Best Places To Visit On Panglao Island

Panglao Island is located to the south of Bohol Island and less than 10 miles away from Tagbilaran, its known for its popular beach resort of Alona Beach. This small paradise island is connected to Bohol island by a road, so is easily reachable. The island has beautiful pristine beaches which attract both local Filipinos and overseas visitors.

Just a few minutes away by banca boat from the beautiful beaches are colourful coral reefs and world famous dive sites. As well as stunning beaches on offer the island is also home to several other sights and attractions.

We visited Panglao for the day but actually wish we had booked accommodation on Panglao and based ourselves there instead of Tagbilaran. If you are planning a trip to Bohol, I would really recommend basing yourself on Panglao Island as the rest of Bohol is easily accessible from there.

I would also recommend allowing some time to visit other close by islands, we didn’t have enough time to visit them but really wish we did. I’ve heard it’s better to book a private tour boat, and head to Balicasag Island and Virgin Island to spot wild dolphins, snorkel, dive or swim and stroll along Virgin Islands pristine white sand bar. You can book to see these islands on a half day tours.

Panglao Beaches

Most people visit Panglao island for its beautiful beaches, marine life and slower pace of life. There are plenty of beaches to choose from all around the island, I always recommend when staying on any beach always walk along the beach as you always stumble across something new such as another area of natural beauty, a cool restaurant or little beach shack, you can’t beat a good beach walk. Here are just a few of Panglaos beaches to explore;

  • Alona Beach: Is one of the most popular beaches with tourists, and has lots of resorts, cafes, restaurants, bars, dive shops and water sports all available along the beach front.
  • Danao Beach: Is a mix of white sand and rocky shores and has a more natural feel to it, it’s not too far from Alona Beach either.
  • Doljo Beach: Doljo Beach is a long stretch of white sandy beach lined with palm trees and isn’t very developed and isn’t too far from Momo Beach.
  • Dumaluan Beach: This beach is similar to Alona Beach and is not far from it, but it is much quieter. This beach is a great place to base yourself as it’s a good alternative to Alona Beach and you get the best of both, close enough to all the amenities in Alona but the quieter more serene beach of Dumaluan.
  • Momo Beach: Momo Beach is one of the quietest beaches and hasn’t got lots of hotels and resorts, it’s a great escape for people that want to get away from tourists.
  • Panglao Beach: Panglao Beach is only a small stretch of beach but a beautiful one, and doesn’t have many resorts along the beachfront.
Alona Beach Panglao

Bohol Bee Farm Resort

Bohol Bee Farm Resort is located on Panglao island and is an absolute must visit, this gorgeous organic farm has the most beautiful restaurant built onto a small cliff overlooking the ocean, and serves up fresh organic dishes. Before your food is served they provide squash bread and pesto and mango spreads which were amazing. I ordered the honey glazed chicken which was delicious and beautifully presented with flower garnishes.

There is a cute gift shop selling souvenirs and locally made products and produce, and a small ice cream shop. We had a look around the gardens and went down to the sun deck which provides stunning views of the sea. You can also stay overnight as there are suites and chalets available to book. There are beehive tours you can go on at selected times too. I would really recommend visiting for lunch and to wander around the resort, it really is a lovely relaxing spot to visit.

Bohol Bee Farm Resort Panglao

Hinagdanan Caves

Entrance Fee: 25 PHP / Bathing Fee 100 PHP

Hinagdanan Caves are small tucked away caves and can only be accessed by some small ladder steps which has to be done in single file. We loved stepping down into these beautiful caves with crystal clear lagoon and limestone stalactite and stalagmite formations. With the caves growing popularity there are several souvenir shops and cafes located nearby. These caves are a must visit, I would recommend going early to avoid the crowds, and wear shoes that have good grip as it can be quite slippy in the caves. There’s a small entrance fee to enter the caves, and an extra cost if you wanted to swim in the caves lagoon.

Hinagdanan Caves PanglaoHinagdanan Caves Panglao

Nova Shell Museum

Entrance Fee: 50 PHP

Nova Shell Museum this quirky little museum is a really good place to visit its really interesting and a great place to stop off at. It showcases all of the shells that are found around the island and other areas of the Philippines. It’s only a small museum and doesn’t take much time to look around the huge variety of seashells. I would really recommend adding the museum to your Panglao itinerary, as it’s a really sweet and eccentric little space.

Nova Shell Museum Panglao

Saint Augustine Church

Saint Augustine Church is great place to stop at to admire some of the islands history. This Spanish baroque style church has mural ceilings, a watch tower and ruins. It’s interesting to see and learn about the church’s history and understand about the Spanish colonisation in the Philippines.

Saint Augustine Church Panglao

Transport & Getting Around

There are several options to reach Panglao you can get a flight to Panglao International Airport which only opened back in 2018, it’s a small airport and there are just a several flights going in and out daily from Manila, a few other places around the Philippines and direct flights from Seoul in South Korea.

It’s now much easier to get to the island, we visited when it still had the older airport at Tagbilaran, and there were no flights from Cebu that we could find. So we took the ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran. The ferry is easy, regular and cheap and takes about 2 hours and costs less than £15 each. We went with Oceanjet ferries and booked in advance. From Tagbiliran you can grab a taxi easy enough that can take you to Panglao.

We booked a driver for the day and visited Panglao, it’s really affordable to do and personally would recommend this rather than booking a tour group, as you can spend as little or as much time as you want in certain places.

1 Day Itinerary

  • Hinagdanan Cave
  • Bohol Bee Farm
  • Nova Shell Museum
  • Saint Augustine Church
  • Alona Beach

Top Tips

My best bit of advice for visiting Bohol and Panglao would be to base yourself on Panglao Island, I really wish that’s what we had done. It’s so close and convenient when exploring the rest of Bohol, but you have the beautiful beaches to chill out on after a day of sightseeing.

