Aitutaki is the second most visited destination in the Cook Islands. Located just 220 kilometers north of Rarotonga, it is the only atoll out of six inhabited islands in the region’s Southern Group. As a result of its unique formation, Aitutaki is home to one of the world’s most pristine and beautiful lagoons.
This splendid lagoon spreads out in a triangular fashion. The southern edge of the triangle is almost totally below the ocean’s surface. This small break in the barrier reef allows passage for small boats into the lagoon. Further to the north is the main volcanic island, while the eastern side is composed of a string of small islets including Mangere, Akaiami, and Tekopua. The western side of the atoll features a small boat passage through the barrier reef near the main village of Arutanga.
The atoll of Aitutaki was once the first point of entry into the Cook Islands. US forces were stationed on the island during World War II and laid the foundation for today’s airstrip in 1942. After that, pioneering air travelers began visiting Aitutaki in the 1950s. Today, visitors can take a 45-minute flight from the capital of Rarotonga and discover much of the same old world charm and slow island pace as before. Visitors with limited time in the Cook Islands can opt for the popular day trip to Aitutaki, which includes a lagoon tour complete with snorkeling and a fresh fish lunch.
Aitutaki boasts a very relaxing, laid back environment, encouraging travelers to slow down, take a deep breath and choose from a selection of more lax activities. Many decide to explore the island at their own pace, either riding bicycles and motorbikes or renting cars. Other popular excursions include lagoon tours, circle island tours, 4WD safaris or walking tours; while scuba diving, game fishing and golfing are at the sportier end of the activity spectrum.
LEGEND | Descendents of warriors
The Aitutakian people believe they descended from Ru, the famous seafaring warrior who sailed from the legendary homeland of the early Polynesians in a double-hulled canoe. According to legend, he settled with his four wives, attendants of warriors and beautiful maidens of noble birth. They arrived during a full moon, and Ru was so captivated by its reflection on the vast lagoon that he named his landing point O'otu, meaning "full moon."