We recently did a week vacation in the Cook islands, spending three nights in both Rarotonga and Aitutaki. We had been to Rarotonga once before, and did the day trip to Aitutaki. It was on the day trip that we decided we must return and actually stay in Aitutaki, after seeing how beautiful it was. Trip advisor led us to only one conclusion, which was that we must stay at Etu Moana. We booked about 8 months ahead and only two villas were left for our dates, villas 2 and 6. We decided to go with villa 2, more on that later.
Flying into Aitutaki, we are pretty sure that the left side of the plane is the better side to be on for the amazing views of the lagoon. You can request window seats both of you (i.e. seated on different rows). The wing can get in the way if you’re near the front, so if you can get the back rows that would be ideal. The flight is only 40 mins and hassle free.
We were greeted warmly at the airport, provided with lovely gorgeous leis, driven thankfully in air conditioned comfort (a change from our time on Rarotonga!) to Etu Moana, and provided with useful local information along the way. On arrival at the property, we were greeted personally by Jo-anne, the owner, and given coconut drinks. Then we were taken around for an orientation of the property by a staff member. We had to wait a couple of mins for something minor to be fixed in our villa, but afterwards we could go in and we were shown around our room. Our bags followed soon after. We were made to feel very welcome. The size of the property is much larger than our impression from the photographs on this website. The distance between the villas was quite substantial, providing good privacy, and the grounds are beautiful.
The pool was not huge but still lovely to use after a bake in the sun. As others have commented the honesty bar is a great idea, and they provide a recipe book to make your own cocktails. We made a pina colada ourselves and sipped it watching the sunset one evening. Some people have mentioned that the beach is not made out of soft sand, but we definitely had no complaints as it was still squished between the toes very satisfactorily :) With only eight villas and such big grounds, privacy is no problem.
Etu Moana is about 10 mins drive from the airport. It is located on the west side of the island, and has views of the shallow lagoon peppered with lots of coral. If unspoilt views of the blue lagoon without coral are absolutely paramount to you, then maybe the east side properties are a better idea (e.g. Aitutaki lagoon resort and spa). Personally, we were totally happy with our view from Etu Moana. The property is also about 10 mins drive to town, so it is fairly handy. There are food places nearby to Etu Moana, and some further away which are worth it, which we’ll talk about later.
We won’t list everything in the villas because you can find that information easily elsewhere. We just want to touch on a few points. Our villa was a row back from the absolute beachfront villas, and we were perfectly content with its location. Everyone staying on the property was happy with their villa’s location too. The shower is large and excellent, and we particularly liked the scented towels, which were a very nice touch. If you want to cook at home that’s not problem because of the all the utilities supplied. There is no microwave in your own room, so you have to use the one in the honesty bar, which closes quite early at 7:30pm. The bed is large and comfy. The room in a nutshell was great.
Like previous reviewers said, the lagoon in front of Etu Moana is quite shallow. You could walk out a hundred metres and still be only be in waist deep water, if that. There are also a billion sea cucumbers that line the floor of the lagoon. However, there is abundant coral, and the water is very clear, allowing for some snorkelling if you wish to do so. The real snorkelling is to be had on the lagoon trips. Tide times, sunset times, and the weather forecast is all written on a whiteboard at the breakfast area. It is recommended that if you want to do activities in the lagoon, you do them at high tide e.g. snorkelling, kayaking.
Breakfast is included in your rate and served in a very nice setting by the pool. Cereal, different breads, yoghurts, a constant supply of freshly cut fruit, and real coffee made to order.
Everywhere on the island, except for maybe Pacific Resort which spray their property, has mosquitos. Do come prepared and take all the necessary measures and precautions in order to avoid being bitten alive. The villas are supplied with mosquito coils. Repellents can be bought at the office too. We always use a 40% DEET product, which we understand some others don’t like because of the ‘toxicity’, but it definitely does the job, as we were only bitten once on Aitutaki due to copious application of the repellent.
The office staff were extremely helpful, knowledgeable and willing whenever we required booking for restaurants or car/scooter hire. We changed our mind on scooters and got a car instead, when they had already sent someone to deliver another scooter as they had ran out, but it was no trouble for them. We are told that they don’t charge commission when doing bookings for you. They would always ring your room for when your pickup arrived, so you didn’t have to wait around for it. If you’re thinking of hiring a scooter but haven’t ridden one before, a staff member will take you out and show you how to use one, and give you a good go to see if you’re comfortable, before you have to decide to rent one or not.
