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“You don't need a snorkel to see reef fish here”
Review of Etu Moana

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Etu Moana
Ranked #1 of 10 Hotels in Aitutaki
Certificate of Excellence
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
16 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
“You don't need a snorkel to see reef fish here”
Reviewed June 17, 2013

I’ve seen it in movies a hundred times, but to have a fragrant lei of fresh gardenias placed around your neck as you arrive on Aitutaki really is the most beautiful welcome to paradise. The lei lasts only a day which makes it all the more special that someone went to the trouble of making it for you.

The first thing I noticed when we settled into our villa at Etu Moana was the soothing rustle of wind in the coconut palms – an iconic tropical-island sound. Any tension immediately began dissipating. The only other sound that forms a constant backdrop to living on Aitutaki is the distant rumble of surf on the reef edge.

The villas
We stayed in the beachfront villa 3 but they all have the same thoughtfully designed layout. The beds face the glorious view, and screened, louvred side-windows provide a welcome cross breeze across the bed.

The useful kitchen has all the necessary cutlery, crockery and glassware, including a plunger and ground coffee. The bathroom has a comfortably large shower (big enough for two people) but the shower head provides only needle-like sprays which I found too meager for hair washing. I chose instead to wash my hair under the private outdoor shower which had a more generous flow.

Outside the back door of the villa is a small washing line with some pegs thoughtfully provided in half a coconut shell. I found that hand-washed items hung on the line overnight were pretty much dry the following morning. But if you want a load of laundry done for you, drop it in the basket provided and they will be washed and folded for $25 a load.

The bed was very comfortable (needing only a sheet at night), and the local roosters never woke me up!

Weather
I was concerned that by June the weather might be too cool to fully enjoy a beach holiday, but the temperature was perfect – about 30 degrees every day, only dropping a couple of degrees at night. It felt like perfect body temperature, with a soft, warm breeze. The lagoon water was also warm so we could spend hours on end swimming, kayaking and snorkeling. I wore shorts and a t-shirt every day and didn’t need any long-sleeved tops or jeans while on the island.

Food
Although the breakfasts provided at Etu Moana are only continental, there were plenty of luscious options and we never felt the need for anything more before lunchtime.

Buying food on Aitutaki is quite expensive as just about everything needs to be flown or shipped in, and cooking for yourself is easier than it sounds because fresh supplies are limited. You can buy frozen meat and chicken, but only in large packs (six pieces of chicken), and fresh vegetables are few and far between. There’s plenty of tinned spaghetti and tinned tuna. The take-away stores on the island all seem to sell hamburgers (which look good) and fish and chips. We chose to eat at local restaurants – there are four within walking distance of Etu Moana.

A short walk along the beach to the left brings you to Tamanu which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is quite retro (including tinned fruit salad and ice cream), but their Island Night celebration on Thursday nights ($55pp) is a must! I was fascinated by the large coconut palm fronds that were plaited onto the poles for decoration. To get there, turn left along the sand and walk until you come to a row of single baby coconut palms. Keep going until you reach a small grove of baby palms then turn inland and you’ll see the island-style open restaurant.

We missed it the first time and walked on until we found ourselves at the more expensive and glamorous Pacific Resort (which is great for a celebration dinner.) If you want to walk along the road to get here instead, it takes about 30 mins.

Remember to take a torch (provided at reception) if you go out for dinner because evening falls early on the island and both the beach and the road are very dark at night. A bonus of this is the glittering array of stars that swathe the night sky.

You can reach the other two restaurants by beach, too, but it’s easier to walk along the road. Turn left along the road for Puffy’s for really good fish and chips, or right along the road for Sonja’s Kitchen at Tauono’s Garden Café – delicious organic home-cooked lunches/afternoon teas on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. You’ll get a map showing all these places.

Lagoon
I’ve seen some critical comments about the water in front of the villas being too shallow to swim in at low tide, but the plus side is that you can paddle in the crystal clear, knee-deep water (wearing reef shoes provided) and see wonderfully colourful fish without even having to don a snorkel! Within five metres of the shoreline, right in front of villa 3, we saw small bright blue reef fish, zebra fish, a huge blue starfish (after which Etu Moana is named), an iridescent blue-lipped clam about 15cm across (on top of a large flat piece of coral), and an octopus.

