Te Vara Nui: The Best Cultural Show In Rarotonga

Find out all you need to know about seeing a cultural show in Rarotonga with Te Vara Nui. I will be giving you all the information you need to know such as how to book, costs and what to expect.

If you are truly wanting to learn and experience the best The Cook Islands has to offer why not go along to one of the cultural shows in Rarotonga. Watch some incredible dancing and have a delicious local meal. Though you’ll quickly realize there are a few different options to choose from. So how do you know which is best? Well, I booked with Te Vara Nui Village and will be letting you know all about my experience with them.

It was easy enough to book and provide us with a fantastic evening. With shows held three nights per week and set in an amazing garden, you will regret it if you don’t go!

You can opt to do the cultural village tour or the overwater night show & buffet dinner, or even better book the combo extravaganza and do both! With friendly staff, a gorgeous location, and some impressive entertainment it is a great way to spend an evening.

Experience A Cultural Show In Rarotonga With Te Vara Nui

stage at te vara nui
the wide view of the stage area at te vara nui, as you can see it is surrounded by a moat

Why Do A Cultural Show In Rarotonga

I highly recommend doing a cultural show in Rarotonga. This will provide you which more of an appreciation for the culture and the amazing history of this island. The whole thing was utterly impressive from the choreography, delicious foods, and friendly hospitality.

What I really enjoyed about going through Te Vara Nui than other companies is that we also did a village tour. This encompassed us being shown through the various thatched buildings, each one dedicated to a particular skill or part of their history.

We left with a lot more appreciation and understanding of the culture from when we started. The whole experience came together to not just provide some evening entertainment, but provide knowledge of the history.

Te Vara Nui provides a fun evening for the family or a romantic dinner with a show. No matter who you are traveling with you will find yourself in awe of the spectacular performance and delicious food.

incredible traditional cook island clothing
moments throughout the performance at te vara nui in rarotonga

How To Book

If you are wanting to book a cultural show in Rarotonga definitely check out Te Vara Nui. You can either book tickets directly on their website or when you are in Rarotonga. If you’d like to wait until you are on the island you should be able to book through your hotel, or you can call Te Vara Nui and book tickets then.

Be aware that if you don’t book in advance then you may miss out on the chance to visit. They often get booked up especially in the busy periods such as School Holidays when everyone is traveling.

How Much Is Te Vara Nui

They offer 3 different experiences which you can choose from:

The Village Tour: The Village tour costs $55.00 for an adult and $35.00 for a child aged between 6 to 11 years of age. Children aged 5 and under and free to bring along.

Overwater Show and Buffet Dinner: The Overwater Show and Dinner costs $115.00 for an adult and $55.00 for a child aged between 6 to 11 years of age. Children aged 5 and under are free. They also offer deals for families.

Combo Of Both: The Combo ticket includes both the village tour and overwater show and buffet dinner at a discounted rate. For an adult, the cost is $135.00, and a child aged between 6 to 11 years of age costs $65.00. They also offer family packages for the combo.

gentleman dancing in traditional cook island clothing
guys dancing in the te vara nui cultural show in rarotonga

Arriving At Te Vara Nui

Jumping off the minivan and heading into the lobby there is a dampness in the air. This is thanks to a large thunderstorm that passed less than an hour ago. Though, luckily the facilities are all undercover. One of the friendly staff greet us with shell necklaces and directs us inside where we line up and check-in.

A complimentary drink is provided and we take in the beautiful view of the pond, as well as the surrounding restaurants. We sip away as all the guests arrive for the cultural village tour.

Soon with everybody checked in a loud thundering noise comes from the middle of the room. A man is standing there introducing himself to the crowd in his traditional flax-woven clothing.

hibiscus flower and welcome drink at te vara nui
a friendly welcome from the team at te vara nui
arriving at te vara nui in rarotonga
arriving at te vara nui in rarotonga

The Village Tour

We follow him outside and through to a large gate, the beginning of the cultural tour. Through that gate, we enter a building and learn about the history of Rarotonga and the other Motus in the Cook Islands.

