Aitutaki – Cook Islands
Blissfully Remote, Breathtakingly Beautiful
It is ironic that of the many islands Captain James Cook sailed to in his quest for paradise, he missed Aitutaki, the one perhaps most qualified – and, as it happens, in the island group that was later named for him.
Instead, Aitutaki was “discovered” by Captain William Bligh in 1789, just days before the mutiny aboard his H.M.S. Bounty. Today the only mutiny you’ll find is among those resisting the return to Rarotonga, which seems downright raucous compared to this sleepy little island. Aitutaki doesn’t profess to be the most stunning of all Pacific islands, but it may well be – at least according to the many seasoned travelers who have sailed these incredible waters before arriving here, speechless.
Gorgeous at ground level, Aitutaki is also (like the rugged Tahitian island of Bora Bora, to which it is often compared) spectacular from the air, where its 30-mile protective reef resembles a scalloped turquoise carpet spread out on an indigo sea. The reefs necklace of twenty-one tiny motus (small islands) and their empty white beaches are perfect destinations for picnics, lolling, and snorkeling in the startlingly clear water.