1

Best Time to Visit Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Looking for a break from your nine-to-five with some well-deserved rest and relaxation? Perhaps you’ve got a family holiday in mind or you’re planning on having your wedding or honeymoon here?

The Cook Islands are a great holiday destination, whatever the occasion!

The tropical climate makes Raro a great place to visit year-round. There is a wet season from late November through March, so bear this in mind when making your decision.

This guide will help you choose the best time to suit you whether it be during the hustle and bustle of the festival season, when the weather is at its best, or when there are the least amount of tourists populating the beaches.

Also, don’t forget to check out our detailed Rarotonga travel guide to help you plan an unforgettable trip.

High Season (July/August)

High season falls during Australasia’s winter in July through to August. This aligns with the Aussie and Kiwi school holidays in July, which seem to be a popular time to book a holiday to escape the cold weather. Tourist numbers peak during this period.

In addition to this, Rarotongans living overseas tend to fly home to celebrate with their families as there are three events occurring within this two-month window; Te Maeva Nui Cultural Festival, Tiare Floral Festival, and Manureva Aquafest.

This is considered Rarotonga’s winter, but temperature ranges between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius. This would be considered a mild winter. Being warm enough to spend the days swimming and basking in the sunshine, the high season is undecidedly still a great time to visit especially if you’re not a fan of the sweltering heat.

Not to mention, this is also the dry season, meaning you might not have to worry about a speckle of rain during your trip. For those who aren’t fond of crowds and would rather holiday when the island is less busy, you may want to consider travelling during the shoulder or low seasons.

Shoulder Season (April/May and September/October)

March is seen as both the hottest and wettest month. For these reasons, this time of the year isn’t the most popular time to visit with the weather. April and May are a little more pleasant, with cooler temperatures (ever so slightly) and reduced rainfall.

However, travelling through September and October are generally better options when it comes to the weather. Less than half the rainfall occurs compared to April and May, and Rarotonga offers more comfortable summer temperatures. This makes for a better time to travel in our eyes, although both periods of the shoulder season seem to be popular around the time of school holidays.

Calm beach in Rarotonga

Follow us on Instagram!

Low Season (November – March)

This is our favourite time to travel to Rarotonga. More specifically, we think November is your best bet.

The last time we were holidaying in Rarotonga, we travelled at that time. Being the start of the low season and coming up to the wet season, you can’t go wrong with travelling during the low season.

Temperatures were comfortable – we weren’t dripping with sweat when doing a lot of walking nor were we too cold for an evening swim. We also got lucky with the rain – during the whole nine-day vacation we were only caught in the rain for one morning. It was incredibly heavy rain, however, it only lasted a few hours. Abundant sunshine filled every other day of our trip.

I would avoid travelling during December and January as flight prices can be up to double than what you would pay outside of the Christmas holiday season. If you get in early enough, you may be able to grab a deal. Generally, booking earlier will give you more opportunities for better deals.

Best Time to Visit Rarotonga

The best time to visit Rarotonga is throughout October and November. This is during the dry season, when the weather is hot (but tolerable) and not too wet. It also avoids the peak holiday seasons allowing for a much more relaxing escape. Plus, it is one of the most affordable times to travel to the Cook Islands.

Best Time to Fly to Rarotonga

The best time to fly to Rarotonga depends entirely on your preferences.

If you’re interested in immersing yourself in Cook Islands’ culture and don’t mind celebrating with many others, visit during the last week of November when there are two festivals occurring simultaneously. If you’re unable to travel then, other festivals take place during late July and late August.

If you’re wanting to go when there are as little tourists as possible for some rest and relaxation, go during the low season from November to March. This period includes the rainy season. So, we’d recommend travelling on the fringe of the season either in November (excluding that last week of bustling festivals) or near the end of March or April when the rain starts to taper off.

In fact, November has the least number of rainy days a month at 14, with July to October close behind at 15 days.

If you’re planning a family holiday and are limited to travelling during the school holidays, our pick is to travel in September. This is when Rarotonga experiences plenty of sunshine and tourism is less busy than the term two holidays in July.

Cheapest Time to Visit Rarotonga

There is no specific cheapest time to travel to Rarotonga, but follow these tips we used to get more bang for your buck.

For such a small island, there is a vast amount of places to stay and there are plenty of options for small to grand budgets. There are a few places available for less than $100 NZD per night and luxury accommodation for over $1000 NZD per night.

On one end of the spectrum, Rarotonga Backpackers is only $70 NZD per night for a private ensuite room and a dorm will cost you as little as $25 per night! Although we didn’t stay here and chose a mid-range resort close by, friends have recommended it. With the cute beachfront huts, hammocks, and beachfront pool, it definitely does not feel like your typical budget accommodation.

