DURING WORLD WAR II, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built two miles of runway on the island of Aitutaki for use as a South Pacific refueling and supply station. These days, the bustle is gone on this fishhook-shaped atoll, 183 miles north of Rarotonga. But on an island of white-sand beaches and azure water, who needs action?
THE GOOD LIFE: Pacific Resort Aitutaki's three beachfront villas, complete with Italian-marble bathrooms and woven-bamboo ceilings, sit atop black volcanic rock, crowning the three-year-old, 27-room resort. From garden-fresh mango-and-passion-fruit smoothies to the house specialty, ahi katsuchile-spiced rare tuna wrapped in nori (paper-thin dried seaweed)the resort's restaurant is all about blending island flavor with modern flair.
SPORTS ON-SITE: The shallow waters of Aitutaki's 20-square-mile lagoon make for some of the Cook Islands' best bonefishing. Or ditch the fly and think biggerbecause the volcanic island rises up from a depth of more than 13,000 feet, big game like marlin and sailfish are waiting to be hooked just minutes from your beachside sundeck.
BEYOND THE SAND: Guide Ngaakitai Pureariki teaches guests local medical and cultural practices on three-hour island tours. Slice your foot on coral? The meat of an utu fruit will ease the pain. Upset stomach? The juice from a noni tree eases gastroenteritis.
THE FINE PRINT: Doubles from $543; 011-682-31720, www.pacificresort.com. Air New Zealand (800-262-1234, www.airnewzealand.com/usa) flies from LAX to Rarotonga starting at $806 round-trip. Air Rarotonga (011-682-22888, www.airraro.com) offers round trips from Rarotonga to Aitutaki starting at $263.