How to Plan the Best Trip to Mauke
An 18.4km² (11.4mi²) island with a population of less than 300, Mauke is one of the last islands travellers make it to in the Southern Group of the Cook Islands. The uplifted coral atoll is rich in fertile soil, giving it the name the “Garden Island“, which is clear to see with the lush jungle bouncing from the “makatea” (limestone rock). In the fissures of the island’s makatea are various caves, typically with a refreshing pool at the bottom, while the coastal makatea is separated by pockets of serene and secluded white-sand beaches.
Although the very few that come to Mauke mainly do so for the natural splendour and tranquillity of the island, the villages harbouring its friendly locals show that there’s more to the island. While the villages may have been “divided” in the past (and they have a funky church to prove it), they are united now with vibrant yearly events and unmatched hospitality at their visitor accommodations.
Intrigued? Plan the ultimate trip to Mauke, including a place to stay, things to do and where to eat, in this complete travel guide to Mauke.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mauke
We’re here to plan the best trip ever, so we won’t waste any time in this Mauke travel guide giving you the answers to the questions that most travellers have about visiting.
What is Mauke Known For?
Mauke is known for many things, which is why the island also has many names. “Ma’uke” comes from the “land of ‘Uke”, the island’s founder, whose original name for the island was “Akatokamnava” or “the place where my heart rested”. Mauke is also known for being the “Garden Island“, not only for its lush centre of forest surrounded by makatea but because the locals take a lot of pride in their surroundings, even creating a few garden picnic areas by the island’s many beaches.
What is the Population of Mauke?
The population of Mauke is 290 people. They live across three villages: Kimiangatau on the coast and Ngatiarua and Areora in the island’s centre.
How Do You Get to Mauke?
Mauke is accessible by domestic flight in the Cook Islands, either from Rarotonga or from Mitiaro. Cargo boats also visit the island from Rarotonga less frequently. Learn more about getting to the island in the Mauke Transport Guide: 7 Ways to Get to (& Around) Mauke.
What to Do on Mauke
Nature is the game on Mauke, with countless beaches and awesome caves to explore. Note that many of the caves on Mauke require a guide, which can be organised through your accommodation. Cultural experiences on the island include touring the Zione CICC Church, i.e. “The Divided Church” which is unlike any other church in the Cook Islands, as well as dining on local meals provided by your host.
The Top Experiences on Mauke
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Mauke highlights:
- Go for a swim in Vai Tango Cave
- Swing like Tarzan on the largest banyan tree in the South Pacific
- Bathe in a sea cave pool at Kopupooki Beach (Stomach Rock)
- Take a Tour of “The Divided Church“
- Check out the Te Kou Maru Shipwreck
- Relax at the beach garden and watch the sunset at Te Oneroa Beach
- Visit Anaiti Cove and Kea’s Grave…
… And the list goes on in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mauke or check out the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List!
Where to Stay on Mauke
This is the part of our travel guide where we usually class all of the island’s top accommodations by suitability for families, budget, luxury, etc. Awkwardly (or not so awkwardly, depending on how you look at it), Mauke only has a couple of places to stay.
What Mauke lacks in choice of accommodation, however, it makes up for in hospitality that goes the extra mile to make your stay on a rather underdeveloped island seamless. For instance, Mauke’s accommodations include airport transfers and offer guided tours, vehicle/bike rental and meals for an extra (but affordable) cost. That’s why Mauke’s accommodations easily make it into some of The Top 50 Resorts in the Cook Islands and the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in the Cook Islands.
Tiare Cottages consists of three budget bungalows and one clifftop cottage nestled in tropical gardens and surrounding a communal kitchen/dining area where meals are served each evening (for an additional cost). Each bungalow is a little basic and has its own bathroom and small kitchenette. Otherwise, the cottage, “O’Kiva” is much newer and boasts an enviable position on the clifftop with stunning sea views. The cottage also has a better-equipped kitchen.
