A Self-Drive Day Tour of Aitutaki
Have a day to spend on Aitutaki and don’t know what to do with it? This one-day itinerary of Aitutaki will ensure you make the most of it! Rent a car, scooter or bicycle and hit the quiet coastal roads of Aitutaki as you explore glorious viewpoints, stunning snorkelling spots, quaint cafes, coastal forest and more. You don’t need to hire a guide, as this self-guided day trip around Aitutaki lays out the top sights and attractions on an easy-to-follow route complete with maps.
How to Get Around Aitutaki Using This Self-Guided Itinerary
This self-guided one-day itinerary of Aitutaki has you exploring the main island independently. To get around, you will either need to rent a car, scooter or bicycle! Tips on where to hire can be found in the following guides:
- The Best Car Rentals in Aitutaki: The Top Aitutaki Car Rental Companies
- Scooter Hire on Aitutaki: Where to Rent, Cost & More
- Cycle Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Where to Rent Bikes & E-Bikes
Note that rental vehicles can be delivered to your accommodation, usually free of charge. For more transport options, check out our Aitutaki Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Aitutaki.
Ootu Beach to Base One
Distance: 3.5km (2.2 miles), Drive time: 6 minutes, Cycle time: 14 minutes
Start your day trip at Ootu Beach where you can go for a swim in sheltered waters (the best snorkelling is around the wharf) and perhaps have breakfast/brunch/lunch at the Koru Cafe, depending on what time of day you start. This is “island time”, after all. Ranginui’s Retreat rents out kayaks, so if you want to spend more time here, a paddle to the “motu” of Angarei or simply around Akitua can be a fun morning mission – see The Top 5 Places to Kayak.
Ootu Peninsula to Base One
Drive or cycle up the Ootu Peninsula on the road running alongside the airport runway. The road continues past the airport turnoff and then follows the old runway. Follow this road all the way to the western tip of the old runway where you’ll come across some picnic facilities under the shade of the trees. This is Base One, one of the best snorkelling spots accessible from the mainland.
Side Trip – Northern Aitutaki
Distance: 2.6km (1.6 miles), Drive time: 4 minutes, Cycle time: 10 minutes
There’s more to explore at this northern end of Aitutaki, so once you’re done at Base One, follow the road north until you seen a sign on your lefthand side for the Marine Research Centre. Pop in here for a look at the giant clam nursery. Entry is by donation (see the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do on Aitutaki).
The road continues to and through the Aitutaki Golf Club! That’s right, follow the faint grassy road/dirt path through the tropical golf course. There are some picturesque accesses to the beach on your lefthand side, should you be looking for photo opportunities. The road/trail continues to the airport itself and back onto the Ootu Peninsula road. Should you want to stick around for a game of golf, club hire is available at the airport.
Base One to Maunga Pu
Distance: 1.5km (0.9 miles), Drive time: 2 minutes, Cycle time: 6 minutes
Travel down the west coast road, passing a series of resorts and boutique accommodations until you reach Paradise Cove and the turn-off inland/trailhead to Maunga Pu. You can either park on the grassy area across the road from the trailhead sign or you can drive up the tar-sealed section of road until you reach the grassy crossroads where you can park on the side.
Maunga Pu Hike
You’ll need to hike the rest of the way to reach the viewpoint at the summit of Maunga Pu, which is a steady uphill and takes approximately 10-15 minutes one way. Once you walk to the next “crossroads”, turn left up the hill until you reach the cellphone tower and summit with awesome views across the whole island and lagoon. Learn more about the walk in the 5 Best Walks on Aitutaki. Return the way you came.
Maunga Pu to Piraki Lookout
Distance: 3.5km (2.2 miles), Drive time: 6 minutes, Cycle time: 14-20 minutes
Visit the Pacific Resort
Although you can take the dirt road from Maunga Pu to the Piraki Lookout in a lot less time, we recommend taking the “scenic route” via the Pacific Resort Aitutaki. Get back on the west coast road and continue south past various beachfront accommodations until you reach the Pacific Resort Aitutaki. Stop by for a drink at the Black Rock Bar and take your snorkelling gear to see regenerating coral in their marine-protected area – more details can be found in The Best Snorkelling in Aitutaki: Top 10 Places to Snorkel.
We also recommend having a quick peek at one of the best-preserved maraes (ancient meeting grounds) of Aitutaki also located at the resort; from the entrance, as you’re just about to leave, turn right and down the garden footpaths until you come across the sign and clearing for the marae. More details can be found in the 10 Best Historical Sites on Aitutaki. Return the way you came.
