Which is Better, Rarotonga or Aitutaki?© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com
Which is Better, Rarotonga or Aitutaki?

Which is Better, Rarotonga or Aitutaki?

© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Rarotonga Vs. Aitutaki: Which to Choose for a Vacation in the Cook Islands?

The two main islands that people visit in the Cook Islands are Rarotonga and Aitutaki. But which one is the best? This comparison between Rarotonga and Aitutaki goes through the main differences and why you might like to choose one over the other.

Rarotonga and Aitutaki aren’t the only islands in the Cook Islands though! See The Best Islands to Visit in the Cook Islands for more information about some of the other awesome destinations in the Cooks.

Rarotonga Vs. Aitutaki for…

Families: Rarotonga
Couples: Aitutaki
Beaches: Aitutaki
Resorts: Rarotonga
Hiking: Rarotonga
Snorkelling: Aitutaki
Scuba diving: Rarotonga
Turtle swimming: Rarotonga
Whale swimming: Aitutaki
Kitesurfing: Aitutaki
Culture: Rarotonga
Shopping: Rarotonga
Budget: Rarotonga
Restaurants: Rarotonga
Getting away from the crowds: Aitutaki

Which is Better, Rarotonga or Aitutaki?© David Kirkland - Cook Islands Tourism

About Rarotonga

Rarotonga is the most popular island to visit and here are the main reasons why: it is the easiest to visit in the Cook Islands as it’s home to the nation’s only international airport and it is the most populated island, which means there is more of a workforce to maintain a tourism industry here. But hey, we bet those facts didn’t get you dreaming nor really convince you to visit, so let’s get down to the real reasons why you’ll want to choose to visit Rarotonga over Aitutaki…

Although Rarotonga is the arrival island for international flights to the Cook Islands, it would be a shame to miss if you were to hop straight onto the next plane for another island. Rarotonga is unique in the Cook Islands in that it has volcanic peaks to climb covered in jungle, while there’s also a cosmopolitan culture of cafes, restaurants and shops.

Tourist activities range from epic inland adventures on 4WD buggies to swimming with sea turtles in the lagoon and so much in between – just check out the 50 Best Things to Do on Rarotonga. Needless to say, you’ll struggle to get bored here, and the same can’t exactly be said for Aitutaki.

There is also a wide range of places to stay, from family-friendly resorts to boutique villas for couples and even some backpacker hostels. You have a lot more opportunities to find the perfect accommodation for you. Have a browse of Where to Stay on Rarotonga: The BEST Rarotonga Accommodations for more of an idea.

So, if you’re looking for ease, a good balance of adventure and relaxation, a variety of things to do and upscale accommodations, choose Rarotonga. Start your travel planning with The Complete Travel Guide to Rarotonga.

Which is Better, Rarotonga or Aitutaki?© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

About Aitutaki

Very different from Rarotonga, Aitutaki is an atoll with one larger island (although smaller than Rarotonga) and several small “motu” (islets) encircling a glorious lagoon. The pace of life is a lot slower and more relaxed here compared to Rarotonga, where finding yourself alone on a motu or sandbank amongst turquoise waters is a fairly common occurrence. Needless to say, the beaches are much more picture-perfect than on Raro…

Although the tourism industry is a lot smaller, there is still a decent range of accommodations, from luxury resorts to budget guesthouses. However, you will find more here for couples than for families. Have a look at Where to Stay on Aitutaki: The BEST Aitutaki Accommodations.

In terms of things to do, there’s a lot more “relaxing” going on than most other types of activities, but a must-do is a lagoon cruise with snorkelling and island-hopping – better than the lagoon cruises you’ll find on Rarotonga. Other alternative experiences include kitesurfing and bonefishing. Have a browse of the 20 Best Things to Do on Aitutaki for more ideas.

There isn’t the cosmopolitan vibe that Rarotonga has, with just a handful of cafes, restaurants and boutique gift shops. You’ll probably experience all the ones you want in just four or five days. What’s more, Aitutaki requires an extra flight to get to, which isn’t so great if you’re on a limited budget.

All in all, if you want to get away from it all; experience stunning natural island beauty away from the crowds, then Aitutaki would be better to visit than Rarotonga. Start planning your trip with The Complete Travel Guide to Aitutaki.

Which is Better, Rarotonga or Aitutaki?© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Is Aitutaki Warmer Than Rarotonga?

A question that many ask is whether Aitutaki is warmer than Rarotonga. Aitutaki is a little closer to the Equator than Rarotonga, so generally experiences slightly warmer temperatures. With fewer mountains to draw in the rain, Aitutaki also experiences a little less rainfall. However, the difference in weather between Rarotonga and Aitutaki is so minimal that we generally don’t recommend that you make your decision based on weather alone.

If the weather is an important factor to you, make sure you check out The Best Time to Visit the Cook Islands: Best Months to Visit and Cook Islands Weather, Seasons & Climate + Weather by Month.

Which is Better, Rarotonga or Aitutaki?© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Which is the Best Island to Visit, Rarotonga or Aitutaki?

Ideally, visit both. Both of these islands are small enough to experience most of what you’ll want to do within five days, so if you have 10-14 days in the Cook Islands, we highly recommend visiting both to experience two different sides of the country and to keep things interesting. See The Best Cook Islands Itineraries for 10 Days and The Best Cook Islands Itineraries for 14 Days for trip ideas.

If you only have, say five or seven days in the Cook Islands, this is where you’ll perhaps need to make a choice. Stay on Rarotonga if you are on a budget or tend to get itchy feet. Stay on Aitutaki if you would rather relax, get away from it all and/or experience sublime natural landscapes.

More About Rarotonga and Aitutaki

Want more ways to compare Rarotonga and Aitutaki? Check out the following guides:

Finally, compare all of the islands in the Cooks using What are the 15 Islands 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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