The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro© Daniel Fisher - Cook Islands Tourism
The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro

The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro

© Daniel Fisher – Cook Islands Tourism

How to Plan the Best Trip to Mitiaro

The final frontier of holidays in the Cook Islands (at least in the Southern Group of islands), Mitiaro is tiny, unspoiled and welcoming. The 22.3km² (13.9mi²) island has a population of around 155 residents, a significant percentage of which opens their homes to visitors providing the only accommodation on the island. It’s a truly traditional Cook Islands experience where you’ll dine with the locals, borrow your host’s scooter/pick-up truck and experience the villages’ weekly events. But the friendly locals aren’t the only draw to Mitiaro, as this “makatea” island (uplifted coral atoll) is awash in some of the most breathtaking swimming caves in the Cook Islands. It is also lined with pockets of beautiful and secluded beaches.

So plan the ultimate trip to paradise, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat, with this complete travel guide to Mitiaro.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mitiaro

We’re here to plan the best trip ever, so we won’t waste any time in this Mitiaro travel guide giving you the answers to the questions that most travellers have about visiting.

Where is Mitiaro?

Mitiaro is in the Southern Group of the Cook Islands, approximately 265km (165 miles) northeast of the country’s capital, Rarotonga. It is part of the Nga-Pu-Toru “The Three Roots” group of islands clustered together with Atiu and Mauke. Find out more about the location of Mitiaro in our guide, Where are the Cook Islands Located?

What is the Population of Mitiaro?

The population of Mitiaro is approximately 155, mostly living in the villages huddled together on the west coast: Mangarei in the centre, Atai and Auta villages to the north and Takaue to the south. The villages all look after plantations in the centre of the island (which is why you’ll see the names of the villages in the island’s centre, such as on Google Maps).

What is Mitiaro Known For?

Mitiaro is known for having some of the most striking caves and cave pools in the Cook Islands and the South Pacific. The island is also known for being the only one with freshwater lakes in the country.

How Do You Get to Mitiaro?

Mitiaro is accessible via domestic flight from Rarotonga three times a week. There are also flights connected to Mauke. Additionally, there is an infrequent cargo service from Rarotonga. Learn more about getting to Mitiaro, as well as getting around, in our Mitiaro Transport Guide: 6 Ways to Get to (& Around) Mitiaro.

The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro© Cook Islands Tourism

What to Do on Mitiaro

Mitiaro offers amazing natural attractions that, unlike some of the other outer islands in the Southern Cook Islands, you don’t need a guide to find. Underground swimming pools, glorious beaches, peaceful plantations and even two freshwater lakes make up the landscape, while joining the locals at the island’s two bars, the occasional market or at church are just some of the ways to have an effortless cultural experience.

The Top Experiences on Mitiaro

What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Mitiaro highlights:

  • Jump into the deep cave pool of Vai Nauri
  • Soothe the skin in the sulphur pools of Vai Marere
  • Get the “private beach” experience at Mitiaro’s many beaches
  • Head out on a boat (or relax by) Rotoiti and Rotonui lakes
  • Take a tour to Te Pare Fort, the only fort in the Cook Islands
  • Pick up foodie treats and local crafts from the local market
  • Drink with the locals at the island’s bars…

… And the list goes on in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mitiaro or check out the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List!

The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro© Cook Islands Tourism

Where to Stay on Mitiaro

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), Mitiaro only has a few places to stay – all of which are either guesthouses or homestays.

What Mitiaro’s accommodation lacks in choice, however, it makes up for in hospitality that goes the extra mile to make your stay on a rather underdeveloped island seamless. For instance, Mitiaro’s accommodations include airport transfers and three meals a day, as well as help arranging vehicle rental and informal tours with locals. That’s why Mitiaro’s accommodations easily make it into some of The Top 50 Resorts in the Cook Islands and The Best Homestays in the Cook Islands.

Divine Retreat

The most modern accommodation on Mitiaro, Divine Retreat offers a guesthouse set-up with communal areas including a kitchen, an inside lounge, a spacious deck with more lounging furniture and a communal bathroom. As for rooms, you have one ensuite bedroom, two bedrooms with a double bed and a shared bathroom, as well as three queen-sized beds on the deck with curtains for privacy (yes, you can sleep outside)!

