Aitutaki island, also traditionally known as Araura and Utataki, is one of the Cook Islands, north of Rarotonga. It has a population of approximately 2,000. Aitutaki is the second most visited island of the Cook Islands. The main village is Arutanga (Arutunga) on the west side.
Aitutaki lagoon and its islands are breathtakingly beautiful. The classic picture postcard of a small palm tree fringed tropical island, with shallow, warm turquoise waters, corals, tropical fish and blue skies is taken here. The lagoon is large, taking about an hour in a boat to cross it. Tourism facilities are well developed but are still low key enough not to intrude on the nature of the island. One Foot Island is a popular stopping spot for lagoon cruises.
History of Aitutaki island
Polynesians probably first settled Aitutaki around AD 900. Aitutaki was the first of the Cook Islands to accept Christianity.
During WWII the island was host to American forces who outnumbered the local population of the island at the time. The Americans built the airstrips which are still in use today. The island was built to be the last point of defense in the Pacific, but Japanese advance was reversed and the island never saw action. Some descendants of the American troops stationed there remain on the island.
The lagoon was a stopover point for the TEAL (later to become Air New Zealand) flying boats, which operated to between Tahiti, Fiji and New Zealand until 1960. The remains of the wharf where visitors would disembark for a two-hour stopover, often including a swim in the lagoon is still in place today on the island of Akaiami in the lagoon. The rocks are slightly submerged.
Aitutaki island is famous for its turquoise central lagoon, uninhabited islands, and palm-fringed beaches. Another advantage is that until now it has been spared by mass tourism.