3 Days In Aitutaki

June 20, 2016

You can’t say you’ve been to the Cook islands if you haven’t made it to Aitutaki. This tiny island is home to one of the most magical lagoons in the vast South Pacific. Spend your days kicking back into island time on a pristine beach, and your nights counting the stars. Once you head out to the far reaches of the lagoon, you simply won’t want to come back. I spent a week in Aitutaki while backpacking across the South Pacific Islands. Here’s a sample 3 days in Aitutaki itinerary, with a mix of activities and whole lot of doing nothing.

Heading to the Cook Islands? Here are the top 10 things you should not miss!

Top Things To Do In the Cook Islands - thumbnail wide

Where To Stay?

I loved my stay at Rino’s Motel, on the west coast of the island about a 15-minute walk from town. I wouldn’t call this place a motel, as all self-contained units pretty much face a well-kept beach. Rino’s offers free breakfast, filtered water, and also rents out cars/scooters/bicycles at the best rates on the island. Here’s a full review of Rino’s Motel.

Rinos Motel Aitutaki Cook Islands - beach

I also stayed a few nights at Inano Beach Bungalows, about a 10-minute walk from O’otu Beach. All units are self-contained, with most facing a lush tropical garden. There isn’t much to do around here and you’ll hardly see anyone except the maintenance staff, but that means plenty of peace during the low key evenings. Bring plenty of mosquito repellent as the mosquitoes on this side of the island are ferocious.

Inano Beach Bungalows Aitutaki Cook Islands - bungalow exterior

Quick note: if you want to do some scuba diving, add an extra day to this 3 days in Aitutaki itinerary. Have a look at the Cook Islands Travel Guide for information on diving in Aitutaki.

3 Days In Aitutaki Itinerary Map

Click on the image to open in Google Maps:

3 Days In Aitutaki Itinerary Map - Cook Islands

Day 1: Roadtripping & Beach Bumming

Start your first morning in Aitutaki at the Koru Cafe, the best place on the island for breakfast. When you’re ready to officially start your day, head to Popoara Rentals nearby to rent your scooter (or car) if you haven’t already done so from Rino’s Rentals, closer to town.

You’ll spend the next few hours road tripping around the tiny main island.

Panoramic Views

The first stop is right across from the Paradise Cove Resort, where you’ll find the dirt track that snakes its way to the top of Mount Maungapu. A 20-minute hike will bring you to the highest point in Aitutaki at 124 meters. This might not be the Everest, but the panoramic views from up here are spectacular.

Hiking Mount Maungapu aitutaki cook islands

View of Aitutaki Lagoon from Mount Maungapu Cook Islands

Back down and back on the bike, you can take a left turn at the signpost and head up to the Piraki Lookout. The views are not as impressive as those from the top of Mount Maungapu, but you’ll get to ride on the dirt roads that crisscross the island from west to east.   

Country road in Aitutaki Cook Islands


You’ll now pay a visit to Aitutaki’s only town – Arutanga. Not much happens here, but that’s kind of the charm. Say hello to the friendly ladies at the local fruit & vegetable market, and if you’re lucky enough there might even be a cold coconut waiting for you.

Before leaving town, walk over to undoubtedly the nicest building in Aitutaki – the Catholic Church. Built in 1828, it is the oldest church in the Cook Islands and I highly recommend attending Sunday service – an authentic local experience you’ll never forget, believer or not.

CICC in Arutanga Aitutaki

Sunday church service aitutaki cook islands

Go Off The Grid

Now it’s time to get off the grid and explore the island’s southern and eastern coasts. Somewhere amidst the dense coconut grove, there are two ancient Polynesian temples known as marae. Marae Tikanga Rangi and Marae Te Poaki o Rae are tricky to find and might simply look like piles of volcanic rock, but they hold important spiritual meaning to islanders even after over a century of Christianity.

Driving in Aitutaki Cook Islands

Driving through giant banyan tree in Aitutaki Cook Islands

Continue along the dirt road, weaving your way to avoid fallen coconuts, until hitting the main road once again on the eastern side of the island. The beaches here might not be good for swimming, but you’ll likely have them all to yourself.   

Plam trees in Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands

Relax On O’otu Beach

Return the bike if you rented just for the day or continue to O’otu Beach to relax on the prettiest beach on the main island. For dinner and drinks, head to the nearby Boat Shed Bar & Grill. I especially loved the ikamata – a traditional local dish of raw tuna marinated in coconut milk. It’s so yummy and you must try it.

Day 2: Beach Bumming & Fire Dancing

O’otu Beach

Unlike the first day, today will be a relaxing day in Aitutaki. After breakfast, head back to O’otu Beach and find a spot on the soft white sand to chill for a few hours. The beach may not be great for swimming or snorkeling, but the water is so clear and the palm trees swaying in the wind provide the perfect ambiance.

Aitutaki lagoon colors Cook Islands

When it’s time for some action, you can rent a kayak and explore the lagoon. You can even just use your feet, and walk over the shallow waters for a small break on a golden sandbar.

