Aitutaki
Aitutaki / iStock / shalamov
1 of 6
Snorkling in the Coral Reef
Snorkling in the Coral Reef / iStock / slavadubrovin
2 of 6
Carved Tiki Figures
Carved Tiki Figures / iStock / noblige
3 of 6
Cocktails at Aitutaki Lagoon
Cocktails at Aitutaki Lagoon / iStock / chameleonseye
4 of 6
Coconut Crab
Coconut Crab / iStock / Dirk Freder
5 of 6
Fruit
Fruit / iStock / chameleonseye
6 of 6
Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Port
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

Admit it: You never even knew there was an island called Aitutaki until you booked your South Pacific cruise. That’s because this tiny speck of an atoll — the second most visited of the Cook Islands — flies below most travelers’ radar. Those who do stumble upon it quickly realize that it offers a chance to decelerate, with nothing to do but listen to the gentle lap of ridiculously blue waves and savor the unparalleled serenity.

What We Love

The Lagoon: This sleepy atoll’s vast and tranquil reef-protected water mesmerizes with its pure and endless shades of blue — in part because there’s not much else to distract you.

The Dancing: Don’t tell the Tahitians, but no one shakes their hips and beats a drum like the Cook Islanders. Watching a high-energy dance performed by the island’s grass-skirt-clad residents is a highlight of a visit here.

Best Known For

One Foot Island: Some tours of Aitutaki’s lagoon make a stop at this secluded reef islet with its own legend and commemorative passport stamp. (Parts of "Survivor: Cook Islands" were filmed here, too.)

Snorkeling and Diving: Skim the surface or go deep — the choice is yours, but the rewards are equally enjoyable as an abundance of tropical fish, stingrays, sea turtles, and reef sharks frequent Aitutaki’s waters.

Who It's Best For

Beach Bums: An ideal day on Aitutaki involves an umbrella, a towel, a cooler, and some sunscreen.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Don't Expect to Shop: While a few locally made handicrafts — a carved wooden statue of the Cook Islands’ amply endowed fertility god Tangaroa, for example — are sold on the island, the best Aitutaki souvenirs are photographic memories of its surreal beauty.

Donna Heiderstadt
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger