What’s the weather like in _________________? OK, here’s the scientific answer: Aitutaki Cook Islands Seasons/Climate weather link Summer (Dec, Jan, Feb) high 29°C, low 22°C, humid, hot all the time. Winter (Jun, Jul, Aug) high 25°C, low 19°C, cool nights, bring something comfy and warm for evenings.
And here’s our opinion: Yes, summer is going to be hot, humid, and there’s a good chance of rain but remember rain here, (usually), comes and goes quickly. Predicting how the weather will behave during a specific time period is a bit like throwing a dart at the board, blindfolded.
Having said all that, it’s still a good idea to prepare. If you travel between November and April. Bring a light rain/wind jacket, some games/books/etc to keep you entertained, and a sense of humor. During the dry season, May - October, bring something warm, (a fleece jacket is perfect), for the evenings and those rare cool days.
How bad are the mosquitoes? Like most tropical areas, there are mosquitoes on Aitutaki and at times they can be a nuisance. How bad they are depends on your location, time of day, and the weather. There are occasional cases of dengue fever so bring some repellant and make a habit of putting it on, at least from the knee down, whenever you go out. Mosquito nets in your accommodation will keep you covered at night and mosquito coils will help keep them at bay during the day. Also, antihistamines do a wonderful job of knocking back the itch if you do get bitten; it’s a good idea to bring some with you just in case.
Locals use a 50/50 mix of baby oil and Dettol as mozzie repellant, which seems to work well but smells a little unpleasant.
Should I bring any food with me? How expensive is the food there? The shops on Aitutaki are never going to have the selection most people are used to but you will find all the staples here. For fruit and veggies, your best bet is either the Aquila shop, early in the morning, or one of the organic gardens, (Tauono’s or Angelo’s). Aquila is also the place to get whole wheat or multigrain bread, (in the late afternoon). For specialty items, Rieri’s (the Heineken store) carries more Western style fare but you will pay for it - a head of broccoli will cost about NZ$8, a bunch of celery $25, a tube of salami NZ$17. The availability of fish depends on whether or not the boats are catching any; the local market does sell some (get there early) and some of the charter fishing operations sell fish as well.
Aitutaki is a small island and all goods are brought in by a supply ship once a month. This means prices are going to be higher, for many items, than you are used to. However, you can probably get by on a budget of about NZ$40 per day.
Are there ATM’s on the island? Do I need to bring cash? There are two ATM’s on Aitutaki but we still recommend bringing some cash. Many places outside of the larger resorts do not take credit cards and if something goes wrong with the ATM’s, or your card, you want to be prepared. Aitutaki is very safe and theft is not a serious concern. The banks will, however, cash traveler’s cheques and give cash advances on Visa, MasterCard, and Amex.
What should I bring? For clothing, dress on Aitutaki is casual. Shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops will work for almost every occasion except dinners out and church. Remember that beach wear should never be worn off the beach - meaning no bikinis in town or public, and men must always wear a shirt in public; it is an insult to the locals to do otherwise. Around your resort it is fine to dress how you like.
Other items we recommend: sun hat, mosquito repellant, rash guard (for snorkeling), sunscreen, light wind breaker/rain jacket, headlamp and/or flashlight (torch), a good book or other entertainment, camera (underwater camera if possible), reef shoes.
If you have a mask and snorkel that fit well, and you have room, bring them. While all lagoon tours, and many resorts, provide them, your own mask will likely fit better and be less likely to leak. As well, in the winter (Jun, Jul, Aug), if you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, a light wetsuit is an excellent idea, as it will help keep you warm. A 3mm shorty is perfect.
What is the best lagoon tour company? All of the lagoon tours here offer something a little different. You don’t have to book far in advance, so it’s a good idea to wait until you are on the island and talk to other guests who’ve been out. Tours run the gamut from very relaxed to very adventurous. When asking for opinions, think about what you want - lots of time snorkeling, lots of time on the beach, a bit of both, etc.