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

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A Day Trip To The Phi Phi Islands From Phuket

The Phi Phi Islands also known as Koh Phi Phi (Koh meaning island in Thai) is a cluster of six paradise islands set in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand, and are part of the Krabi province. With crystal clear turquoise ocean surrounding each of them and stunning white sand beaches curving around the islands and their jungle interior. They make the perfect tropical getaway, and they can easily be reached from both Phuket and Krabi.

Koh Phi Phi Don is the largest and most developed of all the islands, it’s where the main town is and all the hotels and resorts are located on this island, along with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars, Phi Phi Don is known as the party island! Loh Dalum Bay is the main party hub on the island, every night from 9pm the party kicks off on the beach with fire shows, Thai boxing and live bands all fighting for tourists attention. This is the place to come to drink buckets of booze and dance all night long.

Tonsai Bay is the bustling heart of Phi Phi Don it’s the main village on the island and the main arrival port. There are no cars or roads and everywhere can be reached by foot or bicycle, including Loh Dalum Bay which is a minutes walk away as this part of the island is so narrow.

All around Phi Phi Don are a variety of other beaches which are quieter such as Laem Tong Beach and Loh Bagao Beach. All of Phi Phi Don provides stunning scenery with its jagged cliffs and beautiful bays and beaches, however mass tourism has spoilt the island somewhat with over development and overcrowding of tourists.

Phi Phi Islands Phuket ThailandPhi Phi Islands Phuket ThailandPhi Phi Islands Phuket Thailand

Koh Phi Phi Leh is an uninhabited island that lies one mile from the southern tip of Koh Phi Phi Don. This island is most known for Maya Bay which was made famous by The Beach film back in 2000 that starred Leonardo DiCaprio. Phi Phi Leh offers stunning vertical cliffs capped with greenery, rocky caves, small sandy beaches and colourful coral reefs. Most visitors find their way around Phi Phi Leh on a tour boat.

The other four islands are Koh Pai also known as Bamboo Island, Koh Young also called Mosquito Island, and two islets marking the southern end of the archipelago named Koh Bida Noi and Koh Bida Nai.

With such a heavy footfall of people and boats coming to the islands, unfortunately, much of the coral reefs and marine life that once surrounded the islands have disappeared and much of the islands natural beauty is being threatened by more tourism expansion. Thai authorities are now seeing the effects of mass tourism on the islands and have recently been closing parts of the islands, and trying to reduce the number of visitors. So while planning your trip make sure to check what is open to the public, Maya Bay has been closed to let it recover.

Phi Phi Islands Phuket ThailandPhi Phi Islands Phuket Thailand

The Phi Phi islands were somewhere I had dreamt of going for many years all throughout my teenage years after I watched the Beach my infatuation for Thailand began, and after I graduated from university my then fiancée (now husband) decided to book a trip to Thailand – our first trip to Asia which sparked our obsession for the continent. For our first trip to Thailand, we booked a two week itinerary and went to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket.

When we visited the Phi Phi Islands many years ago we opted for a full day tour from Phuket, which included pick up from our hotel in Phuket and ferry to the islands where we cruised around some of them. We got off at Phi Phi Don for lunch and to relax on the beach, before heading off on a long tail boat to some snorkelling spots.

The Phi Phi islands have mixed reviews and they have become like marmite you will either love them or hate them! I think when visiting you have to go with an open mind and manage your expectations, yes they are touristy and overdeveloped, and they may not offer an authentic Thai experience, however the natural landscape is undeniably stunning, and I would suggest not letting anyone put you off going, if it’s somewhere you fancy going I will always suggest doing what feels right for you, and go and make your own mind up about a place.

Personally, I liked the Phi Phi islands as much as they were touristy etc, were they the best beaches I’ve ever been to? No, I have been to better beaches and snorkelled in better locations, however we had a really lovely day out to the islands and I would definitely like to go back in the future to see how the government has implemented changes and to perhaps make the islands tourism industry more sustainable, so the islands can be preserved and enjoyed by people in years to come.

Phi Phi Islands Phuket ThailandPhi Phi Islands Phuket Thailand

Transport & Getting Around

Getting to the Phi Phi Islands is pretty straight forward, the islands are located about 30 miles from Phuket and roughly the same distance from Krabi. There are basically two options to reach the islands and that is either by ferry or speedboat.

The ferry is the most popular choice for reaching the islands. Ferries take about two hours from Phuket and about an hour and a half from Krabi or Koh Lanta. The main departure/arrival port in Phuket is Rassada Pier which is located in Phuket Town. In Krabi, the main ferry pier is Klong Jirad Pier, situated just south of Krabi Town.

Top Tips

I would recommend when planning any trip to the Phi Phi islands to check to see what is open as recently the authorities have been trying to help the islands marine life recover so have closed parts of the islands such as Maya Bay. So be prepared and know what you’re able to visit when planning. A day tour is a great way to visit the islands if you don’t have much time and there is a huge selection of tours to choose from, however personally looking back I wish we had stayed a night or two on Phi Phi.

If you suffer from travel sickness then make sure to take travel sickness tablets before getting on a ferry or speedboat to the islands as the sea can be quite rough! When we visited a lot of the passengers on board the ferry were suffering from seasickness, myself included!

Helpful Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

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A Day Trip To The Gili Islands From Lombok

The Gili Islands are a group of three tiny islands clustered close to one another. The islands are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are situated near the coast of northwest Lombok. The islands are a popular spot for tourists for their white sandy beaches fringed with palm trees and coral reefs just offshore.

