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Cook Landing

Atiu is an island in Southern Cook Islands. It is the third largest, third most populous, and third most visited island in the Cook Island group. It is 27 km2 (10 sq mi) and has a rapidly decreasing population of 434 (2016), of which most are children and elderly.

Get in[edit]

By plane - Air Rarotonga daily flights to Rarotonga except Sundays, and weekly flights (Wednesday) to Aitutaki. Officially there is a baggage limit of 16 kg per passenger, but it is not strongly enforced for tourists.

The wharf at Taunganui Harbour has cargo ships that can transport passengers. This is not recommended because there are not consistent times or openings.

Get around[edit]

  • By foot you'll see the most, but you need time.
  • By mountainbike ($10/day) Tel.33271
  • By Motorbike ($20-25/day), at the "Super Brown" store.


When the population dropped many of the shops closed. There are now few facilities.


Ngamaru Povaru[edit]

When Ngakaara’s power had waned Ngamaru Povaru was the more dominant of the three kings of Atiu. He was a pacifist and ruled with a kind hand and the people called his rule Te Au Maru. One of the first tasks he did was to build a wall around his part of the settlement. At the northern end of the wall he had three monuments built, each capped in a different fashion. These three monuments were to represent the three kings: Ngamaru, Rongomatane and Parua.

Beside his house he built a small marae at which he and his nine mataiapos conducted meetings. He did several things that earned the gratefulness of his people. He purchased a piece of land in Tahiti on which the Atiuans could settle. He bought a ship, called Ngamaru, to take copra to Tahiti. He spent much time in Rarotonga, finally marrying Makea Ariki of Rarotonga. He had built for the Queen a two storied house which still stands. Because of the so many good deeds he did, he was given the name of Ngamaru Rongo Tini (Ngamaru of many fames.)

The First Settlement[edit]

It is estimated that during the early part of the 14th century the first settlers arrived in Atiu. This was a group led by Mariri. He landed with his canoe of people at a place named Ava Tapu and settled near the beach at a place now known as O’Rongo. Because they were grateful for the safety of arrival here they built a Marae to the god Rongo – hence the name. They lived here for some time before they moved inland and built another settlement inland also named O’Rongo thus presenting some confusion so that now the two maraes are distinguished by the application of O’Rongo- i – Tai and O’Rongo – i – Uta. O’Rongo – i – Uta is worth seeing, but it is a long way from the beach, and is not always clean.

The Wharf[edit]

Before 1974 ships arriving in Atiu would unload and load at one or another of the numerous landings in Atiu depending on the state of the tide and the wind. In 1974 the big event took place of the New Zealand army building the wharf. It has enabled ships to unload and load except in very, very severe weather conditions. This wharf is also a boon to fishermen as they can launch their boats and canoes from here. This wharf is also a boon for the swimmers where they are reasonably safe. They dive off the walls and even shelter behind the inside of the wall with big waves breaking over the wall.

Cook’s Landing[edit]

When Captain Cook arrived in Atiu in 1777, O’Rongo was still in use, and here the men were entertained by the Atiuans. Cook’s men wrote about the eight to ten double canoes they saw there under the trees.

Cook’s two ships, Resolution and Discovery, arrived in Atiu at the end of March. The purpose of the visit was to obtain food for the animals on board, cows and sheep. The sailors were reluctant to go ashore as they were not sure how they would be received. It was not until the Atiuans approached and boarded the ship that communications were made. They had a Tahitian on board whose language was very similar to the Cook Islands language so there was little barrier to communications. Finally Captain Cook sent two of his officers ashore. They were taken to O’Rongo and entertained then fed and sent back to the ship with the left over food. No satisfactory food for the animals was obtained here so Cook went to Takutea and obtained food from there. Because of the Atiuan’s pleas they were given a dog, not a sheep nor a cow which they feared.


Forest on Atiu

During the early days of Christianity when lime was plentiful, four of our kings were buried in tombs. There is no sign to say which king is buried here. The tomb was surrounded by a low fence of slabs of coral from the beach. However, when the kings were entombed, the place became sacred and no one was allowed to enter the fenced area. Trees and bushes were not to be disturbed. Two of the kings were entombed in Mapumai, one in Areora and one in Tengatangi.


In the early 1970 an airport was built on the plateau close to the villages. Later on however, it was realised that the runway was too short and could not be extended. About 1984 the building of the airport near the beach was undertaken. The work was done by hand voluntarily by the people of the island. The land belongs to a large number of landowners who are supposed to be paid from the landing fees charged but maintenance of the airport and runways depletes this fund and very little get to the land owners.

