Cook Islands, South Pacific

South Pacific Part 2: Aitutaki

I was spoiled by the beautiful lagoon of Bora Bora so I went on a search for “the world’s most beautiful lagoon” and Aitutaki came up! As soon as I saw the photos of Aitutaki’s lagoon, I decided that’ll be my next South Pacific destination! From Tahiti, there’s a weekly Saturdays nonstop flight from PPT to Rarotonga, the capital of Cook Islands and it only took 2.5 hours. Our Air Tahiti flight landed at Rarotonga:

Cook Islands have a very close relationship to New Zealand so they have strict rules on what you can and can’t bring in like New Zealand. If you have any food item or anything you are unsure of, just declare it! We bought in the macaroons that we couldn’t finish from IHG Tahiti and packaged snacks, we told the custom officer and they were okay! Also, we were asked to show the confirmation of our outbound flight and I was prepared for that!

We walked out of the “international terminal” to the “domestic terminal”, they are really next to each other but you have to walk out to get there. The domestic terminal is open air and there’s literally nothing except for three check-in counters and an Air Rarotonga office. There’s no coffee shop, no restaurant, not even a souvenir shop, only a vending machine that accepts New Zealand coins only! Cook Islands’ currency is now New Zealand Dollars but they had their own Cook Islands coins. I have $5 NZD bills but no coins! I went into the Air Rarotonga office to see if they have any change, no luck 🙁 We walked out of the building and there has a little snack hut but they don’t sell soda LOL so we bought water. The open air terminal has a few benches and a chicken and her chicks running around!!! There’s no security check! They do have “free 10 minutes or 10 MB wifi” and when my brother connected his iPhone to the network, he opened his text message and bang an error message popped up “you have used up your 10 MB” LOL!!!!!! There goes 10 MB wow so fast!

The counter finally opened and we “checked” our bag and received the “boarding passes” – only a receipt with our name and seat numbers- row 1! We never been assigned to row 1 seats before so we were excited but guess what…..

Our plane:

Row 1 is the emergency exit row, no overhead bin (which can barely fit a normal sized purse) and since there’s no seat in front of us, no space to stow our bag under the seat! The flight attendant (only 1) took our bags and had to be “checked in”. The plane was so small and old……whenever it take off, they turned off the AC and it was so hot inside! The view from the window wasn’t great either – facing the propeller! Oh well only 50 minutes flight!

Row 1 haha:

We landed and right off the gate, there’s the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort’s own private seating area. We got fresh flower lei and met our driver. A golf cart like vehicle pulled two racks of luggage out on the street and there we picked up our luggage LOL! We followed our driver and got into a van and off we go heading to the resort which is like less than 10 minutes away. We were dropped off at a beach and there’s a ferry boat to get us across the river to the resort’s private island:

It was the shortest ferry ride ever!

We checked in and the front desk lady walked us to our room #12, our beach side bungalow:

Three beds for us three, the bungalow was cozy of course not expecting luxury as French Polynesia:

On the backside is the restroom area:

Shower is open air!!! This is interesting…what if it’s raining out? LOL!

The toilet:

The sun already set and we were tired so we decided to dine in the hotel restaurant – Flying Boat; we usually avoid hotel restaurants as they are expensive and only average food. We were surprised by Aitutaki Lagoon Resort! Before I booked the hotel, I was in debate because it’s the only resort that has the views of the famous lagoon that I wished for but it also has bad reviews! I am not talking about just a few bad reviews but mostly all bad reviews in Trip Advisor! Everyone complained about bad services and bad food they received at the hotel. I gave a heads up to my hubby before we arrived so we prepared ourselves for not having a high expectation. Guess what, it turned out to be totally different! Not sure if their management finally read the reviews in Trip Advisor or a change in management, what we experienced over that next three days were totally different from what people said! First, the front desk lady was friendly. Second, the food at its restaurant was very good especially their drinks!

Our first night dinner: we ordered the seafood platter for two, it was good portion and grilled/fried just right! The waiter explained what each fish/seafood is and how it was prepared, very professional just like an upscale restaurant should be! My brother ordered Asian style spicy ribs and he said it was good too! We usually don’t order fancy drinks (non-alcohol of course) as they are expensive for what its worth but we gave it a try at Aitutaki Lagoon Resort since regular soda cost $6 NZD and the smoothies and mocktails are $9-$10 NZD. Their drink menu looked very attractive with pictures of each one and two full pages of smoothies and mocktails! The drinks we ordered were delicious! When we asked for the bill, the waitress know our room number already! We were probably the only room with three people so all the staff know us as room 12! The total cost of our dinner plus three drinks was $139 NZD; that’s less than $100 USD for 3 of us with drinks! We were telling my brother how expensive it was to dine in Bora Bora compared to Aitutaki 🙂

After dinner, we walked back to our bungalow, it was a short walk but I got three mosquito bites…yikes I was lazy to put on insect repellent thinking it’s just a short walk!

