A sprinkling of paradisiacal islets in the remote South Pacific, the Cook Islands quench a thirst for freedom despite their isolation. While Rarotonga is worthy of a luxury stay, don’t miss the chance to maximise paradise with a few extra days in Aitutaki – you won’t regret it.
The 50-minute scenic flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki is enough to make your jaw drop. Soar above a lush archipelago of powder-white islets set amid one of the world’s most beautiful lagoons – and land to find a sea of smiling faces, untouched terrain and resorts sitting beneath the sway of coconut trees.
Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-fuelled adventure or the chance to wind down to island time, Aitutaki caters to everyone’s version of paradise.
1. Island hop through one of the world’s most beautiful lagoons
An alluring ombre of turquoise shallows and silky white sand flats, Aitutaki Lagoon is an unfiltered image of paradise.
Azure waves ripple between islands divided by tropical waist-deep waters, inviting you to paddle board around secluded beaches or take the plunge and wade its shores. From Arutanga Port, take a traditional vaka cruise to pristine Honeymoon Island and snorkel tropical pockets of coral clusters before docking on One Foot Island. Open your passport page under swaying palms at the world’s smallest post office and await your souvenir footprint stamp while the crew hum island tunes, crack open coconuts and barbeque fresh fish on the beachfront.
2. Explore an underwater universe
Flourishing with schools of eagle rays, giant clams and a kaleidoscope of tropical sea life, Aitutaki Lagoon is a haven for underwater explorers of all levels.
Plunge beneath the lagoon’s sun-drenched glaze on a self-snorkel adventure. Encounter hundreds of fish swirling around reefs and white-tipped reef sharks lurking in caves. Dive deeper on a guided expedition and explore shipwrecks like the MV Mataora off the coast of Avarua, home to the highest concentration of turtles in the archipelago. From July to October, embrace the opportunity to glide alongside migrating humpback whales on an unforgettable cruise and watch these magical creatures breach the ink-blue waves.
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3. Embrace the freedom of island exploration on a scooter
Aitutaki’s striking beauty rolls from the glistening shores to the peaks of its lush interior – mountains of jungle-clad hinterland laced with rugged trails and breathtaking lookouts.
Refreshingly underdeveloped and with infrequent public transport, this inland paradise is best explored from the seat of a 125cc scooter. Pull NZ$2.50 from your pocket and head to Aitutaki Police HQ for your driver's license, then hire two wheels and get going! Go with the flow of the coconut-scented breeze, dodging free-roaming roosters that rule the roads, passing charming villages scattered with smiling locals and intriguing sites — including a WWII bunker. Don’t miss Arutanga Wharf’s colourful Saturday market or Maunga Pu hill for 360-degree views of the entire lagoon.
4. Get a unique insight into an ancient culture
Unearth Aitutaki’s ancient rituals and hidden identity on a captivating tour with an expert local guide. Discover Punarei Village and witness a sacred site forbidden to locals for more than 200 years; hear unique stories and watch demonstrations before tasting the earth-oven flavours of ‘umu’. After sunset, indulge in a fine-dining feast and powerful fire-dance performance at Tamanu Beach Island Night — dedicated to celebrating Aitutaki’s hunter-gatherer heritage and ongoing sustainability — or find yourself swept up in a soundscape of ukuleles and lapping waves at Pacific Resort Aitutaki’s cultural show.
5. Reignite romance under the stars
Embrace the epitome of romance with a barefoot dining experience at the five-star Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort.
Toast your escape with a chilled bottle of bubbles in your chosen intimate setting: feel the warm waters lap around your ankles on the lagoon shore or sink your toes into soft sands under the beachfront gazebo. Accompanied by flickering candlelight and a private butler, indulge in an exceptional signature degustation featuring island delicacies, from refreshing ika mata to seared yellow fin tuna. Gaze up at the galaxy of stars reflecting in the lagoon and share a special moment reserved for your Aitutaki escape.
Looking for more honeymoon inspiration? Check out the Best Honeymoon Destinations: 8 Celebrity-Approved Retreats
Secluded and romantic, Aitutaki is as alluring for lovers as it is for families. Book yourself into one of The Cook’s only overwater bungalows at Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort or choose from the many family-friendly options for a splash of casual luxury. Explore azure waters on a lagoon cruise, embrace cultural stories on a cycling tour or sink into a swinging hammock and inhale the frangipani-scented breeze.