Located among spacious gardens by the airport, Ri’s Retreat offers two studio bungalows, as well as a two-bedroom unit. The bungalows are relatively modern and come equipped with a full kitchen. With multiple beds, in the studios and the two-bedroom unit, Ri’s Retreat is also the best option of Mauke for families. Note that the other property of Ri’s Retreat, Ri’s Hideaway, is no longer available.
For more details on both accommodations, take a look at the Where to Stay on Mauke: The Best Mauke Accommodations.
Where to Eat on Mauke
Don’t come to Mauke expecting to dine in restaurants and have a market to enjoy (there used to be one but it’s no longer operating). Things are kept pretty simply here, but at least it’s authentic with hosts eager to share local delicacies and events often happening that always include food. There is one takeaway place, while convenience stores ensure that self-catering is possible.
The Best Places to Eat on Mauke
Next door to Kato’s General Store (Ngatiarua/Areroa), Kato’s Takeaway is your only restaurant-type service on Mauke. They serve up affordable burgers, chicken and chips and the like during lunch and dinner hours, Monday to Saturday.
Otherwise, the best place to eat on Mauke is your accommodation that prepares authentic local dinners.
Mauke has events throughout the year, particularly around Christmas and New Year’s, where indulging in local cuisine made by the locals is part of the experience. Find out more in our Cook Islands Christmas Ideas and Cook Islands New Year Ideas guides.
Self-Catering on Mauke
Making your own meals on Mauke is easy thanks to all of the island’s accommodations having kitchen facilities. There are three convenience stores selling staple foods in either tinned or frozen form – there’s rarely any fresh food. There’s not always the variety of foods that you might expect, so it’s best to approach grocery shopping with an open mind and/or bring some snacks with you to keep you going on active days.
Find out more about stores and services on Mauke in our guide, Information, Shops & Services on Mauke, as well as a guide to self-catering in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Bottled water is available at convenience stores. The tap water in Mauke’s accommodations is generally safe but might not agree with everybody. Check out our tips about how to easily get access to drinking water while exploring the Cook Islands in our guide, Is the Water Safe to Drink in the Cook Islands?
Budget Holidays on Mauke
Once you’ve got the flight out of the way, the rest of your stay on Mauke is pretty darn affordable. Most of the attractions on the island are free and easy to get to by hiring a cheap scooter or bicycle. For anything that’s harder to get to, local guides with transport are available, arranged through your accommodation, which typically costs NZ$30-$50 per person.
For more advice on planning an affordable trip around the Cook Islands, check out The Complete Backpacking Guide to the Cook Islands on a Budget
5 Free Things to Do on Mauke
- Scout out Mauke’s beautiful beaches
- Experience the magical singing of a local church service, particularly at the must-visit “Divided Church“
- Bathe in a sea cave pool at Kopupooki Beach (Stomach Rock)
- Check out the Te Kou Maru Shipwreck
- Visit Anaiti Cove and Kea’s Grave
Each of these free things to do on Mauke is outlined in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mauke.
Cheap Accommodation on Mauke
Both of Mauke’s accommodations are affordable. Tiare Cottages is the cheapest with three budget bungalows kitted out with a kitchenette and ensuite. Ri’s Retreat offers cheap accommodation, better suited for families with each bungalow having more sleeping arrangements. Learn more about cheap accommodation on Mauke in our The Best Mauke Accommodations and compare these to others across the Cook Islands in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in the Cook Islands.
Family Holidays on Mauke
Definitely a destination for the non-fussy family with a sense of adventure, Mauke offers some wonderful attractions for children and teens, rather than toddlers and babies. We don’t typically recommend Mauke for taking little ones, as transport options are rather precarious for young children and scrambling of the island’s makatea with children in arms can be challenging. Otherwise, Mauke offers an awesome alternative adventure for families in the Cook Islands.
