The second largest of the Cook Islands, Mangaia is known for its rich lush greenery and tropical vegetation. Akin to Rarotonga in size, Mangaia is roughly 51.8 sq km, but is home to only around 700 people. Known for its pineapples, which are reputed to be big, sweet and extremely juicy, Mangaia is also famous for its Mangaian taro, which is rated as the tastiest in the Cook Islands by some. Another popular export of Mangaia is maire, a plant which is exported to Hawaii to be used in leis or necklaces.
Discovered by Captain Cook on his second voyage to the Cook Islands, Mangaia was first set foot on by Captain Cook in 1777. However, he was given a rather frosty welcome by the natives, which caused him to turn around and leave, sailing north to Atiu. According to the local legend Mangaia was lifted out of the sea by the sons of the god Rongo, who settled here and who are the ancestors of the Nga Ariki tribe. Mangaia which means ‘peace’ today is a tribal island governed by one ariki or high chief, Queen Numangatini, who currently resides in New Zealand.
There are three main villages on Mangaia, Oneroa, Tamarua and Ivirua, while much of the islands interior is hilly and steep with makatea cliffs in many places that rise from the coast and run inland. Ferns, trees, shrubs, vines and coconut palms grow on the makatea here, which provides some beautifully greenery. A climb up the makatea cliffs provides some stunning views of the island and the ocean surrounding Mangaia.
Of the three main settlements here, Oneroa is the most important with the hospital, church, telecom office and tourism office located here. Pokino’s Store in town is not only a good place to shop, but is an ANZ agent as well, which means you can cash NZ travelers checks and get credit card cash advances. Air Rarotonga also has an office in Oneroa. It is worth visiting the tourism office here, as it is one of the best places to buy local crafts and wares. Here you can purchase carved stone axes, stone pestles and pretty pupu ei necklaces, which are made from tiny white and yellow shells.