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Joyfulwanderer

The world's best time on Aitutaki

Review of Vaikoa Units
5.0 of 5 bubblesReviewed Nov 21, 2019
I just got home from an extended trip to the Cook Islands, which included 10 days on Aitutaki in which I stayed at the Vaikoa's property. I'm from the U.S., and so I feel like I have to answer the NakedTruth, who is also from my country and whose review embarrassed me. Vaikoa is a house belonging to the Vaikoa family that has been converted into bedroom units as the kids grew up and left, so when you insult the units, you insult the way of living in Aitutaki, and I take that as a personal affront. The people of Aitutaki are among the most fantastic and generous people anywhere, and their lifestyle is much better than ours has become in the U.S. - we were like this once, in my parents' generation. In fact, even growing up, we had the best vacations where we camped at State Parks and stayed in park cabins without electricity or air conditioning, with bugs sometimes creeping inside and mosquitoes flying about, and I count these among the greatest vacations of my childhood. It's not easy to find that now in our ugly world of chain hotels and highway exits with their over-development, and I've watched my country turn from a place of real beauty (as Aitutaki still is, and which remains in parts of my country but not all) into something unhealthy and generic and ugly and sad. It's not Walton's Mountain anymore, not everywhere.

So to Vaikoa: Of course, you do realize that you paid a cheap price, and not the hundreds of dollars that you would pay at the neighboring resorts, right? For that price, you got to experience local life on the island. While that included an occasional bug crawling in the door (I was told on Rarotonga that locals leave the gaps above the house doors for a bit of air flow), it also allowed those most wonderful creatures, the mokos (we'd call them geckos) to come in and guess what they ate? The bugs. And did you know that geckos coo? They do, and it was a treat (to me, anyway), to listen for them each night. If I heard them in my room, then I knew they'd keep me free of the wandering bugs (I only saw three bugs in ten days) - and guess what? This is how every single house on the island is, this is how the locals live, and it is great. What is wrong with it? Everything is right with it. If you don't like it, bring a portable mosquito net with you. That said, I didn't hear a single mosquito there...maybe because of the mokos. It was wonderful.

There was not hot water, you are right. But who needs it? The temperature never goes below 68F. or so, and what you didn't mention was that the water is collected - as it is all over the island - in above-ground cisterns. So the water will be the water temperature of the surrounding air, which in October was about 85 by day and in the mid 70s at night. Good grief, adapt! Bend with the culture. Enjoy it! I did, and thoroughly. Why should you have what most locals don't have? Don't make them think that Americans are spoiled. We aren't.

The lighting wasn't poor. I read avidly each night. One great thing about Vaikoa is that they had a whole supply of books that they happily loaned their guests - so many that the storeroom was a mini library. What a great feature!

I used the kayaks - no leaks at all. Not sure what you experienced. Don't be scared! Perfectly safe - "any distance from shore" - and the lagoon is still not over your head. It would be impossible to drown in the lagoon! :). Buck up. Rural U.S. people (like me) would have had the time of their life here - it's just like what we do at home, jumping into lakes, paddling around in rowboats and canoes.

"There is no daily housekeeping" - are you kidding? Don't be spoiled. Maybe the problem is that you wanted a pampered hotel. This isn't a hotel. It's the Vaikoa's house and two guest cottages that they built. Why should your sheets be changed? Are you aware that water MUST BE COLLECTED FROM RAIN? There is a shortage. Help them conserve. Take a quick shower, very fast so as not to use up many gallons (I couldn't have used more than a gallon or so - I'd soap up, then turn on the water), and then you'll be clean and won't need to have sheets changed. Help them conserve their resources. This should be done in the U.S. as well. Californians don't need to be told this, water conservation is a necessity there, as it is on Aitutaki.

I'm more rugged than to trip over linoleum flooring. In fact, my flooring was pretty tile. Very easy to clean, and very cool.

