AITUTAKI

Where heaven meets earth

Well developed tourism but still feels unspoiled
A picture-perfect dream of a desert island

LOCATION: ​​259 kms/161 mls North of Rarotonga      
ACCESS: Frequent internal flights and international connections
POPULATION: 1,782      
LAND AREA: 18.3 sq.kms/7 sq. mls

GETTIN​G THERE

Aitutaki location map (c)

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

GETTING AROUND

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

Three islets and 12 motus or "mini islands" are scattered across the stunning lagoon which itself stretches for 50 square kilometres (just over 19 square miles). But even if you can only manage the day trip organised by Air Rarotonga, the lagoon cruise that's included will give you the chance to visit scenes like the ones in these photos and plenty of opportunity to swim and snorkel among the abundance of marine life in the warm waters. The third photo below is Motu Muritapua seen from a good snorkelling spot on Motu Akaiami

EXPLORING PARADISE

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

Aitutaki lagoon boat

As seen on TV

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)

Hawksbill turtle

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.

THE LEGEND OF ONE FOOT ISLAND

Tapuaetai is supposedly known to all as One Foot Island because, from the air, it resembles a left foot. But I prefer the legend...

A tribe once attacked the main island and a man and his son escaped by canoe to an unnamed islet. The father carried the boy across the beach and hid him in a tall coconut tree. Then he paddled all the way to Rarotonga for help. When the attackers reached the islet they saw only one set of footprints on and off the island and they left. The boy remained safely hidden until his father returned with help. And from then on, the islet was known as One Foot Island 
Aerial photo by Air Rarotonga

"ONE OF THE BEST BEACHES IN THE WORLD"

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.”
One Foot Island post office sign

Don't forget your passport

...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 

One Foot Island post box
One Foot Island passport stamp

A visitor's view

"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

NOT JUST FOR HONEYMOONERS

Honeymoon Island, Aitutaki

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 

Discover the resort which was twice voted the best in the world​​. If you're'
 a fan of the US reality series, Survivor it's where host, Jeff Probst stayed during the filming of season 13!  
THERE'S A BEHIND THE SCENES STORY HERE 
If history is your thing, learn about how Captain Bligh discovered Aitutaki by chance just 17 days before the mutiny on his infamous ship, 'Bounty' and decribed it as "a charming little spot" 
ALL ABOUT BLIGH'S DISCOVERY HERE

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