Has Anyone Snorkeled Both Aitutaki, Cook Islands and Taveuni, Fiji?

by Linda & Howard
(Waldport, Oregon)

Have any of you snorkeled both Aitutaki, Cook Islands and Taveuni, Fiji?

We are planning a trip in 2018 to celebrate my husband's retirement, and are trying to decide which of these to travel to. (We'd love to incorporate both, but evidently that's not feasible.)

We are both avid, experienced snorkelers and underwater photographers (from the surface). Our priorities are: calm not-too-deep water, great visibility, abundance of colorful fish, good variety of colorful, healthy coral.

Any comments, suggestions, or advice would be GREATLY appreciated.

Comments for Has Anyone Snorkeled Both Aitutaki, Cook Islands and Taveuni, Fiji?

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Feb 27, 2017
Some Info About Each On This Site
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi Linda & Howard, while no one has compared the two, there are pages with information about each one. The Cook Islands page has a number of reports about Aitutaki snorkeling. And this page has a couple reports about the snorkeling in Taveuni, Fiji.

Mar 05, 2017
I Have Snorkeled Both...
by: AJ

Hi Linda and Howard, I have snorkeled both locations and it is hard to compare the two as they are like apples and oranges. Both have great snorkeling, but the experiences can be quite different depending on what you are looking for, how much you want to spend and the quality of service and accommodations you expect.

Taveuni and surrounding resorts (Mantangi, Qamea, etc.) have more things to do in a day including shore snorkeling the house reef, boat trips on the Rainbow Reef and boat trips to local reefs. You can also go to waterfalls, hiking, and numerous other items. However, you will likely pay a high price to stay around Taveuni (compared to Cook Islands) to do all of these items within Fiji.

The snorkeling is amazing and everyone should go to the Tavenui area once, but I found the quality of accommodations, food, service, tours, etc. to be less than ideal for the extremely high price charged in Fiji (including the 30% VAT tax) when compared to the quality of services in the Cook Islands or other South Pacific islands like French Polynesia.

Aitutaki on the other hand is a tiny island where all you can do is snorkel. There really is not much else to do. Aitutaki is wonderful for a few days but the amazing snorkeling in the lagoon may lose its luster if you are there more than 5 to 7 days and snorkel the same locations over and over again. This is because the shore snorkeling on Aitutaki is terrible and you have to take a boat out to the lagoon daily to get to the great snorkeling. See my recent post on the Cook Island page (link above) of this website for more information. That being said, accommodations, service and food on Aitutaki are extremely good for a considerably cheaper cost than Taveuni. I think you get a much better value for your money on Aitutaki than Taveuni.

If I could only go on one more vacation in my life and these were my two choices, I would pick Taveuni over Aitutaki. There is just a bit more to do around Taveuni including snorkeling a different location every day. Don't get me wrong, the snorkeling in the Aitutaki Lagoon is out of this world and the lagoon is spectacular as well. However, Aitutaki is a long way to go to just boat snorkel very similar spots without the ability to do anything else beside snorkel. You have to really love snorkeling to only go to Aitutaki for a vacation. Just be aware of that.

You also mentioned going to both Fiji and Cook Islands in the same trip, and you are correct that there is no easy way to get there. It is not really a viable option at this time. However, if you were interested in doing a combo trip to two countries I would change my vote in a second from Taveuni and instead do French Polynesia and Aitutaki.

There is a once a week non-stop flight from Tahiti to Rarotonga (to Aitutaki) and it is only about 2.5 hours long. On our recent trip we did multiple islands in French Polynesia and Aitutaki. Taking the flight from the US to French Polynesia (my favorite destination in the world) at the same time as Aitutaki made the relatively short trip from French Polynesia to the Cook Islands well worth it. It's a good option to consider if you really want to go to Aitutaki and have never been to French Polynesia.

All that being said, both Taveuni and Aitutaki are must sees before you die so you can't go wrong with either. Happy snorkeling!

Mar 05, 2017
Aitutaki, Cook Island Snorkelling
by: Anonymous

Hi, I have snorkeled Rarotonga half a dozen times, not Aitutaki but a few friends have and here are a few of my comments.

First - how long are you planning? If it is more than a couple of days Aitutaki would be a little lacking in variety, whilst there are some good spots there are limited areas and very little else to do on the small island.

Personally I enjoy Rarotonga a lot as there are many different areas to go with a variety of different snorkeling types. There are also many other activities to do on the island and some very good eateries.

As some of the other commenters say on the Cook Island page (link above), there are a lot of fair/good spots all around the island and a couple of outstanding spots. If you do end up going to Rarotonga let me know and I can direct you to the best spots and times of day.

Hope this helps.

Mar 08, 2017
Thank you
by: Linda & Howard

Thank you AJ and Anonymous for your informative replies. You've both given us lots to think about, and we really appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Mar 11, 2017
Rarotonga Information
by: Ray R (NZ)

Hi Linda and Howard, I hadn't realized I missed my name on my reply "anonymous".

Living in NZ I have done a few of the Pacific Islands to some degree (Isle of Pines, Lifou, Mare, a little on Fiji and Bora Bora) and keep coming back to Raro as, for me, it is very snorkel friendly and has a nice mix of other activities to do as well.

Mar 12, 2017
Decisions, Decisions
by: Linda & Howard

Thank you for your reply Ray. This is a big decision for us, as we will be traveling from the Oregon Coast!

We are starting to lean more towards Rarotonga and Aitutaki because, from what we're reading, the waters there are evidently much calmer than around the Fijian islands, and this is important to us.

Are there any other islands you would suggest we visit - along with Raro and Aitutaki?

Mar 13, 2017
Decisions, Decisions
by: Ray R (NZ)

Hi Linda and Howard, as you say decisions, decisions! As AJ has said there a lot of differences between the spots and you will have to see how they fit your priorities. Having said that I looked back and one of your priorities is colorful healthy coral. I must admit that I am more of a fish person and I am sure Fiji would win the coral contest, at least for soft coral. Rarotonga, and I suspect Aitutaki, is mainly hard coral. There are some spots where it is very pretty and interesting formations but that might not meet your expectations?

You have probably figured out from the comments so far that the island hopping can be both difficult and expensive as the distances are quite large and you have to go through a base airport to go between the main island chains and then out to the islands. From what I have read the other Cook Islands are not really snorkeling destinations.

Hope this is some help, or added questions?

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