After you’re done, continue into Amuri where you’ll take the turn inland opposite the pink building of the Aquila Takeaway and Grocery Store. The road is well signposted to point you in the right direction of the Piraki Lookout. If you’re surrounded by water tanks and a concrete picnic table, you’re in the right place. Enjoy the views!
Piraki Lookout to Arutanga
Distance: 3km (1.9 miles), Drive time: 6 minutes, Cycle time: 12 minutes
Head back on the west coast road where you’ll pass the most populated areas of Aitutaki between Amuri and Arutanga. You’ll pass by a number of grocery stores, takeaways and sports fields. The sports fields also give good access to the beach, if you were interested in having a look.
Your final destination is the main town of Aitutaki, Arutanga. Still, the town is pretty small so it won’t take you long to browse the odd gift shop, sit down at a cafe, take a look around the small picturesque park (and playground, should you have kids to entertain) and check out Visitor’s Rock at the Arutanga Harbour.
Snap up some photos of the oldest church in the Cook Islands and the most prominent building in town, the Arutanga CICC Church. Then, travel south past the CICC and Seventh-Day Adventist churches to the intersection, then turn left. A short way up the hill, you’ll come across the scenic Arataki Lookout with a couple of sheltered picnic tables and views over the town and harbour.
Arutanga to Avatea Cafe via Te Koutu Point
Distance: 6.5km (4 miles), Drive time: 15-20 minutes, Cycle time: 26 minutes – Note that drive times are slower due to the low road quality.
Now comes the most scenic part of your journey on your self-guided tour around Aitutaki. From Arutanga, head south on the coast road through the quaint village of Nikaupara. Notice the painted rock on the steps of the community hall, Te Maru o Toi Hall. It’s not just for decoration but is said to be the anchor of one of the village’s forefathers – see the 10 Best Historical Sites on Aitutaki.
Te Koutu Point Road
As you continue south, the sealed road ends and a dirt road begins through the coastal forest. Note that this road is not usually suitable during or after long periods of heavy rain – in this case, simply take the sealed cross-island road to the Avatea Cafe instead.
If the conditions are dry, make your way slowly down the dirt road, minding the crabs, on this scenic journey with thatched fishing huts and wetland birds to look out for. Also along this road is the site of Tautu’s “Silo 1”, i.e. the original site of Tautu village and its church. There is a commemorative stone and interpretation panel should you want to read more about the history of the area. Again, the site is listed in the 10 Best Historical Sites on Aitutaki.
Tautu Wharf and Avatea Cafe
Follow the coastal road all the way north until you reach the picturesque and tranquil Tautu Wharf where you can watch boats come in or relax under the shade of the palm trees.
The road then takes you inland and onto the main road on the east side of Aitutaki’s mainland. Backtrack south about 160m (525ft) and turn inland where you’ll soon reach your lunch/smoothie stop, the Avatea Cafe in Tautu. Peruse the gift shop and enjoy the alfresco ambience – see the 9 Best Cafes & Takeaways on Aitutaki for more details.
East Coast Road
Distance: 7.4km (4.6 miles), Drive time: 13 minutes, Cycle time: 30 minutes
After lunch, you have the whole east coast road to enjoy. Travel north for approximately 640m (2,100ft) and turn right towards the coast. Follow this coastal road to Vaipae Wharf, which has a number of picnic areas and scenic spots looking out across the lagoon toward the “motu”. Once you’re done, head back onto the main east coast road and you’ll be in the village of Vaipae, also known as “Hollywood” – there’s even a Hollywood sign hung in the trees on the roadside, so keep an eye out!
You’ll pass the picturesque Vaipae CICC Church and continue some 400m (1,312ft) where you can take the dirt road turn-off inland to T&S Artworx to visit a recycled glass and black pearl jeweller and ukulele workshop.
Back on the main road, you have one last chance to grab a drink at Neibaa’s Store before the slightly longer drive/cycle up the coastal road.
The East Coast Road
Around 1.4km (0.9 miles) north of Neibaa’s Store is a container store seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Stonefish Studio. Pop in to grab yourself some awesome Aitutaki beachwear.
Then, it’s your final journey on this Aitutaki day trip itinerary, taking you along the palm-lined scenic road of the east coast all the way to the Ootu Peninsula intersection.
More About Planning a Self-Guided Day Trip Around Aitutaki
That’s it for our self-guided day trip around Aitutaki. If the sights visited on this one-day itinerary of Aitutaki weren’t enough, these other articles should give you more ideas!
- Sightseeing on Aitutaki: Top 10 Sights on Aitutaki
- 20 Best Things to Do on Aitutaki
- 10 Best Beaches on Aitutaki
Finally, don’t miss a thing on the atoll with The Complete Travel Guide to Aitutaki!