Introduction

The tourism juggernaut that churns through Rarotonga and Aitutaki is a world away from sleepy Mitiaro. Here people live much the same way as their ancestors have for hundreds of years (except for electricity and motorscooters). Mitiaro may not be classically beautiful in the traditional South Pacific sense – the beaches are small and, where the land’s not covered with boggy swamp, it’s mainly black craggy rock – yet it is an interesting slice of traditional Polynesian life and makes for a rewarding place to spend a few days.

Like on ‘Atiu and Ma’uke, the maketea of Mitiaro has many deep and mysterious caves, including the brilliant underground pools of Vai Nauri and Vai Marere. Mitiaro also has the remains of the Cook Islands’ only fort. The islanders on Mitiaro are great craftspeople and you’ll discover that the weaving, woodcarving and traditional outrigger canoes are all beautifully made. Another highlight is staying a few days in a homestay, either in a local’s private home or in one of three kikau cottages dotted around the tiny island's only settlement.