There doesn't need to be AC. Only people from a spoiled culture insist on changing the ambient environment around them, rather than dressing more lightly. I went in a October, it was about 85 degrees each day, I wore tank tops as locals do, I was not too hot. I used the fan once for about 15 minutes. I didn't want to run up the family's electric bill - electricity is very expensive on the island. I found the fan to be very cooling and, as I said, I didn't use it. Not needed. It cools down enough at night, or you do what locals do: lie in bed still and you cool off.

My door locked securely, but what was the point? There seems to be no crime at all. This is probably because, as I said, this is a family's home, and the family is respected, and nobody is going to disrespect them by breaking into the property. I felt very safe there, and for a few nights I was there all by myself.

Why can't you bring your own soap? I did. They provided towels, which was nice. They also had dish soap for the kitchen. I found the units to be clean and perfectly fine. It had a slightly rustic feel, which I adored - I got to be a local for ten wonderful days. This was enhanced by the family who did everything for me. They took me on scooter rides, helped me find local food, and even taught me how to husk coconuts and make coconut cream. They let me pretend and feel like I was an Aitutakian for a short time, and I miss it terribly. I am saving money to go back. I'll stay at Vaikoa again.

My favorite part (aside from the mokos and the chickens to whom I fed my papaya rinds each morning) was the outside kitchen "fale" - a traditional outside cooking area - where I ate my breakfast each morning overlooking the lagoon. What's the price tag for that? A couple hundred, I'd say. I'm lucky the Vaikoa family doesn't charge that so that I could share what they have. There was a Bluesky hotspot at this outside kitchen, and I sent pictures home daily to envious friends who weren't sitting at an Aitutaki lagoon. I did my wash (in as little water as possible!) and hung it on the line, I husked my daily coconut, I grated it on their coconut grater, I pressed coconut cream and ate it with local fruit. I spent hours gazing at the living coral in the lagoon and the tropical fish that swam in and out.

The vegetation is SUPERB. It's the same that is at the expensive Tamanu Resort next door. I don't know the names of these palms, but the beach is studded with them underneath the coconut palms. They are scenic, and I got great photos of Polynesian sunsets framed against them. I honestly can't feature how anyone could think that the vegetation is not maintained - what???? Hopefully no one would want a suburban look, with electric shrub trimmers sheering the palm trees off flat. They also offer shade and privacy, which I think is great. Vaikoa offers a tropical and exotic vista, and I took pictures of the grounds every morning (which means I now have dozens of pictures exactly the same!). I'll post a few.

Oh, and those inoffensive little sea cucumbers - which are in the lagoon from the top of the island to the bottom - CLEAN the lagoon. They demonstrate that the lagoon is healthy and they are the lagoon's best friend. They are like the cleaners in urban fish tanks, and they do their jobs admirably. They don't bite. They don't harm anyone in any way. Please be kind to them, and you can go so far as to thank them for what they do - they don't need tourists demanding their eradication (as if Aitutaki would be so foolish. They aren't, thank heaven), and they don't need tourists squishing them and causing internal injuries, as I've seen some otherwise well-meaning folks do. Animals deserve our kindness, and that includes sea cucumbers who are such a vital part of the healthy lagoon ecosystem. Please don't make locals think that Americans are cry babies. We're not. Most of us are pretty tough and friendly and accommodating.

To conclude this long review, there are two kinds of places on Aitutaki in which accommodate visitors: the expensive resorts, and the cheap mom and pop stays. Vaikoa is mom and pop. I personally prefer that. It wasn't built yesterday, so it's not spanking new, and I even had a crab walk inside (the highlight of my trip). But, as you will see from my pictures, it was cute, it presents the chance to experience what local living is like, the owners and their relatives are very friendly and kind, and its location, its foliage and that lagoon are to die for.

Conversely, the island also offers a few resorts with all the amenities, and that's where people should stay who like that sort of thing. That's not for me because it's too divorced from the culture, so even if I were a millionaire, which I'm not, I'd still stay at Vaikoa. And warning: the resorts probably don't come with a moko in your room, and that would be a big loss in my opinion. Take your choice. The world is full of choices - thank heaven Aitutaki still presents the opportunity to do so. Just do the Vaikoa family a favor, and make that choice before you come.

