dates).

How Visitors Can Celebrate Easter in the Cook Islands

The first thing we would recommend for visitors to the Cook Islands at Easter is attending an Easter church service. Even if you’re not a regular church-goer, it’s still well worth the experience for the spectacular harmonies. Church services take place on Good Friday and Easter Sunday from 10 am to 12 pm. See 10 Best Churches in the Cook Islands to Experience as a Visitor for which church to visit.

Other events are typically taking place around the Easter break, however, these change year-on-year so ask at the local information centre, see the local newspapers, or check out the events page of the Cook Islands Tourism website for the latest Easter events. In the past, there have been beach festivals, Easter markets and scavenger hunts on Rarotonga, while large community gatherings on the sports fields are well worth checking out on Aitutaki.

What Else Can Visitors Do During the Easter Break?

If you don’t want to celebrate Easter and just enjoy your “Cook Islands time”, then there’s still plenty to do despite restaurants, businesses and tour operators being closed.

It’s still business as usual at the Cook Islands’ resorts at Easter, so have a cocktail, an evening meal (bookings advised for this popular time when other restaurants are closed), a swim in the pool and a snorkel or paddle in the lagoon. Some resort restaurants run Easter specials, so keep an eye out.

The Easter break is also a good time to take a self-guided tiki-tour around your chosen island. If that chosen island is Rarotonga, see our Self-Guided Itinerary. Find some hikes to explore, have a snorkel from the beaches of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, or go for a swim in a cave pool on Atiu, Mitiaro or Mauke.

For more inspiration for activities that can do at Easter, check out the 10 Things to Do in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands on a Sunday – the activities still apply to Easter by having the same restrictions.

The Guide to Easter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands© Kieran Scott - Cook Islands Tourism

Other Public Holidays in the Cook Islands

Good Friday and Easter Monday are just a couple of several public holidays in the Cook Islands experienced throughout the year. Other public holidays in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands include:

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • January 2 – New Year Holiday
  • Friday before Easter Sunday – Good Friday
  • Monday after Easter Sunday – Easter Monday
  • April 25 – ANZAC Day
  • First Monday in June – The Sovereign’s Birthday
  • First Friday of July – Ra o te Ui Ariki
  • August 4 – Constitution Day
  • October 26 – National Gospel Day
  • December 25 – Christmas
  • December 26 – Boxing Day

Note that if any public holiday dates fall on a weekend, the next Monday (and Tuesday in some cases) is considered a national public holiday too. Learn more about what each day listed above entails in Public Holidays in the Cook Islands (& Other Important Dates).

More About the Cook Islands Easter and Holiday Events

That’s it for our complete guide to Easter in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. Need more seasonal inspiration? Check out these guides:

Finally, fill up the rest of your time in the Cook Islands with the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before settling in the South Pacific, so he knows a thing or two about planning the perfect trip in this corner of the world. Robin works and consults regularly with Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, a local government body representing the tourism industry. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides and is a regular host of webinars with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

Was this article useful?