Pacific Resort Aitutaki? Yes, Please

Rapae Bay Restaurant and pool, Pacific Resort Aitutaki

Within an hour of our arrival at the Pacific Resort Aitutaki, we’d pretty much seen the lay of the land (and blue, blue lagoon).  We looked at each other, nodded, and knew:  We already wanted to stay a lot longer.

Our recent trip to the Cook Islands was a celebration of our 10th anniversary (and 15 years together), so we wanted it to be really special.  After successfully using miles to book business class all the way, we decided that when it came to our lodgings, we’d hold hands, close our eyes and jump off a credit card cliff.

Fortunately, there was a small trampoline waiting at the bottom.  There may be no real bargains when it comes to Cook Islands resorts, but it doesn’t hurt that at present, New Zealand currency is holding up nicely against the U.S. dollar.  The Cooks currently cost a good deal less than Fiji and Tahiti, for the very same sand and water.

And bonus, the Pacific Resort Aitutaki has a perfect ringside seat for both.

Tail end of a breaching whale

Tail end of a breaching whale

For example, the highlight of our whole trip:

Kicking back on the Rapae Bay Restaurant’s lagoon-view deck one morning, chatting with the friendly young Australian couple at the next table, we all glanced towards the reef’s edge just in time to see a humpback whale breach itself entirely out of the ocean, then splash back into the deep.

We cheered in amazement; after all, we always imagined a scene like this would involve a queasy sail through choppy seas…not a comfy chair and a cappuccino.

I consulted Jason Miller of The Accomplished Traveler to find us the ideal spot on Aitutaki, and I’m grateful to him for suggesting a beachside bungalow at the Pacific Resort.  With Polynesian art on the walls, Indonesian furnishings, a huge marble bathroom with a garden-view shower, and a spacious deck surrounded by impossibly tall hibiscus bush/trees, this little beach house was a quiet and soothing place to unwind.

Early in our trip planning, we’d been leaning towards two other resorts:

Etu Moana seemed beautiful, but lacked the glamour we sought, as well as a spa.  To be honest, though, if it hadn’t been a special occasion, I probably would have booked us here; it’s far less expensive.

Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa‘s overwater bungalows intrigued us, but three factors swayed us away:

  • Little privacy between the overwater bungalows.
  • An overwater bungalow seemed like it’d be more fun in the warmer waters of March.
  • ALR&S is reachable only by boat, complicating our goal to explore the island’s interior.

At the Pacific Resort, we simply walked along the shoreline outside our room, right into town and up to the jungle.  We could have easily rented a little car (or if we’d been brave, a moped) and tried out driving on the left side of the road.  The island safari tour we took (post to come) was able to pick us up right from the lobby.

Water lily from the lobby pond

Our first afternoon, we booked massages on-site, in an airy, second-floor spa room with candles, high ceilings and a calm, friendly therapist.  Those initial massages were so relaxing, we each went back for another the very next day.

A $100 daily food credit (through Jason, one of the perks of consulting a travel agent) was also a plus. Breakfast at the Pacific Resort is included with your room, but a break on other meals was highly welcome.  A lot of produce is grown on Aitutaki, but most everything else has to be shipped in — and is priced accordingly.

Fortunately, the cuisine at the resort, prepared by a trio of Chilean, Fijian and Aitutakian chefs, is really, really good.  We loved the coconut milk-marinated Ika Mata, a Polynesian ceviche made with local fish; gingery pancakes with caramelized bananas; and flaky beef empanadas served with a relish of home-grown tomatoes.

Even simply wandering here is a treat. Shady and lush garden paths lead you past the resort’s resident marae (ancient Maori ceremonial site).  Strolling the beach, you’re likely to see herons, bright blue starfish in the clear lagoon, and even teeny, tiny ivory crabs perfectly camouflaged in the coral sand.

Despite a gorgeous dinner and amazing drumming, the resort’s Cook Islands dancing night felt a little awkward (close quarters in the restaurant = constrained choreography), but the sheer speed was never boring…and really hard to photograph. The next night’s fire dancing show on the beach promised a greater spectacle, but we chose to sit on our room deck and listen from afar to the powerful drums, watching moonlight shimmer on the water.

Note: For the best dancing, singing and traditional island cuisine, several Maori locals suggested the Thursday Island Night beside a nearby resort, Tamanu Beach.

We were beautifully cared for by all the people here, especially Michael Shah, the general manager who took the time to greet each guest; Loretta, the cafe waitress who suggested the island’s best beaches and even offered to take us with her family out on the lagoon; and Rima and Ann at the front desk, who can make just about anything happen with a simple phone call.

Michael Shah greeting new guests in the lobby; Ann and Rima at the front desk

On our last evening, we settled in by the poolside bar to enjoy a stunning orange-and-lavender sunset and the Cocktail of the Moment (new each day, named for an arriving guest).  Serenaded by two young Maori guys with guitars and a full catalogue of dreamy island songs, we cuddled up a little against the strong ocean breeze and toasted the Pacific Resort — and Aitutaki itself.

See related posts:
Cook Islands: Scenes From Aitutaki
Aitutaki Discovery Safari Tours: Story of an Island, Part 1
Aitutaki Discovery Safari Tours: Story of an Island, Part 2
The Small Blue Yonder: An Aitutaki Lagoon Cruise
Ever Thought About Moving to Paradise?
Flying ‘Round the Cooks: The Easy Version
Flying ‘Round the Cooks: The Not-So-Easy Version


  1. Ok that vacation just looks like heaven! And what a way to pamper yourself. Business class, food credits, gorgeous resort. You are really making me want to fly away today. I love the photographs, it is really beautiful

  2. Deb, thank you — and you guys should absolutely go! You’ll see soon, there’s adventure to be had in the Cooks. It’s not ALL posh surroundings and cocktails by the pool!


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