Alexia Santamaria stays at Etu Moana Boutique Beach Villas in Aitutaki, where the tropical panoramas reign supreme.
Location: Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Style: Boutique eco-luxury by the water
Price: From $680/night
Perfect for: A relaxing pacific getaway minus the crowds. There are only eight villas so it’s never overwhelming and the limited numbers mean a very personal experience.
Check-in experience: Efficient and friendly. All guests are welcomed to Aitutaki with an Ei (flower garland) and a smile, then transported to Etu Moana in the E-Cart belonging to the property. After getting you checked in, someone will show you around your room and be available for any questions you may have.
Rooms: Well-appointed with everything you need for a relaxed, comfortable stay. Oak hues are the theme, warm and welcoming with pacific-style bedding, pillows and sofa covers to make it vibrant and local. There’s a fully equipped kitchen - with a small table and two chairs in it - and a lovely veranda (complete with day bed) to relax with a view of the white-sand-clear-water pacific vista of your dreams. The setting of the villas would be best described as tropical garden - lush, green and gorgeous.
Bathrooms: While the rooms are all about wood, the bathrooms were all redone recently with a dark volcanic theme. Modern, with indoor and outdoor showers, the dark retreat can be quite soothing after a day outside in the sun.
Food and drink: Breakfast (always with a great selection of fresh local fruit) can be enjoyed by the pool or on your own veranda. All guests can have private dining on their deck or by the pool any evening, by pre-order.
Facilities: There’s a lovely pool right by where everyone has breakfast plus loungers on the beach, as well as unlimited access to adventure equipment such as fins, single and double kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, mountain bikes and bike cruisers. In-villa massage is available at extra cost and Etu Moana has a small Spa offering a wide range of treatments.
In the neighbourhood: The lookout (highest point on the Island) is only a short distance away, 20 minutes walk, and nothing is particularly far on an island this size. It’s a 15-minute walk or two-minute drive if you fancy a cocktail with an elevated view or dinner at the Pacific Resort. Avatea Cafe is only a 10-minute drive, and definitely worth trying too.
Sustainability: Sustainability and connections with both the environment and Aitutaki locals are important here. Villa exterior and interior materials are predominantly from renewable resources (locals hand-weave Nikau palms for the roofs) and high ceilings and cross ventilation reduces the need for intense use of air conditioning. E-scooters and an E-buggy are the resort’s latest steps towards becoming more sustainable - charged with 20 per cent renewable energy right now, they are working on reaching 100 per cent.