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

Each island although similar in appearance all have quite a different vibe from one another. All of the Gilis do not have roads and do not permit any motorised vehicles on them, so the main way to get around each island is by foot, bicycle or by cidomo (horsedrawn carts). Just be careful with hiring a horse and cart as I have heard many stories of the horses not being cared for properly.

Gili Trawangan (Gili T) is the largest of the islands and attracts the majority of visitors, it takes approximately 30 minutes by boat from the northwest of Lombok and regular daily fast boats depart Bali directly to Gili T. Gili T is popular with tourists as it has the most going on in comparison to the other Gili Islands – restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Gili T was once known as a hippie party island, but today is popular with both backpackers and families.

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

Gili Meno is the smallest Gili Island and by far the most peaceful and underdeveloped, and is popular with honeymooners and the more mature traveller. The island is ringed by pristine beaches and coral reefs. Most accommodation is on the east side of the island with the most beautiful beach on offer, although there is some development going on in the west of the island. Inland on Gili Meno are homesteads, coconut plantations and there is a salty lake.

Gili Air is the island closest to Lombok and is a good island to visit if you want the best of both worlds – less busy than Gili T, but with still a little bit of nightlife, and chilled out enough so you can do plenty of relaxing. The snorkelling is really good right off from the main beach too. The beaches on Gili Air are said to be the best out of the three islands.

We visited the Gilis on a day trip from Lombok and booked a boat trip through Perama Tours which picked us up from the hotel in the morning and took us to the harbour where we then had a private boat that took us snorkelling around all three of the islands, and we stopped at Gili T where we had a wander around and had lunch and got to spend some time on the beach.

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

After lunch, we got back on the boat for some more snorkelling around the islands. The Gili islands also have lots of scuba diving trips and courses available too, and the scuba diving is meant to be amazing! Snorkelling is really great around all of the islands and we were lucky enough to swim alongside a beautiful turtle.

Gili Islands Indonesia

The Gili Islands are an absolute must when planning a trip to Indonesia, and you could easily spend your whole holiday there or add it on to a Bali or Lombok itinerary. Personally, I would love to go back and revisit the Gilis and next time I would like to spend a few nights there. I would recommend that if you have time to spend a couple of nights on the islands. However if you are limited on time like we were, a day trip is a good idea so that you can get a taste of the islands.

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

Transport & Getting Around

The quickest and easiest way to get to the Gili Islands is from Lombok, as they are much closer in proximity than Bali. From Lombok, there are several transfers that can be booked as well as cheap public boats. Each of the Gilis has public boats in their harbour areas that leave when at full capacity.

Depending on which Gili Island you are visiting there are several departures from Lombok to the Gilis throughout the day, there is Teluk Nare Harbour which is where the ferries and speedboats come in, and Bangsal Harbour which offers public boats across to the Gilis. From both these ports, Gili Air is only a 10 minute boat ride, to Gili Meno it is 15 minutes and to Gili Trawangan its around 20 – 30 minutes.

Once on the Gilis you can easily get between each island by hopping on one of the boats which runs between them all regularly, and they are all between 5 – 10 minute boat ride apart from one another.

There are also plenty of options to reach the Gilis from Bali, which are longer boat journeys but easily doable and can take anything between 1 to 5 hours depending on which option you choose and where you depart from. There are fast boats and also ferries which run between Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok. The ferry option is a cheap option, but I would only recommend to people on a tight budget and travelling for an extended amount of time. I would suggest anyone who is on holiday for a few weeks to go with the quicker options. You can also charter private boats to take you across from both Bali and Lombok.

We booked through Perama Tours to go from Lombok to the Gili Islands as they have daily tours but you can also book boat transfers through them as well.

Top Tips

The Gili Islands although set up for tourists, they are a little more behind with facilities to that of its popular island neighbour Bali. Make sure to carry cash as well as cards as ATMs are only in a few hotels in Gili T, and cards are accepted but monly in modern establishments.

Helpful Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx

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5 Things To See & Do In North Lombok

The island of Lombok is placed between the popular tourist island of Bali and the remote Sumbawa Island of West Nusa Tenggara. The residents of Lombok are predominantly Muslim, which makes it very different from Bali which is mostly Hindu. Before the independence of Indonesia, Lombok was mainly ruled by the chiefs of the indigenous Sasak tribe, which still dominates most of the population today.

Lombok has something for everyone from stunning sandy beaches, jungles and waterfalls, with plenty of surfing and trekking on offer for adventurers. Lombok itself doesn’t have a very big nightlife scene, however if you’re looking for something a little more lively then head to the island of Gili Trawangan for a few nights. The island is also home to Indonesia’s second largest active volcano – Mount Rinjani which is popular with hikers. Lombok is definitely more suited to travellers looking to escape the hustle and bustle and looking for a quieter destination with plenty of off the beaten track natural wonders.

We only had 3 nights in Lombok and had a day trip out to the Gili Islands. I really would love to go back to Lombok and spend some more time there in the future. I really recommend that if your travelling to Bali and the Gili Islands then make some extra time and visit Lombok for a few nights at least, as it’s a complete contrast to Bali and the Gilis.

Sights & Activities

Malimbu Hill

Malimbu Hill is a gorgeous coastal viewpoint and is located 10 minutes drive from Senggigi. There are two viewpoint options one which is Malimbu Hill which is a grassy hilltop covered in palm trees, which is a perfect spot for watching the sunset, or there is Malimbu Cliff which is a higher viewpoint. We didn’t really get chance to stop here as we were on a Lombok day tour, but did get a quick glance over the view, and could even see the Gili Islands in the far distance. I would recommend visiting for sunset to take full advantage of the ocean views.

