Aitutaki, Cook Islands


Aitutaki, Cook Islands



Aitutaki’s spectacular lagoon is world renowned, and no visit to this island is complete without experiencing it. This exquisite turquoise lagoon stretches for about seven miles along each leg of its triangular shape and is rimmed with palm-shaded beaches and dotted with picturesque motus. In its waters, you can spot myriad tropical fish and other marine life. Watersports abound, from diving and snorkeling to kayaking and more. Diving, snorkeling, and lagoon cruise shore excursions are available from The Gauguin

Mango trees and hibiscus flowers bloom in quiet Arutanga, Aitutaki’s primary settlement. Located on the island’s west coast, it offers an easygoing ambiance, a pretty harbor, and shops. Its main attraction is its Cook Islands Christian Church. Built in the early 1800s of coral and limestone, it is the oldest in the country and features stained-glass windows, carved-wood paneling, and an anchor suspended from the ceiling as a symbol of hope. Another landmark is the Orongo Centre, a community meeting place at the Arutanga Wharf.

Mount Maungapu  
At 407 feet high, Mount Maungapu is the highest point on the island, offering the best views of this palm-studded island and its impossibly blue lagoon. You can hike to the top along a trail whose trailhead is across from the bungalows of Paradise Cove and takes about a half hour to complete. Mount Maungapu is also available on The Gauguin’s Aitutaki Discovery Safari shore excursion.

One Foot Island (Tapuaetai) 
One of the popular motus off the Aitutaki coast is this tropical jewel, where an azure lagoon laps against a white-sand beach. Enjoy swimming and snorkeling at the site that was named “Australasia’s Leading Beach” in the 2008 World Travel Awards. One Foot Island is also famous as the site of one of the smallest and most remote post offices in the world. The Lagoon Cruise and Beach Break excursions visit One Foot Island.  

Click to enlarge
Aitutaki Port Map

Population: 1,770 (2011)

Language: Cook Islands Maori (Rarotongan), English

Currency: NZD, Cook Islands dollars

Scheduled Docking Location: Drifting outside of the lagoon, tender to Arutanga.

Shopping: Shops are generally open Mon–Fri  8am to 4pm, Sat 8am to noon. Closed Sundays.

Banks / ATMs:
ANZ (Australia and New Zealand Banking Group) Mango Traders, open Mon-Thurs 9am to noon and 1pm to 3pm. 
Westpac Bank in the government administration building in Arutanga, open Mon, Wed, Fri 9:30am to 3pm. 
BCI (Bank of Cook Islands) in the government  administration building in Arutanga, open Mon-Fri 9am to 3pm; no ATM.
Major CC are accepted on Aitutaki. Cash: best to have local currency (NZD). Local Cook Islands dollars cannot be exchanged outside the Cook Islands.

Post Office: The post office is located in the government administration building in Arutanga, open Mon-Fri 8am to 4pm.

Internet/Wi-Fi: SpiderCo Internet Lounge (+682 31-780), Mon-Sat 7am to 11:30pm, Sun 6pm to 9pm.

Airport Transportation: Aitutaki Airport averages five incoming flights a day from Rarotonga. It is recommended that airport transfers be arranged in advance.

Pacifica Taxi: +682 31-220 
Tropicool Tours and Transfers: +682 31-248 / +682 50-788

Scooter & Bicycle Rental:
Rino’s Rentals: +682 31-197 
Popoara Rentals: +682 31-735 
Motor scooter is the preferred means of transportation on Aitutaki.

Port Agent Contact
Michael Henry, Cruise Cook Islands 
Ships agents & Shore Excursions 
Phone: +682 31-818
Mobile: +682 55-105

Aitutaki Discovery Safari
  • Ancient Aitutaki Ruins called Marae.
3.5 Hours - $103

Visit ancient sacred grounds, or marae, such as Are Mango, where ancient rituals and sacrifices were performed, and learn how ancient Polynesian warriors defended their island with the help of supernatural beings.

Depart from the pier and head toward the coastal village of Nikaupara. Stop briefly at Vainamu, a freshwater pond once used as a gathering place by the young people of the island. Continue along to the inland village of Tautu, stopping at the ancient temple grounds of Are Mango and the Poatu o Rae - the ancient throne of Rae, reputed to have been the strongest man on Aitutaki. Your guide will tell of his legends, such as tales of how how warriors of old voyaged long distances to experience the music and drums of the Are Karioi - the House of Entertainment where the "Yuppies" of Polynesia gathered for what was reported a marathon of dancing and courtship.

After a short ride through plantations, your tour will head toward the top of Mount Piraki where you will see some of the best views of the coastal village of Amuri and Arutanga. There, you will also view the remains of a World War II bunker built by the Americans during their time on the island.

From Piraki, you will head to the highest peak on the island, Maunga Pu. The ride to the very top is exhilarating, and the view that awaits you there is breathtaking: a panoramic view of the island and its magnificent lagoon.

This tour is more than just a means of reaching the top of Aitutaki's highest mountain without hard work, however. It is an opportunity to get to some of Aitutaki's best kept secret spots. Even for locals living on Aitutaki, places like the Poatu o Rae (the rock of Rae) and the Marae Are Mango (the house of Sharks) are places they hear about but never actually visit. Yet, they are the places that molded what Aitutaki is today.

Following your tour, you will be transferred back to the pier.

Please note: Some sites are difficult to get to but well worth the effort. Guests are requested to wear comfortable walking shoes, protection from the sun and to bring insect repellent.