There is also a deep swimming hole about 100m along the beach to the right where you can swim any time. When the tide was higher we had fun kayaking around the lagoon, and also tying the kayak to a yellow buoy about 200m out and then snorkeling in the deeper water there.

Other activities
On Sundays it’s worth going into the town to attend a local church service to hear the beautiful harmonies sung by the local villagers – each village trying to out-sing the others. There are several churches and the one you want is a bright white building PAST the four-way intersection (not the Catholic church AT the intersection).

Hiring a scooter is not for the faint-hearted if you’re getting on a bit, specially if you’re the one sitting on the back. We decided not to have scooter stress on our otherwise totally relaxing holiday and returned ours after a couple of hours.

I strongly recommend a lagoon cruise – you are really only getting half the experience without one. We were delighted with Aitutaki Adventures (and Captain Puna). Swimming and snorkeling in the crystal blue water surrounding the outer islands is purely magical – you feel like you’re in a movie - and hand-feeding brightly coloured reef fish was a treat! The lunch served on One Foot Island was the best food we had during our whole stay. Take a light jacket to wear on the boat after swimming because the wind is quite strong.

A walk up the closest hill is also worthwhile to get a fabulous view of the outer reef and some of the other islands in it. It took us about 20 mins to reach the top (you think you’re there about 10 mins in until you turn around and see there’s more to go).

Our travels around the island confirmed that Etu Moana was the perfect mix of comfort and style, together with an authentic edge. (The plastic thatching on the villas at the Pacific Resort really spoilt the effect for me there.) It is small enough to feel special, but sophisticated enough to feel luxurious.

Room Tip: The view from the beachfront villas is spectacular.
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
6 Thank Wongatraveller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Vail, Colorado
Level Contributor
9 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed June 13, 2013

After reading reviews and doing our research, Etu Moana exceeded our expectations! We knew it was going to be nice, but didn't realize just HOW nice it was in every way!
We stayed in 2 different villas - Villa #3 on the beach and Villa #6 by the pool. With such a wonderful beach and beach access, I didn't find it necessary to stay right on the beach, though it was nice. The pool is great, breakfast is delicious and filling, and the honesty bar was such a great amenity. It is definitely a small, quaint place, and not really conducive to having kids, which was fine for us! Having air conditioning was a definite bonus, and they have a library of movies that we could borrow at night. The little touches, like mosquito coils and flash lights for walking down the beach at night are just a few things that really set Etu Moana apart from any other place i've stayed.

Room Tip: Staying 5+ days gave us a discount, which was nice. Wish we could have stayed even longer!
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  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
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1 Thank Alana_Hanks
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney
Level Contributor
13 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed June 9, 2013

My new husband and I stayed at Etu Moana for 5 nights as part of our honeymoon May 2013.
I cannot speak highly enough of this place. It is paradise.
The managers Amanda and Steve are so welcoming and friendly and happy to help you with any questions you have.
We stayed in Villa 3 right behind the sign, amazing to wake up with that view every day.
If you want a peaceful and relaxing place to stay, this is it!
After hiring a scooter and going around to other places on the island (which was a highlight) it made us even more sure that we had made the right decision to stay at Etu Moana instead of a big resort style place of accommodation.
I would LOVE to come back here again for an anniversary one year!

  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
2 Thank CozSydney
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Avarua, Cook Islands
2 reviews
Reviewed June 8, 2013

We stayed for the Maevatini weekend in Aitutaki at Etu Moana Boutique Beach villas and it was absolutely perfect, from the best bed i ever have slept in till the gorges pool to cool down in.
Rooms were very clean and a well equipped kitchen with everything you need and last but not least the great service from staff and managers.

