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Cook Islands

Cook Islands

Geography & Topography

Capital: Avarua

Area: 240 km2

Population: 19,569

Language: English, Cook Islands Maori, Pukapukan, Rakahanga-Manihiki

Religion: Christian Church, Roman Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventists, Other Protestant

Currency: New Zealand Dollar, Cook Islands dollar


The Cook Islands are in the Pacific Ocean and are made up of 15 islands, seven low-lying almost deserted islands, and eight elevated fertile islands where the majority of the population lives. Around 20,000 people live in the Cook Islands, and are of Maori descent – very closely linked to the culture and language of the New Zealand Maoris, French Polynesian Maoris, Easter Island Maohis and Hawaiian Kanaka Maolis.

The main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga and there is also a large population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand, particularly the North Island.

Tourism is the country’s main industry and the leading element of the economy, far ahead of offshore banking, pearls, marine and fruit exports.












 Performing Arts

The most recognizable instruments in traditional Cook Island music are:


Ka'ara, one of the oldest instruments in Cook Island

Ka’ara: The Ka’ara is a large log drum which produces three different pitches. The ka’ara is believed to be one of the oldest instruments in the Cook Islands and played an important role in traditional society. It was used for signalling people to gather in one place for important events or a funeral of an important person.


Ukulele, often used in tandem with guitars


Ukulele: The Ukulele (meaning ‘jumping flea’ in Hawai’ian) is believed to have travelled from Hawaii via Tahiti in the late 1800’s. The preferred ukulele in the Cook Islands today are banjo-shaped or oblong, which came into vogue in the Cook Islands about 1995, after Te Ava Piti, a popular Tahitian band, aired them in a music video. Ukuleles are always used in tandem with guitars during performances.









Traditional dance is the most prominent art form of the Cook Islands. Each island has its own unique dances that are taught to all children. Christian music is extremely popular in the Cook Islands. There is much variation of Christian music across the region, and each island has its own traditional songs.






Some interesting facts:

  • The only islands to the east are French Polynesia, Pitcairn and Easter Island before hitting the main land of South America.
  • The total land area of the country is just 236.7 square kms, however the Cook Islands’ exclusive economic zone covers an ocean area of almost 2 million square kms – the size of India.

Cook Islanders community in Australia:

More information about Cook Islanders: