What to do in Aitutaki
Aitutaki is regarded as the of the most exquisite lagoons in the world and certainly one of the largest being 12 km across its base and 15km from top to bottom. The main island is called Aitutaki - it is a flat island on the north section of the lagoon. There are another 20 small uninhabited islands (motu) along the edge of the lagoon, mostly on the eastern rim.
The water is of the most beautiful colour and in many places is quite shallow so that even three miles out at times you can stand waist deep in water, which perfect for beginner snorkellers.
Getting to Aitutaki is easy - Air Rarotonga have four daily flights on Monday to Saturday (not Sundays) which cost about NZ$450 round-trip. The main island of Aitutaki, with a population of about 2000, is laid back and quaintly yesteryear, although the resorts are of very good quality. The island features a pretty coastal road and several cross island roads making exploring easy, but be warned the roads aren't well marked and small as it is, it is easy to get got on the back ones! Locals are happy to help you refind your way though.
There are also lots of bush tracks meandering through inland plantations. There is no regular bus service so the best way to get around is by moped or bicycle which can be hired from most hotels. You could even walk to most places on the island given a good sun hat and plenty of drinking water.
Arutanga Village is found on the west coast and is the main settlement with a lovely white church, wharf, post office, bank, supermarket, restaurant and petrol station. There is no beach at Arutanga, which has a deep water harbour, but the beach begins less than a mile to the north at the village of Ureia with its colourful houses along the main road and large playing field.
Outrigger canoes can usually be seen fishing in the lagoon and swimming is OK here although snorkelling is better to the eastern side of the island.
Mt. Maungapu, north of Ureia Village is another attractive village. Amuri boasts a few small boutique shops and restaurants. A trail leads north of here to Mt. Maungapu, the highest point at 124 metres. The track to the summit is quite easy and offers spectacular panoramic views of the island and lagoon. The southern tip of the finger has a gorgeous swimming beach and great views of the island.
The east coast is popular with local fishermen and you will see them most days fishing in their outrigger canoes from the jetty at Vaipae, the islands second largest village. There is no beach on the east coast, instead rocky outcrops and tidal mud, not practical for swimming.
It's possible to ride a bike along the south coast either on the beach (at low tide) or on a rather bumpy bush track. Although the beach along the entire south coast is tidal and not particularly attractive, it's a great place to explore. The southern tip of the island has no villages and is mostly low lying bush with a few family plantations.
If you follow the signs and look hard enough, you'll find some of the best ancient marae on the island in a small clearing in the bush. Do bear in mind there is protocol associated with marae, they are sacred to islanders and you may only enter the rings with explicit permission.