The 20-km road around Atiu is best covered in stages. From Atiu Villas it's a 15-minute walk down to Matai Landing and its white-sand beach. You can swim here only if the sea is fairly calm, but it's a nice picnic spot anytime.
About 800 meters east of Matai Landing you'll come into a partly cleared area where pigs have been kept. Here search for a small trail out to the coast, where two sinkholes drain the reef. The lagoon along the south coast is a meter above sea level, and when no waves are crashing over the reef sending water into the lagoon, the whole lagoon drains through these sinkholes. With nowhere else to go, all of the lagoon fish congregate in the sinkholes, which become natural aquariums accessible to snorkelers. Because of the currents, it's safe to swim here only when the sea is very calm, and even then it's wise to remain on guard for changing or unexpected conditions.
About 200 meters farther east along the coast is a road down from the interior and a cut through the cliffs to Takauroa Beach. In calm weather at low tide you can also walk to the sinkholes along the reef from this beach.
A stretch of reefless shoreline on the northeast coast lets breakers roll right in to the cliffs. Look for the high white sands of Oneroa Beach and continue to Tarapaku Landing where the islanders keep their dugout canoes. There's a ladder down to the water here. From the landing take the Tengatangi road inland through the makatea watching for Vai Momoiri, a large water-filled cave that tunnels under the track then opens up on both sides. The route crosses a taro swamp passing Vairakaia Marae, a wall of upright stones right beside the road, and Vai Inano pool where the legendary chief Rongomatane's 12 wives used to bathe. (Rongomatane later adopted Christianity and forsook all of his wives except the youngest.)
Continue to Sights of Atiu: the West Coast »