Even high praise like the 'world's most beautiful island' from Lonely Planet's co-founder, Tony Wheeler, won't prepare you for the intoxicating intensity of the coal blue ocean, the glow of the pure white sand, and the soothing ripple of the palm-tree forests at incredible Aitutaki. Breathless romance hangs thick in the air here, especially when a riot of purples, reds and oranges are spreading across the sky, accompanying the sun's descent each evening. It wasn't until 1789 that Europeans discovered this island haven, with the HMS Bounty's crew arriving, just a few weeks before a mutiny tore them apart. The Europeans were beaten to the islands, however, by the streamlined wooden canoes of the Polynesian settlers, who arrived around 900AD. While Western missionaries would eventually visit to spread Christianity to the island - evidenced by the white, coral-encrusted walls of the many churches - their efforts to repress the people’s deep love of communal singing and dancing ultimately failed, and music forms a key component of the islanders' culture to this day.The beaches here are flawless, and swaying in a hammock, suspended between leaning palm trees, as the ocean gently ruffles the sand nearby, feels gloriously indulgent. Aitutaki Lagoon is a huge aquamarine pool of water, alive with a kaleidoscopic swirl of tropical fish, which lurk just below the surface. You may even be lucky enough to spot turtles padding across the sand, scraping themselves towards the open ocean.The snorkelling opportunities here, and on One Foot Island - where you'll want to acquire the badge of honour of having your passport stamped with the island's iconic huge footprint - are sublime. Don't miss the tiny island of Moturakau either, which is crammed full of exotic birds and crabs, who have dominion over the island's tangled, jungle terrain.