One Fine Day in Aitutaki, Cook Islands

06 Jan 2015

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We all dream of a magical South Pacific getaway. You know, the one where the alluringly tranquil white sand beaches seem to have been summoned into existence for our very own personal pleasure. The Cook Islands is just that kind of place – tranquil, untouched, yet inviting, with that perfect blend of culture, nature and adventure.

Just a 40 minute flight from Rarotonga, you’ll find the tiny island of Aitutaki. According to Kerryn Cook, General Manager at Cook Islands Tourism, close to ninety percent of all Australians who travel to the Cook Islands make the trip to this remote group of atolls, which is a pretty good indication of just how special this place is.

Approaching Aitutaki from the air is nothing short of breathtaking. The tiny collection of islands forms the shape of a fish hook, and the clear aqua waters of the lagoon make for a stunning contrast among the white sand beaches and deep blue waters of the outer Pacific ocean – and this is your island paradise for 24 glorious hours.

Approaching Aitutaki from the air is nothing short of breathtaking. © Pacific Resort Hotel Group

Breakfast & great coffee in paradise
Rapae Bay Restaurant at Pacific Resort Aitutaki is one of the most welcoming settings in which to enjoy a delicious breakfast. Sweeping lagoon views are provided as you feast on fresh fruit and other island delicacies. And for those who crave their coffee, the Koru Café just nearby provides a long list of coffee drinks (including great espresso) along with an all-day breakfast menu for the perfect anytime meal or snack. This welcoming café is popular with locals and visitors alike.

Sweeping lagoon views from Pacific Resort Aitutaki's Rapae Restaurant. © Pacific Resort Hotel Group

Cruise to your own island oasis
The Vaka Cruise on the magnificent lagoon is best place to begin your Aitutaki adventure. “This is one must-do activity when visiting Aitutaki,” Kerryn stresses gleefully. The shallow, crystal clear waters beckon as the cruise takes you on a tour of enchantment. Stop off at deserted islands with beaches so pristine that, for a moment, you wonder if you’re not the last person remaining on the planet. Dive in for some snorkelling and swimming with the colourful native fish or find your chosen spot near a leaning palm tree and admire the secluded natural scenery.

The uninhabited ‘One Foot Island’ even has its own post office where you can send a post card and get your passport stamped to commemorate the visit. The experience lasts several hours and guests can enjoy a full bar service on board, an island barbecue lunch and even a cultural performance filled with song.

A typical view you can expect from The Vaka Cruise experience. © David Kirkland

Choose your own adventure 
Looking for more adventure instead? Local operators provide fishing tours, water skiing, and whale watching in season. Kayaking, scuba diving excursions and windsurfing are just some of the other activities found here. And with so few visitors, you’ll never have to fight the crowds. To get a feel for the land itself, local guides are available for safari tours through the lush interior. Take in the picturesque 360 degree views atop Maunga Pu and watch for native birds such as the whimsical Booby or graceful White Tern.

For a fast paced nature tour, bush bashing in a four-wheel drive is always an adrenaline rushed activity. The four-wheeled tour will introduce you to some of the island’s most remote spots where you can stop for a picnic, and maybe even get a coconut picking demonstration.

No ordinary fishing trip on arguably the world's most beautiful lagoon © David Kirkland

Set your watch to island time
Naturally, after a day out exploring the many sights and attractions of Aitutaki, you’ll want to take some time to relax and unwind, and nothing replenishes the mind, body and spirit like a massage and spa treatment. One of the finest spas can be found at the beautiful SpaPolynesia at the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa. Select from a number of treatments and enjoy the soothing experience while you listen to the waves along the beach or in the peace and quiet of your own private balcony.

SpaPolynesia the perfect destination for relaxation, healthy living and pampering © Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa

Seafood, cocktails & a show
Who doesn’t like a good fish and chips? “The Boatshed is a hidden place that’s great for a drink, or a beer and some excellent fish and chips,” said Kerryn. For dinner, head on over to Samade on the Beach Restaurant. Beautiful sunset views over the lagoon provide one of the most magical dinner settings on the island. “This is the best location on the island,” Kerryn proclaimed. “They do beach barbecue nights, and it’s all very casual and relaxing.”

Soon, the Polynesian drums can be heard at the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa where a stylish evening of cocktails and music awaits. Beach side cabanas offer front row seats to the Legends of Polynesia Island Nights; a cultural show featuring traditional song and dance on a tiki torch lit beach.

As you listen to the rhythmic beats of the Polynesian drums, the sound of the rolling waves are never far away. Gaze into the starry night as you think back to the magical day in paradise. You could be forgiven for wanting to stay a bit longer, but with Aitutaki, it will never be far from your dreams.

Todd Sturm

I currently live in Brisbane, Australia. No matter where my travels take me, I enjoy experiencing each destination from the perspective of the locals. Some of my favourite attractions include historic sites, national parks and architectural landmarks.