Easter Island Travel Guide

Located at the southernmost tip of the Polynesian Triangle is the Rapa Nui or Isla de la Pascua, most famously known as the Easter Island. Apart from its beautiful topography, the World Heritage site is renowned the world over for its 887 monolithic statues, otherwise known as Moais. Get to experience the building prowess of Easter Island’s nomadic peoples, as well as the island’s unblemished beauty, by  scoring a trip to this mysterious place.

History 

Easter Island is one of the most isolated places in the world. But despite its location, it is one of the few that has remained inhabited. Its first settlers are said to be Polynesians who traveled to the island by way of canoes in the year 700 CE. Because of famine, disasters, slave trades, even cannibalism, Rapa Nui’s densely-populated districts have thinned out  progressively. Currently, only 5,761 people Rapa Nui natives remain in the 63.2-square meter island.

Easter Island’s Moais

Synonymous to the terms “Easter Island” is its numerous moais, or massive structures that represent the Polynesian ancestors of the island’s former inhabitants. The early Rapa Nui people believed that their dead would provide them with everything that they need: food, fortune, health, and fertility, as long as they gave them a beautiful resting place in the spiritual realm. Armed with this belief, the early Polynesians erected a total of 887 moais, most of them along the coastline, watching over their peoples, with their backs against the sea spirits.

But because of the wars among the different clans of the island, tribes resorted to the act of “huri mo’ai” or statue toppling until the 1830s. As a result, most moais dissipated. Only a few remain standing, they can be found at only three areas: the Ariki Paro, the Hoa Hakananai’a, and the Rano raraku slope.

Getting in and Getting Around

If you wish to visit Rapa Nui, you should know that only one airline flies directly to the island’s Mataveri International Airport: LANChile. You can get on its flights at its terminals in Santiago in Chile, Lima in Peru, and Papeete in Tahiti. Available flights depend on the season; you can expect more flights during the peak months (January to March). Roundtrip fares highly rely on traveler demand; they can range from USD 300 during the lean seasons, to as much as USD 2,000 during the peak times.

Once in the island, getting around is easy because of its small size. You can rent a bicycle for the entire day for USD 20 and shed calories along the way as you pedal through the island’s beautiful landscapes. However, if you are not in the mood for some body work, then you are better off with eight-hour rentals of the following vehicles:

  • Motor scooter – USD 45
  • Small car – USD 60
  • Bigger car – USD 68 to USD 79

When to Visit

Easter Island features a subtropical climate influenced by strong winds and ocean currents. January and February prove to be the hottest at a maximum of 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit, while July and August are the chilliest at 59 degrees. Despite these variations, Easter Island features pleasant weather that makes Rapa Nui conducive for tourists all year round.

Because of the balmy temperature that summer brings, it, like in any other place, gravitates tourists (from January to March). Expect full flights and no-vacancy rooms during the colorful Tapati Rapa Nui festival, hosted annually from late January to February.  During this event, you can witness the natives engaging in dance and sport competitions, apart from presenting colorful song and dance numbers. To avoid the hassle of reservations, you can opt to visit the island during the lean seasons, which cover the rest of the year. While July and August are chilly for most, hikers contend that these are the best months to trail around the mysterious island.

Where to Eat

Despite its small size and isolated location, Easter Island plays home to some of the finest restaurants in Chile – even in the whole world! For a real gastronomic feast, book a reservations at any of Rapa Nui’s fantastic restaurants:

1) Te Ra’ai Restaurant Rapa Nui

Te Ra’ai is not only a great haunt for foodies, it is the best place for travelers who wish to immerse in Easter Island’s colorful culture. For USD 80, you will be treated with hotel-restaurant-hotel transfers, Rapa Nui dance lessons, an hour-long traditional dance show, and of course, an unlimited buffet of delicious food and overflowing wine. As the most popular restaurant in the island, getting a slot proves to be a challenge, especially during the peak seasons. Make sure to experience Rapa Nui’s best by making reservations months before your tour.

Address: Kaituoe s/n | Sector Te Ra'ai, Hanga Roa

2) Kotaro

Even if Kotaro specializes in Japanese cuisine, it is considered a favorite by both locals and tourists. Located by the airport road, this quaint restaurant is widely recommended to travelers who are looking for fine comfort food. Although the menu is a wee bit expensive compared to that of other restaurants, you will not regret the recommendations by its Japan-educated chef. Apart from that, Kotaro’s opening hours are erratic: it is only open during dinner time from Friday to Monday.

Address: Av. Hotu Matua | (across from Aeropuerto Mataveri), Hanga Roa

3) Makano Restaurant

Located on Rapa Nui’s main street, Makano restaurant is a famous and accessible dining place for tourists in search of delicious Chilean cuisine. Despite its small size – the seating area can only serve 20 customers at one time – it is always full because of its impressive dishes. When at Makano, make sure to try the house specialty – Ceviche, a traditional South American specialty. After that, flush you Ceviche down with Chilean beer (Escudo) and you’ll surely say “this is the good life!”

Address: Atamu Tekena, Hanga Roa

4) Tataku Vave

Another great place to go to if you are hankering from Chilean delights is the bustling Tataku Vave. The restaurant is famous for its yummy Ceviche which comes in generous poritions, and its sour, home-made Piscos. Even at a price tag of about USD 20 per entrée, nobody’s making any violent comments. After all, Tataku Vave offers delicious food and spectacular views of the ocean, as well as romantic panoramas of the setting sun.