Excursion Code:
Circle Island Tour
  • A scenic drive around the island of Aitutaki.
2.5 Hours - $93

Your around-the-island drive will take you past several of the island's villages. You'll visit a marae (sacred Polynesian temple grounds) site. Pass through plantations of various crops grown here on Aitutaki. Learn about the island's myths and legends while taking in its beautiful scenery. Aitutaki has a unique geographical makeup - the island is a volcanic atoll with the typical volcanic peaks in the center of the island with the encircling coral reef ringed by the off shore islands (motus) and the lagoon in the center.

The Circle Island Tour is a great way to see the island and meet the locals. Visit the inland villages of Tautu Vaipae and Vaipeka, drive along the coast and see the remnants of the Copra Production Facility, and see how the people of this tiny idyllic island live. There will be plenty of opportunities to meet the locals and take photographs along the way.

Excursion Code:
Lagoon Cruise with Beach Break
  • Cruise the beautiful lagoon of Aitutaki.
6 Hours - $166

Aitutaki's deep-blue lagoon is considered to be one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world. Part volcanic and part atoll, the island's geographical structure makes this lagoon unique. This tour gives you the opportunity to experience the best Aitutaki has to offer in the short time available during your visit.

Board your boat (types and sizes vary) and cruise through the lagoon, visiting offshore motus. At One Foot Island, you'll stop for a lunch of barbequed fish, salads, and fresh fruit. After lunch, enjoy approximately 2 hours to relax or snorkel.

Please note: Wear your swimsuit under a cover up and reef shoes, protect yourself from the sun, and bring snorkeling equipment and a towel from the ship. This boat tour involves a wet landing. There is a cash bar on the island for those who wish to purchase beverages. Guests wishing to obtain a One Foot Island stamp should bring their passports with them. There is a fee of USD $2 for the stamp.

Excursion Code:
SCUBA 2 Tanks Atua Tane - Certified Divers with Outside Operator
  • Discover the marine life of Aitutaki.
4 Hours - $215

For this 2-tank dive, you will be tendering to shore to meet the dive master of Aitutaki diving. You will board the dive boat and sail to your first dive spot where you will dive along the barrier reef and enjoy the nice visibility and architecture of Aitutaki. There, you may spot some hump head wrasses, spotted eagle rays and barracudas.

Before the dive you, will receive your safety briefing. The depth of the dives is about 100 feet.

In between the two dives, you will be able to enjoy some local fresh fruit, coconut water, and regular water. You will sail to your second dive location where you can expect to spot some giant sea turtles (green or hawksbill). After the two dives, you will sail back to the pier.

Available for onboard booking only, cannot pre-reserve, please visit the Dive Desk once onboard, capacity is limited. For more information about our dive programs, visit

Excursion Code:
SCUBA Arutanga Passage - Certified Divers - with Outside Operator
  • Discover the marine life of Aitutaki.
2 Hours - $135

You will meet at the ship`s marina to pick-up your fins and wetsuits before taking the tender to shore. Once there, you will suit up and gear check before boarding the local dive boat and get ready to head to the dive site that is only five minutes away from the pier. There, you will be helped with the equipment and do a back roll entry before heading down towards the canyons where you can observe huge green sea turtle resting on the bottom, occasional passage of spotted eagle rays, napoleon wrasse, and emperor angel fish. At about 90 feet a small family of resident white tips are hiding under an outcropping rock. This site only features hard corals.

Available for onboard booking only, cannot pre-reserve, please visit the Dive Desk once onboard, capacity is limited. For more information about our dive program, visit

Excursion Code:
SCUBA Discover Diving Theory & Pool (Part 1 & 2) - Aitutaki
2 Hours - $99

Learn the basics of one of the most rewarding activities in French Polynesia - SCUBA diving - during this session with The Gauguin's own onboard experts. Meet your PADI-certified dive master, who will introduce you to the equipment, discuss some basic SCUBA diving principles, and provide you with a practice session in the safety of the ship's pool. Even if you have never been SCUBA diving, you can learn the basics in just 2 hours. Completion of this course qualifies you forone of two dives in the Society Islands: SCUBA Toopua - Beginner Divers (in Bora Bora, BRB-1995) and SCUBA Shark Gallery - Beginner Divers (in Moorea, MOO-1999).

For more information about our dive program, visit

Available for advance booking 60 days prior to sailing; capacity is limited.

Excursion Code:
SCUBA Refresh
2 Hours - $50

Brush up on your SCUBA diving techniques in preparation for the divingopportunities that lie ahead during two informative sessions. Meet your PADI-certified dive instructor by the ship's pool on deck 8 for a complete briefing on the use of the SCUBA gear, the laws of SCUBA, and a description of some important underwater skills. Your instructor will demonstrate these skills during the second session in the ship's pool.Each of the two sessions is approximately an hour long.

Available for advance booking 60 days prior to sailing; capacity is limited.

Excursion Code:
Snorkeling Tour
  • Experience the marine life of Aitutaki.
2 Hours - $93

You will board small boats each seating 10 guests and travel to Motu Maina where you can snorkel and those that wish have the option of visiting the motu. It takes approximately 15 minutes to travel each way, as the boats are very quick. This area has beautiful giant clams and is a marine reserve and is a nesting area of the red tailed tropic birds.

Please note: Wear your swimsuit under a cover up, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and bring fins, snorkels, and towels from the ship. You should also wear reef shoes for swimming. This tour involves a wet landing. There are no restroom stops on this tour.

Excursion Code: