Aitutaki is an island in the Southern Cook Islands a 45 minute flight from the capital island of Rarotonga.
Aitutaki lagoon and its islands are breathtakingly beautiful. The classic picture postcard of small palm tree fringed tropical island, with shallow, warm turquoise waters, corals, tropical fish and blue skies is taken here. The lagoon is large, taking about an hour in a boat to cross it.
The island name is pronounced Aye - too - tah - ki.
Tourism facilities are well developed, but are still low key enough not to intrude on the nature of the island.
During WWII the island was host to American forces who outnumbered the local population of the island at the time. The Americans built the airstrips which are still in use today. The island was built to be the last point of defence in the Pacific, but Japanese advance was reversed and the island never saw action. Some descendants of the American troops stationed there remain on the island.
The lagoon was a stopover point for the TEAL (later to become Air New Zealand) flying boats, which operated to between Tahiti, Fiji and New Zealand until 1960. The remains of the wharf where visitors would disembark for a two hour stopover, often including a swim in lagoon is still in place today on the island of Akaiami in the lagoon. The rocks are slight submerged.
The larger island is split into different villages, Vaipae & Tau'tu are the largest and are located on the south east side of the island, Arutanga is often referred to as town and is on the south west side of the island. Arutanga has a center area for shopping, and the Telecom Office (also the Post Office), the Westpac Bank and the Bank of the Cook Islands are located here. Here you will also find the Blue Nun and Wharf. Amuri is a general term for the north end of the island which contains most of the tourist accommodations and less population. The other villages on the island are Uriea, Rearea, Rama, Vaipeka and Nikaupara.
There are several smaller island in the lagoon Akaiami is a small, elongated islet at the opposite end of the lagoon from Aitutaki's main island around 20 minutes across the lagoon from Aitutaki. Akaiami is remote, quiet, charming, unspoiled and surrounded by pristine turquoise lagoon and coral reef, and there is a small lodge there. One Foot Island is a popular stopping spot for lagoon cruises.
Aitutaki Airport (IATA: AIT)is served by Air Rarotonga with daily flights from Rarotonga. There are flights three to five times daily (except Sundays where two flights are operated) that take approximately 45 minutes.
There is a small cafe at the airport, selling Atiu coffee and some other local produce. There is no ATM at the airport.
Flights are around $200-$250 each way, and the morning flights there and the afternoon flights back are be reserved for people doing day or overnight trips.
It is possible to do a day trip from Rarotonga, which includes flights, a bus tour of the island, a lagoon cruise, and lunch. Regular price is $499, but lookout for last minute specials down to $400.
There are rumours of a locals flight in the evening that offers cheaper fares than the daytime flights.
Car and Scooter (or Moped) hire are the main forms of transport on Aitutaki. This can easily be arrange 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 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. There 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.
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.
Take an island, safari, & walk about tours
Ministry of Marine Resources, Open weekdays only, Learn about the sea life in the lagoon. See baby sea turtles and giant clams.
Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa , (+682) 31203, Motu Akitua, Aitutaki Lagoon , Visit the Cook Islands' only private island resort, just a two-minute ride by small private ferry from the main island of Aitutaki. This boutique bungalow resort welcomes visitors and offers Day Passes, which include access to its beautiful beaches and use of such equipment as snorkelling gear, kayaks, outrigger canoes, windsurfers and bicycles. The resort also offers two restaurants where you can dine right on the water - Flying Boat Beach Bar & Grill and Bounty Restaurant, Oneroa Beach Pavilion, an air-conditioned Conference Room, Gift Shop, Akitua Rentals car hire, Best of the Cook Islands tour desk and SpaPolynesia Aitutaki.
If the weather is nice, or even if its 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 cruises on smaller boat try:
Captain Fantastic's Kia Orana Cruise, 31442, 31442
Aitutaki Adventures, (682) 31171
Aitutaki Golf Club, The island's 9-hole golf course. Bookable via hotels.
Scuba diving is available
Bubbles Below, 31537, 31537
Aitutaki Scuba Diving, 31103, 31103
Fishing (either game fishing or fly fishing inside the lagoon). There is a game fishing area by the Wharf in Arutanga where the public can compete in Fishing Contests.