Address: Caleta Hanga Piko s / n

5) La Kaleta

When it comes to breakfast, brunch, and late-out dinners with family and friends, the best place to go to in Easter Island is the La Kaleta. The restaurant is located by the bay, providing diners with beautiful views of the ocean. As for its specialties, the restaurant takes pride in its Ceviche and fresh seafood entrees. Like most Rapa Nui restaurtants, La Kaleta’s price is at the high side of the spectrum. Be ready to pay about USD 20 per entree.

Address: Al final de la caleta, Hanga Roa

What to Do

There are so many sights to see and so many things to do in Easter Island. Here are several tours and trips you should include in your itinerary:

1) Visit the Moais.

Of course, a trip to Rapa Nui is incomplete without paying homage to the massive stone structures famously known as Moais. They are littered around the island, which is the entire vicinity of the Rapa Nui National Park itself. Make sure to visit the few that remain standing at Rano raraku and Ahu Tongariki, where 15 moais are arranged in a military line.

2) Go hiking.

Easter Island features the best hikers for amateur and professional hikers alike. Its farm paths and numerous walkways make for the best hiking and trailing experiences.

3) Go horseback riding.

There are more horses than people in Easter Island, so you are sure to find one for your touring pleasure. The best way to enjoy the panoramic views of Rapa Nui is to ride your horse to the highest point of the island.

4) Go spelunking.

Easter Island is home to numerous caves that will surely be a delight to experienced spelunkers, even to those who just want to try this hobby out. While they are not as massive as other cave systems, Rapa Nui’s caverns provide spectacular views of the ocean.

5) Go swimming.

As a coastal island, Rapa Nui features excellent beaches for water lovers and shutterbugs. Make sure to visit the Anakena beach, located at the northernmost part of the island, to enjoy a lovely day of swimming and tanning.

6) Go diving or snorkeling.

The waters that surround the island are teeming with vibrant aquatic creatures, as well as marvelous underwater stone structures. Taking a dip into Easter Island’s crystal clear waters will make eager divers cross out “diving in an exotic location” in their bucket lists.

 7) Go surfing.

Apart from clear waters and colorful marine life, Easter Island boasts of marvelous waves that will delight even the most experienced of surfers. Make sure to ride the waves of Hanga Roa; and don’t visit other popular surf spots in Rapa Nu as well.

 8) Eat fresh seafood.

Rarely will you find a restaurant that serves seafood that is freshly hauled from the sea. At Easter Island, you can enjoy newly-caught seafood – from different fish varieties to the exotic chow that is the sea urchin. Be careful when hauling your very own sea urchin, though!

Where to Stay

A day is not enough for a traveler like you to experience all of Easter Island’s overt and hidden jewels. In order to make the most out of your stay, spend a few days in Rapa Nui and take a breather at any of its fine living accommodations.  While you are there, here are some of the accomodations you can use for your stay at Easter Island:

1) Explora Rapa Nui

When it comes to a luxurious stay, nothing beats the Explora Rapa Nui hotel. Located 10 minutes away from the Mataveri International Airport, Explora guests will surely enjoy recharging at any of its and posh rooms. After a day of trekking the island, customers can unwind at the hotel’s outdoor pool, Jacuzzi or sauna facilities. Be prepared to load your wallet though – nightly rates start at a whopping USD 2176 (updated 2020).

Address: Américo Vespucio Sur 80, Piso 5., Easter Island

 2) Marae Premium Cabins

Do you want to stay in a private villa with your family or friends? Then make sure to rent a cabin from Marae Premium Cabins, whose rates start at $588 per night. This villa property, located in the middle of the district, is just 20 minutes away from Easter Island’s top attractions. Like most hotels, it offers modern-day amenities such as flat screen TVs and DVD players.

Address: Calle Tu'u Koihu s/n, Hanga Roa

3) Tauraa Hotel

Boutique hotels are a dime a dozen in Easter Island, but you will be glad to know that there is one that stands out above the rest – the Tauraa Hotel. This 10-room, 3-star hotel offers fully-furnished rooms, free Wi-Fi and free airport shuttle services for all its clients. Here, you can enjoy marvelous views and peaceful serenity you will not find in bigger hotels for as low as USD 540 per night.

Address: Atamu Tekena S/n, Hanga Roa

 4) Inaki Uhi Hotel

Located right at the heart of the island is the Inaki Uhi Hotel, a 3-star hotel known for its 5-star services and facilities. Its concierge features multilingual staff ready to assist you 24 hours a day. Since it only has 15 rooms – most starting at USD 357 a night - make sure to book yours months before your trip.

Address: Atamu Tekena S/N, Hanga Roa

 5) Tupa Hotel

For a comfy and affordable stay, set your sights on Hanga Roa’s famed Tupa Hotel. It features 42 beautiful rooms, an on-site restaurant, free Wi-Fi connection and free airport shuttle. Despite its central location, guests can enjoy the sweeping views of the ocean from any of the rooms in the hotel. The best thing about Tupa? Rates are very affordable, starting at USD 256 a night.

Address: Taniera Teave s/n, Hanga Roa, Chile

From Moais to beautiful trails, from magnificent waves to crystal clear waters, there are so many sights to see, and so many things to enjoy at Chile’s Easter Island. If you are looking for a trip that goes beyond just sightseeing, then Rapa Nui should be the next location on your list.

Marv Perez