For many centuries, the island of 'Atiu was infamous across the South Seas for its warlike ways, but these days the island is better known as perhaps the most ecofriendly and environmentally minded of the Cook Islands. Like its sister islands, Ma'uke and Mitiaro, 'Atiu's most dramatic natural feature is its jagged makatea - a raised coral reef that was pushed up by violent geological activity 100,000 years ago, and now completely encircles the outer section of the island.
For such a small place, 'Atiu supports an amazing variety of natural habitats, from deep underground caves and dense coastal forest to soggy swamps and inland lakes, and the island's rich wildlife is a major draw - but 'Atiu is more than just a natural playground. It's a far more traditional island than either Rarotonga or Aitutaki, and the people here are more in touch with their Polynesian heritage. There are historic marae (open-air meeting grounds), eerie burial caves and ancient coral roads to explore, and 'Atiu is the only island where you can experience a traditional tumunu, the Cook Islands' equivalent of the kava-drinking ceremonies you'll see in the rest of the South Pacific. Most people only stay on 'Atiu for a few days, but that's really only long enough to scratch the surface of this fascinating island.