Nukuroa Guesthouse

Nukuroa Guesthouse offers affordable accommodation in Atai village. In the main building, the two-bedroom guesthouse has one room with a double bed and one room with twin single beds, all sharing a bathroom and an open-plan lounge and kitchen. There is also a separate two-bedroom holiday house in the garden, ideal for families to rent out as a holiday home.

Nane’s Homestay

One of the longest-running homestays on Mitiaro, Nane’s Homestay offers an irresistibly affordable rate with three meals a day included! There are no private rooms at Nane’s; just one shared communal bedroom in the large house. Guests will also share a bathroom, lounge and kitchen.

Vivian’s Homestay

Vivian’s Homestay consists of a traditional kikau bungalow and two concrete guesthouses, which sit in her garden in Atai village. The bungalow is made from woven panels of “kikau” (coconut palm) leaves and has one double bed and one single bed with mosquito nets, while the ensuite is toward the back of the bungalow with a shower.

Learn much more about the accommodations mentioned above in the Where to Stay on Mitiaro: The 4 Best Mitiaro Accommodations.

The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro© Taniera - Cook Islands Tourism

Where to Eat on Mitiaro

Understandably, there are no restaurants on Mitiaro (but surprisingly, there is a bar!) Accommodation hosts will keep you well-fed during your time on the island, so prepare for a storm of authentic Cook Islands cuisine. If you have dietary requirements, then either let your host know or make use of the kitchen facilities at your accommodation. The one store on the island is pretty well-stocked with all of the staples.

5 Best Bars and Places to Eat on Mitiaro

  1. Rangi’s Bakery (Early mornings, Mangarei)
  2. Hayley’s Market (Saturdays, Mangarei)
  3. Island Council Market (Infrequently, Mangarei)
  4. IYA Bar (Opposite the sports field, Mangarei)
  5. Pati’s Bar (Friday nights, Vivian’s Place, Atai)

See the details of our top dining and drinking recommendations in the Information, Shops & Services on Mitiaro.

Accommodation Meals

Note that guests are usually provided with three meals a day at the accommodations on Mitiaro. Meals are typically local dishes made with seasonal fruit and vegetables grown on the island – see the 10 Foods to Try in the Cook Islands for typical meals. More details are outlined in Where to Stay on Mitiaro: The 4 Best Mitiaro Accommodations.

Self-Catering on Mitiaro

Making your own meals on Mitiaro is easy thanks to all of the island’s accommodations having kitchen facilities. There is one store on the island selling staple foods in either tinned or frozen form. 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 Mitiaro in our guide, Information, Shops & Services on Mitiaro, as well as a guide to self-catering in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in the Cook Islands.

Drinking Water

Accommodations on Mitiaro provide guests with filtered water. Bottled water is also available at the convenience store. 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?

The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro© Daniel Fisher - Cook Islands Tourism

Budget Holidays on Mitiaro

After the extra flight to get to Mitiaro, the remainder of your stay is pretty affordable. All of the island’s accommodations are homestays with three meals a day included, so you will be well looked after for a fair price. Hiring a scooter is just about the only essential extra cost that will get you to all of Mitiaro’s free attractions, such as caves and beaches.

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 Mitiaro

  1. Swim in cave pools like Vai Nauri, Vai Marere and Vai Tamaroa
  2. Explore the island and its many beaches – check out A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Mitiaro
  3. Enjoy some reef walks
  4. Bask in the tranquillity of Mitiaro’s plantations
  5. Experience harmonious singing at a local church service.

Each of these free things to do on Mitiaro is outlined in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mitiaro.

Cheap Accommodation on Mitiaro

All of the accommodations on Mitiaro are budget accommodations. They are all at a similar price of around NZ$100-$120 per night (including all meals). They have private rooms except for Nane’s Homestay, with other communal facilities. Find out more in the Where to Stay on Mitiaro: The 4 Best Mitiaro Accommodations and compare these to others across the Cook Islands in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in the Cook Islands.