Where’s the best Aitutaki snorkeling? The honest answer is that the best snorkeling is reached only by boat, that’s why a lagoon tour is such a good idea. If you’re keen on snorkeling, and you have time, plan on doing two or more tours. From the main island, you’ll find the best spots on the west side, where the majority of the hotels and resorts are located. Don’t worry about the beaches being busy - that’s never an issue here! And just FYI all beaches are public land and no resort can ask you to leave the beach area… period.
Where’s the best swimming on Aitutaki? Ootu beach is easily the best swimming beach on the main island (there is also a nice swimming beach on One Foot Island). It’s located on the East side of the Aitutaki Lagoon, conveniently in front of Samade on the beach, where you can have lunch or rent kayaks.
How do I get to Aitutaki? How long does it take? Currently, the only airline is Air Rarotonga. www.airraro.com They have five flights per day Monday-Saturday and two on Sunday, from Rarotonga to Aitutaki to Rarotonga. The trip over is only forty-five minutes and is worth it for the view of the lagoon alone.
Should I book my airfare now or when I arrive on Rarotonga? You can wait if you like but it advisable to book beforehand. Usually, last minute booking is not a problem except over summer holidays when Aitutakians living abroad return home for a visit, however, you likely won’t save any money and it will just be one more thing you have to worry about. Generally, specials are rare, come with only twenty-four hours notice, and are only good for one way travel.
How long should I plan to stay on Aitutaki vs. Rarotonga? Both islands have something to offer and are worth the visit. Rarotonga gets the majority of visitors because of years of heavy marketing combined with the convenience of an international airport. Aitutaki is really one of those “best kept secrets”. Time and time again, visitors to the Cook Islands spend the bulk of their time on Rarotonga only to arrive on Aitutaki for a few days and realize they should have done it the other way around. You won’t find the selection of restaurants and shops here, and the pace is decidedly slow even by Cook Island standards, but the Aitutaki lagoon is listed as one of the “hundred places to see before you die” for good reason!
If you need to have lots of amenities and entertainment, then you will be happier on Rarotonga. But if you’re looking for real relaxation in one of the most stunningly gorgeous locations on the planet, then, no question, Aitutaki is where you want to be!
Is Aitutaki safe? The only real danger you may encounter on Aitutaki will be from the occasional speeding scooter or from stone fish. Both are easily avoided with a little common sense - shoulder check before you change lanes, wear reef shoes and don’t touch the coral.
Crime is infrequent and limited mainly to petty theft. Again, common sense - don’t leave valuables where others can easily steal them.
A few years ago, there was an outbreak of dengue fever but that has been contained. It is still possible to catch it (transmitted through mosquitoes) but there are very few cases any more. Wear your repellant and/or cover up when possible.
Of course, there is always the threat of “Aitutaki Fever”. You’ll know you have it when you no longer remember (or care) what day of the week it is, and you decide you would be perfectly happy spending the rest of your life on a sunny beach, eating coconuts. Thankfully, there is no cure for this!
Can I get married on Aitutaki? Absolutely! Most resorts and hotels will be able to help you plan your special day. You will have to be in the Cook Islands for three days prior to the ceremony and you must remember to bring your original birth certificate with you. Also, if you’ve been divorced or widowed you will need legal proof of such.
Where’s the best Island Night? All the Island Nights here are terrific and you should definitely plan on going to at least one. Even if you’ve been to one on Rarotonga, it will not be the same as an island night on Aitutaki - you’ll find the atmosphere far more casual and family-centered.
Currently, there are versions of Island Night every night except for Sunday. Some have an umu kai (traditional feast of pork and chicken cooked in an underground oven) and others have an a la carte menu. Here’s a link to a current schedule of Aitutaki Island Nights
Can I rent a boat/hobie cat? Sorry but no. The reason for this will be obvious once you see the Aitutaki lagoon and its many, many, many, many coral heads. Renting out boats is simply too risky for local business people, (financially), and for tourists, (physically) - not to mention the possible damage to the environmentally sensitive Aitutaki lagoon. If you really want to get around the lagoon on your own, consider renting a kayak from Samade on the Beach.