Baun Pusuk Monkey Forest

Baun Pusuk Monkey Forest is a stunning jungle viewpoint set along a winding mountain road about a 35 minute drive from Senggigi. There’s a small lay-by to pull over in, which has lots of wild macaque monkeys roaming around because many tourists feed them. This is a great place to stop off and admire the forest views and of course see the monkeys climbing the trees and waiting to be fed.

Baun Pusuk Monkey Forest LombokBaun Pusuk Monkey Forest LombokBaun Pusuk Monkey Forest Lombok

Senaru Village

Senaru Village is a traditional Sasak village which is located next to the Mount Rinjani Trek Centre where the Rinjani trail begins, it’s approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Senggigi. The Sasak inhabitants are the cultural guardians of Mount Rinjani and its surrounding forest. Visiting the village is a great insight into local life and getting to see the authentic thatched houses. It’s a great place to stop off at before visiting Sendang Gile Waterfall or if your heading to Mount Rinjani.

Senaru Village Lombok

Sendang Gile Waterfall

Entrance Fee: 10,000 IDR

Sendang Gile Waterfall is located close to Senaru Village and close to the base of Mount Rinjani. Lombok has many waterfalls to go and visit, but this one is a popular one due to its location and ease, as its an easy 15 minute walk from the entrance to view the waterfall. It’s a gorgeous waterfall surrounded by greenery and nature, on a hot day it’s really refreshing to take a dip in the pool or to fully submerge yourself underneath the falls. We booked a day tour so all prices were included in the tour price. I would really recommend visiting Sendang Gile waterfall or at least one of of the many waterfalls Lombok has to offer such as Benang Stokel, Benang Kelambu, Tiu Tedja and various other waterfalls dotted around the island.

Sendang Gile Waterfall Lombok

The Gili Islands

The Gili Islands are a group of three tiny islands clustered close to one another. The islands are Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are situated near the coast of northwest Lombok. The islands are a popular spot for tourists for their white sandy beaches fringed with palm trees and coral reefs just offshore. Each island although similar in appearance all have quite a different vibe from one another.

Gili Trawangan (Gili T) is the largest of the islands and attracts the majority of visitors, it takes approximately 30 minutes by boat from the northwest of Lombok. Gili T is popular with tourists as it has the most going on in comparison to the other Gili Islands – restaurants, bars, cafes and shops.

Gili Meno is the smallest Gili Island and by far the most peaceful and underdeveloped, and is popular with honeymooners and the more mature traveller.

Gili Air is the island closest to Lombok and is a good island to visit if you want the best of both worlds – less busy than Gili T, but with still a little bit of nightlife, and chilled out enough so you can do plenty of relaxing.

We visited the Gilis on a day trip from Lombok and booked a boat trip through Perama Tours which picked us up from the hotel in the morning and took us to the harbour where we then had a private boat that took us snorkelling around all three of the islands.

The Gili Islands are an absolute must when planning a trip to Indonesia, add it on to a Bali or Lombok itinerary. I would recommend that if you have time to spend a couple of nights on the islands. However if you are limited on time like we were, a day trip is a good idea so that you can get a taste of the islands.

Read more about The Gili Islands: A Day Trip To The Gili Islands From Lombok

Gili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands IndonesiaGili Islands Indonesia

Transport & Getting Around

Getting to Lombok is pretty easy to reach from Bali, there are plenty of flights to Lombok airport which is what we opted for. We booked a flight with Lion Air which is a 20 minute flight and cost us about £30 per person return, however this can vary depending on when you travel. It takes about 30 minutes to reach Kuta from the airport and it’s an hour drive to Senggigi.

You can also head to Lombok by public ferry from Padang Bai Port in Bali which is really cheap and easy to do, however the ferry does take between 4 – 5 hours to reach Lembar Port in Lombok, which is approximately an hour away from both Kuta and Senggigi.

Lombok isn’t the easiest island to get around with regards to public transport as mostly it only operates in bigger towns on the island. Renting a car, motorbike or scooter is the best option or booking onto day tours if you want to explore more of the island if your short on time.

As we were limited on time we just booked all our tours through Perama Tours who are reliable and great value, and are an Indonesian based tour operator. We booked Perama for a Gili Islands day tour on our second day in Lombok, and on our last day, we booked a full day tour of Lombok where they took us to Malimbu Hill, Baun Pusuk Monkey Forest, Senaru Village and Sendang Gile Waterfall.

Top Tips

Lombok although set up for tourists, it is a little more behind with facilities to that of its popular island neighbour Bali. Make sure to carry cash as well as cards, as ATMs are only in the major towns and cards are accepted only in modern establishments.

As Lombok is mostly Muslim – make sure to cover up and dress modestly in the towns. Beachwear is fine when on the beaches and in the resorts, but covering shoulders is advised when in the towns and villages.

Helpful Information

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this blog helpful if so give it a share or pin it for later. Tula ♡ xx5 Things To See And Do In North Lombok - Pintetest Pin

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Aitutaki Travel Guide

I have been wanting to travel to Aitutaki for a long time, so when my husband and I decided to travel to New Zealand, I knew we had to tag The Cook Islands onto our trip, as it’s pretty straight forward to reach The Cooks from Auckland, and to take an internal flight to Aitutaki from Rarotonga.

Aitutaki is probably one of the most instagrammed islands in The Cooks, just looking at the photos of Aitutaki makes you feel complete wanderlust!

Aitutaki is the second most visited island after Rarotonga. Many visitors to Aitutaki tend to just travel there for the day with Air Rarotonga, which is great if your really strapped for time, however I think if your paying that much to travel there for a day, why not spend a few more days in paradise?!

The island of Aitutaki has a different vibe to that of Rarotonga. I found the locals on Rarotonga to be a lot more friendly and up beat. However Aitutaki is stunning like no other place in the world I have been to before. The lagoon is just picture perfect and the coral and marine life is fantastic.

