I came to Aitutaki when I was a young boy – I don’t have conscious memory of it. That doesn’t mean I don’t remember it. That strange mixture of smells, colours, culture and language will always trigger subtle memories that you just can’t grasp. In my case, returning to Aitutaki was like returning to a timeless paradise. Like re-reading a novel and remembering the scenery. Flying down through the low clouds in an 8 seater twin propeller plane, a turquoise ring rises from the dark blue sea in the distance. Closer in, it’s revealed that the turquoise ring is bounded by a reef, bounded by whitewash. Inside the reefed ring is an atoll – the outer ridges of an ancient now submerged volcano surround most of the interior lagoon. Wherever there is land above water, there is dense jungle, there are palm trees. Except for the runway. Wherever the land meets the water, there is brilliant white sand, there are palm trees. In the centre of the atoll is the most aesthetic light blue water – the lagoon is only around 8m deep inside, and the water is warm.
After a shaky landing, we are greeted at the “terminal” (shack) by a Cook Islander playing his Ukelele and singing a song that seemed to be quite popular at the time. It was beautiful. We’re given fresh young coconuts to drink, and garlands of Gardenia and Frangipani. The terminal has two desks – one for each of the resorts on the island. There are other resorts of course, but these two are the main. Ours was called the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa, the other the Pacific Resort. The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa is on it’s own private island (the “island” of Aitutaki is actually made up of one large island and around 10 smaller islands). The resort has a ferry boat to cross the narrow shallow waterway between the main island of Aitutaki and it’s motu (islet). One could probably walk across, at low tide. On our first arrival, a Cook Islander in traditional warrior dress shouts a greeting chant and blows a giant conch shell. We were impressed. The motu has about 20 freestanding cabins, each one of which is directly on the beach, meters to water. Each one has an incredible view of the rest of Aitutaki, either across the vast lagoon, or back towards the main island. Ours faced the main island, and we were not disappointed. A select few of the cabins on the lagoon side of the motu were overwater bungalows – these looked amazing, but after experiencing our cabin we certainly didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything.
The resort has two restaurants / bars. One faces out towards the lagoon, with an impressive deck and an even better cocktail list. Any kind of colourful, liquored up cocktail you want you can get, for relatively cheap (cheaper than Sydney prices anyway). Also, they do giant cocktails that will get two people drunk, at least. They were nice. Suffice it to stay, that spending an afternoon on the deck with some of those bad boys watching the sun set over the island with the cool breeze blowing is one of my favourite memories. Follow that up with a spectacular whole fish dinner at the restaurant whilst the hermit and coconut crabs come out to play. The food at both of the restaurants (well, it’s really the same restaurant as one closes when the other is open) on the resort is very good – Jess and I both had a different meal every night we ate there and we were never disappointed.
Our accommodation was very nice. A thatched wooden cabin. I personally love cabins, and wood, so it suited me pretty well. The aircon worked very well, which is good because it is hot in Aitutaki. The bed was gigantic and comfortable. The best thing about the cabins, however, wasn’t in them. Each cabin has an outdoor shower, with a high wall for privacy that connects through a door into your cabin. The shower head is suspended above the shower floor on wooden beams, and the shower area is huge. Why is this so good you ask? Well. In Aitutaki there is zero light pollution. The Milky Way is as visible in Aitutaki as the stop lights are on your street. It’s absolutely incredible. Gazing at the rising of the Milky Way across the lagoon to the horizon from a hammock is great, but gazing at it overhead whilst your having a shower is a surreal experience. This alone is worth the entire trip to Aitutaki. It makes for very contemplative, existential-crisis-in-a-good-way showering.
Let’s be clear; the two main resorts on the island are luxurious. This aint budget travel. There are many other smaller resorts, BnB’s, and homes to stay at as well on the island though if that’s what you’re after. The Pacific Resort is a 5 star hotel with only 28 rooms. The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa is 4 star, with only a handful more. To be honest, I can’t really decide which resort I’d prefer to stay at. The Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa is incredibly private on it’s own island, although the entire island of Aitutaki has the same feel, and The Pacific Resort is by no means a bustling joint. It’s very relaxed. Perhaps a little more luxury. The Pacific Resort faces west, right on the beach overlooking the reef, which means a beautiful sunset view from the pool. They also have an excellent bar. An an excellent restaurant, with excellent food and an excellent view. Everything is excellent. Basically it’s a choice between lagoon views and ocean views. The absolute wonder of the lagoon can’t be understated however, so perhaps I lean more towards where we stayed, the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa. However, the Pacific Resort sells my favourite (and only) Cook Islands beer, Matutu Mai. So it’s very close. We spent a great afternoon and night at The Pacific Resort as the sun slowly went down; here are some photos.
Across from our resort is a smaller, lower budget resort called Samade. They do mean burgers and smoothies, and their spot on the lagoon is no less impressive. We didn’t get a look at the accommodation, so I can’t comment there, although the place looked nice. Some chickens were scratching around near our table, giving it a bit of that third world charm we love so much.
So that’s the wrap up of the best and most expensive resorts in Aitutaki. Usually I like to accommodate myself in a variety of styles, from hostels to Airbnb to nice hotels. This time, however, we went five star and wouldn’t have done it any other way, even though I know from being there that I would have also loved to stay at one of the many many more affordable BnB’s around.
Until next time,