If there’s a better example of a picture postcard, remote island paradise to be found anywhere, we’d love to know where it is.
A speck in the middle of the South Pacific, Aitutaki will take your breath away.
This jewel of the Cook Islands – which lie halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii – is a 45-minute flight from the main island of Rarotonga.
This remote paradise curves around an atoll in the shape of a fishhook. Its dazzling turquoise lagoon is dotted with 15 smaller islets known as motus by the locals. The water here has to be seen to be believed and has been best described as ‘impossibly blue’.
This idyllic place must surely have left a mark on the first Europeans to see it and history records that as the crew of HMAS Bounty in 1789. It was a place of respite for Captain Bligh before the mutiny that would soon become an infamous chapter in maritime history.
Today, access to the island is via the airstrip originally constructed by American and New Zealand soldiers during WWII. After the war during the 1950s, TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited) used the lagoon as a stop-over for its flying boats on the original Coral Route between Fiji and Tahiti.
Today, this sleepy group of islands has a population of just 1800 and a handful of luxury resorts are its main source of employment and income. The overwater bungalows on Aitutaki are the only ones to be found in the Cook Islands.
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If you can’t afford the time or budget to stay, you don’t have to miss out. There are day trips from Rarotonga that arrive on the island at 9am.
Day trips to Aitutaki from Rarotonga include flights, transfers, an island tour, a lagoon cruise, BBQ lunch and plenty of time for snorkeling and swimming and cost around AUD $475 pp.
The six-hour cruise aboard the 21-metre Titi ai Tonga – a vessel modelled on traditional vakas used by the original Polynesian voyagers – sails the lagoon perimeter making stops at various motus along the way.
At one of them, One Foot Island, you’ll find pearl white sand and an abundance of tropical fish thanks largely to the underwater garden ‘planted’ by the locals quite deliberately to enhance marine life in the adjoining channel.
There is a post office on One Foot Island with its own unique passport stamp if you want it – a stamp in the form of a foot of course.
Along with barbecue staples, lunch on board The Vaka offers traditional fare like Ika Mata, marinated raw fish in chilli, lime and coconut cream and Rukau, mashed taro with coconut cream, salt and onions. Everything on the menu is grown on the island or caught locally that day.
Accommodation on Aitutaki
The island offers a range of 3, 4 and 5-star properties.
5-star Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa
This property is the only resort that is directly on the lagoon and is an all-bungalow, adults only resort. Officially a private island, the resort is separated by a small channel with its own cable ferry to transport guests. Options range from beachfront bungalows, Honeymoon Pool Villas and the ultimate in luxury, overwater bungalows.
4-star Tamanu Beach Resort
The Tamanu Beach Resort has oversized bungalow style rooms with garden, ocean view and beachfront rooms. The resort boasts incredible sunset views and two fresh water pools. There’s also an extensive cocktail list from the oceanfront bar and a restaurant in a relaxed luxury setting.
3-star Aitutaki Village
On the northern side of the island, close to the airport is Aitutaki Village. Here there are 12 romantic garden bungalows all just steps away from the beaches. Enjoy the hosted cultural dances during the week or try paddle boarding and kayaking.
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