I think Aitutaki is not to be missed when visiting The Cooks, as much as Aitutaki is very quiet, and may not have a lot going on, there is more to do than you might think, with scooters readily available to wizz around the island, a peak with gorgeous views and unlimited amount of snorkelling to be done in the lagoon, you definitely won’t be bored on this gorgeous island.

I fell in love with Aitutaki and it’s beautiful lagoon and marine life. In this blog I will be writing about my recommendations, tips and about places that I have visited.

Sights & Activities

Aitutaki Lagoon

The biggest draw in Aitutaki, has to be its lagoon. With crystal clear aqua water and white sand beaches, and lots of small isolated motus dotted around the lagoon, it really is a slice of heaven. This for me was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Aitutaki. I had seen photos of the lagoon and thought it just looked like paradise. The programme shipwrecked was also filmed on some of the small islands in the lagoon.

The lagoon is a must when travelling to The Cook Islands! Air Rarotonga do offer a day tour to Aitutaki however it is very pricey, and personally I think if your going to fly there, why not spend a few nights and get around Aitutaki, and spend longer on the smaller islands in the lagoon.

Aitutaki Marine Research Centre

The Marine Research Centre is well worth a visit, it’s free to enter however you can make a donation if you wish to. It’s not particularly large, and you will likely spend around 15 minutes or so there. It has several large tanks where they breed giant clams which are placed into the ocean when they reach a certain size.

There was a large decline in giant clams so The Cook Island government set up a marine centre to breed clams to get the numbers back up, and to reestablish the clams back into the lagoon, as octopuses can eat them when they are still quite small. There are also some large coconut crabs to see as well.

The Marine Research Centre is on the north of the island, not to far from the airport. If you have a scooter definetly wizz round to have a look, as the clams are the most beautiful and bright colours.

Arutanga

Arutanga is Aitutakis only town, but really it is more like a village with a church, a few places to eat, and a supermarket. There is not a lot to do in Arutanga. It’s worth having a look though if you have a scooter as it’s nice to drive around the whole island.

There is also the local market, but when my husband and I drove there the only thing that was left to buy was a few coconuts, and that was at about 10am! There is also The Cook Islands Christian Church located here which is the oldest church in The Cooks, it was built in 1828. If you have time try and attend a Sunday service.

Honeymoon & Maina Islands

Honeymoon and Maina are 2 small motu islands in the lagoon, which are very close together you can swim between them as they aren’t far apart from one another. We did a lagoon cruise and stopped here for lunch. You can also get dropped off here for the day by a water taxi, and have both to yourself for most of the day. They are both stunning, neither of them have anything on the islands apart from palm trees, so take plenty of supplies such as water and sun tan lotion if you are getting dropped off for the day.

Kia-Orana Cruises

Kia-Orana Cruises was a great day out, Captain Fantastic as he likes to be called, is knowledgeable and takes you to the 7 wonders of the lagoon. The 7 wonders are 7 small motu islands which are dotted around the lagoon. This tour is really great as it’s a small group no more than 10 people at a time, unlike some of the larger tour companies like Teking and Vaka Cruise, which take approximately 40-50 people on their tours.

The cruise was reasonable for what you get included in the tour, it was NZ$125 per person when we went on the tour. Kia-Orana Cruises picks you up from your accommodation, and the tour consists of snorkelling, seeing 7 different islands and getting off to explore them and being told about the islands folklore’s and myths. They also provide a lovely fresh local lunch cooked for you on Maina Island.

I highly recommend this tour as you can take in so much of the lagoon all in one day. With enough time for snorkelling around One Foot Island too. They are also one of the only tour companies to operate on a Sunday.

Maungapu

Maungapu is Aitutakis highest peak which is 124meters, up at the top you get the most amazing view of the island and the surrounding lagoon and atolls. If you do have a scooter you can drive up most of the way then walk the remaining bit up for about 5 minutes, which is quite steep and challenging especially on a hot day. Make sure you wear trainers rather than flip-flops, as there is some loose gravel towards the summit which can be quite slippy.

One Foot Island

One Foot Island was one of my personal highlights of our trip to The Cook Islands. We visited One Foot Island on the Kia-Orana Cruise, however I decided I wanted to go back the following day, and was dropped off there by water taxi which cost NZ$60 per person. We had the whole of One Foot Island to ourselves until about midday when some larger tours come and had lunch there, but as soon as they were finished with their lunch they left and we had the island back to ourselves again.

There isn’t anything on One Foot Island other than a small wooden shack and small post office which opens when the large tours come on, there you can have your passport stamped and also send postcards to back home and purchase some drinks, but this is only while the tours are there.

The snorkelling is great and you see lots of giant trevellys, corals and some giant clams which have been put back into the ocean, there is a boy floating above them so you can snorkel over to have a look. It’s also really lovely to walk around One Foot Island as you get some amazing views out towards the edge of the lagoon. It really makes you feel like your at the edge of the world on One Foot Island, as you can see the waves crashing against the corals edge at the end of the lagoon, and then the Pacific Ocean for miles and miles. You can walk around the whole island in about 10-15 minutes and it is really worth it for the views.

Food & Beverage

Boatshed Bar & Grill

The Boatshed Bar and Grill is a lovely laid back restaurant and bar. It’s full of maritime memorabilia, and the food and drink is quite reasonably priced. I recommend the fish and chips it’s very fresh and the portions are large, I was stuffed afterwards. The menu has lots of choice and caters for vegetarians too. If you go on a nice day try and sit out on the front deck for views over the ocean. Unfortunately when we went it was pouring with rain so we sat inside.

Cafe Tupuna

Cafe Tupuna was one of my favourite restaurants in Aitutaki, it is the only independently owned restaurant on the island, and is in a rural setting behind the hills of Arutanga, make sure to take insect repellent as I got bitten quite a lot here, as it’s set outside undercover.

