How to Plan the Best Trip to Aitutaki
As you sight the triangular turquoise lagoon from the only small passenger aircraft servicing this corner of the world, you know you’ve arrived somewhere special. Aitutaki is the Cook Island‘s second-most visited island, yet it sits more than 200km (125 miles) from Rarotonga. Literally and figuratively far from the “rat race” that locals often describe Rarotonga in comparison, Aitutaki benefits from a relaxing pace of life, where you won’t even have to worry about where to eat or what to do thanks to the choice being refreshingly concise. It’s all about quality, not quantity, here on the Aitutaki Lagoon.
So, how do you plan the trip of a lifetime to such a destination? We go through the experiences, eateries, accommodations and advice for each style of traveller in this complete travel guide to Aitutaki.
Frequently Asked Questions About Aitutaki
We’re here to plan the best trip ever, so we won’t waste any time in this Aitutaki travel guide giving you the questions that most travellers have about visiting.
Is Aitutaki Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! If you have made the effort to travel all the way to Rarotonga, we definitely recommend planning a few extra days in your itinerary to visit Aitutaki too. You’ll find lagoon experiences that easily trump those on Rarotonga.
What is Aitutaki Known For?
Aitutaki is known for being the “world’s most beautiful lagoon”, as described by the first European to sight Aitutaki, William Bligh of the Bounty shortly before the famous mutiny of the Bounty, but the title has held to this day. The island is also known as the second-most visited island of the Cook Islands after Rarotonga.
Can You Stay on Aitutaki?
Yes, you can stay on Aitutaki. In fact, Aitutaki has more than 30 accommodations ranging from five-star resorts to budget guesthouses. Check out Where to Stay on Aitutaki: The Best Aitutaki Accommodations for the complete list.
What Type of Island is Aitutaki?
Aitutaki is mostly an atoll, a ringed lagoon that was formed by an ancient underwater volcano that a coral reef had formed itself around before the volcano sunk back into the ocean. Aitutaki is often described as an “almost atoll” because only around 85% of Aitutaki is a lagoon, while the remaining area is volcanic rocks and islets.
What Does Aitutaki Mean in English?
Aitutaki or “a’i tutaki” means “to keep the fire going” in English. The original name of the island was “Ararau ‘Enua O Ru Ki Te Moana”, which means “Ru in search of land over the sea” after the legend of the founder of Aitutaki.
How Do You Pronounce Aitutaki?
Aitutaki is pronounced “ai-tu-ta-ki” with the first syllable “ai” pronounced like “eye” in the English language.
What to Do on Aitutaki
Unsurprisingly, the main attraction of Aitutaki is the lagoon itself. Lagoon cruises in the form of group tours, private charters, sunset cruises and sailing tours allow you to hop from “motu” (islet) to motu, stopping for snorkelling with tropical fish and giant clams among crystal clear waters. The sheltered waters of the lagoon also make Aitutaki famous among kite surfers, while those who’d rather stick to dry land can enjoy the scenic lookouts, historical sites and cultural performances at both island nights and at Sunday church.
The Top Experiences on Aitutaki
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Aitutaki highlights:
- Cruise the Aitutaki Lagoon on a tour, private charter or sunset cruise
- Hike to the top of Maunga Pu
- Experience kitesurfing at Honeymoon Island
- Set sail on a Hobie Cat with Sailing Aitutaki
- Swim with humpback whales
- Try your luck at bonefishing, spearfishing or deep sea fishing
- Scuba dive with turtles
- Hit the snorkelling hotspots…
… And the list continues over in our 20 Best Things to Do on Aitutaki or check out the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List!
Rainy Day Activities
Being a tropical island, it’s no secret that it rains on Aitutaki. If you find your trip coinciding with excessive showers, then try these wet weather activities:
- Indulge in a spa treatment
- Experience the glorious singing of a Sunday church service
- Check out the giant clams at the Marine Research Centre…
… And much more that we mention in the 10 Things to Do in Aitutaki on a Rainy Day.
Things to Do at Night
While Aitutaki isn’t the place for clubbing, it keeps on the theme of relaxation with gorgeous cocktail bars lapping up the sunset, as well as cultural island nights:
- Try local food and watch a cultural show at an island night
- Delight in some sundowners at one of Aitutaki’s bars
- Do a lagoon tour with twilight snorkelling and a beach picnic at sunset with Kutekute Tours & Transfers…
… And find more after-dark entertainment in The Guide to Aitutaki Nightlife + 5 Things to Do on Aitutaki at Night.
Where to Stay on Aitutaki
Aside from our top recommendations listed beside this complete travel guide to Aitutaki (or below, if you’re reading this on mobile), we’ve compiled the best accommodations and resorts based on price, suitability for couples or families, as well as more premium offerings. What’s more, each article is written by real travel writers; not some dodgy algorithm!
