The lagoon may be what draws the tourists here, but Aitutaki’s ancient marae are also notable for their large stones and cultural significance. Marae Orongo is today in the main village of Arutanga. The main road runs through another large marae, and on the inland road between Nikaupara and Tautu are the islands’ most magnificent marae – including Tokangarangi and Te Poaki O Rae – mostly reclaimed by the jungle.
The best swimming, snorkelling and beaches are around the motu, especially near Maina, accessible by boat. Just south of Black Rocks, on the main island's northwest coast, you can walk out to the outer reef on a coral causeway that starts 50m from the shore. The nicest swimming beaches on the main island are O’otu Beach and the wharves at Vaipae and Tautu. The island’s east coast is mainly shallow mud and mangrove swamp.
Scuba diving is fantastic in Aitutaki. The visibility is great, and features include drop-offs, multilevels, wall dives and cave systems. Many divers ask to dive on the wreck of the Alexander, but it sits in a mere metre of water and is just as suitable for snorkellers.
In recent years the popularity of kitesurfing has really soared, and the skies and beaches around Honeymoon Island are often dotted with kitesurfers zipping along in robust tropical breezes.
Check out www.aitutaki.net, www.cookislands.travel/aitutaki/ and www.aitutaki.com for more activities listings.
Most tour operators on Aitutaki don’t have offices. Arrange a cruise by calling the operator or ask the people you’re staying with to arrange it. The operator will collect you from your hotel.
For many travellers an Aitutaki lagoon cruise is a Cook Islands highlight. There are several operators that cruise around the motu and snorkelling spots. All provide snorkelling gear, a barbecue fish lunch and a stop at Tapuaeta’i (One Foot Island) – remember to take your passport to get it stamped at the One Foot Island ‘post office’ for NZ$2. You can also send Aitutaki postcards to the folks back home.