Not many people take the time, effort or money to travel to the Cook Islands (though they should). However, even once they reach Rarotonga, the most populated and popular island in the country, many visitors just stop there. During my trip in the Cook Islands, though, I spent a couple of days on Atiu, which only sees about 1,200 visitors a year, and anyone who makes this extra island hop is in for a unique, interesting and memorable experience.
Fewer than 500 people live on Atiu, and no one place on the island offers more than six guest rooms. If all guest beds on Atiu were filled, that would mean that a whopping 70 people were visiting the island at one time (which has never happened). When people talk about traveling off the beaten track, it doesn’t get much more off-path than Atiu.
There are no commercial tour operators, just people who live on the island who offer to show guests around. Rental cars are replaced by motor scooters and bicycles. People who visit Atiu may have the opportunity to spot a specific variety of the swiftlet (a bird found only on Atiu and nowhere else in the world), crawl through burial caves on their hands and knees, drink in a traditional bush pub and chat with the locals over a cup of Atiu-harvested coffee … in the comfort of their living rooms.
Taking the time to visit this slice of the Cooks is an island experience found only on Atiu.
My trip to the Cook Islands was paid for by the Cook Islands Tourism Board, but all opinions are my own.