It is served by a twelve seater Banderant which flies most days though it would pay to check with Air Raro. Very rarely a bigger plane may be used.

In 2015 the Chinese have given the island several large machines to enable the runway to be to tarsealed.


Areora Village (Punakau)[edit]

  • Atiu Villas
  • Kopeka Lodge
  • Atiu Bed & Breakfast
  • Kia Orana Bunglow
  • Aretou Tumunu
  • Vanilla Tumunu
  • Super Brown Store
  • Meeting House
  • Marae
  • Coral Garden
  • Rimarau Burial Cave
  • Anatakitaki Cave
  • Takauroa Beache
  • Matai Beaches
  • Oneroa Beach

Ngatiarua Village (Mokoero)[edit]

Lake Tiroto
  • Hospital
  • Meeting House
  • Dental
  • Lake Tiroto
  • Marae
  • Police Station
  • BCI Bank
  • Tourism Officer
  • House of Ngamaru Ariki
  • Marine
  • Ministry Of Infrastructure
  • Taungaroro Beaches

Tengatangi Village (Taturoa)[edit]

  • Justice Department
  • Government House
  • House of Rongomatane
  • Catholic Church
  • Apostolic Church
  • Meeting House
  • Tank House
  • Rising Sun Tumunu
  • Marae

Mapumai Village (Ruavari)[edit]

  • Sunday School Hall
  • Air Rarotonga Office
  • Meeting House
  • Moeakai Bakery
  • Ezra Store-Atiu Island Coffee
  • Blue Sky
  • Enuamanu School
  • Agriculture
  • Taparere Lodge
  • Atiu 100FM Radio Station

Teenui Village (Kurukava)[edit]

  • Atiu Airport
  • Atiu Harbour
  • Meeting House
  • Center Store
  • Manuka 102 Store
  • Jumbo Bakery
  • CICC Church
  • Marae
  • Vaitamina Tumunu
  • Maroa Boys Tumunu
  • Power Station
  • SDA Church



From the early colonial days when the local population was barred from drinking alcohol, the Tumunu came into being. The men carved themselves a barrel from the trunk of the coconut tree and brewed the concoction in there. This would be hidden away near the plantations. As time went by drinking was finally legalised and now the villages each have a place for drinking and socialising. Formerly women were not allowed in these places but this rule has been relaxed and both men and women may be found in these places. There are strict rules of behaviour and anyone causing problems in one place will also be barred from other places. Visitors are very welcome here and all one needs to do is to leave a small donations at departure. The participants sit on home made seats around the barman who is in the centre and in reach of all the participants. The barman has a miniature cup – the bottom part of a tiny coconut – and serves everyone from it – going around the full circle. One may drink or wave away the drink. There is a table with sliced up fruit and one may help oneself. There are generally instruments strumming and everyone joins in the singing.

Meeting Houses[edit]

There are five villages in Atiu – visitors may not distinguish one from the other – and each village has a meeting house which is very important to them. They are well maintained and the villagers have pride in them. In these houses they conduct village meetings and community functions like welcoming and feeding visitors, selling of products. Educational courses are conducted in these houses and when a big group from overseas visit they could be accommodated in here for the time they are on the island

Water catchment[edit]

These were one of the earliest houses built by the government. There was one for each village. Inside at either end of the house is a huge concrete tank to contain the rain water collected. In the concrete floor beside each tank is a hollow about a square metre and about half a metre deep with a tap from the tank at one end. Here is where the villagers are to fill their containers to carry home for the day’s use. Today, every household has been supplied with plastic tanks to catch the rainwater and they no longer need to go to the catchment building. However, in times of water shortage tankers may fill up from here to take to the homes.

Taro planting[edit]

Taro roots and taro leaves are the staple food of Atiuans. Every meal is not complete without taro. Each home has two, three, four or more taro patches. There may be as many as ten varieties. The taro is of very good quality and highly sought after by the people in Rarotonga, in Aitutaki and in New Zealand. However, the cost of freight is very exorbitant and there is little being sold overseas. When island visitors come to Atiu they delight in being able to go back home with a bag of taro. Because of the large numbers of wild pigs in Atiu, no person is able to grow taro or any other crop without fencing. In 2005, the growers of Mapumai were able to get overseas aid to get materials for fencing. Working for one day each week for a whole year the men of the village completed the fence, about 1.6 kilometres and surrounding about twelve acres of swamp. This area is now completely pig proof and the men grow taro without worrying about pigs. This is the most taro plants one can see on the island. One other village has fenced their area but the growers are not as plentiful nor as enthusiastic as the growers in Mapumai.

