Aitutaki Island (traditionally known as Ararau, Araura, Utataki) is one of Cook Islands. It is located north of Rarotonga, has population of around 2,000 and covers a total land area of approx 18 km2 (7 mi2). Aitutaki is the 2nd most of the Cook Islands. The main village (and cruise port) is Arutunga (aka Arutanga) on the west side.
Aitutaki is an "almost atoll" with highest elevation 123 m (404 ft) - a hill called Maunga Pu close to the island's northernmost point. There is an area suited for land flying boats in the lagoon's southeastern part. Probably the first who settled Aitutaki were the Polynesians around AD 900. The first European contact was with Captain Bligh (1754-1817) and the crew of HMS Bounty when he discovered Aitutaki on 11 April 1789, prior to infamous mutiny.
On February 10–11, 2010 the island of Aitutaki was devastated by Cyclone Pat. The high winds ripped the roofs off of most buildings and damaged other including a hospital and a school. More than 60% of houses were damaged. A few minor injuries were reported, but luckily there were no reported deaths. An army engineering team and Air Force Hercules cargo plane were provided by New Zealand with an initial US$200,000.
Aitutaki Island is famous for its crystal clear central lagoon and palm-fringed beaches. A great advantage is that until today it was spared by mass tourism. An old church, which is the oldest in the Cook Islands and several gigantic Banyan trees (Ficus prolixa) are the major attractions.
Tapuaetai (One Foot Island) is a small islet in the lagoon's south-east. It is often said to be the most attractive location on Aitutaki. Tapuaetai is regarded as providing tourists with the best views of Aitutaki lagoon and one can walk on a sandbank a decent distance from Tapuaetai, depending on the tide. The trip to the island is the most frequented trip on Aitutaki. In June 2008, One Foot Island was prized "Australasia's Leading Beach" at Sydney's World Travel Awards.
Air Rarotonga offers a day tour and daily flights from Rarotonga. The source of income for most locals are government jobs, followed closely by tourism. With the exposure Aitutaki Island has been given by travel programmes, tourism numbers started to climb. The addition of a newly built resort helped to increase the number of tourists.
Aitutaki Island cruise terminal
Cruise ships to Aitutaki Island dock (anchor) at Arutunga (Arutanga) on the west side.