If you’re looking into the mid-range or luxury options, accommodation tends to be more expensive during the high season of July and August. The difference in price between the high and low season can be as much as $500 NZD per night. Luxury accommodation also tends to sell out during these periods as these resorts typically have fewer rooms available for a more private feel.

It goes without saying that you should book accommodation early. Contact the resorts directly as they may be able to offer you a better price. Booking from sites like booking.com and Agoda tend to take a cut of the sales.

We saved a lot by doing this, and because we stayed more than seven nights, we got to stay a night for free. Many places will give you a free night if you stay for at least five nights, so keep a look out for this.

As for flights, book well in advance. Flights tend to go up in price closer to the flight dates and are generally more expensive during the holiday seasons and school holidays. Look out for flight deals and packages and get in early if you’re thinking of travelling during the busier periods.

Best Time to Visit the Cook Islands for Your Wedding or Honeymoon

The Cook Islands is an incredibly popular location for a destination wedding. Aitutaki off the coast of Rarotonga is highly sought after. Given the title of Honeymoon Island, you know this place will be fully booked if you don’t get in early.

If you’re planning a wedding in the Cook Islands, the chances are, you’re wanting an outdoor beachfront setting. Likewise, if you’re having your honeymoon in the Cook Islands, you’re probably intending to spend it soaking up the sun on the white sand beaches. Thus, the weather becomes an important factor.

Bear in mind Raro has a wet season and a dry season, so you should consider this before securing a date. The dry season runs from June to August with an average of 15 rainy days per month from July to October. Temperatures are definitely a few degrees cooler during this period which comes at an advantage when wearing a layered wedding dress or full suit.

November is still a great option for a wedding. Believe it or not, November actually has the least average rainy days at 14 per month. It’s also considered the low season, so if you’ve left securing a venue a little late, there may be more available at this time.

I would recommend you avoid planning an outdoor wedding during January through to April due to the amount of rain that falls on the islands during this time. Whenever you do book, ALWAYS have a wet weather option available. Whether it be under a marquee or alternative function room, the weather is the last thing you want to worry about (and one factor you cannot control) on your big day.

Palm tree in Rarotonga

Cook Islands Weather by Month

Rarotonga boasts a tropical climate with relatively consistent temperatures year-round.

In short, the dry season from June to August is the coldest but also the most popular time to travel to Rarotonga. Whereas the rain and hurricane season from November to March is the warmest and least popular time to travel. Our favourite things to do in Rarotonga are all best when you visit during the dry season, which is why we recommend these months to most travellers.

You’ll need summer clothes no matter the month you travel to Rarotonga and a light raincoat. Both mosquito repellent and sunscreen are a must. During the colder months, bring a jacket for the cooler night temperatures. We have a guide on what to pack for Rarotonga that is suitable for any time of the year.

Rarotonga Weather in January

January lies in the middle of Rarotonga’s rainy season. It’s as wet as it gets (along with February and March), but very hot. Pack a waterproof raincoat.

Because of the temperature, you’ll want to bring one that’s light and packable so you can pull it out only when you need it. Don’t make the same mistake we did and buy water resistant jackets – they’re useless in heavy rain.

Days usually start sunny and by late afternoon you might be caught in a heavy downpour. So, if you’re heading out in the morning and you think the weather will continue with clear blue skies, bring your rain jacket to be safe. Don’t let the clear, blue morning skies fool you!

As for clothing, go for loose and airy fabrics. Linen and merino cotton are your best bet as they’re breathable and don’t smell after multiple wears.

Average High Temperature: 28°C / 82°F

Average Low Temperature: 24°C / 75°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 190mm

Rarotonga Weather in February

February weather is consistent with January, except for it being a fraction hotter. Definitely pack some wet weather gear and loose, airy clothing.

Average High Temperature: 29°C / 84°F

Average Low Temperature: 24°C / 75°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 190mm

Rarotonga Weather in March

The island is at its wettest and temperature at its highest this month. With an average of 190mm of rain making an appearance, you can expect rain during your trip. So as usual, bring appropriate wet weather gear and prepare to experience humidity, sticky weather. Luckily, rain tends to hit in short downpours so you can get back to enjoying the rest of your day.

The humidity is highest in March so the temperatures can feel quite hot – make sure you keep hydrated.

Prepare to spend a lot of time in air-conditioned restaurants, bars and resorts to keep you both dry and cool.

Average High Temperature: 29°C / 84°F

Average Low Temperature: 24°C / 75°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 190mm

Rarotonga Weather in April

By April you’re nearing the end of the wet season. The scorching temperatures are dropping ever so slightly and rain is easing off a little. With those two factors decreasing, the average daily sunshine hours starts to climb.