It can also be quite hard to find as it’s quite tucked away, take a phone with satnav or maps on if you can. Try and make a reservation prior to going as we went early and only just managed to get the last table!

The food served here is delicious and serves up fresh, authentic Polynesian food! It can be a little pricey, however it is definetly worth it as a treat. They also have a great selection of wine too.

Koru Cafe

Koru Cafe is great for sandwiches, salads and all day breakfasts. We went for breakfast when we arrived on Aitutaki, and the service was great and friendly and the food was reasonably priced too. Koru Cafe also offer take away meals, picnics and bbq packs which is great if your going to get dropped off at one of the motus for the day, or to just have on the beach, as there is not many restaurants readily available on the beach and islands around the lagoon.

Puffys Beach Bar & Grill

Puffys wasn’t the best place we ate at, however as there isn’t a huge amount of options near by or on the island, we decided to walk down one evening as it’s only a few minutes away from where we stayed at. Puffys is more like a take away than a proper restaurant it has some tables and chairs to sit at, but you order your food from the front.

I decided to have fish and chips and my husband had chicken and chips. They were both ok, but nothing particularly special and we found it quite pricey for what it was. If your staying on Aitutaki for a while I would suggest going here for somewhere different, however if your not on Aitutaki for that long I wouldn’t really bother.

It is good for a drink if you wanted to go there in the evening as the alcohol is quite reasonably priced in comparison with the food. They do also host an island night once a week too.

Tamanu Beach Front

We went to Tamanus Island Night which they host every Thursday, it’s meant to be the biggest and best on Aitutaki, I only went to this island night so can’t compare it to any others. However the buffet was delicious and had a wide variety of dishes available with lots of traditional Cook Island food. The band was great and played lots of island music. The entertainment came after the dinner and had a lot of traditional dances and fire dancing, at the end they did ask for audience participation which was great fun.

The island Night can be quite expensive at NZ$70 per person plus drinks on top, however it is still much cheaper than the island nights that are held on Rarotonga. If you don’t fancy forking out for dinner you can just attend the entertainment after the dinner is served, and just purchase a drink and still get to watch the show.

Tauono’s Garden Cafe & Market Shop

We loved Tauono’s as it was so convenient, it was located a few minutes walk from where we stayed at Matriki Beach Huts. It could be accessed along the beach or by the front along the main road.

Sonja a Canadian-Austrian who runs it is a delight. Sonja makes the most delicious coconut cake which she makes with fresh coconuts. She also sells fresh organic fruit and vegetables from her own garden. This place was really handy to grab some fruit for our breakfast, and some lunch bits. She also makes fresh bread most days which is available to buy.

We didn’t eat in her cafe, but I’m sure the food is amazing as we bought some cakes and bread from her most days, and all were really tasty. If your self catering definitely pay Tauono’s a visit, as the stores around the island don’t really sell much fresh fruit, vegetables or other fresh produce.

Accommodation

Matriki Beach Huts

When we were on Aitutaki we stayed at Matriki Beach Huts. They were reasonably priced, and were not too big with only 2 beach huts and 1 double storey beach hut, and a garden unit.

They had a really good location set right on the beach. They were knocked up and kind of thrown together, however I think this added to the charm of the place. There were shared toilets, the huts themselves however were self contained with bed, small kitchenette and an outside contained shower and a deck area.

The deck was lovely to sit out on at night and listen to the sound of the ocean. There is also a bbq and social area and everyone that stayed at Matriki was really friendly.

There’s also a coconut cutting area and a pole to hook down the coconuts from the trees. This was good fun as the weather wasn’t great on one of the days we were there, and a couple we had made friends with and ourselves decided to get some coconuts down, and cut them open and have drink.

Matriki also offer bikes and scooters available to hire as well as offering lagoon tours, and water taxis. However I would recommend pre-booking a lagoon tour, when I made the booking a few months before our arrival, I asked if I could book a tour and they advised me they would arrange it on my arrival, but when I arrived they said they would let me know as soon as possible. Then 2 days past with glorious sunny weather, then the weather took a turn for the worse, and they said they could not take the boat out, which is fine I understand that bad weather can be dangerous, but I started to worry thinking we wouldn’t make it out to the lagoon, which was the whole reason why we traveled to Aitutaki.

We amended our flights back to Rarotonga to later ones so we could give ourselves some more time to get out onto the lagoon, and we ended up booking Kia-Orana Cruises in the end, which I wish we had just done in the first place, rather than waiting for Matriki to decide on a day to take us. Other than the tour mess up, Matriki did make it up to us and took us out on our last day to One Foot Island and dropped us off there for the day.

I would recommend Matriki as a place to stay as the beach huts are cute and quirky, I would recommend also using Matriki for water taxis, but would advise pre-booking a lagoon tour with Kia-Orana Cruises or another lagoon tour operator as their boats are better equipped incase of bad weather.

Transport & Getting Around

Airport Transfers

Most accommodation providers will organise or provide airport transfers for NZ$20 per person each way. Prior to arriving try and organise airport transfers as the airport is very small, and there isn’t much at the airport. If your accommodation provider doesn’t provide airport transfers book in advance with Island Tours.

Buses

Aitutaki has no public bus services.

Scooters & Bikes

Scooters and bikes are readily available to hire all around the island, however with scooters you need a valid motorcycle licence, alternatively you can obtain a licence for a fee and a practical exam from the police station in Rarotonga. Aitutaki is a lot more relaxed than Rarotonga and don’t ask for a motorcycle license to hire the scooters. Some accommodation providers hire out scooters and bicycles which is the best way to get around the island. The roads are very quiet and the speed limit is low.

