7-Day Budget Trip to Aitutaki!
Travelling with a limited budget is often when you have the richest experiences. This is certainly true for this itinerary for Aitutaki. Forget lounging at the same resort for the whole week; this Aitutaki budget and backpacking itinerary for 7 days has you exploring one of the South Pacific’s most breathtaking lagoons. Staying in affordable accommodation, doing the best free or cheap activities yet not missing a thing off your bucket list is what this trip is all about. So pack your backpack and get ready to venture to the picture-perfect lagoon of Aitutaki as we guide you with this 1-week budget itinerary.
While you’re here, don’t forget to explore The Complete Backpacking Guide to the Cook Islands on a Budget; your bible to affordable travel in the Cooks!
How to Get Around Aitutaki in 1 Week
This Cook Islands budget and backpacking itinerary for 7 days (1 week) includes travel to Aitutaki, as well as around Aitutaki and its lagoon. Here’s a quick rundown on how to get around Aitutaki and the Cook Islands in 1 week.
Transport From Rarotonga to Aitutaki
This itinerary has you travelling between Rarotonga (the arrival island for international flights in the Cook Islands) and Aitutaki via domestic flight. Flights are approximately 50 minutes, while approximate airfares can be found in our guide, Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands.
Road Transport in Aitutaki
The first road transport you’ll encounter on Aitutaki is your airport transfer, which is usually provided by your accommodation free of charge. Learn more about transfers in The Cheapest Airport Transfers in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
For subsequent travel around Aitutaki, car hire offers the most flexibility and convenience, while scooter hire tends to be more cost-effective. See The Cost of Renting a Car in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for more details on the subject. Bicycle hire can also be very cheap (or free depending on where you stay). Water transport around the lagoon is included in the lagoon cruises suggested in this itinerary.
For all of your transport options across the island, not limited to the cheapest options, check out the Aitutaki Transport Guide: 10 Ways to Get to (& Around) Aitutaki.
Day 1 – Arrival on Rarotonga + Fly to Aitutaki
Welcome to Rarotonga, your arrival island and the start of your 7-day backpacking trip around the Cook Islands! If you prefer to stick around, check out the Rarotonga Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 7 Days / 1 Week. Otherwise, if you’d rather spend your limited 7 days on Aitutaki, complete the Rarotonga Airport arrivals process of going through customs and biosecurity. You’ll then need to walk over to the domestic terminal (don’t worry, it’s not far) and connect with your flight to Aitutaki.
After a 50-minute flight and a scenic approach over the lagoon, you’ll meet your accommodation representative at Aitutaki Airport who will transfer you to your accommodation for check-in. As there are not many transport options on Aitutaki, you might want to get a rental vehicle delivered to your accommodation. That way, you can hit the grocery stores with ease (unless you’re staying in Amuri or Arutanga; then you’ll be within walking distance).
Aitutaki Cheap Accommodations
- Ranginui’s Retreat
- Aitutaki Budget Accommodation
- Gina’s Garden Lodges
- Matriki Beach Huts
- Popoara Ocean Breeze Villas
- Sunny Beach Lodge
- Amuri Sands
- Vaikoa Beach Units
- Petero’s Place
- Amuri Guesthouse
For more information on each stay, check out the 10 Best Budget Accommodations on Aitutaki.
Self-catering is very doable at the budget accommodations on Aitutaki and will help you save the most money on food. But if you prefer to eat out, there are plenty of cheap takeaways and cafes to keep hunger at bay! Aquila Takeaway on the main road in Amuri serves up pretty palatable burgers, pizzas, salads, wraps and more at their cheap takeaway with seating under a verandah. See more recommendations in The Top Cheap Eats on Aitutaki.
Day 2 – Tour the Aitutaki Lagoon
You can’t visit Aitutaki and not explore its paradisal lagoon, so make this your top priority even if it’s not technically an “ultra-cheap” activity. But with the number of experiences and food included, we’d argue that lagoon cruises are darn cost-effective.
Aitutaki Lagoon Cruise
There are several lagoon cruises to choose from, from the small-group adventure-packed cruises of Teking Lagoon Cruise and Kia Orana Cruise to the more relaxing experience of The Vaka Cruise. Whatever you choose, you’ll enjoy a day hopping from one uninhabited islet to the other, snorkelling among tropical fish, giant clams and coral, and feasting on an island lunch. Find out more about what makes each cruise unique in the 10 Best Lagoon Cruises on Aitutaki.
Your lagoon cruise will have kept you well-fed for the afternoon, so you will probably find that you only need a light meal for this evening. With that in mind, head to The Boat Shed Bar & Grill at Ootu Beach, where most lagoon cruises drop you off, for their extremely affordable “snack meals”. Or, you could go all out on a seafood platter and cocktails? We ain’t judging! Learn more about The Boat Shed in The Best Places to Eat on Aitutaki: 10 Best Restaurants on Aitutaki.
