How to Plan a Family Trip to Atiu
Escape the crowds and embrace the tranquillity of an escape to Atiu. An ideal destination for active families, Atiu hides an array of glorious beaches and breathtaking caves within the “makatea” (coral uplift) of the island. What’s more, everything is within a short drive on an island that has an area of only 27km² (17mi²). Either drive yourselves or join one of the fun and informative tours run by passionate locals. Atiu is small and limited but that’s what makes it a true South Pacific paradise.
Plan what you’ll do, where you’ll stay, and where you’ll eat with kids in tow using this complete travel guide to Atiu for families.
Quick Tips for Travelling with Kids to Atiu
Before we dive into this Atiu travel guide for families, here are a few miscellaneous tips for parents taking younger travellers to this less-travelled island:
- Many of the tours on Atiu involve walking over rocky “makatea”, so are not suitable for toddlers or kids who are not quite so active
- Tours on Atiu are typically three to four hours long, with very little on offer for those with short attention spans
- Atiu is better suited to families who want to explore together, but Kopeka Lodge does offer a free babysitting service if parents want to do something a little more adventurous on their own
- If you want to explore the reef, wait until low tide, especially on the southeast coast of the island where the reef is narrow and often has waves coming out of nowhere.
For more generic Cook Islands tips, check out 30 Tips for Your Family Cook Islands Vacation with Kids.
How to Get to Atiu
Atiu lies in the Southern Group of the Cook Islands, some 214km (133 miles) northeast of Rarotonga and the Cook Islands’ international airport. The only real way to get to Atiu is via domestic flight from Rarotonga or Aitutaki.
Regular flights are available between Rarotonga and Atiu on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as Saturday in the high season. Flights take approximately 45 minutes. Alternatively, there are three weekly flights from Aitutaki, while Air Rarotonga also offers Aitutaki and Atiu package deals, which you can find out more about in Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands: Your Guide to Interisland Flights. Child and infant fares are available.
How to Get Around Atiu
With a 19km (12-mile) coastal road and inland roads crossing the island, Atiu is easy to navigate by car, scooter and even bicycle. There are a couple of rental options on the island, as well as accommodations and tour operators who offer transfers. Find out more about transport in our Atiu Transport Guide: 7 Ways to Get to (& Around) Atiu.
Family Activities on Atiu
Embrace the nature and serenity of Atiu with glorious beaches to find, as well as guided experiences to magnificent caves and bush alive with birds. If you want your kids to learn about appreciating the natural world, Atiu would be the place to do it.
Birdman George Eco Tours
“Birdman George” is your guide on this delightfully varied driving and walking tour traversing Atiu. While the tour includes walking historic trails and visiting historically significant sites, the main focus is the ecology of Atiu and its magnificent birdlife. George will point out and sometimes call kakerori and colourful kura that he looks after in this island sanctuary. After learning about the local flora and fauna and the medicinal uses of Atiuan plants, you’ll arrive at a picturesque beach where George will serve either an umu on Sunday or a tropical spread on other days. The tour lasts approximately four to five hours. Transfers are included.
A must-see attraction on Atiu and an awesome adventure for families with active kids, Anatakitaki Caves are a series of caves with awesome limestone stalactites and home to a rare and fascinating bird. Join Atiu Eco-Adventure Anatakitaki Cave Tour for a three-hour guided experience taking you through the dense rainforest (with jagged coral rock, so wear appropriate footwear) to three spectacular caves. Bring your swimwear for the cave pool and put on your best bird-spotting hats for seeing the kopeka, a swiftlet unique to Atiu that uses sonar just like a bat. Your guide will tell you more about these amazing birds.
At only 27km² (17mi²), Atiu is so easy to explore! Hit the coastal road and discover the quaint Oravaru, Taungaroro and Tumai beaches along the west side of the island, while Oneroa Beach on the east side is also worth visiting. The best place for older kids to swim in the relatively deep waters of Taunganui Harbour, while little ones will enjoy paddling on the reef. Check out the 7 Best Beaches on Atiu for more information about each beach.
More Things to Do on Atiu with Kids
The rest of your time on Atiu can be enjoyed having a play in the swimming pool or a game of tennis at Atiu Villas and exploring more of the island’s sites like the creepy Rima Rau Burial Cave and their skeletal remains! Find out more in the 5 Things to Do on Atiu with Kids and 5 Best Tours in Atiu.
Family-Friendly Dining on Atiu
You certainly won’t find the array of eateries like you would on Rarotonga. Atiu prefers to keep things more “intimate”, with one evening restaurant and a local takeaway. Many of the tours on Atiu include local lunches as part of the experience, while the rest of your meals can be self-catered.
The only real sit-down evening dining experience on Atiu is Kura’s Kitchen. Located on the grounds of Atiu Villas, the restaurant is open to guests across the island, just make sure to book before 3pm. Food is served at 7pm under the thatched restaurant and bar area adorned in flags, while the occasional “island night” is sometimes arranged. Learn more about the Cook Islands’ cultural shows in the 7 Best Island Nights in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
A very viable option for hungry kids, Super Brown serves up takeaway burgers, toasted sandwiches and fish & chips for an affordable price. They are open from Monday to Saturday, 6am to 10pm.
A must while on Atiu is a traditional “umu”, food that has been slow-cooked in an underground oven. Umu experiences are available with a few culture tour operators on the island, such as Punarea Culture Tours and with Birdman George on Sundays at his “Restaurant on the Beach“. Find out more about food-related experiences in the 6 Best Foodie Experiences on Atiu.
Self-Catering on Atiu
Making your own meals on Atiu is absolutely plausible with all of the island’s accommodations having self-catering facilities. There are three convenience stores on the island selling a range of tinned goods and staple foods (basically, anything that is easy to keep), as well as seasonal produce from the local plantations. Due to late shipments to the island, there’s not always the variety of foods that you might expect, so it’s best to approach grocery shopping with an open mind.
Those staying at Atiu Villas will find their cupboards and fridge already stocked with a variety of foods that you’ll find at convenience stores – they are of a similar price too. All you need to do is fill out the stock list of what you’ve used, which also displays prices.
Find out more about stores and services on Atiu in our guide, Information, Shops & Services on Atiu, as well as a guide to self-catering in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
More About Trips to Atiu for Families
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Atiu for families. For more information that’s not exclusively “family-related” but is still pretty useful, check out the following articles:
Finally, if there’s any part of your Cook Islands family getaway that you haven’t planned, you’re likely to find all the advice you need in The Complete Travel Guide to the Cook Islands for Families and 30 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids.