There are two villages. The main village, seat of Manihiki Island Council, is Tauhunu, on Tauhunu Islet on the western rim of the atoll. The second village, Tukou, is at the northern tip of Ngake Islet, which is also the northern tip of the atoll.
Manihiki sits atop an underwater mountain rising 4000 m above the ocean floor. Its stunning 4 km-wide lagoon is laced with 40 tiny motu (islets), which are strung along the reef. The reef provides excellent swimming and snorkelling, with colourful tropical fish to view.
Diving is a major attraction, and the offshore diving is among the region's best (visitors must first get a permit at the village of Tauhunu). There is good fishing in the open waters beyond the reef, including catches of Yellow-fin Tuna (bonito).
The island is renowned for its black pearls and there are pearl farms dotted around the lagoon. The largest farm maintains some 250,000 oysters for pearl production. Tours can be arranged to the farms to learn about the cultivation process, and to watch the seeding of oyster shells for future pearl harvest. Tauhunu, on the western coast, is known for its pearl carvers and the Fare Ariki – one of the old houses still standing after Cyclone Martin, which struck the island in November 1997. Flying time to the island is about four hours, and there is a weekly flight every Thursday from Rarotonga.
The Rakahanga-Manihiki language is spoken on the island.