Last updated on November 27th, 2022
Leave the stresses of modern life on the windy tarmac and prepare to visit one of the most beautiful spots in the South Pacific. As your plane slowly descends over the endless blue, the sight of the glorious Aitutaki lagoon will take your breath away. Fill your days with reflection and relaxation, while not forgetting to explore the far reaches of the lagoon, where one dream island after another is just waiting for you to set foot on. When you’re not playing in the lagoon, immerse yourself in local life – ticking at an extra slow place without the need for house keys. This Aitutaki Travel Guide will help you discover the true meaning of paradise!
I spent three weeks in the Cook Islands as part of a six-month backpacking trip across the South Pacific Islands, with one week in Aitutaki. This Aitutaki Travel Guide was written based on my experiences and is meant to help you make the most of this dream destination. The travel guide is geared towards independent travelers, but any visitor will find it useful.
Traveling to the Cook Islands? Start planning with The Cook Islands Travel Guide!
You haven’t been to the Cook Islands until you’ve paid a visit to Aitutaki! Less than an hour away from Rarotonga, Aitutaki feels like a parallel universe. Come here if you truly want to unwind, with hardly any distractions to take up your precious relaxation time. There are no nightclubs, no shopping centers, and in fact – hardly anyone around. The main reason for visiting Aitutaki is its stunning lagoon. Do not miss the opportunity to explore the dreamy uninhabited islets (motu) that fringe the edge of the pristine lagoon. So beautifully wild, they were even chosen as filming locations for the U.S and U.K versions of the adventure reality show Survivor.
All places mentioned in this travel guide can be found on this companion map. Simply click on the image to open in Google Maps.
Aitutaki is a relatively flat island in the southern group of the Cook Islands, lying 264 km north of Rarotonga. The island was first settled in the 12th century by pioneers arriving on outrigger canoes all the way from French Polynesia, more than 1,000 km’s to the east. Its most striking feature is its lagoon, surrounded by the main island and 12 uninhabited small islets called motu.
Europeans first arrived in Aitutaki on the infamous Bounty ship in 1789, captained by William Bligh just days before the famous mutiny. Soon after, missionaries arrived, successfully converting the locals to Christianity by the early 19th century.
During WWII, American and New Zealand forces stationed in Aitutaki built the airstrip which still serves as the island’s airport to this very day. During the 1950’s TEAL, the predecessor of Air New Zealand made refueling stops in Aitutaki as part of the Coral Route from New Zealand to Tahiti.
These days, Aitutaki is the second most visited island in the Cook Islands, with an emphasis being put on boosting the local tourism industry. Only about 2,000 residents call Aitutaki home, suffering a great deal of property damage in a 2010 cyclone which ripped through the island. Island life is peaceful and laid back, with only the sound of the approaching flight from Rarotonga disturbing the ambiance of the ocean waves.