What You Need to Know About Nightlife in the Cook Islands
If there’s only one thing that is certain in this world it’s that Cook Islanders know how to throw a party! Whether it’s the Westernised nightclubs in the country’s capital or the more traditional “bush beer” bars on the outer islands, there are all sorts of nighttime experiences to be had and drinks to be tried! Get to grips with the most popular bars and clubs with this ultimate guide to nightlife in the Cook Islands.
4 Tips for Partying in the Cook Islands
Before we get into our guide to nightlife in the Cook Islands, here are some quick tips first!
- The legal drinking age in the Cook Islands is 18 years old
- You’ll find clubs open until the early hours from Wednesday to Friday on Rarotonga, but Saturday nights are cut short at midnight in order to respect Sunday Sabbath
- If you need a ride back to your accommodation, there are 24h taxis available (see Taxis in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Taxi Fares, How to Use & More) or the “party buses” will get you back to your accommodation safely
- Be careful which ear you tuck a flower behind when you’re out clubbing; the left ear means you’re single, while the right means you’re in a relationship/not looking!
Nightlife on Rarotonga
It’s no surprise that the most populated and visited island in the Cook Islands is the island with the biggest night scene! Rarotonga could easily be the party capital of the South Pacific as a hub of all sorts of bars both in town and on the beach, nightclubs and even several “party buses” taking drunken moon cats to them all!
See the full guide in The Ultimate Guide to Rarotonga Nightlife + Happy Hour List, or here’s a quick overview!
The Best Beach Bars on Rarotonga
When in Raro, you’ve got to feel your toes in the abundance of sand! There are plenty of bars around the island that all you to do just that, including Wilson’s Beach Bar (Arorangi) whose bar is the only one on the island that’s literally on the sand. They mix vibrant cocktails, serve Japanese barbecue skewers and even have a Cuban cigar menu. Alternatively, head to the seating on the soft sands of Aroa Beach at the Shipwreck Hut (Arorangi). Enjoy the sunset as you sip on jam-jar cocktails and refreshing beer.
Other beach bars worth scouting out include the Sunset Bar at the OTB Restaurant (Arorangi) and the cheap drinks and cheap eats of Vaiana’s Bar & Bistro (Nikao) that’s also popular with the locals. Finally, enjoy live music on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at The Waterline Beach Bar (Arorangi).
The Best Nightclubs on Rarotonga
That’s right, Rarotonga has an epic little nightclub scene where you can join locals and fellow world-explorers for drinks, dancing and good times. For instance, the party is at the Avarua bus station from Wednesday to Saturday, 8pm until late at Luna (Avarua)! You can also head to Trio’s Garden Bar (Avarua) for karaoke Thursday and Saturday nights and live bands on Monday and Friday. Alternatively, start, continue and/or end your night out at OTR, otherwise known as On The Rocks (Avarua). The waterfront Avarua bar is the place to go for cheap drinks, DJs and live music. Finally, all good nights end at Rehab (Avarua). Dance the rest of the night away with “DJHab” and drinks that admittedly get a little expensive, so make sure you do all the drinking you want before you get here.
The Best of the Rest
Sure, if you’d rather avoid sand and you don’t want to join the youngsters to party all night, then you’ll probably dig Rarotonga’s other bars instead. A relaxed atmosphere can be found, for instance, at the Oceans Bar of the Crown Beach Resort (Arorangi). Alternatively, head to the family-friendly bar at The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium, Captain Andy’s Beach Bar & Grill (Arorangi) which provides a relaxed atmosphere gazing out across the Aroa Lagoon.
In Muri, the RSC, a.k.a. the Rarotonga Sailing Club, serves up a refreshing array of beverages on the elevated deck overlooking the lagoon. There are also the booths of the South Seas-themed Barefoot Bar, by the pool or alfresco in the courtyard at the Pacific Resort Rarotonga. Finally, try the adults-only Lagoon Lounge & Bar or the Muri Beach Club Hotel with a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available.