Is there a hospital/doctor on Aitutaki? Yes, there is a hospital here that is equipped to deal with most injuries or medical problems. For serious emergencies, patients are taken, by air, to Rarotonga, or New Zealand if necessary.
What kind of transportation is there on Aitutaki? There is no public transport system (buses) on Aitutaki. Your options are: taxi, rent a car/scooter/push-bike, or walk. A car is a good idea if you have small children or are not comfortable on a scooter. Walking is a viable option (Aitutaki is not big) but you won’t have as much freedom to get around, and lugging bags of groceries around is never fun, especially in the summer heat and humidity. Hitchhiking is a possibility; locals are usually more than happy to give rides and will often offer without being asked.
Scooter rentals are the transportation of choice on Aitutaki for obvious reasons: cheap, easy, fast. You’ll pay about NZ$20-25 a day and a tank of petrol is only about $7. A scooter will get you pretty much everywhere you want to go - with free air conditioning, compliments of Mother Nature! A few caveats though: Make sure you’re comfortable riding before you head out onto the street. Always shoulder check before turning (there are a few speed demons here who will pass you without even changing lanes). Don’t scooter drunk. Carry a light rain jacket… just in case. And wear sunglasses, even if it’s cloudy, to keep the bugs out of your eyes. What kind of fish can I catch in Aitutaki? During the winter months (Jun - Oct), you will be able to catch yellow fin tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Wahoo.
During the Summer months (Dec - Mar) you can still expect to catch some Yellow Fin tuna, though they are not as plentiful. Giant Jack Trevally’s can be taken by casting into the surf.
All year round, you can try your luck fly casting for bonefish. Your best bet is to go with local expert guide Butch Leone.
When booking a charter, make sure to ask beforehand if you would like to keep part of your catch, many charter operations do not offer this. Also, do not eat any trevally as they carry Ciguatera, which is a very nasty and untreatable form of fish poisoning.
Are there any motu drop-offs in the Aitutaki lagoon? Yes, Ranginui’s Retreat has an operation called Wet & Wild that will do drop offs for you, just give them a call and tell them what you want. You can also go out with Bishops Cruises to One foot Island and get left for the day and then ride back with them at night, they will also throw in a marvelous BBQ lunch for an extra 10$.
I’m a vegetarian, will I have problems finding food? Undoubtedly, being a vegetarian or vegan on Aitutaki will take a little more work and planning but there are options. Most restaurants offer at least one vegetarian meal though you certainly won’t find the selection you’re used to in civilization. Local fruits are fantastic and sun ripened! Vegetables are a bit harder to come by depending on the season.
Your best bet is Tauono’s organic garden and café. Sonja makes absolutely delicious vegetarian meals and you can also buy fruits and vegetables to take back to your accommodation with you. The Koru Café is another good option. Get up early to get the best selection of fruits and vegetables from the shops. Aquilla (the little orange petrol station) has a good selection as does Rieri’s (the Heineken Store), though the latter offers mostly flown-in imported fare that is very expensive.
If you have special dietary requirements, bring as much with you as you can and ask ahead before going out for meals.
When is whale watching season? Humpback Whales can be spotted, even from shore, between the beginning of July to the end of October. There aren’t huge numbers, they only come close to the reef intermittently, and thus there are no tours specifically for whale watching. But if you are outside the reef, fishing, diving, or snorkeling, there is a good chance you will see one… and there’s nothing as spectacular as a fifty foot long Humpback whale breaching!
*If you are out on the water and see a whale nearby, please encourage your guide to be respectful and not “herd” the whales toward the reef for a better view. Sadly, there is a bit of a lack of education here where proper whale watching etiquette is concerned.
Can I drink the Water? Some accommodations offer filtered drinking water but others do not. Make sure to ask before you drink the water from the tap. City water on Aitutaki probably won’t kill you but it’s best to be careful, especially those with sensitive stomachs.
