In the South Pacific, nestled in between Fiji and French Polynesia, there are 15 small islands that collectively make up the island nation of the Cook Islands. Or, as I like to refer to them: Heaven. 🙂
The Cook Islands are comprised of 15 different islands, but the two most popular islands for travelers are Rarotonga and Aitutaki. We decided to visit the island of Aitutaki because we wanted to see the “World’s most beautiful lagoon” with our own eyes–the pictures are beautiful and we wanted the opportunity to experience it for ourselves. We also wanted a secluded, off-the-beaten-path destination for our week-long escape to paradise and Aitutaki delivered.
After completing a 10-hour overnight-flight from LAX to Rarotonga International Airport, we hopped on a small 30-seater prop plane for a quick 45-minute flight from Rarotonga to Aitutaki. And as we boarded the flight Cody looked over at me with a look that could only be described as a, “What have you gotten us into?” kind of look. (A look that I’ve seen many times over the years). 😉 Yet before he knew it, we had safely arrived at the Aitutaki Airport ready to begin our anniversary adventure.
We booked a villa at the Etu Moana Resort which originally drew us in with the dreamy photos of their luxurious villas and beachfront property. And after seeing the 5-star reviews on Trip Advisor, we were sold. Yet, what we loved most was how Etu Moana has committed themselves to ecological sustainability.
Etu Moana is focused on minimizing the environmental footprint of the resort. Not only do they use solar energy and are currently expanding this power source to supply the entire needs of the resort, but they also use locally-sourced resources when available. Etu Moana uses as little packaging as possible throughout the resort–from the bar, to the breakfast buffet, to the toiletries in the villas. And they also provide reusable shopping bags in every villa to limit the use of single-use plastics at the local stores.
The Etu Moana Resort has ten individual villas nestled within 2.2-acres of lush tropical grounds, and the villas are a perfect blend of “tropical oasis” mixed with modern amenities. Yes, this resort is on a small tropical island, in the middle of the South Pacific, but that doesn’t mean guests have to forgo luxury. All villas have air-conditioning, beautiful hardwood floors, updated kitchens and bathrooms, vaulted ceilings, comfortable beds, large covered patios, and even fancy–and also private–second outdoor showers. Yes, I said a second shower. For each villa.
Aside from the impressive sustainability efforts and spacious villas, Etu Moana is also home to a stunning beachfront location. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are magazine-worthy views from every angle of the resort–from the dreamy beach, to the lush tropical landscape, to the bright-blue Aitutaki Lagoon.
We spent our afternoons rotating between lounging in the hammock on the beach, reading on our covered patio, or relaxing near the pool. Most of the time it felt like we had the place to ourselves, aside from the friendly resort kitties stopping by to say meow, or the baby chicks chirping as they waddled by. And throughout the week, we utilized the paddleboards and kayaks as much as our mermaid-hearts desired.
One of the most convenient amenities found at Etu Moana was the “honesty bar.” Here in Paradise, they use the honor system at their pool-side bar. If we wanted a mixed drink or snack, we chose whatever items we desired from the bar, filled out the villa specific order form to track our purchases, and then settled our final bill before departure. It was a nice convenience and a thoughtful addition to this incredible resort.
The Etu Moana Resort has an age restriction–no guests under the age of 16–however, as Cody and I are big kids at heart, we may have spent one afternoon cannonballing into the pool. (Don’t worry, there were no other guests around). 😉 After the first cannonball, our host Nick came over as he thought someone had fallen into the pool, and our pool-side shenanigans left him chuckling. Thanks for indulging us, Nick!
And if it couldn’t get any better, the very best part of this resort is its size. With only ten villas, guests are guaranteed top-notch service and personalized attention for all of their vacation needs. Our hosts, Pip and Nick, helped organize dinner reservations, offered excursion recommendations, and made travel arrangements after we decided to rent a scooter for the day.
Over the years I’ve shared some of my favorite resorts around the world–from overwater bungalows in Mo’orea, to luxury resorts in Maui, to Thailand and Turks & Caicos–and this resort is up there near the very top. Without question, Pip and Nick were the most incredible and gracious hosts we’ve ever met. We may have started our week-long vacation as strangers, but we left the island with big hugs all around and hopes that our paths would cross again soon.