Arutanga, Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Aitutaki is the second largest of the Cook Islands, a “semi-atoll” consisting of a volcanic main island and a series of coral atolls, uninhabited motus and barrier reefs enclosing a spectacularly turquoise-hued, triangular lagoon of about 30 square miles. The Polynesian islanders arrived about 900 A.D., and thrived on the fertile volcanic area surrounding the hill of Maungapu. The first European contact was Captain William Bligh’s arrival on board the Bounty, in 1789. The sleepy town of Arutanga offers a charming, recently restored church, the oldest in the islands from 1828, with stained glass windows and carved woodwork. If possible, don’t miss an opportunity to hear the local choral music (either live or recorded). Cook Islanders are marvelous singers, and join in four-part harmonies that are positively spine-tingling. Along with the view from the top of Maungapu, their sound will live in your memory for a long time.