Average High Temperature: 28°C / 82°F

Average Low Temperature: 23°C / 73°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 170mm

Rarotonga Weather in May

As winter approaches, the temperature during the day becomes more comfortable, and a little chillier during the night. Rain continues to ease up as well.

Average High Temperature: 27°C / 81°F

Average Low Temperature: 22°C / 72°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 140mm

Walking down the one main road in Rarotonga

Rarotonga Weather in June

Temperatures continue on their slow decline while rainfall drops dramatically from 140 mm to 80 mm. Rather than heavy downpours, expect a light shower here and there. That’s where a light, packable rain jacket comes in handy.

Since its getting a little colder, bring a jacket to take out with you at night. Especially if you’re into late night strolls on the beach where it gets windy.

Average High Temperature: 26°C / 79°F

Average Low Temperature: 20°C / 68°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 80mm

Rarotonga Weather in July

July is one of the most popular months for tourists in Rarotonga. As well as falling on the school holidays, being the driest month of the year makes it a favourable time to travel. Rainfall during July is less than three times the rainfall in January, February or March. Despite being the driest month, there’s still an occasional shower. Expect a little rain every second day.

Although July is considered the coldest month of the year, Rarotonga’s tropical climate (25 degrees Celsius during the day) would hardly be considered cold!

Average High Temperature: 25°C / 77°F

Average Low Temperature: 20°C / 68°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 60mm

Rarotonga Weather in August

Temperature and rainfall remain quite consistent in August. Rarotonga will still be quite packed in August during its peak season.

Average High Temperature: 25°C / 77°F

Average Low Temperature: 20°C / 68°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 70mm

Rarotonga Weather in September

September and October in Rarotonga call for the sunniest months of the year, averaging 12 daily sunshine hours – that’s half a day of sunshine. Temperatures are still very similar to July and August. So, if you’re not a big fan of the heat and equally not a big fan of swarms of tourists, September is the perfect time to visit.

Average High Temperature: 25°C / 77°F

Average Low Temperature: 20°C / 78°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 80mm

Rarotonga Weather in October

With plenty of sunshine, October is known as the sunniest month. It’s hard to find a reason not to spend the school holidays here. Temperatures are also starting to climb slowly, mirroring those of June’s.

Average High Temperature: 26°C / 79°F

Average Low Temperature: 21°C / 70°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 155mm

Rarotonga Weather in November

The climate in November is very similar to May. With moderate sunshine hours, temperatures and fewer tourists, this is our top pick for the month to visit Rarotonga.

Being the low season, the island feels a bit more private. This makes it a great time to have your honeymoon. If you’re lucky, you may be able to have a part of the beach to yourselves or a private area in a restaurant.

Average High Temperature: 27°C / 81°F

Average Low Temperature: 22°C / 72°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 130mm

Rarotonga Weather in December

November through to March is considered low season for Rarotonga, primarily due to the rainy and hurricane season falling during these months.

Snorkelling is Rarotonga’s greatest attraction, and the intention of many travellers is to spend a lot of time in the water. If you’re already planning on getting wet in the sea, then travelling during the wet season may not be an issue for you.

Travelling to Rarotonga in December may also be a good idea if you already looking for somewhere to go during the holiday season.

Average High Temperature: 27°C / 81°F

Average Low Temperature: 23°C / 73°F

Average Rainfall(Precipitation): 160mm

Weather statistics are based off averages from Holiday Weather.

Motu in Muri Lagoon.

Public Holidays in Rarotonga

Rarotonga celebrates a total of 11 public holidays. Along with celebrating many of the same public holidays as the Western world, there are three public holidays unique to Raro.

Ui Ariki day honours both the past and present leaders of the Cook Islands. There are 15 major Cook Islands, with Rarotonga being the largest. Chiefs from neighbouring islands meet in Rarotonga on Ui Ariki day and act as a ‘voice for the people’.

Issues concerning land, government and more are discussed. Locals celebrate this day with a float parade. This holiday falls during the high season in July, so you’ll see a lot of tourists and locals on the streets during the parade.

On 4 August 1965, the Cook Islands became a self-governing nation. This day is observed as a national holiday to celebrate its independence.

The Te Maeva Nui Festival is held the week preceding the public holiday. Arts, craft, food, song and dance are amongst the activities this festival has to offer. This is considered Rarotonga’s biggest celebration of the year and perfectly showcases Cook Islands’ culture and spirit. Also falling during the high season, be sure to join in the celebrations.

National Gospel day observed in late October celebrates the arrival of Christianity to the Cook Islands in 1821.

The Cook Islands Christian Churches (CICC) work together to put on a spectacular event involving church masses and performances of song and dance. To end the day, locals and tourists alike are captivated by fireworks and fire shows.

