Islands -- Perhaps notorious Captain Bligh, the first European to
lay eyes on Aitutaki, should have treated his crew to a holiday on
the island when he sailed past back in 1789. If hed just anchored
the HMS Bounty and relaxed, he might have avoided that fateful
arent making the same mistake. The ultimate in paradisiacal
destinations, Aitutaki is distinguished by exotic culture and
unspoiled, uncrowded beaches. Although its a mere 50-minute flight
from Rarotonga, the main island of the Cooks chain, it remains well
off the beaten path for tourists.
are only 250 beds on the island -- early bookings are essential --
accommodations types span all budgets, from high-end resorts to
Are Tamanu Beach
Village combines resort luxury with bungalow privacy. Once two
separate hotels, Are Tamanu is now one larger resort with five
accommodations levels. Bungalows on the Tamanu side of the resort,
a bit crowded and lacking privacy, are geared to couples and
honeymooners; thus, children under 12 are not allowed. But the
Manea suites, which accommodate four, are perfect for
With great ocean
views, the best values are the Tamanu Lagoon Bungalows and the
Manea Lagoon Suites; nightly bungalow and suite rates at Are Tamanu
run from about $199 to $345, based on occupancy.
For those on
tight schedules, Air Rarotonga offers day trips; the nine-hour,
$265 tour operates Mondays to Saturdays.
Although small (7
square miles) Aitutaki has no shortage of things to do.
For a taste of
local culture, try the Island Nights buffet and floor show at the
Samade on the Beach Hotel. The evening starts with a Polynesian
buffet; afterwards, the show begins. Dressed in grass cuffs and
loincloths, men fiercely stomp their feet and swing their knees,
while women gyrate their hips with implausible fluidity.
is cruising with Bishops Lagoon Cruises. The first stop is Akaiami,
an uninhabited islet that once served as a refueling station for
flying boats. The cruise next sets anchor for an hour of
snorkeling, after which it sails for One Foot Island, where a
delicious lunch is served.
for authentic Aitutaki souvenirs should stop at the Womens Craft
Center, an excellent place to buy traditional tivaevae quilts; rito
hats woven from uncurled coconut palm fibers; colorful pareu
sarongs; and nono juice, a foul-tasting drink with exceptional
Aitutaki Discovery Safari is a great way to get ones cultural
bearings. The three-hour tour ($33 for adults, $7 kids) takes in
interesting sites such as Te Poaki o Rae Marae, a well-preserved
sacred altar. The safari fills up quickly, so its important to
reserve well in advance.
Islands Tourism at (866) 280-1739 or www.cook-islands.com.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].