Then it’s on to learning about the marae, which is extremely different from the New Zealand version. Afterward, we discover local medicine and its uses. Next, we follow one of the gentlemen into another building where we are shown the local boats and how they navigated the seas back in the day. Lastly, it’s time to learn about clothing and how it is made. More volunteers are needed and we all have a good laugh, but not before one more demonstration on coconuts and the importance they have in the Cook Islands.

traditional womenswear in rarotonga
trying out traditional womens clothing
musical performance at te vara nui before our oevrwater cultural show starts
musical performance at te vara nui before our overwater cultural show starts

Buffet Dinner

After the interesting cultural village tour and having gained a whole new appreciation to the Cook Islands culture it is time for the buffet dinner portion of the evening. With darkness setting upon us, we are sat in our preallocated seats and mingle among our diner mates.

Drinks are ordered including the ever-so-popular cocktails to get the evening going. Soon enough dinner is served and each table is brought up one by one. There is an amazing selection, even for fussy vegetarian eaters like me.

Each dish is labeled with its name, whether it is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and if it is a local dish or not. Having a buffet provides the perfect opportunity to try new foods.

A soup is also on offer which tames the hungry stomachs of those who have to wait a little longer for their table to be called. Everything you would imagine is available. Including the local favorites of poke and orange salad is available, to the western favorites of scallop potatoes and even sushi!

Also if you have children, do not worry, there are plenty of options for them.

te vara nui buffet dinner
some of the foods at the buffet dinner, ika mata is a dish the cook islands are known for
lemon lime and bitters
enjoying a col lemon lime and bitters during the cultural show
desserts at on plate
desserts served up at te vara nui

Overwater Cultural Show In Rarotonga

As people begin to full up after their second and third helping the lights begin to dim for the overwater show. Seats are taken on the front of the restaurant overlooking the pond and the anticipation grows among the crowds.

Soon the live band starts playing. One of the local legends is told and shown through the dances of the performers. Both on the stage and on the surrounding water their amazing moves captivate both the crowds and their cameras.

Men with fire sticks dance around the stage while lighting some of the candles. The women hypnotize the audience with their hips. Each segment of the show is finished with a massive cheer from the crowd.

After the amazing overwater show, the dessert is served. Which is good because all that clapping has worked up an appetite. A delicious spread of a variety of dishes is set on the buffet tables. From fresh fruit like papaya and watermelon to chocolate cakes and tiramisu.

It is the perfect way to end the evening and fulfills my sweet tooth cravings. While this is going on the dancers come around to the restaurants to interact with the guests. They show off their moves up close and personal while our cameras keep snapping.

Once the electric moods start to die down as people prepare to depart we head off into the wet Rarotongan night. This experience has truly opened my eyes to the Cook Islands culture. Especially, providing me with a greater opportunity to understand the history.

storytelling performance at te vara nui
storytelling performance at te vara nui
fire dancing at te vara nui in rarotonga
fire dancing at te vara nui in rarotonga
lady dancing in traditional clothing
an incredible dance performance in traditional clothing

Is Te Vara Nui Worth It

The price is quite a bit of money. Though I must say it is worth it. In exchange, you receive a buffet dinner featuring both local and Western favorites. As well as a top professional performance which will leave you amazed.

No matter who you are traveling with this is the perfect activity. It keeps both children entertained, and no doubt practicing some of those dance moves later when you are trying to sleep. Also if you are on a honeymoon the dark lighting creates a romantic atmosphere.

Where To Stay In Rarotonga

There are plenty of options when it comes to accommodation in Rarotonga. From small hostels, apartments on the beach, luxury resorts, and everything in between.

Though just be aware that even 5-star resorts in Rarotonga don’t actually look too great so adjust your expectations accordingly. This is an island with limited resources and seems to be a few years behind New Zealand, which is again, a few years behind the rest of Oceania. As a result, rooms can look quite dated, think floral prints from the ’70s, though that’s just the atheistic on the island.

kiikii inn

Kiikii Inn & Suites

Beach front location with affordable bungalows from $105.00 per night.

club raro resort

Club Raro Resort

With standard rooms from $130.00 you can enjoy life on the beach at an affordable price.

sanctuary rarotonga

Sanctuary Rarotonga Resort & Spa

Romantic adults only resort. With rooms from $230.00 per night enjoy luxury in peace.

the rarotogan resort

The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa

Set on a private beach this 4 star resort is the perfect getaway from $190.00 per night.