Agricultural Nursery[edit]

The agricultural nursery has existed for a number of years and it is a very important place for the planters of Atiu. Here are propagated things like pawpaws, avocado, citrus and new plants being introduced to the island such as new pawpaws, new pineapples, new citrus. Fertilizer and potting mix may be bought here.


Bushwalking, caves, birdwatching, fishing, diving, Relaxing.

Unlike the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki the settlements on Atiu are central. Difficulties in accessing the coast, and the lack of protective reefs and lagoons do not make Atiu as suitable for swimming and snorkelling as these other islands. Nonetheless it is possible, and there are some very nice secluded beaches on Atiu.

In detail:

  • Relax, have a coconut.
  • Walk around the island, have a coconut.
  • Chat with the local people, learn about their culture, have a coconut.
  • Have another coconut
  • Ask around when the next pig hunt is taking place and join.

Organized tours:

  • Marshall's Island Discovery Tour ($50) visit places of historical interest and learn about the daily life on a pacific island.
  • Kopeka Cave visit ($35) visit the cave of the Atiu swiftlet, a bird which find their way in the darkness.
  • Burial Cave visit ($25) see the bones of Atiu's ancestors.
  • Raka's Cave visit ($15) the fairy tale castle of Atiu's underworld.
  • visit the Atiu coffee factory ($25 / minimum 2 pers.) learn all there is to know about coffee.
  • Bush walk with George ($40) if you want to learn about bird life and other flora and fauna of Atiu.
  • Reef fishing ($25). if you want to know more about Atiu's sea creatures.
  • Deep sea fishing ($100) with a boat.
  • Seafary ($50) see the island from the other perspective.
  • Historical Tour ($26) Ancient and recent history of the island.


Coffee is the local produce of the island, and can be purchased and sampled on the other Cook Islands.


  • ADC shop Tel. 33028
  • Super Brown store (next to the football field) Tel. 33141
  • Center store Tel. 33773
  • Akai bakery Tel. 33207


There are 3 possibilities to eat out on Atiu (2009):

  • Super Brown store serves Burgers Tel. 33141.
  • Terangi Nui Cafe Tel.33101 Serves dinner for $25 (Book before 15:00).
  • Kura's Kitchen Tel.33777 Serves dinner for $25 (Book before 15:00).

Self catering is also a good option, there is a lot of local stuff growing on the island. Ask the locals where to get it, usually they give it to you. Be nice and give them something back, like something you brought from home or bake some cookies, use your imagination. Bring as much non-local stuff like butter, eggs, meat, spices,... as you need. These things are extremely expensive as they are imported by plane (to give you an idea: 12 lowest quality cage eggs cost $11.50).


  • Water should be boiled before you drink it.
  • There are plenty of coconuts.
  • Join a traditional bush beer drinking session.


  • Are Manuiri, +682 33031. Owned by ADC, the cooperation of the local people. In the heart of the villages which has advantages and disadvantages. You will be a part of the village and get better contact to locals, and it is next to almost anything, but it can get a little noisy in the morning. Double $60.
  • Taparere Lodge, +682 33034. Double $78.
  • Kia Orana Bungalows, +682 33013. Double $80.
  • Kopeka Lodge Tel.+682 33283.
  • 1 Atiu Bed & Breakfast, +682 33041, . This superior 4 bedroom, fully mosquito screened, homestay has 3 bedrooms available for visitors: 1 Queen, 1 Double, 1 Twin -2 single beds with shared facilities. Located on the outskirts of Areora Village, in a quiet rural setting, Atiu Bed & Breakfast offers private rooms with shared facilities and views of lush tropical gardens. $60 per person per night.
  • Atiu Villas, +682 33777. $160-$180.


Go next[edit]

Takutea - uninhabited island 20km off the coast.

Stay safe[edit]

  • Water should be boiled before you drink it.
  • Ciguatera Poisoning is something you do not want. It is caused by reef fish collecting poison from dying corals. If you want to be sure, only eat the fillet of reef-fish, but locals say the last case on Atiu has been 12 years ago. Flying fish and ocean (game) fish are OK.
  • Stealing. Cook Islanders are raised to share almost everything naturally. Things may be borrowed (even without telling the owner) and will be returned upon request, provided you know whom to ask. It is not considered stealing in their culture and so it's best to closely watch your stuff.
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