Aitutaki island

August 22-29th, 2018 

Aitutaki is the typical flat atoll of our imagination when we dream a tropical paradise. Located in South Pacific, Aitutaki belongs to Cook Islands and its turquoise lagoon is among one of the largest and beautiful of the world.


Aitutaki is an atoll belonging to the Cook Islands and is located in South Pacific about 230 kilometers north of Rarotonga, the main island of the archipelago. Because of its scenic beauty, Aitutaki is the second most visited destination in the Cook Islands and its major tourist attraction is the triangular-shaped lagoon, with each side approximately 18 kilometers long. On the edge of the lagoon there are roughly 15 islands, some of which very tiny, as well as sandbanks or "almost islands" out of the water only during low tide.

Aitutaki has just over 2000 inhabitants living on the largest motu (island) of the atoll, in various small towns connected by paved roads. The main village is Arutanga and has a small supermarket, a port, some restaurants and various services.

How long to stay in Aitutaki? One of the most important things to know about Aitutaki, is that the most spectacular locations are far away from the populated places and not accessible by own means from the various resorts, lodges and guest-houses on the main island, so visitors need to organize trips by water taxis. Excursions to Aitutaki are not particularly expensive (a water taxi that leaves tourists a few hours on the chosen island, will cost between 40/90 NZ$ per person, round trip), but you will have to deal with the real availability of boats and the weather, which, even during the "dry" season, is not free from overcast or rainy days. Also, you should be aware that most local operators, rightly, do not work on Sundays or public holidays. The advice that we can give based on our experience, is not to limit the stay in Aitutaki to 2 or 3 nights, as usually proposed by standard packages of most tour operators, but to stay at least 5 or 6 full days. Upon arrival in Aitutaki, it will be possible to plan and book the various boat trips directly with the accommodation where you are staying, after having checked the weather forecast day by day. Air Rarotonga proposes a day tour to Aitutaki from Rarotonga by plane, which includes the lagoon cruise and a visit to some remote motu (of course, we don't like this kind of tourism, which can't give neither just a glimpse of the places you are visiting).

What to see in Aitutaki:

How to get to Aitutaki? Air Rarotonga offers several flights per day, every day of the week, between Rarotonga and Aitutaki, also in connection with international flights. The route is operated with small turboprop aircraft and takes around 45 minutes. The ticket can be purchased on the airline's website, or through the chosen tour operator as part of a travel package. Once, or a few times per week, there is also a direct flight between Atiu and Aitutaki, very useful for those wishing to visit both islands.

How to move around in Aitutaki? The most important means of transport in Aitutaki is the water taxi or larger boats, as it is the only way to get to the most beautiful and hidden corners of the atoll. The main island, where most visitors stay, has a network of paved roads for a total of 50 kilometers, which allows to visit the various points of interest by scooters, rental car or even by bike if you are well fit (the road is leveled, but the distances are long). The means of transport can be easily booked directly through the facility where you are staying, taking care to make the request at least a couple of days before the expected use (especially in high season) to avoid disappointment.

Where to stay in Aitutaki? the island has numerous accommodation facilities at prices similar to those on other destinations in the South Pacific. Some luxury accommodation is available, such as the Pacific Resort. For our stay in Aitutaki, we chose Aitutaki Village, for its excellent value for money and location near one of the most beautiful beach of Aitutaki.

But now let's see some Aitutaki photos taken during our holiday.

