The Best Caves to Visit on Atiu
The birdsong, coffee and tumunu bars might steal all the limelight on Atiu, but you can’t visit the island without exploring its caves. Vast cave networks worm their way through the “makatea” (coral uplift), which are wonderful to stumble upon while trekking over the jagged rock and dense jungle. While some caves are famous for inhabiting rare birds only found on this island, others lead to remote swimming holes that you’ll no doubt have all to yourself. We go through the highlights in this list of the best caves on Atiu!
Just a quick note that all of the caves require a local guide in order to find them. There are no marked trails. If guides are available, they can be arranged through your accommodation or the local tourist information centre. Expect tours to cost approximately NZ$50 per person.
And for more things to do, check out the 20 Best Things to Do on Atiu.
1. Anatakitaki Caves (Kopeka Cave)
By far the most popular caves to visit on Aitu, Anatakitaki Caves are a series of three caves with awesome limestone stalactites and home to a rare and fascinating bird. Join Atiu Eco-Adventure Anatakitaki Cave Tour and your guide, Ben, for a three-hour experience taking you through the dense rainforest with jagged coral rock (so wear appropriate footwear). Bring your swimwear for the cave pool and put on your best bird-spotting hats for seeing the kopeka, a swiftlet unique to Atiu that uses sonar just like a bat! Your guide will tell you more about these amazing birds and their unique abilities. Discover more exciting tours in the 5 Best Tours in Atiu.
Location: East side of Atiu. Transfers are included in the tour mentioned.
2. Rimu Rau Burial Cave
One of Atiu’s burial caves, Rimu Rau is not only the easiest to access (although it still requires going down a tight pothole), but the easiest to find guided tours for. Here, you’ll see well preserved skeletal remains, adding to the spooky atmosphere. Although it’s not certain what caused the approximately 30 bodies to be buried in this cave, your guide will tell you the opposing legends. Note that maybe this is not the cave to visit if you’re claustrophobic…
Location: Southwest of Atiu. Guided tours can be arranged with accommodation providers or with the Atiu Information Centre (Main Road, Teenui – between Vodafone and the BCI Bank).
3. Te Ana O Rakanui (Raka’s Burial Cave)
This burial cave is a little harder to get to, both literally as you hike for a while through the dense forest and over makatea, and in the sense that guides are not readily available. Nevertheless, if you’re lucky enough to make it to Te Ana O Rakanui or “Raka’s Burial Cave“, you’ll see the bones of Atiu’s fourth “ariki” (chief) and his family here. There are many chambers and tunnels to explore, making for an adventurous visit that you’ll be thankful for having a guide. Note that the entrance into the cave is a tight squeeze and a little claustrophobic.
Location: Northeast side of Atiu. Ask accommodation providers or the Atiu Information Centre (Main Road, Teenui – between Vodafone and the BCI Bank) to see if tours can be arranged.
4. Vai Akaruru
Atiu is not the best island for “vai” or cave pools (you’ll find better on Mauke), but Vai Akaruru is the exception to the rule if you can get a guide to show you. The cave pool on the eastern side of the island has an opening where the light seeps in, making for a stunning place to bath in its underground pool.
Location: East side of Atiu. Ask accommodation providers or the Atiu Information Centre (Main Road, Teenui – between Vodafone and the BCI Bank) to see if tours can be arranged.
5. Nurau Hohle
The most adventurous cave to explore on Atiu, Nurau Hohle is a sinkhole leading down to a cave with an underground lake. It’s estimated that you can dive 50m (164ft) deep. Needless to say, you’ll need to be an experienced cave diver with your own equipment, as there are no scuba diving services on the island. Check out alternative dive sites instead, in The Best Scuba Diving in the Cook Islands: Top 10 Places to Scuba Dive.
Location: Eastern side of Atiu.
More About Caves in Atiu and the Cook Islands
Now that you know the best caves on Atiu for your next visit, check off more caves from your bucket list with the help of our guides:
Finally, plan the rest of your Atiuan retreat using The Complete Travel Guide to Atiu and Where to Stay on Atiu: The Best Atiu Accommodations.