Shower was “scary”, I sent my hubby to check out the open air shower for lizard and small insects first before I shower! But it was quite interesting and unique to shower under the stars!

The next morning, you know me I wake up before the sun rises, I took a morning walk with my camera while the boys were still sleeping. I walked out to the lagoon facing beach side and the sun was about to rise!

I walked pass the “overwater bungalows” to the backside of the resort facing the sunrise. Although the clouds were covering the horizon but they still colored by the raising sun! My first Cook Islands sunrise was beautiful!

After that, I walked back to our bungalow and went back to bed since there’s nothing to do in the early morning – no wifi! Ahhh speaking of wifi, there’s no such thing as free wifi or unlimited wifi in the Cook Islands! Wifi is a premium in the Cook Islands, a little hard to imagine that it’s only 2.5 hours away from French Polynesia where we got free unlimited wifi in hotels! So how much does it cost? 100 MB for $10, 500 MB for $50, and 1 GB for $100, remember how long it took for my brother’s iPhone to use up the 10 MB? So 1 GB is really not that much and cost $100 NZD, no thanks! Life without internet in the Cook Islands, how we survived?

First, we sleep till whenever we want and explore our beautiful private island resort! Being on a private island and only has less than 50 rooms (not fully occupied when we were there), we hardly ran into other guests! Especially in the early morning, we felt like we have the whole island to ourselves! NO need to wait for others to get out of our way for photos…every single angle was postcard perfect!

The Flying Boat Restaurant where we had our dinner:

The milky turquoise lagoon and sandbars were the trademark of Aitutaki!

Lagoon facing bungalows, more expensive:

The activity hut next to the restaurant and no problem finding a free beach chair!

We walked back to our bungalow to get ready to venture out for our breakfast. The view from our bungalow…..the beach across the river is Samade on the Beach Resort.

We got on the ferry to get to the main island and walked out for breakfast. On the way, we saw flowers:

Hum..what is the red fruits hanging on the tree?

There is Koru Cafe where we had breakfast:

Wifi internet!! We thought it was free but nooo you have to purchase by MB sigh!

It’s a cute little cafe, very cozy and homelike!

Their breakfast wasn’t cheap but tasted very good!

Yummy French Toast but quite expensive at $16 NZD:

I ordered the Gourmet Bacon and Egg Roll $15 NZD, it could be shared by two people!!! It was tasty with BBQ like sauce!

Hubby ordered Free Range Egg on Toast $11 NZD, I swear that the eggs are so much more orange colored and tasty than the eggs we have at home! And they are probably fresh too not refrigerated!

Breakfast for three: $63 NZD and they accept credit card!

After breakfast, we took the ferry back to our resort:

And photo time! When the sun is out, it lit up the lagoon’s milky turquoise color and you can clearly see its sandbars!

I totally agreed that it’s the world’s #2 most beautiful lagoon next to Bora Bora! Its turquoise water is milky probably from the current constantly stirring up the white sands while the turquoise water of Bora Bora is crystal clear and bright that it blinds your eyes! I posted those photos in my Facebook and my friend commented: how could you leave a place like that?

Everyday at 10 am, one of the free activity is fish feeding. As soon as we walked out the beach in front of the activity hut, the fishes all swim to circle around you waiting for food, it was so cool!

Time to feed the fish!

We had so much fun! Afterwards, we explored our island by walking the whole loop around it! And taking photos along the way!

Big huge chess if you are bored! We were just pretending LOL, I forgot how to play chess, it has been a long time since I learned it at 4th grade!

The rows of coconut trees – that’s in my picture of paradise!

Look at that lagoon!!!

The “overwater bungalows”…..not truly 100% over the water like the ones in French Polynesia!

The beach on the backside of the overwater bungalows is more rocky and lots of seashells so wear your beach shoes!

We saw many beautiful seashells and majority of the beautiful ones have been occupied by hermit crabs, they really know how to pick a nice home!

Coconut tree growing out of a coconut..first time I see that!

