Although the moai statues are the most popular attraction, that’s not all that Easter Island has to offer. You can enjoy activities such snorkeling with sea turtles and tropical fish, scuba diving, caving, suntanning, zip lining, or taking it easy with a relaxed island walk over some impressive volcanic rock. But truly the reason most travel here is to learn about the moai statues created by the Rapa Nui.
With only one town on the whole island, Hanga Roa, finding accommodations and restaurants is pretty easy. Hotels can range from the budget minded, with shared kitchenettes in central locations, to mid-range hotels that offer in-house restaurants and entertainment, all the way to luxury hotels.
Most of the island’s food is imported which means prices can be high. This is one destination that it’s recommended that you bring in items that you’ll want, such as snacks, canned foods, and any non-food related supplies too. Many of the restaurants offer a good variety of cuisines, anything from Peruvian, Belgium, Japanese, and even Brazilian. Some restaurants are difficult to find so let your hotel know where you are going and they’ll be able to help and guide you. The drink of choice on Easter Island is the Chilean Pisco, coming in papaya, mango, and guava. You can even order a Pisco Sour!
Places to Visit in Easter Island
- Ahu Tongariki – 15 moais
- Anakena Beach
- Poike Volcanoe
- Ana Te Pahu Cave
- Mercado Artesanal Market
- Atamu Tekena - the main street with restaurants
Unique Things to See and Do in Easter Island
- Suntan on Anakena Beach
- Walk up the trail to the volcano Rano Kau
- Rent a mountain bike and explore the island in freedom
- Watch a Rapa Nui music and dance show – the Te Ra’ai
- Take either a sunset or sunrise tour to Ahu Tongariki
Rapa Nui Culture and History
The real mystery of Easter Island, which is still under debate, is how the Rapa Nui arrived at this remote island located thousands of kilometres away from any other inhabited place. Archaeologists, scientists, and social scientists continue to collect evidence in hopes of an answer. The only written accounts come from Captain James Cook, the first European to set foot on Easter Island in 1774. By the time Cpt Cook had arrived, there was some speculation as to who had sailed there before, but the common sight was the giant heads of moai. At the time, it was believed to be a burial site, but recent research has indicated that they are in fact representing the families and in some areas are positioned for spiritual rite and knowledge.
It is believed that the Rapa Nui arrived somewhere between 100 and 600AD, and supposedly they were Polynesians who had travelled by boat, but no one truly knows if this was by accident or by intended navigation. So the question is – what happened to them? One theory is that there was once full vegetation on the island, trees and wood, and when the islanders had used up the resources and lost the ability to produce fishing boats they turned cannibalistic. In total, the island is only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide making it very difficult to hide from one’s enemies, aside from some of the caves. This cannibalism theory is hard to imagine since they were believed to survive over a 1000 years. With the introduction of sailors from Chile, Peru, France, and Europe by the 1800s, it stands to reason that an introduction of foreign diseases could have decimated the populations.
Today there is a revival of traditional island crafts, such as carving, intended to carry on the traditions of the Rapa Nui ancestors. Of course, some believe that with the increase of tourism many people are reinventing their traditions and they aren’t based on fact or history. Regardless, culture is constantly progressing changing – creating “new” versions of ancestry.
Did you know…?
Easter Island is located 2000 miles east of Chile and 2000 miles south of Tahiti.
Did you ALSO know…?
It is believed that the first inhabitants each had a moai statue; a 1000 statues = 1000 families!
Getting Into Easter Island
You would assume that it’s really difficult to travel to Easter Island, but, in fact, commercial flights fly in regularly. That being said, it’s not a short flight, but rather a 5.5 hour flight over the South Pacific Ocean. There are only two ways in – from Tahiti or Santiago, Chile. From Chile, LAN airlines offer service once a day, and from Tahiti it’s only offered once a week.
Getting Around Easter Island
Since there is no public transportation the options are pretty simple: hail a (cheap) taxi, rent a car, rent a bike, take a guided tour, or the old fashioned walk/hike everywhere! Meters are not used in taxis, just a flat rate, and within the town could cost as little as $4 US. For the archaeological sights plan to go with a tour company, as they are a little remote and can be quite pricey by taxi. Renting a 4×4 or Jeep is another option, but there is no insurance coverage so you’ll have to guarantee the car with you credit card. Cycling is a great option if you’re fit and accustomed to the hot weather. Oh, there are only street lamps within the town, which makes cycling back in the dark a bit nerve-wracking for some.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Easter Island
The most popular time to visit is during the summer months which in South America it is the opposite of North America – December to March. In February there is the Tapati Rapa Nui Festival which is a celebration of music and dancing. The temperature around this time can reach a high of 27C whereas winter temperatures typically fall only a few degrees to 21C. The winds can make it feel much cooler though and you’ll want a light rain jacket too.
Ready to plan your visit to Easter Island? Check out these popular guides and trips.