  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
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Helpful?
Thank Cornelis288
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
131 reviews
123 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 133 helpful votes
Reviewed June 4, 2013

I can't remember ever staying somewhere so quiet and peaceful - we virtually had the beach to ourselves and almost nobody walked along it all day long. It was my perfect set-up: really comfy sunbed, an honesty bar within easy reach and almost 100% shade underneath a handily located tree just on the fringes of the beach (a few yards from our room). The view is of turquoise lagoon, big waves breaking on the reef a mile offshore, and a huge sky which in the evening turned extraordinary colours and was reflected in the almost mirror-like waters. So much about this place, including the friendliness of the staff, is pretty heavenly. However, it does have a few faults. Clearly not their fault but it's really hard to swim in the lagoon on this stretch of beach as it's so shallow - head to the Lagoon Resort for decent swimming (you have to pay $50 per person to use their facilities but you could just sneak in for a swim in the sea). The chickens are noisy at night - one rooster nearly drove me mad. I get that it's a very rustic area and the chickens roam free but there must be something they can do? In any event, bring earplugs. On the plus side, it means fresh eggs for breakfast next to the pool. There's no restaurant which I found pretty strange - what an opportunity missed to make some extra money. It was ok as there was a decent restaurant a few mins walk along the beach, and a takeaway in the other direction, but it would have been nice to eat in our own hotel at least one night. And there's zero atmosphere at night as there is no bar for people to sit around in the evening and maybe meet each other - though that didn't bother me at all. I was happy looking at the stars and enjoying the silence (chickens excepted). Also, they don't seem to clean the rooms after 10am so if you like a lie-in, you may end up having to tidy yourself. For £250 a night this seemed pretty poor to me - indeed one morning I asked the cleaner if she'd do my room (after 10am) and she just vanished. That said, the room is excellent - a good size with separate kitchen, a big walk-in shower and an outdoor shower which we didn't try because of the mosquitoes (another negative, though maybe it was mozzy season). Watch out if you value privacy - you can clearly see the toilet from the bedroom as the slats in the divider are angled the wrong way! In summary, it's a hugely relaxing, romantic place with what almost feels like a private beach (replete with classic white coral sand and palm trees), but it does have a few issues that prevent it getting 5 stars.

  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank tonysony
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Santa Barbara, CA
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed May 28, 2013

We have traveled to many different islands and have stayed in all kinds of accommodations.
Etu Moana is now at the very top of our list! We were there 5/19-5/26
We loved everything!! We stayed in # 8 in the back for 3 nights and # 3 on the beach for 3 nights. Being on the beach was amazing but every single villa has a view of the lagoon and we were very happy in Villa 8 as well. But if you can splurge, go for the beach!
Amanda and Steve are wonderful hosts and the staff was fantastic.
Also, the owners were there during our stay. They were so warm and friendly to everyone!
We loved the delicious breakfasts and the well-stocked bar!
The lagoon is spectacular. Snorkel and kayak at high tide.
The viillas are beautiful. We loved the outdoor shower, the very comfortable covered outside space and the pool! We plan to use the very well-stocked kitchen on our next visit.
You are very close to some restaurants and if you have a scooter go explore. And definitely take a lagoon cruise!
We were lucky to be there for the crowning of the Aitutaki king!
Etu Moana is a gem!! Thank you!!
We can't wait to go back!

Donnie & Robbie Elconin
Santa Barbara

  • Stayed May 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank allsons
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed May 7, 2013

You will not be disappointed. The staff was amazing and everyone there was so friendly and great. The villas were very clean and the views were spectacular. Can't wait until we can go back there again.

  • Stayed October 2012
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank GiaH98
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Etu Moana

Property: Etu Moana
Address: PO Box 123, Cook Islands
Phone Number:
Location: Cook Islands > Southern Cook Islands > Aitutaki
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free Parking Kitchenette Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#1 On the Beach Hotel in Aitutaki
#1 Luxury Hotel in Aitutaki
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Etu Moana 4*
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Etu Moana Beach Villas offers ten Polynesian style villas with thatched roofing. The Villas are situated on a beautiful white sandy beach and you have a mesmerizing view of the turquoise lagoon from each Villa. The Villas are all self contained and have a kingsize bed, large covered verandas, and Tasmanian oak floors. The style is crisp and modern. We offer complimentary Tropical breakfast, kayaks, SUP, snorkel equipment, and bicycles. In the rooms are smart TVs with 40+ movies on a hard drive. You are also able to listen to your own music by connecting your phone via bluetooth with a sound bar. In addition we also offer a gift USB card, coconut drink, ei's and airport transfers. The lovely Cook Island staff at Etu Moana are waiting for you! ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Etu Moana Aitutaki
Etu Moana Hotel Aitutaki

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