And much more!

The back side of the resort has so much coconut trees and coconuts that are fully ripe! I bet our coconut drinks are from here LOL!

A big huge hermit crab! We had so much fun photographing the hermit crabs!

Continued with our walk:

The other side facing the main island:

The boys attempting to open a coconut and failed LOL!

So beautiful!!!

We completed our loop in…we lost track of time!

Back to the ferry waiting area:

We noticed at the front of each bungalow, they planted different plants and flowers so each one is unique!

The view from our bungalow again…I couldn’t get enough of it! I literally took a picture of it every day!

It was lunch time but we were still feeling full by our big breakfast so we decided to skip it and change to head out to the water! Stand-up paddling, I missed that since French Polynesia!

Brother has his first try of stand-up paddling!

And it wasn’t too successful haha hard to keep that balance!

He used it as a canoe board out to the sandbar, it works 😉

Before we head out to the water, we applied waterproof sunscreen with SPF of 70+. I was aware that there’s an ozone hole in New Zealand so skin protection is very important but I didn’t know that it also affects Cook Islands! Once we were on the water taking photos here and there, we lost track of time by the beauty of the lagoon and we got burned so badly in just 1.5 hours!!! We didn’t even realized that we got burned until at night LOL! Well for the postcard perfect photos…let’s not think about the burn for now and enjoy the photos 🙂

We snorkeled out to the sandbar and took those photos:

It was very amazing to stand up on the sandbar surrounded by the lagoon!

The activity hut and Flying Fish Restaurant:

Tired already?

The overwater bungalows:

Those make a good backdrop for vacation photos 😀

We took hundreds of photos at that sandbar! Next, after we returned the stand-up paddling boards, we walked to another tip of the resort island on the side of facing the main island:

During low tide, you can walk out to the sandbar there as well! The river separating the resort island from the main island on the left and the lagoon where we took hundreds of photos of on the right side:

And more photos!

At last we got tired and headed back to our bungalow to shower and rest! We looked at the activity sheet of the day where they also included the dinner menu dishes on it. It looked very interesting – Asian themed dishes today and we decided to dine at the Flying Boat again! Before the sun sets, we headed out for dinner and took photos along the way!

We choose to sit on the deck…it could be chilly at night with the wind so bring a cardigan which we didn’t! We ordered different mocktails again and all were delicious!

My chocolate coconut cream – so good!

I ordered the chicken curry dish, it was surprisingly good!

Hubby ordered the surf and turf with shrimps and New Zealand steak – tasty too!

Brother ordered the sizzling chicken fajita, big dish!

Our two meals in the hotel restaurant so far so good so they exceeded our expectation of hotel food! This time cost $153 NZD for our wonderful meal, still not bad at all for 3 of us with drinks!!! It’ll be perfect with a colorful sunset but no luck! We got back to our room and we realized how red our skins were…yikes we got burned! I didn’t bring any after sun relief lotion or gel since I didn’t think we would get burned!!! Oh my, please keep reapplying sunscreen, the sun over there can burn you in no time!

Our first day in Aitutaki was truly amazing besides the burn, the views and the colors of the water were postcard perfect. I was so glad that I picked Aitutaki Lagoon Resort, its location is perfect! Stay tuned for my next trip report – a day trip out to its out of the world lagoon, sandbars, and the famous One Foot Island!

6 thoughts on “South Pacific Part 2: Aitutaki

  1. OMG! that chocolate drink looks so good! What beautiful photos you have. Looks like your hubby and brother get along well!

  2. I found your travel blog last year when I was researching what to do in Moorea and Bora Bora. I loved your site because of the pictures you have posted. My husband also loves to document our vacation with videos and pictures. Amazing enough we stayed in Hilton Morea and IC Thalasso too. Like you, I’ve been eyeing Cooks Island as another destination to visit. Did you use any travel agent to book your flight, resort or tours. If you don’t mind sharing the website you used to plan your vacation. Thanks!

  3. Your photos of Aitutaki are gorgeous! My husband and I are staying at the lagoon resort in June. What kind of camera did you have and is it waterproof/resistant? I’ve been to Aitutaki before and only had my iPhone for pictures, this time I want to be more prepared!

    1. We had our DSLR – Canon 5D Mark3 in a waterproof housing 🙂 you can just bring a DSLR camera for photos in the lagoon hotel and then a waterproof GoPro or Sony to take photos on or in the water! As long as you have good weather, photos from a DSLR camera will be beautiful!

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