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: WHAT TO SEE - INFO - TRAVEL GUIDE
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:
- Aitutaki lagoon - the vast turquoise lagoon in the middle of Aitutaki atoll, is one of the most beautiful of the Pacific Ocean, with calm and warm waters year-round. The numerous coral reefs that arise everywhere offer plenty of chances for snorkeling, while islets and sandbanks are an excellent opportunity for "Robinson Crusoe" excursions and romantic picnics.
- Aitutaki deserted islands - of the 15 smaller islands standing along the edge of Aitutaki atoll, 5 are regularly visited by group or private excursions. The most beautiful islets are Honeymoon Island, One Foot Island, Akaiami (where there is also a small resort isolated from the rest of the world), Maina and Moturakau. Using a water taxi (the facility where you will stay will assist in this) you can organize picnics, snorkeling trips and excursions of different lengths.
- Maungapu lookout - on the main island of Aitutaki, an easy (but steep) path leads to the top of Maungapu hill, well marked on tourist maps and along the main road. From here it is possible to see a 360° panoramic view over whole Aitutaki.
- Crab colony - along the road that runs alongside the eastern coast of Aitutaki's main island, not far from Aitutaki airport, there is a beach populated by thousands and thousands of colorful crabs. We recommend a visit at low tide.
- Secular Ficus benghalensis - not far from the village of Vaipae, a huge tree of Ficus benghalensis creates a natural tunnel where the main road of the island passes underneath.
- Arutanga and other towns - walking through villages so remote and isolated from the rest of the world, it's always an interesting experience.
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.
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 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.
In Aitutaki lagoon
there are often fishermen, either tourists or locals, at work.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The main town in Aitutaki
, a charming village with small wooden buildings. Near the port, there is also a small playground for children.
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.
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.
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.
The Common myna
) is a bird quite widespread in Aitutaki and the other Cook Islands.
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.
Still near the village of Vaipae
, we found an unusually orange beach and a rocky promontory, overlooking the inner lagoon of Aitutaki.
, 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.
from the top of Maungapu hill.
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
, while the lagoon offers lot of coral reefs where guest may stop on request for some excellent snorkeling.
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.
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.
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
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.