5 Best Caves on Mitiaro© Taniera - Cook Islands Tourism
5 Best Caves on Mitiaro

5 Best Caves on Mitiaro

© Taniera – Cook Islands Tourism

Where to Find Caves on Mitiaro

Welcome to Mitiaro, home of some of the best swimming caves in the Cook Islands and the South Pacific! It’s home to the Cook Islands’ only mineral sulphur cave (said to have healing properties), while the clear deep blue waters of some of the island’s other caves provide an awesome afternoon of bombing, floating and diving. What’s more, the best caves on Mitiaro are easy to find without a guide, so can be included on your self-drive tour around the island. Discover what they are and where they are on this list of unmissable Mitiaro caves!

For more guidance on planning the perfect trip, check out The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro.

1. Vai Marere

The only sulphur pool in the Cook Islands, Vai Marere is known among the locals for its healing minerals. Bathe in the healing waters yourself by finding this easy-to-miss cave pool after a 10-minute walk from Mangarei village. It looks small from the roadside, but as you go down the concrete stairs, the cave opens up into a relatively large cavern with stalactites hanging from the ceiling. The water is a little murkier than the other cave pools mentioned on this list of caves on Mitiaro, but that might just be the sulphur content.

Location: Just off the cross-island road, approximately 200m/219 yards (10-minute walk) from Mangarei. It’s on the eastern side of Mitiaro.

5 Best Caves on Mitiaro© Taniera - Cook Islands Tourism

2. Vai Nauri

By far the best swimming cave in Mitiaro (and the Cook Islands), Vai Nauri holds a deep pool with clear deep blue waters and striking limestone features. There are a set of steps down to the pool or you can clamber around the pool and jump off a 3m (10ft) outcrop into the deep waters. Try to get there on weekdays when the kids are in school to experience the eerie silence of this cave as you’re floating under a canopy of dripping stalactites.

Location: West side of Mitiaro. A short dead-end road to Vai Naui can be found a few hundred metres north of the Lake Rotonui turnoff.

5 Best Caves on Mitiaro© Cook Islands Tourism

3. Vai Tamaroa

While still a must-visit, Vai Tamaroa requires a little walking to get to. It’s easy to spot the white-painted sign and commemorative marker for the 1985 Boys Brigade project that set up this trail to this cave. The trail is easy enough to follow without a guide if you pay attention as you scramble over grassy makatea inland. Allow around 20 minutes of walking to finally reach Vai Tamaroa, a 10m (30ft) deep circular hole with a deep pool filling most of it. Be prepared for a bit of climbing in and out.

Location: Along the east coast road, spot the Vai Tamaroa sign a few hundred metres south of the Lake Rotonui turnoff.

5 Best Caves on Mitiaro© Taniera - Cook Islands Tourism

4. Vaia’i (Sandalwood Cave)

Moving onto the much lesser visited caves of Mitiaro, Vaia’i is known as the “Sandalwood Cave” as the makatea on the way to the cave is covered in sandalwood. The cave is another on Mitiaro that you can swim in. It’s very difficult to find, however, so a guide is required.

Location: Inland, approximately 1km (0.6 miles) on the road from Mangarei to the Atai plantations (northern inland road). A guide is needed to find this cave. Ask at your accommodation if they know anyone that can take you.

5 Best Caves on Mitiaro© Taniera - Cook Islands Tourism

5. Tepito o Kare

Inland from Te Unu Beach, the freshwater of Tepito o Kare was once used as a drinking hole by fishermen returning to the beach. Nowadays, it is one of the less-visited caves on Mitiaro.

Location: Southeast side of Mitiaro. From Te Unu Beach, take the cross-island road for a few hundred metres to where the rough trail starts. Although it’s a short trail, it takes local know-how to find it, so ask at your accommodation if they know anyone that could take you.

5 Best Caves on Mitiaro© Cook Islands Tourism

More About Caves in Mitiaro and the Cook Islands

That’s it for our list of the best caves on Mitiaro. For more caving inspiration, take a look at more caves across the Cook Islands:

Finally, plan more of your Cook Islands bucket list using the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before settling in the South Pacific, so he knows a thing or two about planning the perfect trip in this corner of the world. Robin works and consults regularly with Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, a local government body representing the tourism industry. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides and is a regular host of webinars with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

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