Taxis

Aitutaki has no taxi services, however car hire is available from Popoara Rentals, Ranginuis Retreat and Rinos Beach Bungalows and rentals.

Top Tips

My top tips for The Cook Islands would be take lots of bug repellent my husband and I got eaten alive while we were there. If you have snorkels and masks take them with you, as there are lots of great snorkelling spots within just a few meters swim out from the beach. My husband and I have invested in some full face snorkel masks which are great and don’t steam up, and best of all not having to breathe through a snorkel.

Another tip would be to explore the island of Aitutaki by hiring a bike or scooter, and spending a morning driving around the island, also one evening at dusk head to some of the mangroves around the island, and see if you can spot the crabs coming out of the ground from their dens.

While on the island try and spend as much time as you can out on the lagoon, and on the beach as it’s truly stunning. I noticed most tourists that were staying in the larger resorts would be sat by the pool rather than on the beach. Which was great for us, as most days we had the beach to ourselves, but also made me think The Cook Islands is a long way to travel to, to then sit by a pool and not admire the beautiful beaches.

Important Information

 

Rarotonga Travel Guide

Rarotonga will always be your first stop in the Cook Islands, as this is the largest and most visited island in the Cooks. This is down to it being home to the Cook Islands capital Avarua, and the international airport which has direct flights from Auckland, Sydney and Los Angeles.

When we went to Rarotonga we flew direct from Auckland with Virgin Australia, and decided to spend 3 nights there before flying over to Aitutaki, and then on the return spent 1 more night on Rarotonga.

We fell in love with Rarotonga as there is lots to do, and its also a great place to relax. The locals are some of the warmest and friendliest people we have ever met. As the island is so small everyone knows everyone, and locals will wave hello to you as they pass, and even stop and offer you lifts if they see you walking along the roadside. There is also nightlife on the island if you want it, with party buses, organised bar crawls and island Nights.

Rarotonga really does have it all from paradise beaches, snorkelling and water sports, jungle treks, island nights, bars, shops and lots more on offer. Even though Rarotonga has lots going on on the island, it is by no means touristy and busy like other places around the world. It still has a very laid back Island feel to it.

As soon as you step off the plane and into the airport you get a warm welcome from a man playing the ukulele at the baggage belt, and being met with a flower lei as you walk through arrivals this is just the start of the warmth you will receive from the locals.

Kia Orana is the saying around the Cook Islands, and you will be greeted with this everywhere you go, Kia Orana means may we lead long and fulfilling lives. While in the Cook Islands try and greet the locals back with it as soon as you arrive, by the end of your trip you definitely will be as you won’t be able to help but say it after a day or 2.

Rarotonga really is an amazing place to stay and visit. In this destination guide I will be recommending places that I myself have visited and tried out, so I hope you find the below helpful.

Sights & Activities

Ariki Adventures Night Paddle Tour

Ariki Adventures is a tour operator that offer a wide range of water sports and tours. We booked onto the night time paddle board tour, which was a highlight in our trip. My husband and myself had been wanting to try paddle boarding for a while, and decided to book onto the night tour. The tour is a great for all levels of paddle boarders, they give you a quick lesson on the beach before heading out on the lagoon at sunset, the views over the lagoon are stunning at sunset. The tour also bring along their mascot dog Tama who loves to be on the paddle board and joins the tour most nights.

The paddle boards all have neon lights attached to the bottom which light up the water beneath, and with a selection of neon colours to choose from of course I decided to choose the flashing disco lights. When the sun had set we all turned off our lights on the boards and huddled near each other and laid on our boards to look at the stars, a real amazing experience I can’t recommend this enough.

Ariki Adventures offer rentals for bikes, kayaks, paddle boards etc. They also offer sea scooter tours which look amazing! We were booked onto a tour but unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse so it wasn’t safe to go out on that day so we didn’t get chance to experience it, which was a shame as it looks amazing so if you can, try and book on the tours straight away on a clear sunny day.

Avarua

Avarua is a town and district on the north of Rarotonga, and it is the Cook Islands capital. It not like any capital I have ever been to in the world, it is more or less a street with some shops, bars, restaurants and some banks.

There isn’t a great amount to do here, however there are several sights and historic buildings such as the Cook Islands Christian church which is a white washed church that was build in 1853. They hold a service at 10am every Sunday which all are welcome to attend, Cook Island church services are well known for their lively singing. Unfortunately we had a tour booked on a Sunday while in the cooks so didn’t get chance to experience a cook church service, but everyone says how energetic and welcoming they are are, if you get a chance definitely try and make a church service anywhere in the Cook Islands.

There is also the Para O Tane Palace which is where the treaty accepting the Cook Islands status as a British protectorate in 1888 was signed. Just behind the palace is the Cook Islands Museum and library which has a variety of Pacific literature and some small exhibits.

Black Rock

Black Rock is situated on the northwest of the island, and is a great natural sight to visit. It also hosts one of the best snorkelling spots on the island. Traditionally it is believed that spirits of the dead travel from Black Rock to the afterworld.

Koka Lagoon Cruise

There are several lagoon cruises available, after researching we decided to go with Koka Lagoon Cruises they were the same price as other operators but a percentage of all bookings made is put towards marine conservation.

The tour leaves Muri Beach on a glass bottom boat and consists of snorkelling, and a small cruise around the lagoon with lots of singing and music from the guys running it. You definitely feel like your in the South Pacific on this tour with their traditional island sounds and music, after snorkelling they provide a traditional Cook Islands lunch and BBQ on the small motu island of Koromiri which you can also swim/walk over to from Muri Beach.

After lunch they play lots of games and love to have lots of audience participation it’s abit tacky and tourist but it was so much fun, and everyone had a real laugh. My husband was even dragged up to attempt to climb up a coconut tree. The tour lasts approximately 4 hours and finished off with hermit crab racing. Koka lagoon cruises is great to do on your first day in the Cooks to get you into the island spirit.