Things To Do While In Rarotonga

One great thing about Rarotonga is that is it basically impossible to get bored during your stay! There is such a wide variety of things to do and beautiful sights you will constantly be out exploring.

Also, for a more extensive list be sure to check out my post on the Best Things To Do In Rarotonga.

Swimming With Sea Turtles: No matter what your budget is swimming with sea turtles is one activity I recommend to everyone visiting Rarotonga. This experience will have you swimming alongside these majestic beauties. I did this with Ariki Adventures and cannot recommend this enough. As an alternative, they also offer a lagoon safari which I recently did. This is suitable for all ages and is safe for those who are not the most confident swimmers.

Aitutaki Day Tour: If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience definitely think about booking the Aitutaki Day Tour. Though it is pricey, 100% worth it. It still has some of the best beaches I have ever seen.Raro Buggy Tours: I have always wanted to do the buggy tour as there is such hype so I booked it in on my most recent trip. I remember saying at the start to my partner that we must swap halfway so I get some fun. Though when that time came I was enjoying it so much I was happy to stay a passenger!

Beach Hop: Now you cannot go to Rarotonga and miss out on exploring the incredible ocean life and this can easily be done on a budget, if not for free. Basically, no matter where you are staying on the island the ocean is just a walk away. Do what I did and bring your own snorkel, or hire your own from a few dollars a day. Honestly, you could spend hours exploring the underwater life and corals (pro tip: the best snorkeling spot is Aroa Marine Reserve behind The Rarotongan beach resort or in front of Fruits of Rarotonga)

Lagoon cruise: More of a family-friendly activity is the lagoon cruise. There are a couple of companies you can book with, though we went with Koka Lagoon Cruises. It is a perfect way to get into the Cook Island spirit. With plenty of performances, snorkeling, entertainment, and a delicious lunch it is the ideal way to spend half a day.Across Island Hike: One of the most popular things to do is do the Across Island Hike and visit The Needle. This will take you right into the interior of the mountainous island with some amazing ocean views.

Quad Biking: If you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie then quad biking is perfect for you! Head right into the inland area and among the jungle. Explore off the beaten track and get some of the best views of the famous needle which stands high over Rarotonga.


Find out all you need to know about seeing a cultural show in Rarotonga with Te Vara Nui. I will be giving you all the information you need to know such as how to book, costs and what to expect.

Want more Cook Islands inspiration? Check out….

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

Backpackers Wanderlust was a guest on the Combo Extravaganza Tour with Te Vara Nui Village while in The Cook Islands, however, as always, all opinions are my own.

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47 thoughts on “Te Vara Nui: The Best Cultural Show In Rarotonga

  1. Avatar for C-Ludik
    C-Ludik says:

    Wow, so much cultural Immersion ! I already fall in love with the Cook Islands :-) Your experience looks really fabulous. I like to discover traditional clothing and dances from other cultures especially Polynesian culture after having been to Easter Island !

  2. Avatar for Madeline
    Madeline says:

    Wow, what a great post. It really looks like an amazing experience. Your pictures are gorgeous and the Cook Islands just went up on my bucket list ;-)

  3. Avatar for April
    April says:

    This looks so amazing! Your photos are so beautiful too. I’ve never been to the Cook Islands before but definitely want to go now.

  4. Avatar for Mohana Das
    Mohana Das says:

    So much Cultural Immersion! This looks like the perfect way to spend a day. Amazing food and traditional dances, and most importantly getting to interact with the locals.

  5. Avatar for Kate
    Kate says:

    Wow! The over water show looks like a blast! And, your dessert shots have me sold with the papaya and tiramisu! This looks like a magical experience!

  6. Avatar for Lena
    Lena says:

    It is my dream to ever get to travel in that part of the world, visiting either Cook Islands or Solomon islands. So unique and beautiful .

