The Best Family Activities on Mangaia
Certainly a destination for adventurous families, Mangaia offers hidden pristine beaches sloping onto the reef and endless caves to explore. The rocky “makatea” (coral uplift) is the terrain of most of the island, so you can forget about bringing the stroller; Mangaia is more suited to families with kids who can get around on their own feet. If you tick all of the boxes, then get ready for an exciting getaway on the Cook Islands’ oldest island! Make your Mangaia family bucket list with this list of things to do on Mangaia with kids!
And don’t leave without seeking more helpful advice from The Complete Travel Guide to Mangaia for Families. Plus, if you need a place to stay, check out Where to Stay on Mangaia: The Best Mangaia Accommodations.
1. See Starfish and More at the Tua’ati Rock Pools
Visit this stunning little corner of Mangaia at low tide and discover all sorts of marine life clinging onto the jagged rocks! With pockets of deep pools to snorkel in, as well as plenty to see through the crystal clear waters on the reef, Tua’ati Rock Pools is well worth exploring with kids! Remember to bring your reef shoes.
Location: West side of Mangaia. Find the small beach between two rock walls, approximately 1.6km (1 mile) south of Babe’s Store in Oneroa.
2. Enjoy Some Time at the Beach
Mangaia hides many tranquil stretches of sand sloping into the reef, backed with dramatic makatea. While they are not always great for a swim, you can paddle on the reef, find coastal caves and look out for hermit crabs. 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.
Location: Ara’oa Beach – North side of Mangaia, on the coastal road, approximately 2.5km (1.6 miles) from Ivirua village. Karanga Nui Beach – East side of Mangaia, on the coastal road, just north of Ivirua. Anguna Beach – East side of Mangaia, south end of Ivirua village down the rough coastal road turnoff (toward the old Ara Moana Bungalows).
3. Check Out the Saragossa Shipwreck
What kid doesn’t like to see spooky shipwreck sites?! The shipwreck at the southern tip of Mangaia is a scattering of remains from when the Saragossa crashed in a storm in 1904 on its way from Newcastle, Australia to San Fransisco. Take the bumpy road (available on some island tours) or walk to the site at low tide to explore its anchor and other bits of rusted machinery that have become part of the reef.
Location: South side of Mangaia. Take the coastal road at the eastern end of Tamarua village. The road is approximately 2km (1.2 miles) to the shipwreck.
4. Feed the Fish at Atuokoro Landing or Vai Nato
On two opposite ends of the island, find platforms where you can feed the fish! Atuokoro Landing in the north is a plateau at sea level with pools of fish surrounding it. Alternatively, Vai Nato in the south has a raised vantage point above the pools where you can feed the fish from above.
Location: Atuokoro Landing – North side of Mangaia, on the coastal road between Oneroa and the airport. Vai Nato – South side of Mangaia, along the coastal road approximately 6km (3.8 miles) from Oneroa.
5. Explore Mangaia’s Caves
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! You’ll also likely come across the odd pile of human bones where Mangaia’s ancestors used to bury their dead – spooky but kind of awe-inspiring (hopefully, your kids aren’t the sort to get nightmares).
Some spectacular caves to visit include Te Ruarere, Toru a Poru and Tuatini, all of which you can hire guides to lead you through their complex networks of tunnels. We highly recommend Tuatini if exploring with kids, however, as it is the easiest to walk through compared to the other ones that have some dangerous drops. Tours last approximately a couple of hours and usually include transfers. Choose your cave using the 5 Best Caves on Mangaia.
Location: See the link above for locations.
6. Say “Kia Orana” to the Animals
Goats and pigs tied to random trees are part of the Magaia landscape. While you’re taking your tiki tour of the island (perhaps following A Self-Guided Day Trip Around Mangaia), stop along the way to give the kids a better look at the animals!
Location: All over Mangaia!
7. Try a Famous Mangaia Doughnut!
Baked fresh every other morning, Mangaia’s famous oversized doughnuts are a treat for the local kids and visitors alike! They can be purchased (for only a dollar each) from Akeke Trading, one of Mangaia’s very few grocery stores.
Location: West side of Mangaia. Keia and Veitatei Road, Oneroa (after the “cutting”, turn right).
More Things to Do on Mangaia with Kids
That’s it for our list of the best things to do on Mangaia with kids. Families with teens have a little more they could enjoy, as listed in the following guides:
Finally, if there’s any part of the Cook Islands excursion 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.