Muri Beach

Muri Beach is one of the most stunning places on Rarotonga with its white sand beach, and views over the aqua blue lagoon and the 4 motu Islands that surround it. The water around Muri Beach is really clear and great for snorkelling with lots of bright colourful fish. There are also tons of water sports available on Muri.

Even though Muri is one of the most popular places to visit it is still relatively peaceful and not to busy, and you can enjoy lots of peace and quiet. When staying on Rarotonga try and base yourself in or around Muri, as there are some great places to stay as well as some restaurants and Muri night Market which offers a selection of tasty food.

Food & Beverage

Ariki’s Shack

Ariki’s shack is also owned by the same owner who runs Ariki Adventures and Ariki Bungalows. Ariki’s shack is a great little place set along Muris main road and serves up a selection of coffee and drinks. When we went they had just started to serve bagels and jams which were perfect for breakfast, we walked down there most mornings to grab a bagel and a drink. Ariki’s shack also serves as a booking office for Ariki Adventures, and you can hire a selection of equipment here such as bikes and boards etc.

La Casita

La Casita is set along the main drag in Muri, and although this place is tex-mex they offer a bit of island flare by serving up local fresh fish in their dishes and island brewed beers. They also offer some Italian dishes such as pasta and pizza. La Casita is a great place to go for comfort food if you have had a busy day out on the lagoon.

Mooring

Mooring is a converted blue shipping container which serves up a selection of sandwich’s and smoothies. They use fresh local fish in their sandwiches although other fillings are available such as chicken, salad etc. We decided to go for the tuna options they were delicious and fresh!

Mooring is situated on the main road just before you come into Muri and is easy to walk up to from Muri. The alfresco dining option is a great place to sit for lunch with gorgeous views over the lagoon. Mooring isn’t open for dinner so make sure you try and make it there for a lunch.

Muri Night Market

Muri Night Market is a must when staying on Rarotonga. The market is only on Tuesday – Thursday nights and Sunday night. There’s lots of choice with lots of local dishes. The portions are huge to so make sure you go hungry, there’s some great stalls to choose from with fresh fish curries, Asian Pacific dishes, meat skewers, papaya salads, and some great slabs of deserts and cakes.

Occasionally there is also live music to playing. We loved the market so much we went a few times as the food is great, and it’s really reasonably priced too, and we tasted the best ever brownie we had there as well. Muri Night Market is a must to your Rarotonga itinerary.

Accommodation

Ariki Bungalows

We stayed at Ariki Bungalows as it was a great location just set back from Muri Beach. The accommodation was clean, comfortable and the hosts Jules and Kave were warm and welcoming. Ariki only has 3 rooms available, and a great social area/bar where guests can use the BBQ facilities, and socialise with drinks. Ariki Bungalows is also owned by the same owners Jules and Kave who run the Ariki’s Shack and Ariki Adventures.

When staying at the Bungalows you received 10% discount off tours with Ariki Adventures. The Bungalows are decorated in traditional island decor, and all have ensuites with small kitchenette and fridge. We really enjoyed staying here and was a few minutes walk down to the beach and the main road which runs through Muri is just down the driveway. Ariki Bungalows is also reasonably priced and was affordable. If your on a budget definitely check Ariki Bungalows out as you get a lot for you money here.

Transport & Getting Around

Airport Transfers

Most accommodation providers will organise or provide airport transfers for NZ$20 per person each way. If you do not organise transfers there’s several desks as you come through arrivals which offer transfer services. There is also a bus stop next to the airport however you may have to wait for the bus as the buses run clockwise and anti-clockwise around the island.

Buses

Rarotonga buses are a great way to get around the island as you can just wave them down at the side of the road. The buses run clock wise and anti clockwise. However you could wait a little while for them. We decided to go around the island while we were there and bought an all day unlimited pass and hardly used it, as we started walking between the stops instead of waiting, and as locals saw us walking would stop and offer us a lift.

Scooters & Bikes

Scooters and bikes are readily available to hire all around the island, however with scooters you need a valid motorcycle licence, alternatively you can obtain a licence for a fee and a practical exam from the police station.

Taxis

Taxis are available around the island for around about NZ$3 per kilometre. Look out for the bright green cars and vans also known as the Cook Island taxi association. While we were on Rarotonga we didn’t use any taxis as found we could walk to most places whiles in Muri and only went out of Muri during one day which is when we used the bus and lifts from locals.

Top Tips

My top tips for the Cook Islands would be take lots of bug repellent my husband and I got eaten alive while we were. If you have snorkels and masks take them with you as lots of great snorkelling spots. My husband and I have invested in some full face snorkel masks which are great and don’t steam up, and best of all not having to breathe through a snorkel.

In the Cook Islands and around the Pacific tattoos are extremely popular and part of their history and culture. While we were in the Cook Islands I decided to get a more permanent keepsake, I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate our trip.

On the island there is a tattooist Croc Tatau, I really wanted to go to him for a tattoo but he only offers traditional Polynesian tattoos, and I wanted a Flower or palm tree. Just down the road from Ariki Bungalows is a tattoo shop called Images of the Soul so I booked in there and got a small palm tree on the inside of my ankle. If you are also looking to get any ink while in the cooks I can highly recommend Images of the Soul tattoo shop.

In the Cook Islands internet WiFi is not readily available everywhere. The Cook Islands is so remote that they offer data packages, but it has to be bought at either the airport or one of the Bluesky sales offices. Bluesky is the main internet provider to the Cook Islands and has hotspots around the island where you can access the internet. Either go without WiFi for the duration of your trip, or purchase some data before you leave the airport.

Important Information