Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia Cook Islands Aitutaki

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Introduction

Seclusion and Beauty of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands

Seclusion and Beauty of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands

© All Rights Reserved TulsaTrot

Aitutaki is one of the main Cook Islands and has a lot to offer, including a beautiful lagoon, where you will find numerous sand bars, coral ridges and 21 uninhabited motu (lagoon islets). To add, it is also a good place to enjoy the life of the Cook Islanders. One of the best is Maina Motu which offers great snorkelling on its coral formations. Here you will also find powder-white sand bars. Tapuaeta'i (One Foot Island) also has a huge white stretch of beach, fringed with palms and with turquoise waters in front.

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Geography

Aitutaki is an "almost atoll". It has a maximum elevation of approximately 123 metres with the hill known as Maunga Pu close to its northernmost point. The land area of the atoll is 18.05 km2, of which the main island occupies 16.8 km2. The Ootu Peninsula, protruding east from the main island in a southerly direction along the eastern rim of the reef, takes up 1.75 km2 out of the main island. For the lagoon, area figures between 50 and 74 km2 are found. Satellite image measurement suggests that the larger figure also includes the reef flat, which is commonly not considered part of a lagoon.

The barrier reef that forms the basis of Aitutaki is roughly the shape of an equilateral triangle with sides 12 kilometres in length. The southern edge of the triangle is almost totally below the surface of the ocean, and the eastern side is composed of a string of small islands including Mangere, Akaiami, and Tekopua.

The western side of the atoll contains many of Aitutaki's important features including a boat passage through the barrier reef allowing for anchorage close to shore at Arutanga. Towards the south of the side is a small break in the barrier reef, allowing access for small boats to the lagoon which covers most of the southern part of the triangle. Further to the north is the bulk of the main island. Its fertile volcanic soil provide tropical fruits and vegetables. Two of Aitutaki's 15 islets (motus) are also volcanic. The rest are made of coral.

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Villages

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Sights and Activities

  • One-Foot Island is a must see with blue lagoons and white sandy beach. There is a post office (box), one of the most remote in the world. There are beaches for swimming, you can walk around the island. Best snorkelling seems to be around the island past the rock ledge, towards the reef.
  • Lagoon Tours - If the weather is nice, or even if it's not too bad, a lagoon cruise is near idyllic. Aitutaki's lagoon is supposed to rival Bora Bora in French Polynesia for beauty, and all of the lagoon operators are reputable and offer excellent trips. There is not a best operator on Aitutaki for Lagoon Cruises so look around and decide what kind of a cruise you are looking for - smaller more intimate cruises which stay away from One Foot Island during peak periods, or larger slower boats with entertainment and toilets on board. Unless it's a terrible day you can't go wrong. For those that prefer to "do their own thing" another way to enjoy the Aitutaki Lagoon is to hire a kayak or outrigger canoe from the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa and paddle out to the nearest islet "motu" a few hundred metres away and go as far as is comfortable exploring the uninhabited islands. Book a picnic lunch and find your own beach without another soul on it.

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Events and Festivals

International Kite Surfing Contest

Held on Aitutaki in late June, the International Kite Surfing Contest is an annual festival that celebrates the rich natural gifts of the Cook Islands. The event attracts kite surfing enthusiasts and competitors from all over the world.

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Weather

Sonnenuntergang auf Aitutaki

Sonnenuntergang auf Aitutaki

© All Rights Reserved stefan08

Aitutaki has a tropical climate, meaning warm and humid weather year round but with constant sea breezes bringing some relief on the hotter summer days. November to April are summermonths when it is around 30 °C during the day. Temperatures at night are usually just 5 °C cooler or so. These months also have the most rain, with some tropical downpours during the afternoon, followed by sunshine again. Sometimes, several rainy days are possible. This is also the time that hurricanes are a possibility, although these don't strike every year of course. Wintermonths are just slightly cooler (around 28 °C during the day) but also drier and sunnier.

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Getting There

By Plane

Air Rarotonga operates domestic flights to Aitutaki from Rarotonga, Atiu, Manihiki, Penrhyn Island and Pukapuka.

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Getting Around

Car and Scooter (or Moped) hire are the main forms of transport on Aitutaki. This can easily be arranged through any of the rental companies (or better accommodations) on the island. Prices tend to be higher and quality a bit lower than on Rarotonga.

A driver's licence is $2.50 NZD and can be purchased at the police station in Arutanga (also known as town). You will need to present your foreign driver's licence to obtain this. You are not required to have a motorcycle licence on your licence from your home country to obtain a licence for scooters & motorcycles in the Cook Islands; driving down to the police station is typically your practicum, although very rarely they do short tests. The licence is paper with no photo identification and lasts for a year. An Aitutaki driver's licence is cheaper, easier to get, and faster than getting a licence in Rarotonga and your Aitutaki licence will cover you for the whole Cook Islands. Licences in Rarotonga cost $20 with an additional amount for a practical test. There are sometimes lines in Rarotonga at the licence office so if you can avoid it, and you don't want a laminated photo id, the Aitutaki licence is the way to go.

