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If you make it all the way to the Cook Islands, Aitutaki is a must see! Their lagoon is not to be missed. Aitutaki is a 45 minute flight from Rarotonga, on a small plane. Air Rarotonga operates the flights and since there is no competition, you likely won’t find many discounts. We spent 3 nights in Aitutaki and it was beautiful! You can see the beautiful lagoon from the plane as you approach the island. Much smaller than Rarotonga, Aitutaki can be explored in just a few short hours so I highly recommend renting a car so you can see the off the beaten path places. This island is just a 3 hour time difference from the West Coast of the US, just like Hawaii. But it’s so much nicer than Hawaii!
We stayed at the Aretai Villas. There are only a handful of villas on the property, and each is huge! Ours had 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, kitchen, dining room, living room and a huge deck overlooking the ocean. The yard was nice and perfect for kids to wander and play. Since the majority of hotels on the island don’t allow kids, each villa here had families with young kids which is perfect if you have kids.
The beach in front of our villa was calm, with clear water. You can see lots of coral and fish swimming around. Milana was able to go play on the beach by herself, without us having to be nearby. All the local kids wandered around on their own, how nice it would be to live in a place this safe! Definitely bring some beach toys. I highly recommend these collapsible buckets. They take up very little space and you can use them over and over again on all your trips. I know people who buy the sand toys when they arrive, then leave them there but that is such a waste. Especially since you’ll be hard pressed to find a store that sells them in Aitutaki and even if you do, they don’t need the plastic waste when you leave.
One night, we walked over to Tamanu for dinner. It was about a 20 minute walk on the beach from our hotel. The food there is really good, but keep in mind this hotel only allows kids 12 and up but you can dine with younger kids there. However, we were the only ones with a child of any age and got death stares from the other patrons so keep their feelings on children in mind when deciding to dine there!
The food here is really good though. Milana had the fish and chips, I had a vegetable pasta dish and Dave had the curry.
On our way back from the hotel, it was pitch black outside and because there are no street lights, you can barely see in front of you. We decided to walk on the beach and since it was a full moon, it helped to see a little in front of us. About 5 minutes into the walk, I see this black creature run at us full speed, and feared the worst. Turns out, it was a black kitten that Milana named Coconuts who followed us all the way back to our villa and made himself right at home! Black kitten and full moon, perfect combination! Unlike in Rarotonga, there are no dogs on this island so you will see lots of cats. This little guy would have been ours if we found him closer to home. He had the best personality (almost like a dog) and slept in bed with us while we were there.
Another place we had dinner one night was Puffy’s. It was directly next door to our villas, making it easy to walk over and get food. They have a few things on their menu, but they are known for their fish and chips. I don’t think we have ever eaten this much fish and chips in our lives! Not even in London.
Right on Ootu Beach is the Blue Lagoon restaurant. The food here is really good and the view is amazing! Highly recommend coming one night for dinner.
And though we didn’t dine there, another popular place is the Boathouse. They have outdoor tables and a playground with a trampoline so your kids can play while you eat.
For coffee, head to the Koru Cafe. We loved it so much, we came two days in a row. The drinks here are so good (try the mocha!) and Milana loved the french toast.
Like I said, I highly recommend renting a car so that you can go explore the beautiful beaches there. Ootu beach is one of the prettiest so we drove there to play. We rented a car for one day (they are super expensive here) and explored the island.
The beach directly in front of Tamanu is beautiful too. Lots of sea life (we spotted a blue starfish in the water) and no one in sight, making it a great place to play.
We saw a sign for a bakery while driving around so we turned into a random dirt road. We never did find the bakery, but we did find this awesome beach! So beautiful, with gorgeous turquoise water on both sides.
There are lots of animals on the island. You’ll see goats, grazing by the ocean. Lots and lots of chickens. Though I will say, I wanted to stab the roosters crowing at 2am every day! They’d start at 2 and go til 7, it got really old, really fast!
Of course, the highlight of visiting Aitutaki is the lagoon tour. We booked ours with Teking Tours and had a great experience! Again, keep in mind that it will mostly be honeymooning couples. Milana was the only child on the boat, but she loved it especially the island stops. Honeymoon island is just beautiful. The water here is crystal clear and you are literally standing on a sand bar in the middle of the ocean. It’s something you should definitely see for yourself!
You also make a stop on another island to have a traditional lunch. Lots of fish, chicken and side dishes. Milana loved the pumpkin, cole slaw and chicken the most.
Our last stop on the tour was One Foot Island. If you’re familiar with the tv show Survivor, this is where their Cook Island challenges were filmed. One Foot Island is home to the world’s most remote post office and you can get a passport stamp from them if you bring your passport! The island is beautiful, with some gorgeous beaches. Of course, a cat found us and hung out with us for a good portion of our stay there!
THINGS TO KNOW
If you read my Rarotonga blog post, lots of this is covered there. Just like in Rarotonga, wifi is readily available if you purchase it through Bluesky as there are hotspots on pretty much the entire island.
Things like groceries are super expensive here, much more than Rarotonga so it’s best to bring some key items with you when you come to the island. This is a super small island literally in the middle of nowhere. They don’t get supplies too often, making the cost high. Water is hard to come by and you cannot drink the tap water here. If possible, bring a few bottles from Rarotonga with you. They don’t sell small bottles of water here, just jugs and that’s not very easy to carry when you go out.
Restaurant meals are just as expensive as in Rarotonga, but that’s to be expected. And, just like Rarotonga, many hotels are adults only. This is even more important to know here as there aren’t that many hotels to begin with and a good portion of them don’t allow kids so book early!
If you ever get the chance to visit Aitutaki, do it! The lagoon is unlike any place we’ve ever been to. Quite possibly the nicest beaches in the world!