- 10 Best Resorts
- 10 Best Boutique Resorts
- 10 Best Self-Catering Accommodations
- 5 Best Holiday Homes
- 10 Best Villas
- 5 Best Motels on Aitutaki
- 10 Best Budget Accommodations
- 6 Best Adults-Only Resorts
- 5 Best Luxury Accommodations
- 10 Most Romantic Wedding & Honeymoon Resorts
- 10 Best Family Resorts & Accommodations
Where to Eat on Aitutaki
Aitutaki has a small but pleasant selection of eateries across the main island, from contemporary cafes to fine dining restaurants to affordable takeaways. As Aitutaki has organic farms and keen fishermen, ingredients are very often as fresh as you can get. Check out The Food Guide to Aitutaki: Places to Eat & Food Tours – a must-read if you consider yourself a bit of a foodie.
The Best Cafes and Restaurants on Aitutaki
- Avatea Cafe (Tautu)
- Rapae Bay Restaurant (Pacific Resort Aitutaki, west coast)
- Koru Cafe (Ootu Beach)
- The Boat Shed Bar & Grill (Ootu Beach)
- Mouarii Cafe (Arutanga)
- Kai Tari Takeaway (Amuri)
Things to Do on Aitutaki for Foodies
- Try local food and watch Polynesian dancing at the Tamanu Island Night
- Feast upon an island-style barbecue on an uninhabited “motu” as part of a lagoon cruise
- Hit the scenic picnic spots around the island, like Vaipae Wharf, Arataki Lookout and Piraki Lookout
- Catch your own dinner on a fishing charter
- Host your own epic barbecue with a Koru Cafe barbecue pack.
Learn more about each activity in the 8 Best Foodie Experiences on Aitutaki.
Self-Catering on Aitutaki
While there are no large supermarkets on Aitutaki, there is certainly no lack of convenience stores across the island. Aitutaki’s convenience stores stock imports from New Zealand and Rarotonga, as well as local produce and baking. Unlike in more developed countries, Aitutaki’s stores don’t stock “everything”, so if you’re looking for something specific, chances are you will have to visit three or four stores before you find it. Most stores close on a Sunday with the exception of Neibaa’s Store and Payless. See a full list of grocery stores, as well as other useful services such as banks and WiFi hotspots in our guide, Information, Shops & Services on Aitutaki.
Prices are sometimes the same or only marginally more expensive than in Rarotonga, so we generally recommend that travellers save on the space in their luggage and buy snacks and groceries once they arrive on the island. Find out more about prices in The Cost of Food in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands, as well as more advice for self-catering in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in the Cook Islands.
Budget Holidays on Aitutaki
Whether you’re backpacking or just want to save where you can on your Aitutaki getaway, our The Complete Travel Guide to Aitutaki on a Budget has plenty of tips to keep you on track. Aitutaki offers an array of budget accommodations where typically “cheap” rooms start from NZ$100 a night. When it comes to activities that you can enjoy for free, Aitutaki offers plenty of scenic lookouts, historical sites and snorkelling beaches to seek out. We even list The Top Cheap Eats on Aitutaki to help save money on meals.
Things to Do on Aitutaki on a Budget
- Hike to the top of Maunga Pu for incredible views
- SUP or kayak on the Aitutaki Lagoon
- Go for a snorkel at Ootu Beach or Base One
- Check out Piraki Lookout
- Drive through the Giant Banyan Tree.
Find out more about each activity in the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do on Aitutaki.
Cheap Accommodation on Aitutaki
A couple of guesthouses, as well as basic but functional bungalows on the beach, make up Aitutaki’s cheap accommodation. Explore all of your options in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations on Aitutaki.
Luxury Holidays on Aitutaki
A breathtaking destination like the Aitutaki Lagoon deserves a getaway wrapped in luxury, and Aitutaki certainly has the accommodations and experiences to suit. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or “just because”, Aitutaki’s five-star resorts and boutique villas will treat you to your own slice of paradise. Private charters, private fishing excursions and glorious spa treatments are just some of the ways you can enhance your stay. Find out more about planning a luxury getaway to the island with The Luxury Guide to Aitutaki.
Luxury Activities on Aitutaki
- Cruise the Aitutaki Lagoon on a private day charter with Platinum Cruising or Teking Lagoon Tours
- Treat yourself to a sunset cruise with Kutekute Island Tours & Transfers
- Indulge in a soothing island massage at one of the island’s spas
- Be treated to a romantic private dinner at Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort or Aitutaki Escape
- Visit Aitutaki for the day or overnight on a private jet experience with Island Hopper Vacations.
Discover more about each experience in our 5 Best Luxury Experiences on Aitutaki.
Luxury Accommodation on Aitutaki
A small albeit gorgeous selection of luxury accommodation awaits on the pepper sands of Aitutaki. From artfully designed villas to unique overwater bungalows, the memories of your luxury stay on Aitutaki will stick with you for years to come. See some of your most luxurious options in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations on Aitutaki.
