A map of Mangaia. Source: Cook Island Sun
A map of Mangaia. Source: Cook Island Sun

Mangaia is the most southerly of the Cook Islands, and the second largest, after Rarotonga.

Geologists say the island is 18 million years old, the oldest in the Pacific.

It rises 4750m above the sea floor, with a land area of 52km2.

It has a volcanic plateau and is surrounded by a ring of fossilised coral cliffs around 60m high, called makatea.

The highest point is Rangi-motia, at 169m. The freshwater Lake Tiriara is in the south.

The population of Mangaia is 700 people.

The capital is Oneroa village, on the west coast, with half the population.

There are two more villages, Tamarua in the south and Ivirua in the northeast.

Mangaia is renowned for its shell neckbands or “eis”.

These are made from a tiny yellow snail which emerges only after rain.

The women give these away as prized gifts of friendship to visitors from other islands.

Mangaia is renowned for coconuts, an important crop even today, providing food, coconut milk, and fibre.

Before settlement by missionaries, Mangaia was ruled by warriors who fought over land and crops.

The first recorded European to arrive at Mangaia was Captain James Cook, on March 29, 1777.

Long ago, during a trip to London, Numangatini, or “King” John of Mangaia, received from Queen Victoria a Union Jack flag.

Mangaia is a good destination for those who want to relax and experience slightly cooler temperatures than on the other Cook Islands.

Check out the island’s accommodation at


Aitutaki has been called the world's most beautiful island. Picture: Allie Towers Rice
Aitutaki has been called the world’s most beautiful island. Picture: Allie Towers Rice/flikr


A map of Aitutaki. Source: Cook Islands Sun
A map of Aitutaki. Source: Cook Islands Sun



Aitutaki has been described as the world’s most beautiful island.

Its remote beauty is such that it has been selected to host Survivor TV programs.

The island is north of the most populated island of the Cook group, Rarotonga.

The main village is Arutanga, on the west side. The overall population is 2000.

Aitutaki has a maximum elevation of 123m, a hill called Maunga Pu.

The land area of the atoll is 18km2.

The barrier reef forms a triangle with sides 12km long, with a lagoon area of more than 55km2.

The southern barrier reef edge is mostly below the sea.

The east side includes a string of small islands, such as Mangere, Akaiami and Tekopua.

The western side of the atoll has a boat passage through the barrier reef, allowing for anchorage close to Arutanga.

The main island and two of Aitutaki’s 15 islets are volcanic. The other islands are made of coral.

Aitutaki Airport is located close to the triangle’s northern point.

There is an area suitable to land flying boats in the southeastern part of the lagoon.

Polynesians first settled Aitutaki around AD900.

The first known European contact was with Captain Bligh and the crew of the HMS Bounty when they also arrived in Aitutaki on April 11, 1789, prior to the infamous mutiny.

Aitutaki was the first of the Cook Islands to accept Christianity, after a missionary visited in 1821.

In 1942 Allied forces were stationed on the island, building the airstrip seen today.

When the war ended some servicemen stayed and married locals.

Two of Aitutaki’s motus (small islands), Rapota and Moturakau, were the locations of the first series of the UK reality television program Shipwrecked in 2000.

In 2006, the island was used for the US TV program Survivor: Cook Islands. Surrounding islands were used for tribal camps and crew locations. One of the tribes was named Aitutaki (or ‘Aitu’) after the island.

Then, not long afterwards, Shipwrecked returned again, with Shipwrecked: Battle of the Islands 2006.

Aitutaki is famous for its turquoise central lagoon, uninhabited islands and palm-fringed beaches.

It has the only over-water bungalow accommodation in the Cook Islands.

Tapuaetai (One Foot Island), a small islet in the south-east of the lagoon, is often said to be the most important attraction. It is regarded as providing the visitor with the best views of the Aitutaki lagoon.

The trip to this island is the most frequented trip available on Aitutaki.

Air Rarotonga offers daily flights and a day tour from Rarotonga.

Check out the island’s accommodation at