The traditional name for the island of Mauke is Akatokamanava, which translates loosely as “where my heart lies.”

The moniker makes sense, given so many have been captivated by this island – locals but also tourists, most of whom stay in a bed-and-breakfast run by the local policeman and his hospitable wife.

Their website sums up their island perfectly: “Just as the encircling makatea had protected Mauke since time immemorial from the crashing ocean, it is still protecting Mauke in a different way today,” it says. “The large tourist chain hotels and their clients seek tropical sandy lagoons and large white beaches and are put off by the rugged makatea leaving this beautiful, simple, self-sufficient way of life intact for those of us who appreciate it.”

According to the facility’s logbook, one couple has been visiting Mauke annually for 30 years. It’s easy to understand why.

The island, a 45-minute flight from Rarotonga, is a volcano with fertile soil, explaining why it’s been nicknamed “the garden isle.” Mauke is covered with ironwood forests, banyan trees, acres of makatea – raised crushed coral – and white-sand beaches. Its centerpiece is the Cook Islands Christian Church, perhaps the country’s most unique, with a ceiling painted bold primary colours. As the story goes, two villages were years ago fighting bitterly about how to build and paint their church, so they agreed on two separate entrances and each to design its half of the interior which is distinctly decorated.

Another of Mauke’s claims to fame is its Miracle Oil, a coconut oil with healing properties that locals make for their own use and for export to souvenir shops on Rarotonga. They boil the oil with pi, an herb with medicinal properties. Ask anyone on Mauke to point you in the right direction if you’re looking to buy some.

On Mauke, there’s peace. There’s hospitality; you can arrange to have your dinner hand-delivered to you as you sip wine on the beachside. There’s one “bar” – a backyard strung with lights under the starry South Pacific sky. There are plenty of private coves, where you can read a book and reflect on all the good things in life. And there’s unadulterated South Pacific beauty that will make you feel like leaving the real world behind and staying here, or at least returning again someday soon.

Mauke, Cook Islands
Ziona Church
Aerial view of Mauke
Trekking over the makatea
Mauke secluded cove