The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro© Cook Islands Tourism

Family Holidays on Mitiaro

Certainly a destination for the more adventurous family, Mitiaro is far from your resort holiday in Raro. We don’t typically recommend Mitiaro for taking babies and toddlers, as transport options are rather precarious for young children and scrambling of the island’s makatea with little ones in arms can be challenging. Otherwise, Mitiaro provides an awesome adventure with active children and teens.

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 Mitiaro with Kids

  1. Search for hermit crabs and build sandcastles on the beach
  2. Look out for starfish, crayfish and more on Mitiaro’s reef
  3. Go for a swim in Vai Nauri
  4. … and the sulphur pools of Vai Marere
  5. Pick up some doughnuts from Rangi’s Bakery.

Each of these things to do on Mitiaro with kids (and much more) is outlined in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mitiaro.

Family Accommodation on Mitiaro

There are two homestays on Mitiaro that are better suited to families. Nukuroa Guesthouse has a two-bedroom self-contained holiday home on the grounds that is ideal for families, while there’s room for any group size at Divine Retreat. Find out more about our recommended homestays in Where to Stay on Mitiaro and compare it with other stays across the Cooks in the 20 Best Family Resorts & Accommodations in the Cook Islands.

The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro© Cook Islands Tourism

Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways to Mitiaro

The blissfulness of Mitiaro with its secluded beaches and gorgeous limestone caves provides a stunning backdrop for a romantic getaway or a honeymoon. However, if you were looking for upscale stays and ultimate privacy when it comes to accommodation, Mitiaro might not be for you. Mitiaro is certainly a getaway for the unconventional couple who value adventure and exploration over cosying up in a resort.

Learn more about organising a romantic getaway to the outer islands using The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to the Cook Islands.

5 Things to Do on Mitiaro for Couples

  1. Enjoy the serenity and scenery of Mitiaro’s plantations
  2. Relax together in the mineral pools of Vai Marere
  3. Rent a scooter and take a tiki tour around the island using A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Mitiaro
  4. Get the “private beach” experience at Te Ara, Parava or any one of the beaches
  5. Be moved by the singing of a Sunday church service.

Get more information about each experience and more ideas on what to do in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mitiaro.

Romantic Accommodation on Mitiaro

Admittedly, the accommodations on Mitiaro don’t exactly scream “romance”, offering a more shared experience with locals and other travellers. But couples looking for a little more privacy are best choosing either the contemporary guesthouse of Divine Retreat with its master ensuite bedroom or arrange a unique kikau bungalow stay with Vivian’s Homestay, which is a little rough but a unique experience in a traditional hut. Find out more about these stays in our guide, Where to Stay on Mitiaro and compare it with others in the 20 Most Romantic Wedding & Honeymoon Accommodations in the Cook Islands.

The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro© Cook Islands Tourism

Luxury Holidays on Mitiaro

You won’t find much luxury on the island of Mitiaro. Accommodation is one to two stars at best, mostly shared, and you need to rely on your host (or yourself) for dining. Forget about the luxuries of dine-in restaurants and being treated to formal tours and lagoon cruises. This is the real Cook Islands.

Mitiaro’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.

All in all, if you’re looking for five-star resorts, taxi services on a dime and fine dining, then you better stay on Rarotonga or Aitutaki.

The Complete Travel Guide to Mitiaro© Cook Islands Tourism

Adults-Only Holidays on Mitiaro

As you might have already guessed, Mitiaro is not an island of adults-only accommodations. Although the accommodations here welcome travellers of all ages, the lack of travellers and a population of only 155 residents make Mitiaro a destination where you don’t have to worry about there being “too many kids”. You’ll still enjoy your island time here mostly undisturbed.

When it comes to exploring Mauke, touring the island independently is one of the joys of the island with deserted beaches, reefs and caves to be found. Just visit caves during school hours and you should have the place all to yourself (otherwise, the local kids like to swim in the caves after school and on weekends).

Make your getaway to Mitiaro your own, adults-only or not so, using the 15 Best Things to Do on Mitiaro along with any one of the guides linked above.

More About Mitiaro

That’s it for the complete travel guide to Mitiaro but by no means the end of our Mitiaro advice! Check out the following guides for more Mitiaro goodness:

Finally, for even more tips, check out The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide and 30 Tips for Travelling in the Cook Islands.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as the Cook Islands. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Raro’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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