Awesome Caves to Explore on Mangaia
The subterranean wonderland of Mangaia hides a dizzying network of limestone caves awash in stalactites, stalagmites and crystalline walls that glisten to the light of your torch. While there are no “official” tours for exploring Mangaia’s caves, experiences can be arranged with guides whose families own the land and know the systems well. Organise your cave guide through your chosen accommodation on Mangaia or with the Island Administration, whose office is located at the southern end of the Oneroa sports field. Guided tours of the caves typically cost around NZ$50 per person, or they can be paired with island tours, which cost around NZ$80 each.
Remember to take sturdy shoes with you to explore Mangaia’s caves, as well as insect repellent and clothes that you don’t mind getting muddy.
1. Tuatini Cave
At the southern end of Mangaia, nearby Lake Tiriara, is what many believe is the grandest cave on the island. If you can get a tour here, you won’t be sorry.
Tuatini Cave is also extensive and largely untouched, characterised by magnificent stalagmites, stalactites and crystalline floors, walls and ceilings. The local guides, one of the Mautairi family, will show you a vast amount of the cave, tell stories of their ancestors (showing you cooking instruments and fish hooks that remain) and point out prehistoric crabs that now live here. Tours of the cave alone last approximately two hours, or island tours including visiting the cave are sometimes an option.
Location: South side of Mangaia. Between Lake Tiriara and Tamarua village.
2. Te Rua Rere Cave
Contending with Tuatini Cave (see above) as the best cave on Mangaia, Te Rua Rere Cave is definitely worth exploring if you can fit it in. Owned by a local family, your local guide will take you from a magnificent chamber, with stalactites and stalagmites and distinct patches of crystals that glitter in the torchlight, deep into the narrow tunnels. It’s an adventurous journey of scrambling over rocks, clinging to overhangs and avoiding drops. Needless to say, this tour is best for able-bodied travellers looking for the most adventurous cave to explore. Guides to this cave also tend to offer island tours.
Location: North side of Mangaia, on the northern Cross-Island Road.
3. Toru a Puru Cave
The long maze-like Toru a Puru Cave can also be explored with a local guide. It boasts stunning limestone formations, but the sacred site is perhaps more known for its burial chamber. Although the length of the cave is roughly 500m (1,640ft) long, there are still parts of the cave network left unexplored.
Location: East side of Mangaia. Ivirua Taro Swamp Road, inland from Ivirua village.
4. Te Ana o Taipiro (the Cave of Taipiro)
You’ll be lucky to get a guide to this interesting and culturally significant sea cave on the coast of Ivirua village. Te Ana o Taipiro or “The Cave of Taipiro” is down a rugged sea track and then a hard-to-follow trail that requires a guide to navigate. Once there, however, you’ll hear the story of Taipiro, a legend and fable that every child on Mangaia is taught… Ask your accommodation for guides that can take you to this interesting site.
Location: East side of Mangaia, a coastal track near Ivirua village.
5. Ana o Tautua Caves
Near the Maumaukura Lookout, Ana o Tautua Cave is not just a cave but also the site of one of Mangaia’s 42 intertribal battles that took place on the island. This cave is a little more difficult to get a guide for, so ask your accommodation provider if there’s anyone available to take you to this sacred site. You can learn more about the lookout nearby, however, in the 10 Free Things to Do on Mangaia.
Location: South side of Mangaia, east of Tamarua village next to the Maumaukura Lookout.
More About Caves in Mangaia and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our list of the best caves on Mangaia, but no means the end of the caves you can explore in the Cook Islands! Take a look at these other guides for more subterranean adventures:
Finally, don’t miss a thing off your bucket list by browsing through the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.