Weddings, Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways to Aitutaki
Aitutaki is like something out of a dreamy romance. No wonder the majority of visitors here are couples and honeymooners. Whatever your budget or tastes, there’s something for all couples here. Seeking adventure? Buddy up on a scuba diving trip with turtles or swim with humpback whales. Seeking intimacy? Treat yourselves to a private lagoon excursion or spend the day marooned on an uninhabited islet. All of this and more can be planned using The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Aitutaki.
Romantic Activities on Aitutaki
- Cruise the Aitutaki Lagoon at sunset with Kutekute or Teking Lagoon Tours
- Treat your loved one to a private dinner at Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort, Aitutaki Escape or Etu Moana
- Indulge in a couples massage at Tiare Spa or SpaPolynesia
- Take a tiki tour of the island together via scooter
- Stargaze under some of the world’s clearest skies.
Get more information and ideas in the 10 Most Romantic Things to Do on Aitutaki for Couples.
Romantic Accommodation on Aitutaki
From five-star adults-only resorts to more affordable boutique beach bungalows, Aitutaki’s accommodations effortlessly set the scene for a romantic holiday. Be inspired by the 10 Most Romantic Wedding & Honeymoon Resorts on Aitutaki.
Weddings on Aitutaki
Both cruise operators and resorts offer wedding packages and glorious venues across the lagoon, making planning a wedding on Aitutaki as easy as an island breeze. Check out the hottest venues in the 7 Best Wedding Venues on Aitutaki and choose from a selection of packages in the 7 Best Wedding Packages for Aitutaki. The rest of your wedding formalities are covered in How to Plan a Wedding in the Cook Islands.
Family Holidays on Aitutaki
Only the most adventurous families make their way outside of the boundaries of Rarotonga to the far-flung atoll of Aitutaki. But those who do, don’t regret a thing. With no babysitting services and no kids’ clubs, Aitutaki is certainly a destination for families to adventure together, whether it’s cruising the Aitutaki Lagoon (an absolute must, by the way) or enjoying some family R&R by the beach. Get the full outline of an Aitutaki family getaway in The Complete Travel Guide to Aitutaki for Families.
Family Activities on Aitutaki
- Jump on a lagoon cruise with Bishop’s Cruises, The Vaka Cruise or Teking Lagoon Cruises and get your passports stamped at One Foot Island
- Be entertained at the island night of Tamanu Beach Resort
- Enjoy a family outing by kayak
- Build sandcastles and go for a swim at Ootu Beach
- Play at Arutanga Park.
Learn more about each experience in our 10 Things to Do on Aitutaki with Kids.
Family Accommodation on Aitutaki
A small selection of resorts accepts guests of all ages, while holiday homes give you your own slice of tropical paradise. Check out your options in the 10 Best Family Resorts & Accommodations on Aitutaki. Note that a substantial number of accommodations on Aitutaki don’t accept guests under 12 years, so be sure to check before booking.
Adults-Only Holidays on Aitutaki
Finally, those seeking true tranquillity won’t have much of a problem finding it on Aitutaki. You won’t find the same mecca for families as in Rarotonga. In fact, Aitutaki’s most famous resorts are, indeed, exclusively for adult guests. Combine that with adventure activities like scuba diving and kitesurfing, and serene experiences like spa treatments, and enjoying a getaway without kids is essentially effortless on Aitutaki. Ensure you enjoy your getaway undisturbed by following the tips in The Adults-Only Travel Guide to Aitutaki.
Activities on Aitutaki for Adults
- Try your luck at bonefishing with E2’s Way or blue water fishing with Black Pearl Charters
- Indulge in a spa day at the Pacific Resort Aitutaki or an in-villa massage at Etu Moana
- Experience Aitutaki’s famous kitesurfing at Honeymoon Island
- Swim with whales in the whale season with Wet & Wild or Bubbles Below
- Tee off at the Aitutaki Golf Club.
Find out more about each activity in our list of the 10 Adults-Only Activities on Aitutaki.
Adults-Only Accommodations on Aitutaki
Couples and adult groups don’t have to go too far to find resorts that are specially catered to the more mature crowd, as Aitutaki’s most famous resorts and boutique stays are, in fact, adults only. Check them out in the 6 Best Adults-Only Resorts on Aitutaki.
More About Aitutaki
That’s it for the complete travel guide to Aitutaki but by no means the end of our Aitutaki advice! Check out the following guides for more Aitutaki goodness:
- 10 Best Beaches on Aitutaki
- 10 Best Tours of Aitutaki
- 10 Best Snorkelling Tours in Aitutaki
- 10 Best Historical Sites on Aitutaki
- Sightseeing on Aitutaki: Top 10 Sights on Aitutaki
- The Best Snorkelling in Aitutaki: Top 10 Places to Snorkel