How to Plan a Romantic Getaway or Honeymoon to Mangaia…
… In other words, this is the complete couples’ guide to Mangaia!
Offering something completely different from the mainstream option of a resort honeymoon on the soft sands of Rarotonga or Aitutaki, Mangaia is ancient, ruggedly beautiful and authentic. Characterised by its jagged coral rock, locally known as “makatea”, Mangaia might not seem all that endearing to start with. But once you discover the tranquillity, the hidden gems like secluded beaches and caves of glitter, as well as the friendly locals, you’ll no doubt feel reassured that you picked the right adventure for your honeymoon or romantic getaway. So plan yours, right here, in the couples’ getaway/honeymoon guide to Mangaia.
5 Tips for Couples Visiting Mangaia
Before we dive into this complete honeymoon and romantic getaway guide to Mangaia, here are five quick tips for couples visiting the island.
- Take note of the tide times for exploring the reefs (low tide) or going for a swim (high tide)
- Bring plenty of cash! There are no ATMs on Mangaia nor any way to pay with international credit or debit cards – see What is the Best Way to Pay in the Cook Islands? for more advice
- Hiring a car is far more comfortable than a scooter on Mangaia due to the mostly bumpy dirt roads
- Bring insect repellent, especially for exploring inland and on the island’s makatea
- Sturdy footwear and reef shoes are an absolute must, as almost the entire island has sharp limestone rocks and reefs.
If this is your first time exploring the Cook Islands, then you might also like to browse the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
How to Get to Mangaia
Mangaia lies in the Southern Group of the Cook Islands, some 203 km (126 mi) southeast of Rarotonga and the Cook Islands’ international airport. The only real way to get to Mangaia is via domestic flight from Rarotonga.
Regular flights are available between Rarotonga and Mangaia on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (or more frequently during the busy seasons, returning the same day. Flights take approximately 45 minutes. Find out more about schedules and the cost of flights in Domestic Flights in the Cook Islands: Your Guide to Interisland Flights.
How to Get Around Mangaia
Mangaia might be smaller than Rarotonga but it takes more time to get around. The island only has decent roads along the west coast and in Ivirua village on the east coast. The rest of the roads are either dirt roads or bumpy coral which are slow-going or even impassable in the rental vehicles available on the island: either an SUV or a scooter. For much of the cave attractions and inland adventures, you’ll need to rely on the 4WD vehicle of a local guide.
Both rental vehicles and guides can be arranged through your accommodation, as can airport transfers. Find out more about getting around the island in our Mangaia Transport Guide: 6 Ways to Get to (& Around) Mangaia.
Romantic Getaway and Honeymoon Experiences
Most of what a honeymoon or getaway to Mangaia is about is spending time together in breathtaking places. Beaches, the island’s only lake and panoramic lookouts are some of the attractions to stumble upon as you explore the island. Guided experiences, such as exciting cave tours and cultural shell tours, add variety to your excursion.
Mangaia is home to some of the largest and most impressive caves in the Cook Islands, adorned with limestone stalactites, stalagmites and, most noteworthy of all, crystalline floors that sparkle like glitter in the torchlight – very romantic until you come across the odd pile of human bones where Mangaia’s ancestors used to bury their dead… But we digress! Stick to the sparkles and Mangaia’s caves certainly deserve a place in this honeymoon guide!
Some spectacular caves to visit include Te Rua Rere, Toru a Poru and Tuatini, all of which you can hire guides to lead you through their complex network of tunnels. Tours last approximately a couple of hours and usually include transfers. Choose your cave using the 5 Best Caves on Mangaia.
Mangaia hides many tranquil stretches of sand down the nooks and crannies of its intricate coast, most of which slope into the reef and are backed with dramatic makatea. What’s more, you almost always have these beaches all to yourselves… One of the most picturesque beaches is Ara’oa Beach at the northern tip of the island. Stop for a paddle on the reef and get some mesmerising photos of its makatea boulders and caves. Other stunning beaches include Karanga Nui Beach and Anguna Beach. Find the locations of these beaches listed in the 10 Free Things to Do on Mangaia.
Mangaia Golden Shells Tour
When you disembark your plane at Mangaia Airport, your hosts usually greet you with pupu eis, rather than floral eis like in the rest of the Cook Islands. That’s because “pupu” or “golden shells” are part of the tradition of Mangaia, where locals collect these tiny shells on the beaches and forests of Mangaia and use them to create unique pieces of jewellery. On the Mangaia Golden Shells Tour, you’ll follow the process of collecting shells and making your own piece of art that makes a memorable gift for your loved one (just a hint). Tours take approximately two hours and include transfers and light refreshments.
Mangaia’s only lake is a worthwhile stop while exploring the island. The peaceful Lake Tiriara sits among swampland and reeds, backed with high makatea and a cave mouth that leads underwater all the way to the coast! Although the lake isn’t exactly ideal for a swim, there are a few lookouts along the inland road between Tamarua and Oneroa, as well as a sheltered picnic area that makes an irresistible spot to picnic with your loved one or, you know, maybe pop the question?
Other Things to Do on Mangaia
And that’s just a taste of the romantic experiences you can do on a Mangaia honeymoon or romantic getaway. Treat yourself and your loved one further by watching the sunset from Avarua Landing, tackling island hikes, admiring the views from the lookouts and more, as listed in the 6 Most Romantic Things to Do on Mangaia and more still in the 15 Best Things to Do on Mangaia.
Dining on Mangaia
Mangaia has no restaurants, no cafes and no large supermarkets. Couples usually rely on a mix of their hosts’ dining hospitality and self-catering facilities. Nevertheless, the Friday Market offers an alternative dining experience for breakfast!
See our full dining guide in The Food Guide to Mangaia: Places to Eat & Food Tours. Otherwise, here is our food advice for couples…
Friday Morning Market
The Friday Morning Market offers an opportunity outside of your accommodation to sample local foods and treats. Although it starts at a gut-wrenching 5:30 am (but romantic to see the sunrise, at least), a good time to go for trying the local cuisine is around 7 am, with most things selling out and wrapping up by 8:30 am. Find the market at the southern end of the sports field in Oneroa.
The way that most visitors keep sustained while on Mangaia is through their host. Babe’s Place includes three meals a day. Breakfast is a tropical affair of fruit and toast/cereal with jam, lunch is typically pretty light with sandwiches, while dinner is a buffet of local meat and vegetables – all served with refreshing drinking coconuts! For those with large appetites, definitely bring some snacks with you to Mangaia, as you may find the breakfast/lunch portion of Babe’s Place not sustaining enough for an active day on the island.
Self-Catering on Mangaia
Making your own meals on Mangaia is an easy alternative thanks to all of the island’s accommodations having self-catering facilities. There are two 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 Mangaia in our guide, Information, Shops & Services on Mangaia, as well as a guide to self-catering in A Guide to Supermarkets & Food Shopping in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
More About Honeymoons and Romantic Getaways to Mangaia
That’s it for our complete guide to romantic getaways and honeymoons to Mangaia but by no means is the end of the advice we can offer for your romantic escape. Take a look at the following guides for more inspiration:
- 20 Most Romantic Things to Do in the Cook Islands for Couples
- Cook Islands Proposal Ideas: 5 Romantic Ways to Propose
- The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Rarotonga
Finally, don’t miss a thing when it comes to planning the perfect getaway by checking out The Wedding, Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to the Cook Islands.