See our tips for exploring the outer islands with kids in the 30 Tips for Your Family Rarotonga & Cook Islands Vacation with Kids.
5 Things to Do on Mauke with Kids
- Swing through the jungle on the Giant Banyan Tree
- See the Te Kou Maru Shipwreck
- Find hermit crabs on the beaches
- Watch whales from the coast between July and October
- Discover Mauke’s awesome caves.
Each of these things to do on Mauke with kids (and much more) is outlined in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mauke.
Family Accommodation on Mauke
With a selection of studio bungalows with sleeping arrangements of up to four people, as well as a two-bedroom house sleeping more, Ri’s Retreat is the best accommodation on Mauke for families. You will have full kitchen facilities, while your hosts can offer arrangements for guided tours, transport and meals to try the local food. Find out more about Ri’s Retreat in Where to Stay on Mauke and compare it with other stays across the Cooks in the 20 Best Family Resorts & Accommodations in the Cook Islands.
Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways to Mauke
The tranquillity combined with its stunning beaches backed with makatea cliffs topped with lush forest makes Mauke the ideal retreat for unconventional couples. There’s much to explore just together, but you won’t regret hiring a guide to reach the romantic cave pools and banyan trees hidden in the forest. With beachside garden/picnic areas and stunning places to watch the sunset, you’ll find plenty of romantic places on Mauke.
Learn more about organising a romantic getaway to the outer islands using The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to the Cook Islands and plan a trip around the island with A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Mauke.
5 Things to Do on Mauke for Couples
- Swim or watch the sunset from Taunganui Landing
- Take a tiki tour around the island by scooter, discovering its secluded beaches
- Take a dip in the refreshing water of Vai Tango
- Visit the spot where Kea waited her whole life for her lover to return at Kea’s Grave
- Take a tour to visit historical marae.
Get more information about each experience and more ideas on what to do in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mauke.
Romantic Accommodation on Mauke
While either one of Mauke’s accommodations is suitable for couples, Tiare Cottages has an edge with its bungalows kitted out with a double bed and access to their “O’Kiva” cottage with a romantic position on top of a cliff with glorious sea views. Find out more about Tiare Cottages in Where to Stay on Mauke and compare it with others in the 20 Most Romantic Wedding & Honeymoon Accommodations in the Cook Islands.
Luxury Holidays on Mauke
You won’t find much luxury on the island of Mauke. Accommodation is two stars at best and you need to rely on your host (or yourself) for dining. Forget about dine-in restaurants!
Mauke’s “luxury”, however, comes in the form of its tranquillity, as less than 1% of the country’s annual visitors make it to the island. With that, the attractions you visit and beaches to explore are often 100% all for you. Another luxury is that tours on Mauke are either small-group or private, however, they are informal with not many other inclusions other than transport and a guide.
Adults-Only Holidays on Mauke
As you might have already guessed, Mauke is not an island of adults-only accommodations. Although the accommodations here welcome travellers of all ages, Tiare Cottages mostly attract an adult clientele due to bungalows only being kitted out with double beds. Saying that, both of Mauke’s accommodations only have a handful of rooms, housing around a total of 25 people at full capacity. Usually, there’s much less than that. All in all, overenthusiastic children will be the least of your worries on Mauke…
When it comes to exploring Mauke, touring the island independently is one of the joys of the island with deserted beaches, reefs and a shipwreck to be found – an experience that is purely with the ones you choose.
Make your getaway to Mauke your own, adults-only or not so, using the 15 Best Things to Do on Mauke along with any one of the guides linked above.
More About Mauke
That’s it for the complete travel guide to Mauke but by no means the end of our Mauke advice! Check out the following guides for more Mauke goodness:
- A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Mauke
- Mauke Transport Guide: 7 Ways to Get to (& Around) Mauke
- Information, Shops & Services on Mauke
- 7 Best Beaches on Mauke
- 9 Best Caves on Mauke