Is everything closed on Sundays? Most shops close on Sundays, almost all tours do not run on Sundays, and you will find Aitutaki is very, very quiet. But you will still be able to find a limited supply of groceries and most restaurants stay open. And while you can order alcohol in the restaurants, no stores will sell any type of liquor on Sundays.
Where can I buy local handicrafts? You’ll find most of the local wares available at Moana Creations, located at the wharf in the center of town. Tribe Craft, run by traditional carver Clinton Hewett, is located in the middle of the island and sells traditional wood carvings, drums and ukuleles. Turua and Steph Joseph are doing their part to keep Aitutaki green! Turua uses recycled pine for his painted ukuleles and Steph hand-crafts jewelry out of recycled glass. You can find their work at various places around town or call 31-120 and they’ll be glad to welcome you to their workshop. Another good spot for local art and handicrafts is at the Koru Café - and they can also connect you with the artists if you like.
Do I have to attend church to hear the singing? No, you will be able to hear the singing from outside. If you decide to go, however, make sure to wear proper attire. While locals do not expect visitors to dress as formally as they do, you should be respectful and dress as formally and conservatively as possible. The big white church in town offers refreshments after the service and all visitors are welcome.
Will my mobile phone work on Aitutaki? It is best to check with your mobile service provider on this one. Some phones work and some don’t but overall the connection is not good and you shouldn’t rely upon it.
What if I need to call back home (overseas) while I am on Aitutaki? From the post office, you can purchase a “Kia Orana Card” which can then be used at the public telephone. Some resorts will also let you make long distance calls for a fee. Remember that there will be a satellite delay and chances are the connection will not be very good.
What about cyclones? Cyclone season is between Nov - April. The chances of a cyclone actually hitting Aitutaki, and the chances of you being here during that time, are ver y slim. Also, you’ll get plenty of notice and time to evacuate if there is a cyclone so this really shouldn’t be a consideration when planning your trip.
Disabled or in a wheelchair, will I have a problem getting around? Unfortunately, Aitutaki is a little behind the times where facilities for the disabled are concerned. You will probably want to check with the resort you plan on staying at to see if they can accommodate you.
Do I need a converter for my electrical appliances? Aitutaki uses the same plug system as Australia and New Zealand (three prongs) and is on 220V. You will need a converter if you live outside of these areas. Remember not to leave appliances with converters plugged in when you are out, however, as they can spark and cause a fire.
I’ve heard the lagoon is full of sea cucumbers, is this true? You will see these echinoderms, (commonly referred to as Sea Cucumbers), in the lagoon but it is hardly full of them. They are in the same family as starfish (which you will also see) and are harmless. You may not like the looks of them but they filter bacteria and debris, which keeps the lagoon healthy - a very important job!
Is there anywhere to hike on Aitutaki? Aitutaki has one peak, Mt. Maungapu 130m, and a couple of lookout spots. There isn’t much in the way of serious hiking but the island is easy to walk around on foot and there’s lots of beach to explore.
Can I access the internet on Aitutaki? There is one internet café in town - Spider Internet Café. Be prepared, the speed here, as with everything else, is slow! Aside from sending a few emails home, you’re best to just disconnect and enjoy a computer-free vacation. You’ll be surprised how relaxing that can be! Some of the resorts do have wireless set up if you bring your laptop, it will be slow.
Where can I do my laundry on Aitutaki? If the resort you’re staying at does not have a laundry service, you can try Kuku’s restaurant in town. There are no laundry-mats on Aitutaki.
What is the time difference between Aitutaki and _________? The Cook Islands are in the same time zone as Hawaii. This means we are 3 hours behind Los Angeles (Pacific time) and 22 hours behind New Zealand.
Do I need a Cook Islands driver’s license? Yes a Cook Islands driver’s license is necessary to operate any motorized vehicle. In Rarotonga it costs 25$ and a road test required, actually a bit of a nuisance to obtain, on the other hand, if you’re going to visit Aitutaki, you can get one easily for $2.50 and no testing, just show up at the police station by the main pier and they will be happy to issue you one, and its good on Rarotonga as well!