Day 3 – Explore the Northern End of Aitutaki
Self-Guided Tour of Northern Aitutaki
Once you’re behind the wheel or handlebars, take a tiki tour around the northern end of Aitutaki. Stop by Maunga Pu for a hike to a scenic viewpoint and the Piraki Lookout for more gorgeous views, head to Base One beach for a snorkel, and stop by the Marine Research Centre to see the giant clam nursery (entry by donation)! Just check out A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Aitutaki for a full itinerary.
Pick up a takeaway from any one of the cheap eats on Aitutaki and take it to one of the scenic picnic spots, like Base One or Vaipae Wharf. We have tons of dining inspiration in the 9 Best Cafes & Takeaways on Aitutaki – they’ll work for dinner too!
Alternatively, whenever Thursday falls into your trip, make this day the day you experience a famous Cook Islands “island night”! The Tamanu Island Night at the Tamanu Beach Resort offers a fun-filled night of cultural dancing and indulging in traditional Cook Islander cuisine in the form of a generous buffet.
Day 4 – Explore the Southern End of Aitutaki
Take the time to tour around the less-explored southern end of Aitutaki today. Its southern dirt road through the coastal forest makes for a scenic hike/bike ride/drive but is best avoided after or during heavy rain. In the latter scenarios, check out the 10 Things to Do in Aitutaki on a Rainy Day.
Self-Guided Tour of Southern Aitutaki
If you didn’t quite get the chance to explore Arutanga, have a look around today with its “Visitor’s Rock” at Arutanga Wharf and the oldest church in the Cook Islands, the CICC Church. Check out the views from the Arataki Lookout then head south to the dirt road passing through wetlands and lush coastal forest where you’re bound to see more crabs on the road than traffic.
Check out a cycle route of this road in 5 Best Bike Trails in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands or follow more of our itinerary in A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Aitutaki.
During your tour around southern Aitutaki, stop at the Avatea Cafe for its charming al fresco ambience and contemporary island cuisine in a secluded spot near Tautu. MVA’s Tunu2nu in Arutanga offers a cheaper alternative (but not quite as lavish).
Otherwise, if it happens to be a Sunday morning, don’t miss the famous Mongolian Barbecue next door to Naibaa’s Store north of Vaipae village (unless they have moved to the airport already). It’s the most random breakfast you’ll have on a tropical island!
Get more recommendations from The Top Cheap Eats on Aitutaki and The Food Guide to Aitutaki: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Days 5-6 – Free Days on Aitutaki
You have two full days to either do anything that you’ve missed so far or even any one of the Aitutaki’s big-ticket items, whether it’s scuba diving with turtles, swimming with humpback whales during the season, kitesurfing at Honeymoon Island or something else. Check out the 20 Best Things to Do on Aitutaki for all of the atoll’s top experiences.
Free and Cheap Things to Do on Aitutaki
If you want to keep things in the budget realm, here are some of the free or affordable activities we haven’t mentioned so far…
- Hire a SUP board or kayak and paddle out to Motu Ee (see the Top 5 Places to Kayak)
- Browse Aitutaki’s boutique craft and workshops
- Drive through the giant banyan tree archway
- Scout out the historical sites
- Visit “Hollywood”
- Enjoy the singing at the Sunday church service…
… And all of that is explained further in the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do on Aitutaki.
If you’re not cooking for yourself over these couple of days, try Kai Tari Takeaway in Amuri for fresh fish dishes, as well as some of their cheaper items on the menu, such as burgers and fish/chicken and chips. Generous portions await at Mouarii Cafe in Arutanga with huge salads, steak and chips, lasagnes, etc. in the NZ$15-$20 range. Finally, Mango Takeaway in Amuri might do the usual cheap burgers and fries shebang but where they truly shine is their cakes. We highly recommend popping in for an affordable dessert!
Day 7 – Departure
Enjoy your final morning on Aitutaki before checking out of your accommodation and getting a transfer to Aitutaki Airport. Then it’s a 50-minute flight to Rarotonga International Airport where you’ll need to check in for your international departure.
Remember to arrive at Rarotonga Airport a couple of hours before your scheduled departure so that you have enough time to check in, go through security and browse the duty-free. Rarotonga International Airport’s duty-free stores are well worth a look for their local crafts, while booze is certainly cheaper than the duty-free stores upon arrival in New Zealand, Australia, etc. Just in case you were interested…
And it’s “ka kite” from the Cook Islands!
Alternative Cook Islands 1-Week Itineraries
Is this 7-day budget and backpacking itinerary for Aitutaki not quite speaking to you? How about checking out our alternative itineraries for 7 days/1 week:
- Rarotonga Budget & Backpacking Itinerary: 7 Days
- Cook Islands Food Itinerary: 7 Days
- Cook Islands Honeymoon & Romance Itinerary: 7 Days
- Cook Islands Adults-Only Itinerary: 7 Days
- Cook Islands Family Itinerary: 7 Days
- Cook Islands Luxury Itinerary: 7 Days
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed from this Cook Islands budget itinerary, you’re likely to find it in The Complete Backpacking Guide to the Cook Islands on a Budget.