Prices for cars can vary on which model chosen and which company used but typically $65 to $85 a day is usual with a refundable $40 petrol deposit. Cars typically tend to be automatics and are pretty reliable under the hood but will usually have some superficial damage.

Scooters are much more economical at $25 a day with a $10 petrol deposit. There is some competition with scooters so if you are not happy with yours you have other options. As with the cars, the scooters are typically in good condition and safe to drive, but will not be vespas or straight out of the box. Typically rentals are automatic, but ask and manuals should be available. Manual scooters can be in better condition because they are not rented as often.

Taxis are expensive on Aitutaki. Rates are based on how far you are going, anywhere from $10 per person for short trips to $20 NZD per person, booking ahead is highly recommended and you can confirm your price then. The're two taxi companies on the island (some restaurants & bars will have their own vehicles for pickups) :

  • Pacifica Taxi - excellent service and reliable.
  • Tropicool Tours - as the name suggests, does day tours around the island, transfers for Lagoon Cruises, and transfers for Cafe Tupuna. It is operated by Nane Herman who is a wonderful resource on island life and usually arrives with flowers for her guests, the only problem is that she can have limited availability for taxi services.

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Eat

Try the island's Ike mata (raw tuna) with coconut milk. It is delicious! And Poke a Cook Island Banana pudding which usually comes baked in the Earth oven or "Umu" Try not to eat snapper as they may give you ciguatera.

Reservations for dinner are a good idea on Aiutaki, as periodically the more popular restaurants will book up during tourist peak periods.

  • The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa offers the premier location on a private island "Motu Akitua" which is situated directly on Aitutaki Lagoon. The Flying Boat Beach Bar & Grill has the best views on the island of Aitutaki Lagoon and offers fine Pacific cuisine between 11:00am and 9:00pm. The Bounty Brasserie offers casual dining and regular live entertainment. Romantic Candlelit Dining with degustation menu and private waiter under the stars available for a limited number of couples each evening.
  • Te Vaka Bar & Grill. An excellent option for meals with possibly the largest menu on the island. Good quality and price, but sometimes the service is on "island time". Something travellers will likely experience, positively hopefully, anywhere in the outer islands. Te Vaka does have limited kitchen hours for meals, but the bar is also your best bet for any live sports, as they have a plasma TV hooked up to satellite. Friday nights are popular rugby nights for locals to cheer on the All Blacks. If you are Australian you can expect some good natured ribbing when any Wallaby match is on.
  • Cafe Tupuna, ☎ +682 31678. Not open on Sundays. Reservations are required. The food and service on the island is as good as you will find on the island and is on par with other a-la-carte dining experiences travellers will be used to.
  • Rapae Bay Restaurant, The Pacific Resort, ☎ +682 31720. Open 7 days a week. Reservations are required. The best food and service on the island and on a par with other a la carte dining experiences travellers will be used to.

The following all serve decent quality food but it definitely leans more to a take away style menu, with hamburgers being a big staple.

  • Samade's Bar. Great BBQ on Sunday.
  • Puffy's, For the Best Fish and Chips on the Island.
  • Koru Cafe. Serves Espresso coffee and has WiFi internet.
  • Popoara's Boathouse. The Boathouse will hopefully be more on par with the Te Vaka Bar & Grill once it is fully up and running, with more seafood on the menu. The best Ike mata on the island.
  • Tauono's Garden Café. Mon-Wed-Fri 12-14 for lunch and 3-5 for tea. There's also a fruit market open Mon-Wed-Fri 10-5.. Serves delicious garden lunch and afternoon tea. All food is from their own local organic plantation and the surrounding sea. Sonja's cooking is a delight and something you must experience.

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Drink

The Flying Boat Beach Bar & Grill at The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa offers the best views of the fabled Aitutaki Lagoon as it is located directly on the lagoon on the private island of "Akituta". Enjoy a tropical cocktail as the sun goes down.

Pacific or Islands Nights are also a good option to experience while you are in the Cook Islands. Islands nights usually involve either a buffet or a la carte menu and an island dancing show for a set price. Most island nights will also include a string band before the show as well. While Cook Island dancing is distinct in its own ways and definitely worth watching, it will be of a same vein as Tahitian shows for those more familiar with French Polynesia.

There is also nightlife, particularly on Friday's & Saturdays. The popular venues change every once in a while but are not typically hard to find and will usually be wherever the Island night takes place.

  • Samade's Bar tends to attract more tourists than locals. You will find locals genuinely friendly and open and it is an excellent experience. The only words of caution are that periodically fights can occur after closing among those who've had too much to drink. It can be village rivalry or personal but almost never involves tourists. Closing time is always 12:00am.
  • Coconut Crusher Bar. A great feed, a great drink, and wonderful people

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Sleep

The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa enjoys the premier location on its own private island "Akitua" directly on the fabled Aitutaki Lagoon. Offering the islands only overwater bungalows, Royal Honeymoon Pool Villa as well deluxe beachfront bungalows, premium beachfront bungalows and beachfront bungalows all directly on the lagoon.

View our map of accommodation in Aitutaki Island

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Accommodation in Aitutaki

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Aitutaki searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Aitutaki and areas nearby.

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This is version 13. Last edited at 10:00 on Aug 22, 18 by Utrecht. 7 articles link to this page.

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