The Lonely Planet's 12 incredible experiences in the Cook Islands
Aitutaki Township - Arutanga
The historic, small township of Arutanga is the centre of the Aitutaki community of approximately two thousand people. The Visitors Centre of the Government Cook Islands Tourism Corporation is located in the centre of the township opposite the Bluesky telecommunications office and Post Office. Office hours are generally 8am - 4pm Monday to Friday. Arutanga township is also the centre for Government services including the Government offices, Island Council, Police Station, as well as the Court House. The shops in Arutanga are generally open from 8am - 8pm daily except Sunday. Only the Neibaa in the village of Vaipae and Payless Store in the village of Amuri are open on Sunday 7am - 8pm.
The Cook Islands Christian Church in Arutanga is the oldest church in the Cook Islands as Aitutaki was the first community in the Cook Islands to accept Christianity. Visitors are welcome to attend the church services 6am on Wednesday and Friday with the main weekly services at 10am and 4pm on Sunday. If attending church services, please dress modestly and consider having a small donation ready when the plate is passed around the congregation. There is also a Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist and Apostolic Church in Arutanga.
Maunga Pu and Pirake Outlook
Maunga Pu and Pirake Lookout are two short hikes which originate on the coastal road in Anaunga and Amuri and climb up to prominent viewpoints which have incredible views of Aitutaki's beautiful lagoon. The only real difficulty encountered on either hike is dealing with a short steep section near the summit of Maunga Pu.
Attending an Island Night is part of the island experience. Here you have the opportunity to try some traditional Cook Island dishes – such as pork cooked in an underground oven, taro, and local fish. Then you’ll be treated to singing, dancing, and drumming performed by local groups whose enthusiasm, you will find, is contagious. Reservations are required. There are several Island Nights held throughout the week at different restaurants.
The Aitutaki Market
The market opens at 6am and we suggest you be there right at opening if you want to buy fish or fruits and vegetables. Here you can also find local dishes such as Rukau (boiled taro leaf) and Puke (a kind of banana arrowroot dessert type thing – very filling).
It’s best to shop early if you’re looking for fish, fruits & veggies, or fresh bread. There are a couple of shops which sell souvenirs and local handicrafts. Most stores apart from Neibaa's on the other side of the island are closed Sundays and there is no alcohol sold on Sundays.