Cook Islands - Southern Group

Many visitors see Rarotonga and depart without discovering the outer islands, but they have an unspoilt beauty that makes them especially memorable. The Southern Group includes the main island of Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Mangaia, Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro, Palmerston, Takutea and Manuae. Regular air services connect Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mauke, Mitiaro and Mangaia in the Southern Group.

Legend claims that Aitutaki was settled by Polynesian chieftain, RU, in 900 AD. The main island has a stunning pale turquoise lagoon and 14 motus (islets). Arutanga is the main settlement, located on the eastern side. There is superb snorkelling around the reef, as well as sailing, swimming, fishing and cruises.

This uninhabited island lies 102km south-east of Aitutaki and is the only true atoll in the southern Cook Islands. It consists of two horseshoe-shaped islets, Manuae and Te Au O Tu, and covers an area of 6sq km. The island is a marine park and breeding ground for seabirds and marine turtles.

Atiu is one of a number of islands in the Cook Islands whose geology features raised coral cliffs (makatea), caves, mounds and pinnacles. Despite the rugged terrain, sections of the island are very fertile. Atiu is known for its spectacular limestone caves, abundant birdlife and secluded beaches. The dense native rainforest also hides ancient bush trails.

Mangaia (pronounced Mahng-aia) is the southernmost of the Cook Islands. The outer rim consists of ancient makatea boasting remarkable rock formations and numerous caves, some hundreds of metres in length. The spectacular scenery makes hiking or driving around the island an unforgettable experience. Activities include cave tours, rock climbing, snorkelling, trail bike riding and horse riding. Air Rarotonga flies to Mangaia four times a week.

Mauke & Mitiaro
The people of these islands are renowned for producing crafts, especially pandanus mats, handbags, purses and hats. Agricultural products are the main items exported. There are many caves to explore on these islands, some of which have delightful freshwater swimming holes. Motorbikes can be hired on both islands, offering an ideal way to explore. Mauke also has some lovely golden sand beaches.