October 30, 2018 Travel Guides

The Aitutaki, Cook Islands Travel Guide

Hailed as The Most Beautiful Lagoon in the World, Aitutaki is truly a postcard of a tropical paradise. We have both always been in love with tropics, and have been everywhere from the Maldives to the Caribbean and all over South East Asia is search of paradise - and nowhere comes close to Aitutaki. The main island is long, narrow, and fish-hook shaped, and is surrounded by a shallow aqua blue lagoon. Cruising  into it, and out to the smaller surrounding islands, you are surrounded with the most vibrant blue water.

The sandbars of Aitutaki Lagoon from above

Paradise!

GETTING THERE:

  • One of the only ways to get to Aitutaki is through Rarotonga, the main island in The Cook Islands. You can fly direct to Rarotonga from Los Angeles, New Zealand, Australia, and Tahiti via Air New Zealand. Read through my Complete Rarotonga Travel Guide for more!
  • Air Rarotonga is the local airline, and has flights to Aitutaki and 8 other Cook Islands daily. The flight from Rarotonga takes under an hour, the small planes are quite comfortable (we were surprised at how large and roomy they were!), and the views are spectacular. 
  • Aitutaki is even smaller than Rarotonga, and by far the best way to get around is to rent a car at Aitutaki Airport. Rino's Rentals is the main rental company on the island. 

Flying into Aitutaki Lagoon


KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

  • The same as Rarotonga, Aitutaki uses the New Zealand Dollar as currency, and is on the same time zone as Hawaii.
  • While Rarotonga is a bit cooler and cloudier, Aitutaki tends to be warmer, sunnier, and usually full of blue skies. In our 4 days here, we only saw rain for a few hours - and even that brief storm was pretty unusual. This is truly paradise. 
  • The island is even smaller than you think it will be!

One Foot Island


WHERE TO STAY:

It's hard to go wrong on the island, since you never more than a short walk to a white sand beach in this lagoon. Here are a few of our favorites!

  • Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island - Like something out of Bora Bora or the Maldives, this was my dream hotel for Aitutaki. Set into the lagoon, this is the only hotel with over-water bungalows. The resort is built on a private island, just a 1-minute ferry ride from the main island - and there is a ferry on standby to shuttle guests back and forth at all hours.
  • Tamanu Beach, Aitutaki -  Our villa here felt like Bali, with an indoor/outdoor space and private enclosed terrace. The beach is front of the resort is expansive and perfectly tropical. 
  • Etu Moana Boutique Beach Villas - A new property with the kindest owners, and everything you need to enjoy - hammocks, water sports, and a pool bar that stays open all night with your own key. 
  • Pacific Resort Aitutaki - A sister property to the Pacific Resort on Rarotonga, this is a well-established luxury property on the island. 

Over-Water Bungalow at Aitutaki Lagoon Resort

The Beach-front Pool at Tamanu Beach


CAN'T MISS EATS:

  • Kora Cafe - A nice upscale cafe with outdoor seating, this spot is ranked #1 on the island for good reason. They have everything from sandwiches and lattes to more ambitious dishes like muscles with bacon. We ate here a couple of times and everything was fantastic.
  • Puffy's - An island staple, Puffy's is a large beach shack with a small menu of island favorites. Definitely try the BBQ chicken and the fish and chips!
  • The Boat Shed - A great lunch spot on a beach front that's just a bit hidden from the main road. Like nearly everyone else we met on the island, the people here were so kind and hospitable.
  • Mango's Take Away - This was not a place we planned on stopping at, it actually didn't come up on TripAdvisor when we were looking, but it is a great hidden gem on the island. While most restaurants are moderately priced, this was a great, cheap takeout spot - perfect to grab and bring back to your hotel for a casual night in. The thai noodles and fried rice were fantastic!

Still dreaming of this muscles, bacon, and tomato dish from Koru Cafe

Out front the Boat Shed Bar and Grill


ISLAND CRUISING:

  • If there is one thing you HAVE to do on Aitutaki, it is going out on a cruise through the lagoon! The main island is stunning, but being out on the sand bars and the famous One Foot Island is even more unbelievable. The waters are incredibly calm and the rides are short - so everyone can fully enjoy the trip. 
  • The Vaka Cruise - Affordable group day cruises, on a boat made to look like a traditional Polynesian raft - a photo on the front of this boat is a necessity! These trips are all-inclusive with towels, snorkeling equipment, bbq lunch, and a full day of adventuring. The easiest way to see it all in a day!
  • Bishop's Cruises - If you want a private experience, charter a boat with Bishop's Cruises through the lagoon. We had so much fun, we did this twice!
  • One Foot Island - Have you ever been to paradise? One Foot Island is like stepping into a screensaver. If you arrive early in the morning or close to sunset, you can even have the entire place to yourself!

Landing on the island aboard the Vaka Cruise boat

Throwing the anchor into our own sandbar on our Bishops Cruises private boat.


DON'T MISS OUT ON:

  • The One Foot Island Passport Stamp - The island is so well known, they have their own commemorative passport stamp - don't forget to bring your passport with you to bring this home.
  • Piraki Look Out - The highest point on the island (I think), Piraki Look Out is reached by a back-island drive, a mountain bike ride, or a steady hike, and is a great place to watch the sunset and check out the jungle side of the island. You can find it on the map here.
  • The Sandbar - Not far from One Foot Island is a pure white sandbar that comes and goes with the tides. I had never seen anything like this before!
  • An Polynesian Island Night Show - Similar to a Luau but with local specialities. We caught the show our last night at Tamanu Beach Resort, they host a show and dinner every Thursday night - complete with traditional outfits, fire dancing, and a massive buffet (including our favorite BBQ whole pig!)
  • Wearing a head 'ei - The traditional flower crowns are stunning, and available women all across the island make them. Ask your hotel and they can get you one easily. I never took mine off our entire time here!
  • Going for an island drive - Cruise around the island to check out the jungle, the tiny villages, and some unexpected turns. 

The Sand Bar, in an ocean of blue. 

Cruising through the island's backroads.


Get inspired:

Landing in Aitutaki on Air Rarotonga

Running through Palm Groves at Aitutaki Lagoon 

Sunset magic from the beach at  Etu Moana Villas

Views from Piraki Look Out

Making friends with the locals

Brandon the monkey at One Foot Island

Our water villa at Aitutaki Lagoon

A Sunset date at Piraki Lookout

Untouched beaches along the lagoon

Our amazing captain from Bishops Cruises!

Sunset at Tamanu Beach 

Finding Palm Groves all over the island

The Lagoon at Tamanu Beach

The water is really this blue! It doesn't even look real on the Sandbar out by One Foot Island.

B Burkley: Professional Palm Tree Climber

Working on my climbing skills as well!

Passport Stamp at One Foot Island

A private swim at Aitutaki Lagoon Resort

Magic from above


The most perfect little palm, out front of Etu Moana.

Sunset at Tamanu Beach.

Hi, I am sitting inside a postcard. 

Cruising the back of the island in our Rino Rentals SUV

Don't miss Mango's for great take-away!

Lunch on our deck at Aitutaki Lagoon

Setting Sun on the beach at Etu Moana

Did we take enough photos here? Honestly, we just couldn't stop! I'm sure we will see you again, Aitutaki.


Any questions? Please let us know below!


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