If a public holiday falls on a weekend (i.e. Constitution Day and National Gospel Day in 2019), the following Monday will be considered a public holiday. An exception to this rule includes Anzac day, always celebrated on 25 April.

1 January 2019TuesdayNew Year’s Day
2 January 2019WednesdayNew Year Holiday
19 April 2019FridayGood Friday
22 April 2019MondayEaster Monday
25 April 2019ThursdayAnzac Day
3 June 2019MondayThe Sovereign’s Birthday
5 July 2019FridayRa o te Ui Ariki
4 August 2019SundayConstitution DayMonday, 5 August 2019, will be a public holiday if your rest day falls on 4 August 2019.
26 October 2019SaturdayNational Gospel DayMonday, 28 October 2019, will be a public holiday if your rest day falls on 26 October 2019.
25 December 2019WednesdayChristmas Day
26 December 2019ThursdayBoxing Day

Festivals & Events in Rarotonga

Don’t be fooled by the island’s small size and population of 14,000. Rarotonga sure comes alive when it’s time to celebrate. If you’re interested in immersing yourself in Cook Islands culture and celebrating festival and events with the locals, book your holiday during one of Rarotonga’s biggest events.

Te Mire Ura Traditional Dance Festival

May

Three words that describe this festival perfectly; vibrant, energetic and captivating. The Cook Islands’ best dancers gather to compete to be crowned ‘dancer of the year’.

It’s a lot of fun to watch with the best of the best showcasing Cook Islands’ culture and history. The ornate costumes add to this colourful event. We have been told that many of the contestants have been training since childhood and competing in this competition is considered very prestigious.

Te Maeva Nui Cultural Festival

July – August

As mentioned earlier, the Te Maeva Nui Cultural Festival celebrates its independence and self-governance. The atmosphere is incredible; the pride the locals have for their culture is admirable.

Art, food and music fill the streets which makes for a great week. There is such a diverse variety of musical performances including choir, drumming and dance.

The aroma of fresh island cuisine is quick to summon your appetite. If you’re not sure what meal to choose, the friendly locals make great suggestions. Give curried eke (octopus in a coconut curry) a try, and also poke (tropical fruit pudding) for those with a sweet tooth.

The float parade near the end of the week is a must see! Last year, there were over 30 floats lining the streets. The celebrations finish with a bang – literally! A fireworks display concludes the festivities in August.

Manureva Aquafest

August

Manureva Aquafest brings all water sports enthusiasts together for a week of kitesurfing, stand up paddleboarding and canoe races. Competitors from all over the world travel to compete for the championship title. Kitesurfing freestyling is definitely a crowd favourite so be sure to catch this.

The competition is held on the beautiful island of Aitutaki, also known as Honeymoon Island. With endless views of white sand beaches, luxurious resorts and palm trees towering over the island, it’s no question as to how Aitutaki got its nickname. Located 200 kilometres off the coast of Rarotonga, Aitutaki is a water sports enthusiast’s paradise with perfectly calm, blue waters.

There’s also live entertainment, kid-friendly activities and barbeques featuring local cuisine. It wouldn’t be a big Cook Islands event without a closing ceremony involving fire dancing, music and a night market.

A palm tree on Muri Beach in Rarotonga.

Tiare Festival

November

If you’re travelling to Rarotonga, you’re likely to receive a flower garland on arrival. This may be when you arrive at your hotel, start a tour or visit a village. In Cook Islands Maori, this garland is called ‘ei kaki. Flowers play a large part in Cook Islands culture and there’s an annual festival exhibiting the beauty of their botanicals. The purpose of the festival is to raise awareness of the importance of protecting their native flora.

This festival not only involves a flower arranging contest, flower shows and a floral float parade, but much more. There is a Miss Tiare Pageant for the females, a Young Warrior Competition for the males and a school-wide Cook Islands Maori speech competition.

Similar to the Christmas tradition of handing lights and decorations outside your house, some Rarotongans decorate their houses and offices with flowers. The vibrant colours make for a great sight. Not to mention the floral aromas dancing through the air.

Vaka Eiva

November

November is a great time for celebrations in Rarotonga. Just shy of 1000 competitors, Vaka Eiva is amongst the biggest sporting events in the Cook Islands.

This competition predominantly involves canoe racing; the most popular being the round Raro relay which is literally as its name suggests – a canoe race around the entire island starting and ending at Muri lagoon. There are open women’s and men’s 36 kilometre races, as well as junior and master divisions, marathon races, and sprints.

The majority of the events end in the city centre of Avarua so if you’re planning on watching the races, make up a picnic lunch and sit on the shoreline. If you prefer, Trader Jacks has a great view of the shore. We recommend trying the fresh seafood which goes down nicely with an ice cold beer.

As well as the races, there is also entertainment and activities including dancing and canoe carving.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *