Article and All Photos By Brendan McKee
Featured Picture: Sunrise at Muri Lagoon from Muri Beach
*** This post is partially sponsored by Air Rarotonga and the Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort. All views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.***
If you’re looking to escape the frigid winter weather, I challenge you to find a better destination than the Cook Islands! Frequently deemed “The World’s Best Kept Secret,” the Cook Islands offers picturesque white sand beaches, beautiful and diverse scenery, and the vibrant culture of the South Pacific. With regularly scheduled flights to Rarotonga International Airport (Airport Code: RAR) from Los Angeles, Sydney, Auckland, and Papeete, and 15 major islands, you could spend months exploring this captivating island nation. However, if you don’t have the freedom to laze around the South Pacific island-hopping, here’s a list of three of the best ‘must-visit’ destinations.
Less than an hour flight from Rarotonga, Aitutaki’s picturesque turquoise lagoon, paradisiacal sandbars, and pristine beaches make it ‘must-visit’ destination #1! Aitutaki first gained attention as a stopover point for the flying boats navigating the ‘Coral Route’ in the 1950s. It’s since appeared in numerous movies, including a National Geographic special on the Great Natural Wonders of the World. It was also a filming location for a season of the popular U.S. television series ‘Survivor.’ Options for visiting this paradise include daily flights from Rarotonga or an exclusive ‘Aitutaki Day Tour,’ which operates Mondays to Saturdays, and includes flights, an island tour, and “The Vaka Cruise,” which explores the lagoon and One Foot Island. Both flights and the ‘Aitutaki Day Tour’ can be booked directly through Air Rarotonga.
Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort
For those who chose to stay on Aitutaki, the Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort offers the opportunity to experience the essence of the South Pacific. Perched on the end of the lagoon, the endless shades of cerulean, cobalt blue, azure, and turquoise will leave you wondering if there is anywhere on earth more inspiring. The resort is the only high-end property directly on the expanse of the lagoon, and only resort in the Cook Islands with Overwater Bungalows. Use their complimentary bicycles to explore the island and experience “The best views on Earth, of the world’s most beautiful lagoon”.
Rarotonga is the most populated and most visited island in the Cook Islands. Palm-studded white sandy beaches adorn its shores, and popular water-based activities include snorkeling, scuba diving, kite surfing, deep-sea fishing, and boat tours, making it ‘must-visit’ destination #2. While the population is only ~11,000, the island maintains a highly developed tourism infrastructure and welcomes approximately 120,000 visitors each year. It’s easy to navigate, with two main circular roads and only two bus routes, one that goes clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. With an elevation of over 14,750 feet (4,500 meters), bike riding, hiking, and scenic flights are also popular activities.
Stay near Muri Beach to take advantage of the best the island has to offer, including shops, restaurants, cafes, and the night market Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. Muri Beach and the lagoon make this area the most popular to visit on the island. We highly recommend making reservations for hotels and car hires (rentals), especially if visiting in the peak season (July to August).
Pacific Resorts Hotel Group
Pacific Resorts Hotel Group (PRHG) manages seven properties on or near Muri Beach and is the leading independent collection of luxury and boutique beachfront resorts in the Cook Islands. They offer a full range of services, including spa and wellness, wedding planning, and wedding and honeymoon packages.Replace this text with descriptive copy to go along with the card image. Then add more blocks to this card, such as buttons, lists or images.
Currently, the population of Atiu is 421. With a history marred in cannibalism, historic Atiuans were fierce warriors, known for terrorizing neighboring islands until missionaries converted the inhabitants to Christianity in the 1800s. The island remains rich in culture and history and has become an eco-lovers paradise, making it truly unique, and our #3 “must visit” destination.
Atiu Villas provides tourism infrastructure for the island and a full-service experience. The property consists of chalet-style villas made almost entirely of local timbers and tropical trees. Each villa has a private verandah, cooking facilities, bathrooms, and includes a fully stocked larder (cupboard) for guests to use and pay a-la-carte upon departure. Electricity, wifi internet, and water are available 24-hours a day, and the hotel will organize your transport, tours, and activities for the duration of your stay. Pretty amazing considering the size and remoteness of the island! For more information on Atiu, visit the island’s website (http://www.atiu.info/