Peter de Graaf stays at Aitutaki Village, Aitutaki, Cook Islands.
Location: Next to the beach at O'otu Point on Aitutaki's main island, a stone's throw from the airport. It's at the eastern tip of the island quite a way from town (by Cook Islands standards), but who goes to Aitutaki to hang around town? Lonely Planet says the beaches at O'otu Point are the best on the island. It's pretty hard to argue with them.
Check-in experience: The check-in starts at the airstrip where guests are draped in 'ei and greeted with laid-back Cook Islands warmth. It was a short drive by shuttle to the village, where I was given a briefing and shown to my villa. I arrived hours before the official check-in time but my room was ready and spotless. The room: The village has a row of six villas on either side of a tropical garden. Each villa has a large room with a double bed, kitchenette, bathroom, balcony, insect screens on the windows, air con and a ceiling fan. The kitchenette is sparsely equipped but you can make tea and coffee. Two villas are set up for families.
The facilities: The standout attraction at Aitutaki Village is the beach, a strip of white sand and a bathtub-warm, turquoise channel deep enough to swim in even at low tide. Guests get free use of kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and sun loungers. There's a restaurant (tropical buffet breakfast included) which hosts a cultural show once a week; another show happens every evening after dark when big fish pounce on sprats attracted by the restaurant lights.
Wi-Fi: The restaurant has a Bluesky Wi-Fi hotspot. Credit for Bluesky, a mobile phone provider, is available at reception from $5.
What's in the neighbourhood: The beach, of course, and a few uninhabited islands within easy kayaking distance. O'otu Point is the main departure point for lagoon cruises; there's also a waka ama club nearby and Koru Cafe. To explore further afield you can hire motor scooters nearby for $25 a day (head into town to hire a bicycle or stock up on groceries).
Even a thorough exploration of the island by scooter takes just half a day. Unlike Rarotonga, there are no licence or helmet requirements on Aitutaki. There isn't much coral in the neighbourhood so if you want to go snorkelling take a boat to the islands at the other end of the lagoon. If you stay three days you get a free boat trip out to One Foot Island; stay five days and you'll get a free, day-long lagoon cruise.
Perfect for: A relaxing, mid-priced family holiday or romantic break with fun on and in the water.
Not good for: Nightlife. The lights go out early at O'otu Point. You can hire a scooter and head to an "island night" for an evening of food, fire poi and hip-wiggling traditional dance.
What's unusual: Those holes in the village grounds aren't dug by rabbits but by tupa, a type of land crab. Guests are warned not to leave undies or togs lying around because these kleptomaniacs will drag anything left outside on the ground to their burrows. I'm not sure if this is a ruse to encourage guests to be tidy. You don't have to worry about getting your toes nipped after dark - if you want to see these shy creatures you'll have to be very quiet and very patient. Would I go back: Yes please.