  7. Avatar for Alina
    Alina says:

    This region is soo on my list! Looking at your pictures (and especially those mouthwatering desserts and fresh fruit!) I want to go even more. I recently got a gift certificate for a travel guide of my choosing, looks like I should redeem it for Cook Islands book :)

  8. Avatar for Leigh
    Leigh says:

    This looks like so much fun – reminds me of the luaus I’ve attended in Hawaii…always an amazing evening and I love learning about the history of Polynesian culture!

  9. Avatar for Michelle Stelly
    Michelle Stelly says:

    Best kind of place to spend time at! Food Drinks, a one of a kind show as well? Sounds like a great time! I am not going to lie though I had to look up Cooks Island though so, I am so glad you wrote this! Love reading and learning about new places! Great read :-)

  10. Avatar for Annette Richmond
    Annette Richmond says:

    I haven’t heard much about the Cook Islands so this was very informational. What a beautiful place and your photos capture the ceremony perfectly. Lovely post!

  11. Avatar for Annette Richmond
    Annette Richmond says:

    I haven’t heard much about Cook Islands so this was very informational. What a beautiful place and your photos capture the ceremony perfectly. Lovely post! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Avatar for Annemarie
    Annemarie says:

    This looks like such a fun evening! I know it’s very touristy but I’d love to see it myself. The dances especially.

  13. Avatar for Vick Fichtner
    Vick Fichtner says:

    What an amazing experience this must be, and I have to say, I love your night shots, great quality (I`m a photographer so I always pay attention to that kind of thing, hehehe).

    Now I`m dreaming about that buffet dinner…

  14. Avatar for Cat
    Cat says:

    Your photos are beautiful. It’s somewhere i always wanted to visit. The over water show sounds incredible, not too mention all that food. Time to google flights :)

  15. Avatar for Sarah
    Sarah says:

    The food looks Devine. I have recently watched a travel segment on the Cook Islands and it has really made me want to go.

  16. Avatar for Josy A
    Josy A says:

    This looks fantastic! I love that you get to see the island, experience some culture and eat some really tasty looking food! What a brilliant day!!

  17. Avatar for Candice
    Candice says:

    This looks amazing! One of my favourite things that I like to see from other cultures is their traditional clothing and dances. Thank you for sharing!!

  18. Avatar for Jennifer Schlueter
    Jennifer Schlueter says:

    Cultural dance shows are the best! Always bring you closer to locals, especially if you can join them for a bit :)
    I really wanna go there now!

  19. Avatar for Kelly Price
    Kelly Price says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I am absolutely fascinated with Polynesian culture after having been to Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand – lands so far apart, yet so similar in culture. Now I need to add Cook Islands to my list! :)

  20. Avatar for Lena
    Lena says:

    I would love to see the show – it looked amazing. I must admit that I love buffet, because I get to taste different stuff ? the dessert looked so yummy too ?

  21. Avatar for Ana @ Jaunting Trips
    Ana @ Jaunting Trips says:

    What an amazing experience. I would love this island life. Beautiful place and traditions, and I’m betting delicious food :D

  22. Avatar for Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Wow the Cook Islands look amazing!! Such a refreshing read as its not somewhere I hear of people going often. I attended a similar cultural “show” in Hawaii and love the history behind it. Beautiful post!

  23. Avatar for Yazhini
    Yazhini says:

    Looks like you had a great time here! Thanks for sharing this! Definitely excited to visit Cook Island in the future :)

  24. Avatar for Shannon
    Shannon says:

    This experience looks absolutely incredible! I would love to be able to do this and really get to experience the culture of the Cook Islands. Such beautiful pictures too!

  25. Avatar for Janine
    Janine says:

    This sounds like such a cool experience! I love shows that tell local history through song and dance! I also love the red costumes the female dancers wear ?

  26. Avatar for Susan
    Susan says:

    The culture in the Cook Islands looks fascinating. I like that this experience was educational to help you understand the history and not just all for show! I’d love to visit the Cook Islands some day :)

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