About five years ago, the Lonely Planet proclaimed “One Foot Island”, located in Aitutaki Atoll, as “the most beautiful island in the world.” We do have a picture of this. The atoll is really breathtakingly beautiful! We wouldn’t have been surprised if the commercial in 1988 of Bounty, the coconut flavoured chocolate bar, was shot here. When you think of Aitutaki, think of shallow, warm turquoise water, sparkling blue skies, pearly white sandy beaches and beautifully contrasting green coconut palms.
Sights of the Aitutaki Atoll
Like almost any small atoll, Aitutaki itself doesn’t have a lot of activity to offer, other than natural beauty and a tropical, laid-back vibe. Yet we can easily enjoy ourselves here for a week. Get out and about with a bicycle or scooter and explore the island. Enjoy the fantastically beautiful beaches and lagoon, but also the small villages, the banana plantations and the tropical green interior. Aitutaki is there to relax and marvel at the unbelievably beautiful lagoon. Below are some sights that should not be missed.
The Maunga Pu is the highest mountain in the atoll at 124 meters. We think the pleasant 1 kilometre hike to the top is easy for most people. The last part is a bit steeper, but the fantastic views over the large laguna easily make up for it!
To the southwest of the atoll’s largest island is Arutanga, the “capital” of Aitutaki. You will find most of the shops, restaurants and bars of the island. Make sure you visit the Blue Nun if you don’t wish to dine at your resort every night.
Ootu beach is located at the most southeastern tip of the largest island, very close to the small private island of Akitua. It is a beautiful, quiet beach on the lagoon. This is the place to be to enjoy the view of the lagoon and islands, or to snorkel and kayak. But also to sip on a beer at one of the good beach bars and restaurants such as the Blue Lagoon, Koru Cafe or the Boatshed.
Organized boat excursions in the lagoon
Almost everything on Aitutaki revolves around the spectacularly beautiful lagoon. We think you simply have to book a cruise through the lagoon. A cruise also offers you the opportunity to comfortably visit one of the many other islands of the atoll. You don’t necessarily need picture perfect weather to enjoy the boat trip.
You have boat trips in different shapes and sizes. Make your choice based on the size of the boat (how many people are sailing with you), the destination, the level of comfort (entertainment, toilets), etc. As long as you stay within the lagoon and close to the largest island in the atoll , you may also consider renting a kayak. You are then more free to choose your “own” desert island or beach.
There are several smaller islands in the lagoon. Below we describe a few.
Akaiami is a small, elongated island on the other side of the lagoon. The boat will take you there in about 20 minutes. There is not much to do on Akaiami other than hiking, swimming and kayaking. With very few tourists, you feel like Robinson Crusoe on a remote, small island surrounded by a fantastically beautiful, pristine lagoon and coral reef.
One Foot Island (Tapuaeta’i)
One of the must-see “motus” (islands) when you visit Aitutaki is Tapuaeta’i, also known as One Foot island. This island in the lagoon of Aitutaki is very small but really incredibly beautiful. Pearl white sandy beaches and fantastic turquoise water await you. One Foot island is home to one of the world’s most remote post offices. You can also relax, swim, take pictures to make those at home jealous, and snorkel at beautiful coral reefs. If you go here, don’t forget to bring your passport because it will then be stamped!
Near Ootu Beach is the private island of Akitua. The island is home to the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, a beautiful, luxurious resort. Even if you are not staying there, you can use the resort’s water sports facilities for a fee, as well as the beaches, bars, restaurant and Spa Polynesia.
Best time to visit Aitutaki
In fact, Aitutaki can be visited all year round, although it can be quite stuffy in summer from December to April. These months also have the most rain. The best time to take beautiful pictures of the turquoise lagoon with blue skies is from June to September. Statistically, the winter month of July is the month with the most hours of sunshine!
Accommodation in Aitutaki
Amuri, the northern part of the largest island of Aitutaki, has most of the accommodation. But there is also enough accommodation in Arutanga and at Ootu Beach. Although we did not stay there ourselves, we heard very good reviews about Etu Moana in Amuri from acquaintances. Apart from the swimming pool (not private by the way), they found the area and the lagoon to be incredibly beautiful.
Food and drinks
We are not big fans of an all-inclusive programme at a resort. We think you then miss the charm of travelling, being discovering new places and local dishes. You also keep seeing the same faces over and over when having lunch and dinner at your resort.
Although Aitutaki is a small island in comparison to Rarotonga, Arutanga as well as Ootu Beach and Amuri has plenty of excellent eateries. Examples include the Blue Nun, Koru Café, Puffy’s, Samade Restaurant & Bar and the Boat Shed.
Getting to and around the island
In fact, the only way to get to Aitutaki is to take a plane from Rarotonga. A return ticket with Air Rarotonga to and from Aitutaki costs from 350 NZD.
Once you set foot on Aitutaki you can move by car, scooter or bicycle. The distances are not big. If you want to go to one of the nearby small islands, you can use the water taxi from, for example, Wet & Wild Aitutaki, or other operators that offer “drop-off” services. Another option is to book one of the many organized boat trips in the lagoon.
Experienced kayakers may also be able to reach some nearby islands by kayak, but outside the lagoon you quickly reach the open ware where the wind is surprisingly strong.