Aitutaki from air One Foot Island from air
Aitutaki from top Aitutaki airport
Aitutaki is linked to Rarotonga by several flights per day operated by Air Rarotonga by small turboprop aircraft, also in connection with international flights. A landing in Aitutaki offers a spectacular view over the turquoise lagoon among one of the largest in the Pacific.
Where to stay in Aitutaki Aitutaki Village
Where to stay in Aitutaki? Aitutaki offers various types of accommodation at different prices and services, from a few luxury resorts, to simpler family-run guest houses. For our stay in Aitutaki we chosen Aitutaki Village, a series of cozy bungalows just steps away from one of the most beautiful beaches of Aitutaki.
Aitutaki Village beach Aitutaki Village lagoon
Aitutaki Aitutaki atoll
Aitutaki island Aitutaki in low tide
Cook Islands
Aitutaki Cook Islands
Cook Islands Aitutaki
Aitutaki Village sia
What is the best beach of Aitutaki? In this series of photos, we can see the beach and the lagoon near Aitutaki Village, not far from the airport and along the inner coast of the main island. In our opinion, not considering the spectacular beaches and sandbanks surrounding the most remote islets where guests can get to only by water taxis, this is one of the most beautiful Aitutaki beach, in consideration that is very easy to get here. At low tide, visitors can walk for hundreds of meters in the lagoon and may swim in various natural pools that forms here and there. On the other hand, this area of Aitutaki is less recommended for snorkeling, as the water is less clear due to the lot of very fine sand.
Fisherman in the Cook Islands
In Aitutaki lagoon there are often fishermen, either tourists or locals, at work.
Aitutaki external lagoon Aitutaki external beach
Instead, the beaches surrounding the outer coast of Aitutaki (ocean's side vs lagoon's side) are of coarser sand, but the water is clearer and it's much easier to snorkel.
Kitesurfing at Cook Islands
A very popular sport in Aitutaki due to the frequent presence of wind (especially during austral winter) is kitesurfing, with many enthusiasts coming from New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world.
Giant land crab Crab den
In Aitutaki live giant land crabs that hide into large holes in the ground. They are very shy and can be seen especially at dusk, at night or after a rain, having care to stay far away without making any noise.
Aitutaki roads
Roads in Aitutaki. Aitutaki has about fifty kilometers of paved roads and it's worth spending one day of the vacation to discover the various interesting spots scattered throughout the main island. For this purpose guests can choose among rental cars, scooters or, for who is fit enough, bicycles (there are not many climbs and descents, but the distances are long). At least in high season, it is advisable to book the chosen vehicle a few days in advance to avoid disappointment and this can be done directly at the facility where you are staying.
Arutanga Aitutaki town
Aitutaki port Playground Cook Islands
The main town in Aitutaki is Arutanga, a charming village with small wooden buildings. Near the port, there is also a small playground for children.
Cook Islands church Cook Islands cemetery
There are several churches in Aitutaki, some of which are among the oldest in the Cook Islands. Often these have a small cemetery in the courtyard.
Rainwater collection on an island
As in many other Pacific islands, private homes and public buildings have a simple rainwater collection system, conveying the water from the roof to large tanks. In fact, in a small and flat atoll, there aren't usually sources of fresh water that can meet the needs of all the inhabitants.
Fiddler crabs fiddler crab
A beach, marked on the tourist maps with the symbol of a crab, hosts thousands and thousands of purple fiddler crabs. They are very shy and quickly hide into small holes under the sand. We recommend visiting this beach at low tide.
Common myna
The Common myna (Acridotheres tristis) is a bird quite widespread in Aitutaki and the other Cook Islands.
Ficus benghalensis Banyan tree
Tunnel under a tree
Along the main road of the island, not far from the village of Vaipae, there is a huge tree of Ficus benghalensis, commonly known as a banyan tree. Its aerial roots are so dense and numerous, that create a kind of natural tunnel over the road.
Orange beach
Still near the village of Vaipae, we found an unusually orange beach and a rocky promontory, overlooking the inner lagoon of Aitutaki.
Maungapu lookout, with its 124 meters of altitude, offers a 360° panoramic view over whole Aitutaki. The path is quite steep and slippery on coming down and can't be run by scooter or bike.
Aitutaki panorama
Aitutaki panorama from the top of Maungapu hill.
Cook Islands water taxi
The best way to visit Aitutaki is by boat, as the most beautiful places and the best beaches are located on remote motu (islets) where there are no facilities (except Akaiami islet which has a small resort). Although there are group excursions on larger boats, it is generally better to use a private water taxi, either to avoid the crowd, either to better customize itinerary and schedule. One of the most common options is to be left on some remote island for several hours, bringing enough water and snacks, in a kind of "Robinson Crusoe" experience. The facility where you stay can help in organizing these private excursions, taking care to make the request early enough (especially on high season) better after having checked the weather forecasts for the days to follow. Generally, the cost is much less than 100 NZ$ per person round trip, while the islands that can be visited are usually Honeymoon Island, One Foot Island, Akaiami, Maina and Moturakau, while the lagoon offers lot of coral reefs where guest may stop on request for some excellent snorkeling.
Aitutaki lagoon Aitutaki
Lagoon of Aitutaki Cook Islands lagoon
An Aitutaki lagoon cruise, either in a group, either private, offers exciting views onto one of the most beautiful atoll of Pacific Ocean, with psychedelic colors that change continuously depending on depth of water and structure of seabed.
Akaiami resort Akaiami seaplane dock
Akaiami beach Akaiami
Akaiami motu is located around 20 minutes by water taxi from most points of Aitutaki's main island and houses a small resort with bungalows overlooking a beautiful lagoon and a long white sand beach. Not far from the resort, guests can see the ruins of an ancient pier for seaplanes, as during the 50s Akaiami was one of the stops for the famous "Coral Route", a romantic flight package that has had stops also in Samoa, Fiji, French Polynesia and, of course, Cook Islands. Famous actors, such as Marlon Brando and John Wayne, have experienced this flight, certainly unusual (and very expensive) for that time.
Honeymoon Island Maina Island
Beach Aitutaki Beach Cook Islands
Honeymoon Island and nearby Maina Island are a place of exceptional beauty to organize a Robinson Crusoe picnic. For the number of photos taken, we have dedicated a whole page to Honeymoon Island and Maina Island.
Sandbank One Foot Island
Aitutaki best beach Aitutaki sea
One Foot Island, with its incredible sandbank that can be reached on foot at low tide, is a fantastic destination for a boat trip from Aitutaki, although the location it starting to get a bit too busy at some times of the day. Also for One Foot Island we have created a dedicated page to host the many photos taken.

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