The one thing every visitor to the Cook Islands needs to see

Alex McClintock

The best thing to do in the Cook Islands isn’t scuba diving. It’s not drinking cocktails. And it’s not lying on the beach. During a week in the tiny, unspoiled Pacific nation, the best time I had was going to church.

The Cook Islands are a balm for the soul. Especially on Sundays.

Bear with me here. I’m not religious. Not even close. But I do believe in trying to learn something about the places I visit, and going to a church service in Rarotonga was an insight into Cook Island culture like no other. On the Sunday I visited the Ekalesia Ngatangiia church, the road was closed. When I say “the road”, I’m not kidding: Rarotonga has only one paved road, so the fact it was blocked in both directions tells you that in the Cook Islands, Sunday worship is a major event.

That humid morning, I witnessed the greatest parade of the uniforms I have ever seen in one place. They were all there, snaking along the two-lane byway that runs between the palm-lined beach and the whitewashed church. The Girl Guides, The Boy Scouts, The Brownies, The Boys Brigade, The Girls Brigade and of course the brass band in peaked caps and gold epaulettes.

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