We have an obligation to understand and adapt to the local cultures that we visit. On behalf of my fellow American, I apologize.
Date of stay: October 2019
Room Tip: Stayed in Room 4, Garden Room - loved it.
5.0 of 5 bubblesValue
5.0 of 5 bubblesLocation
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Reviewed September 23, 2019

We were a family of three adults who received a warm welcome by our hosts at the airport. Our room (a garden unit) was clean and very well supplied with the basics: plates, glasses cutlery, toaster, jug, small fridge and bench top cooker. There is a front door and a back door (that leads to nowhere in particular) which provided awesome airflow as well as the ceiling fan cause it is was hot. In a small internal room, there is a toilet, basin and shower unit - A beach towel and showering towel each were provided. Also there is a covered communal area close to the beach that had BBQ supplies and two kayaks that were free to use.
Sure Vaikoa needs some renovations but this is reflected in the price, resources on the island are scarce, I certainly didn't see a Mitre 10 or Bunnings on the island that the hosts could simply pop down the road and get renovation supplies, so we understood their limited resources.
Yes, these units are basic, no, we did not have hot water but it wasn't missed due to the heat. While we were there bugs and mosquitoes didn't really bother us (September) so cannot comment and we slept with all the doors open and no screens.
Yes, there were sea slugs in the sea (how strange LOL), even those paying $500 for 2 ppl a night at the resort next door had them and same with the resort down the road charging $1500 a night. Bring beach shoes (which you need anyway due to the coral) or go somewhere with a swimming pool!!!
If you are on a budget and want to meet some great people this is a great place to start. As guests of Vaikoa we were greeted warmly by the locals who knew the owner (we would have loved to have met her) however in her absence our hosts were great, even taking us to the shops to get supplies via the scenic route (beautiful).
Those in our party came with a great attitude and we had a great time.

Date of stay: September 2019
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
Thank coral4u
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Reviewed September 20, 2019

After being super excited to visit this lovely island we arrived at Vaikoa Units and were very disappointed. We stayed as two families groups and booked 2 beachfront units and the garden unit. The best way to describe this place is a dilapidated shanty town. The beachfront property was advertised as hot water and I sincerely appreciate the caretakers that tried to make this work whilst the owner was overseas but couldn’t. The whole place is in desperate need of general repairs. It really is basic camping at best. The location has so much potential but it’s just not inviting. There was a carpet of sea slucks. Personally we enjoyed Rarotonga waters and what is has to offer and the island in general. Having said that the lagoon is amazing and definitely worth a day trip including a cruise out to one foot island. Hopefully this reviews when deciding to choose to stay here as we wish we had read a review of what it is really like. Once again this is nothing personal as the current caretakers are lovely and trying their best with what they have been left to try and take care of

Date of stay: September 2019
Trip type: Traveled with family
1  Thank molishkashez
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Reviewed July 9, 2019

After reading all the reviews here, we thought we had found a hidden gem.

Sadly, the poor state of repair and careless owners put a damper on our vacation.

The unit was very dirty and in dire need of some TLC. The beds were old and uncomfortable, and screens had holes in them – meaning you had to wear bug repellent to bed.

There are other choices on the island that are much better for only a few dollars more per night. Don’t risk your vacation over a couple of bucks.

Date of stay: May 2019
1  Thank Shaybles
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Reviewed July 5, 2019

Wow, the accommodations at Vaikoa Units are extremely rundown, and none of the units have hot water (meaning cold showers). It is glorified camping, at best.

We stayed in the larger beachfront unit, which is considered the nicest unit. Check out the photos to see the sad reality of this neglected shack!

There were many holes in the building and window screens, so mosquitoes, beetles, and wasps came in regularly. We also had a swarm of 75-100 bees inside one day! There are paper towels and toilet paper stuffed into holes by previous guests in an attempt to stop the onslaught.