We can’t wrap up this section about the nightlife on Rarotonga without mentioning the island’s wild nightlife tours! All of the transport (and friends) is sorted for you on these nightclubs on wheels that visit bar after bar across the island. There’s the “thatched” island-style roof of the Rehab Party Bus, where you dance and play hilarious games with the crew as you travel around Raro! Alternatively, gather in “the green bus” decorated with LED lights and with up to 22 other soon-to-be friends on the Going Troppo Nightlife Tour (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Or, if you’ve got your own group together, head on the Tik-e Tours’ happy hour cocktail tour in an environmentally-friendly electric tuk-tuk to hit the hottest cocktail spots and happy hour specials around Rarotonga!
And don’t forget, we have a whole guide on Raro nightlife in The Ultimate Guide to Rarotonga Nightlife + Happy Hour List.
Nightlife in Aitutaki
Once you leave Rarotonga, things get a little quieter on the nightlife scene but it certainly doesn’t get stale! Aitutaki has some decent watering holes where you can enjoy a sundowner or two, especially at the holiday hotspot of Ootu Beach where you’ll find The Boat Shed Bar & Grill. This bar is not only a popular local hangout but perfect for visitors too with a wide selection of cocktails, beers, wines and spirits. Pop in on a Saturday for karaoke night after the sun goes down. Alternatively at Ootu Beach, Blue Lagoon Bar & Restaurant is another worthy destination for your cocktail fix, while the Flying Boat Beach Bar & Grill at the Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort sits in the prime viewing position of the lagoon where you can even feed the fish from the bar’s deck.
On the sunset coast of Aitutaki, the Black Rock Bar at the Pacific Resort Aitutaki sits between the pool and a sunset beach making an idyllic place to unwind with a drink and watch the sunset. Offering some of the most competitive cocktail prices on the island, The Cove Bar is the place to be between 6pm and 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (hint: that’s their happy hour).
Finally, if you want to join the locals for a bevvy, you’ll find them at the Aitutaki Game Fishing Club down at the Arutanga wharf. They pour cold beers on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 5pm and, of course, attract the local fishing crowd.
For more nighttime entertainment, like island nights and sunset lagoon cruises with Champagne, check out The Guide to Aitutaki Nightlife + 5 Things to Do on Aitutaki at Night.
Nightlife on Atiu
The nightlife on the island of Atiu is a little more “traditional” than what you’ll find on Rarotonga and Aitutaki. Here, they have bars known as “tumunu”, a direct descendent of the kava drinking ceremonies you may have heard of from other South Pacific nations. When kava drinking was banned during missionary times, tumunu appeared in its place. Instead of kava, however, the brew was orange or banana beer that was brewed in a hollowed coconut tree stump called a “tumunu”, hence the name of the activity.
Tumunu sessions are still held regularly on Atiu and offer a wonderful cultural and foodie experience for visitors to the island! You’ll find tumunu, open-air huts with a roof and tree stumps to sit on, on the edge of villages and plantations. The drink is typically served in half a coconut shell and is particularly potent!
Some of the most popular tumunu to visit include Aretou Tumunu, Teponui Tumunu and Vanilla Tumunu.
Find out more about tumunu and the nightlife on Atiu in The Food Guide to Atiu: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Nightlife on Mitiaro
The last little island in the Cook Islands with some resemblance to nightlife is Mitiaro. Similar to the tumunu sessions on Atiu, Pati’s Bar at Vivian’s Homestay pours its own potent “banana brew” on Friday evenings. You can find them in the outdoor lounge area of Vivian’s Homestay in Atai village (near the main village of Mangarei).
Alternatively, relax with a beer at the open-air IYA Bar found opposite the Red Cross and sports fields in Mangarei. Ask around for opening hours when you get there, as they’re pretty inconsistent.
For more about the bars and other “services” on Mitiaro, check out our guide to Information, Shops & Services on Mitiaro.
More About Nightlife in the Cook Islands
Now that you know about the best bars, nightclubs and tumunu bars, check out other activities you could be getting up to after dark with the following articles:
- 10 Drinks in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands You HAVE to Try!
- 10 Things to Do in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands at Night
- 10 Best Bars in the Cook Islands
Finally, you might also be interested in more “adults-only” activities as outlined in The Complete Adults-Only Travel Guide to the Cook Islands.