LOCATION: 259 kms/161 mls North of Rarotonga
ACCESS: Frequent internal flights and international connections
LAND AREA: 18.3 sq.kms/7 sq. mls
Aitutaki is easy to get to. Air Rarotonga operates several flights a day from the capital island and some international services link up with the domestic flight so you could by-pass Raro altogether (but that would be a shame). Flying time is about 45 minutes. You can even do a day trip, which includes a fabulous lagoon cruise. Its very pricey at around NZ$600....but I defy you not to say it was well worth the money when you return from the trip. Get more details from the tourist board or Air Rarotonga
A leisurely walk is the best way to meet the locals and explore. If you're up to it, climb 124 metres to the highest point, Maunaga Pu for a great view of the whole island. Cars and scooters can be rented; a scooter is typically NZ$25-30 and a car around NZ$50 a day plus petrol which is very pricey compared to the US but similar to UK and European costs. And you'll need to show the hire company and the police a suitable driving licence in English. There are some taxis too, but these can be expensive
These are the sort of scenes you'll see as you fly into Aitutaki. The second and third photos are the shoreline in front of Moto Akaiami where the flying boats of the 1950s used to land when taking the great Coral Route as it was called
A lagoon cruise on a boat like this is the easiest way to explore and enjoy the stunning lagoon and its many motus. British and US visitors may recognise some of the little islets from the TV series "Shipwrecked" (Channel 4 and E4) and "Survivor Cook Islands" (CBS). Those two series were seen by more people than have visited Aitutaki in its entire history! The lagoon is 10.5 metres (34.5 feet) at its deepest, but three quarters of it is just 4.5 metres (14.7 feet) deep and the land area within it totals a mere 18.3 sq. kms (7 sq. mls)
The waters of Aitutaki lagoon teem with marine life and to swim among it is like taking a dip in a massive tropical fish tank. From November to February, these are mating grounds for sea turtles...the Hawksbill turtle, onu taratara (pictured here) and the green turtle, onu. The Hawksbill is on the "critically endangered species" list produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources so spotting one is rare and said to be a sign of good luck. Snorkelling is a great way to discover the stunning underwater scenery with crystal clear waters filled with colourful corals, giant clams and a myriad of other aquatic life.
One Foot Island's beach has been ranked fifth best in the world in a poll of 750 travel influencers, journalists and experts. Here's how worlds50beach.com described when it published the results in 2023...
"If you can imagine all the postcards you have ever seen of the perfect tropical paradise, trust us, One Foot Island is precisely that! With its blindingly white sand, swaying palm trees, and inviting water, this location is breathtaking. The colours here are indescribable! Pure relaxation awaits you on this island, but there is also plenty to do, such as swimming and snorkelling alongside vibrant fish, and perhaps even encountering a turtle in the clearest turquoise water you have ever dreamt of. The island itself is a fantastic place to explore, but we are confident that once you see the beach, you'll never want to leave.”
...if you're paying a visit to One Foot Island! You won't need it to land on the islet, but you will want to get it stamped at the post office which sets up there each day - a unique souvenir of this piece of paradise. You can buy One Foot Island postcards and stamps too which will get a special postmark if you use the postbox on the island
Gentle ripples of water from the turquoise lagoon lapped at the shore. Powder-soft white sand sparkled under the sun. There seemed no doubt about it - this was definitely one place where Mother Nature got it right. The sense of solitude and serenity here seemed almost mystical; our catamaran captain had taken the boat to a nearby island called One Foot, leaving us alone on the sandbar in the middle of the lagoon. If heaven were a place on earth, this could well be it.
Monica Zurowski writing in Canada's 'Calgary Herald' newspaper
This really is called Honeymoon Island and it really is a romantic spot in the south west of the lagoon. But it's also an internationally acclaimed location for kitesurfing. A long stretch of sand leads into shallow, coral free water which has twice attracted the world's best kitesurfers for an international competition called, appropriately enough, "Kiting Towards Heaven"
And if you're a kitesurfer yourself you can find out the latest conditions at Aitutaki by clicking on the logo below (not an advert, just a helpful recommendation)
When the sun goes down, relax some more as the picturesque lagoon takes on a new beauty. The second photo is of the aptly named Paradise Cove
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS
Many of the photos on this page are the work of the very talented amateur photographer, Marcus Gleinig from Rarotonga. I thank him for letting me share them alongside my own pictures. You can see much more of his work here
The Pacific Resort Aitutaki on the western side of the island has won many top honours at the World Travel Awards which are the 'Oscars' of the travel industry. And for two consecutive years it was voted the best island resort hotel in the world. American readers might like to know it was also where presenter, Jeff Probst stayed during the filming of 'Survivor Cook Islands'.
Captain (or strictly speaking, Lieutenant) William Bligh was the first European to discover Aitutaki, on 11 April, 1789...17 days before the infamous mutiny on his ship, the Bounty. He visited again on 25 July, 1792 looking for the muntineers. He called Aitutaki "a charming little spot" when he discovered it by accident