The lighting is very poor, so reading at night isn’t an option; fixtures consist of bare light bulbs on the ceiling - there are no bedside or table lamps. There are also no dressers or closets, so you have to live out of your suitcase (on the floor).

The two kayaks on the property both leaked badly and would fill will water if taken out on the lagoon - making it unsafe to go any distance from shore.

There is no daily housekeeping, and our towels were only exchanged once during our 9-night stay. Sheets were not changed at all. Any cleaning that takes place between guests is very minimal. The units are dirty and in disrepair.

The worn-out linoleum flooring is not glued down and caused us to trip several times - which we attempted to fix with duct tape.

There’s an interior doorway with very low clearance; anyone over 5’9” in height will hit their head, as I did several times (leaving several gashes in my scalp). Adding to the problem, the location of the low doorway is at the top of a stairway - so you are looking down as you smack your head.

The ceiling fans are too weak to provide adequate ventilation, and there is no AC.

Privacy is also an issue, as the neighboring unit is just 6 feet away, and the beach shower which is used by all 8 units is on your porch. The drapes throughout the unit are sheer, so people can see in, particularly at night.

Although beachfront, the vegetation is not maintained and blocks much of the view.

Doors do not lock securely, and there isn’t a safe or anywhere to secure money, valuables, or passports. The gaps around the doors also let in insects (and we used duct tape in an attempt to seal them up).

The faucet in the bathroom doesn’t protrude far enough out to even wash your hands, requiring use of the kitchen sink for hand washing and brushing teeth. Only one miniature bar of hand soap was provided, and there was no shampoo. There are no towel bars or hooks (none whatsoever!), and no soap dish or shelves of any kind in the shower. There is no trash can. Additionally, there is no place to set toiletries in the bathroom, so they have to be left on a table in the living area.

A Bluesky Wi-Fi hot spot is not available on-site, so you have to go down the road to a cafe for reception.

We wrote to the owner about the issues (who was off-island during our stay), but he only made excuses for the condition of the property. Regarding the lack of hot water, he replied “you didn’t ask me if there was hot water when you made the booking”! This is a cash-only place, so disputing a credit card charge is not an option.

There are much nicer properties on the island for a few dollars more per night (that include hot water). If for some reason you are still considering this place, bring LOTS of mosquito repellent (which you will have to wear while sleeping), a roll of duct tape, and a strong sense of humor... you are going to need it! The owners have no concern for the well-being of their guests, who seem to be an inconvenience to them if there are any issues.

Should the owner respond here on TripAdvisor (which I doubt he will) suggesting that I'm being too harsh, don't believe it. Contact me, and I'll share the email conversations which clearly demonstrate his poor attitude and excuse-making approach.

Steer clear of this place!

Room tip: No good rooms, all are in very poor shape. None have hot water.
Date of stay: May 2019
  • Trip type: Traveled with friends
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank TheNakedTruth
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Reviewed May 3, 2018 via mobile

Decided to try out Vaikoa because of all the great reviews. And yet we were greatly surprised by what an amazing place this is!

The lodge is run by Mama and Junior, who are literally ready to help and assist with ANYTHING and are super generous (Junior heard we were planning on buying some fresh fish, so he gave us a half kilo of freshly caught tuna. And didn't accept anything in return! Also, my flip-flop ripped just before arriving to Aitutaki, but instead of buying a new pair Mama just found me a pair in her house).

Staying here was an amazing experience as we really had the opportunity to feel the authentic side of the island, living next to the family. I can't stress how much of a added bonus this is, but when we left after 6 days, we felt like we were saying goodbye to long time friends.

The lodge itself is a great budget option, with on of the best snorkel spots literally 10 metres from your front door. 2 kayaks are also available for no extra cost, at any time of day.

Suitable for all types of travellers,
this is THE place to stay in Aitutaki.

Date of stay: May 2018
Trip type: Traveled as a couple
1  Thank Eli H
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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