We were too lazy to write separate reviews for the restaurants we ate at, so we’ll write them here in relation to where Etu Moana is. We feel sorry for the previous reviewer who didn’t realise that there was no restaurant on site. If you are reading this then you probably know better!
Lunch: The garden café is just 2 mins walk turning right when leaving the property. Open for lunch (only Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), afternoon tea, and an organic food market. We had a perfectly nice lunch there one day. The tuna there was the best we had on the whole trip, and the lemonade was gorgeous.
Koru café is at the eastern point of the island, where Samade on the beach and the Boat shed restaurant are. We drove there using our rental car. Our lunch was absolutely faultless. The highlight was the special that my partner had, which was the garlic chilli prawns. Our lunch was topped off by a deliciously sinful warm chocolate cake. We thought this was definitely the best place to have lunch on the island, which Jo-anne and another couple we met echoed.
Dinner: Our first dinner was at Tupuna’s café, which is inland and a distance from Etu Moana. There is a shuttle service for a very reasonable price, all organised by the office. In short we were disappointed with our meals. For instance, we both ordered the same dish for our main but received two totally different looking and tasting meals. We would like to note that we are by no means picky eaters, but we thought even this was strange. We found out later that Tupuna herself was away at the time, and apparently the café has a few problems whenever she’s away. Other people dining on the same night (we were all on the same van and got to know each other) had very mixed experiences as well. We probably wouldn’t recommend going to the café if you knew Tupuna wasn’t there at the time.
Our second dinner was at the Boat Shed restaurant, which was a nice setting close to the lagoon with a nice breeze. Service was excellent, and the food was good. We felt this was worth the taxi ride
Our last dinner was at the Pacific Resort which we drove to. This was easily our best dinner of the trip, and we’d highly recommend dining here. It was slightly more expensive than any other place we had dined at. The restaurant had a wonderful setting, and gorgeous views out to the lagoon. Service was very professional here, and what you’d expect from any fine restaurant. Our food was superb and beautifully presented.
Simply put, the best reason to come to Aitutaki is to go on the lagoon cruises. The water, motus and snorkelling are out of this world. We had done the Bishop’s cruise last year as part of the day trip, which was great. Hence, we decided to go with Teking’s cruise this time. In short, we were totally thrilled with our decision. The snorkelling was by far the best we ever had expericned. We were warned by various people about Teking being cheeky and so forth, but it was all good fun. We’d go again with Teking’s cruise in a heartbeat, but we were only there for three nights. Consider going to more than one lagoon cruise, perhaps with different companies, if you are staying for any length of time. It is something not to be missed.
Checkout process was hassle free, and we were all personally farewelled by Jo-anne. Like the other couples, we were flying to Rarotonga around midday, and then to Auckland later on the same day. There was a lovely taxi lady at the airport pickup place. Unfortunately we can’t find her details. We made a deal with her to drop us off at the Saltwater café (which is at the exact opposite side of the island) and she would look after our bags too, and then pick us up later. There are luggage lockers at the airport in Rarotonga but they looked too tall and narrow to fit our bags, and were 20 or 25 dollars for the day (can’t remember which sorry). We were told by Jo-anne that we could store our bags with the firemen near the airport but on arrival we found out they’ve since ceased doing that.
We went to the Saltwater café for lunch, which we highly recommend if you have some time to kill in Rarotonga. The food is gorgeous, service great, and the lagoon opposite is wonderful. It was a perfect end to our trip. Alternatively there is also the Aquarius which was mentioned quite a bit that’s closed to the airport (they have a website), which we can’t comment on.
In short, we would never dream of staying in any other place on Aitutaki. The property, our villa, and the service were all excellent. We hope to be able to come back soon. Thank you Jim and Jo-anne for our wonderful stay.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Etu Moana Beach Villas offers ten Polynesian style villas with thatched roofing. The Villas are situated on a beautiful white sandy beach and you have a mesmerizing view of the turquoise lagoon from each Villa. The Villas are all self contained and have a kingsize bed, large covered verandas, and Tasmanian oak floors. The style is crisp and modern. We offer complimentary Tropical breakfast, kayaks, SUP, snorkel equipment, and bicycles. In the rooms are smart TVs with 40+ movies on a hard drive. You are also able to listen to your own music by connecting your phone via bluetooth with a sound bar. In addition we also offer a gift USB card, coconut drink, ei's and airport transfers. The lovely Cook Island staff at Etu Moana are waiting for you! ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Etu Moana Aitutaki, South Pacific - Cook Islands
- Etu Moana Hotel Aitutaki