O'otu beach aitutaki lagoon color

Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands

The best swimming in this part of the island is off the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort, where you can come as a daytripper if you join them for lunch. With a few other resorts nearby, food and drinks shouldn’t be a problem.

Sand dune in Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands

Island Night

For a special evening, book a spot on an ‘island night’ show. Cook Islanders love to sing, dance, and play with fire – combining all three with a delicious buffet dinner in an island night show. The best island night in Aitutaki is at the Tamanu Beach Resort every Thursday. Dinner starts at 6:30 pm with a huge selection of local dishes and western delights, including of course the ikamata.

After dinner, local dancers take center stage, performing traditional Cook Islands dancing to the sound of the beating drums. Guests will have a go as well, with ladies shaking their hips and men twisting their knees like Elvis Presley doing the ‘twist’.   

Island Night in Aitutaki Tamanu Beach Polynesian dance 2

The highlight of the show is the spectacular fire dancing. The boys are quick with their hands and somehow manage to get into super difficult formations despite the blazing fire. Kids, don’t try this at home.

Island Night in Aitutaki Tamanu Beach Polynesian fire show 3

The island night in Tamanu Beach is a great way for couples to spend a romantic evening and even for families with small children. If you can’t manage to attend an island night in Aitutaki, you can do so in Rarotonga, where the shows are a lot more extravagant.

Day 3: Cruising The Aitutaki Lagoon

You haven’t really seen Aitutaki until you’ve made it to the far reaches of the lagoon. A great way to do so is by joining The Vaka Cruise for a day that you’ll never forget.

One Foot Island Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands boat

After a welcome drink aboard the large catamaran, you’ll set sail to the first of three islands on this full-day tour. Akaiami Island is a dream of an island, the kind of place you won’t mind being stranded on for a while. The island served as a stopover on the legendary TEAL Coral Route that flew from Auckland to Tahiti In the 1950s. Seaplanes would land in the blue waters for a quick refuel, as lucky passengers got to spend some time wandering around the island – just like you. These days, all that’s left is a crumbling jetty.

Akaiami Island Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands tropical beachAkaiami Island tropical Beach Aitutaki Cook IslandsAkaiami Island Aitutaki lagoon Cook IslandsAkaiami Island Aitutaki couple in tropical waterAkaiami Island Aitutaki Lagoon water colorAkaiami Island Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands beachAkaiami Island Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands coconut shellAkaiami Island Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands lagoon color

Your next stop will be on Motu Rakau, a tiny island with a wild beach and lots of magnificent birds nesting in the tropical forest. After a quick stop, it’s back on the boat for a short cruise to the coral garden. Put your snorkeling gear on and be prepared to explore a reef with the bluest of waters.

Motu Rakau Aitutaki Lagoon Cook IslandsSandy dune in Motu Rakau tropical island AitutakiMotu Rakau Aitutaki Cook IslandsMotu Rakau Aitutaki Lagoon Cook Islands tropical beachMotu Rakau Bird in Aitatki cook islands

Snorkeling in Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands

Back on the boat, it’s time for lunch. A delicious BBQ buffet is prepared by the crew, with a ton of selection and plenty to go around for seconds. You’re then off to the final stop on this magical day and perhaps the highlight of your entire Aitutaki visit.

The Vaka Lagoon Cruise Aitutaki Cook Islands - BBQ lunch buffetThe Vaka Cruise Aitutaki Lagoon buffet lunchThe Vaka Lagoon Cruise Aitutaki Cook Islands - relaxingThe Vaka Lagoon Cruise Aitutaki Cook Islands - tanning

As the boat nears One Foot Island, you’ll be simply lost for words. In fact, if you don’t have your sunglasses on, you might even get blinded by the intense azure waters and white sand floating. What a dream!

One Foot Island Aitutaki Lagoon - boat on beachOne Foot Island Aitutaki Lagoon - tropical beachOne Foot Island Aitutaki Lagoon -walking on waterOne Foot Island Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands walking out of lagoonOne Foot Island Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands swimming and plam treesOne Foot Island Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands catamaran

One Foot Island Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands

One foot island aitutaki lagoon cook islands best tropical beach

You’ll have ample time to explore One Foot Island, hitting the beach, going for a snorkel, and of course – stamping your passport to prove you made it to paradise!  

One Foot Island Aitutaki lagoon Cook Islands passport stamp

Do not miss the chance to explore the Aitutaki lagoon, as anything else you see will be dwarfed by its striking beauty. Your tour departs at 10 am and returns at 5 pm, so use the rest of your last day in Aitutaki for some relaxation and stargazing.

Lots More Information Awaits You

This sample 3 days in Aitutaki itinerary will give you a good taste of the island while offering a mix of relaxation and activities. If you want to do some scuba diving, add an extra day.

For more information, tips, and tricks about Aitutaki – check out the complete Aitutaki Travel Guide. Traveling to the Cook Islands? Start your reading with the Cook Islands Travel Guide, filled with up to date general information to plan your holiday.



Post a new comment

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.