Explore the island - rent a bicycle, scooter, or car and drive around the island. Don't be in a rush though as it won't take you long to get around the island. Take your time are enjoy the beaches, and taro on banana plantations. Of course the beach is also beckoning and the water is beautiful. The highest peak, Maunga Pu, offers good birds eye views of the whole island.
Experience an Island night
SpaPolynesia Aitutaki , (+682) 31203, Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, Motu Akitua, Aitutaki Lagoon , SpaPolynesia Aitutaki offers profesionally-qualified spa therapists and an extensive spa menu including aromatherapy massage, coconut body scrubs and thalassotherapy wraps, hydrating facials, spa manicures and pedicures, and a hydrotherapy session with a private couple's jacuzzi and sauna. Guests can enjoy a deeply-relaxing massage within the spa's serene, island-style ambience, or in the cool shade of the coconut palms on the white sand beach against the backdrop of magnificent Aitutaki Lagoon.
Windsurfing Aitutaki , (+682) 31203, Motu Akitua, Aitutaki Lagoon , Aitutaki Lagoon is a windsurfers (and kiteboarders) paradise. For guests of Aitutaki's private island resort, Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, windsurfing is included as a complimentary activity throughout their stay. Non-house guests are able to purchase Day Passes which include windsurfing as well as such other resort activities as snorkelling, outrigger canoes, kayaks and bicycles. The whole area in front of the resort island, Motu Akitua, is a windsurfers playground, especially along the front of Sunset Beach and around Kuriri Point at the mouth of Full Moon Channel.
Reservations for dinner are a good idea on Aiutaki, as periodically the more popular restaurants will book up during tourist peak periods.
Te Vaka Bar & Grill, Aitutaki. 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 (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 (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.
Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa , (+682)31203, Motu Akitua, Aitutaki Lagoon, Visitors are welcome at the resort's two restaurants. The Flying Boat Beach Bar & Grill is named in honour of the Solent Flying Boats which used to land directly on Aituaki Lagoon during the glamorous 1950s era of the South Pacific 'Coral Route', which included such luminous adventurers as screen legends Cary Grant and John Wayne. Set directly on the water's edge with unparalleled lagoon views, the Flying Boat's menu showcases the island's finest cuisine from the seas and gardens of Aitutaki. The resort's spacious Bounty Restaurant overlooks Bligh's Beach and Full Moon Chanel, and is named in honour of the HMS Bounty which carried the first Europeans to sight Aitutaki, just 17 days before the infamous mutiny. The resort offers a variety of dining experiences including Seafood Platters for Two, 5-course Degustation Menu, private candlelit dining in a variety of exclusive island locations, Honeymoon Moet & Chandon Breakfast, Gourmet Picnic Hampers, Wedding Receptions in the Oneroa Beach Pavilion, Private Group Dinners, plus daily Casual Dining (pizzas, club sandwiches, pasta salads and more). Two iconic restaurants in the heart of the South Pacific, where you can dine with your toes in the sand on the shores of the world's most beautiful lagoon, under a canopy of five trillion stars.
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 12AM.
Coconut Crusher Bar. A great feed, a great drink, and wonderful people
Josies Lodge, 31659, Popoara, Cheap backpackers lodge.
Maina Sunset Motel, 682 25432, Nikaupara, Main island, Several self contained units. Onsite restaurant. Budget.
Sunny Beach Lodge, (682) 31446, (682) 31446, Amuri Village
Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa , Motu Akitua, Aituaki Lagoon Resort & Spa is the only resort located directly on Aitutaki Lagoon, considered by many to be the world's most beautiful lagoon and featured in
There is a small store for supplies in town, and two ATMs. The selection is very much what is available at the time, and is quite limited. Sea cargo can arrive in Aitutaki every 3 months, and supplies can be limited before resupply.
On Sundays there is only one store open, the Neibaa Store in Vaipae, and there is no gasoline or petrol for sale.
It will be a challenge to get into trouble in Aitutaki.
Water is not treated, so drink bottled water whilst on the island. There are mosquitoes but there is no malaria. There are stone fish in the lagoon, so wear reef shoes when exploring the reef.
The flying boats used on the coral route via Aitutaki are on display in Auckland.
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Hendrik Scholz, Carl, Tim Sandell, David, Todd VerBeek, M. Hogue and Ryan Holliday, Inas, Shaund and Morph
This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at View full credits