Easter Island- Isla de Pascua on your boarding pass, or Rapa Nui if you ask the locals- is one of the most remote inhabited islands on the planet. However, that shouldn’t stop you from expecting a lot from your visit. From the freshest foods to the friendliest people to most incredible sights you can imagine, Easter Island will enchant you from touch down to wheels up. Ready to make the most of your visit?
Here’s what you need to know for your Easter Island travel adventure!
WHAT TO SEE
- AHU TONGARIKI, the largest ahu on Easter Island, is what you have seen when you Google the Moai: 15 of them on one large platform. It’s the quintessential stop and one of the most impressive sights you’ll see on the island. Wait for your tour group to move along so you can get a shot of the ahu without smiling tourists in the foreground, and take shots from both of the small hills in front of it. Don’t forget to walk around to the back of the ahu for a totally different perspective.
- ORONGO AND THE RANO KAU CRATER, the ceremonial center in the southwestern corner of the island, is home to some stunning landscapes and the Birdman ritual. Not far from Hanga Roa, you’ll see examples of primitive housing and learn about the Tangata Manu religion that determined the annual reigning tribe until the 1860s.
- AHU TAHAI, the closest ahu to town and the hands-down best place to catch a sunset on the island. Head down at least 30 minutes before the sun sets to meet fellow tourists and watch as the sun and the clouds create an incredible backdrop for the Moai. Stay a little past sunset as the sky turns pink and orange. Bring a sense of wonder and a full camera battery- you’ll want to have both.
- RANO RARAKU, the moai quarry, is the steep volcanic crater where moai were carved before being transported around the island. You’ll see moai in various stages of creation as well as numerous styles and sizes, and you’ll see them both standing tall and laying down. This area provides a fascinating look at how the moai came to life, and you’ll see some of the most famous images from Easter Island. Prepare for some hiking- some of the most noteworthy moai are a good 10-15 minute uphill walk from your starting point.
WHERE (AND WHAT) TO EAT
- MAHINA BEER is the local craft brew, and it’s a light, citrusy pale ale that will absolutely quench your thirst in between tours or after catching yet another gorgeous sunset. I love drinking local when I can, and this beer is refreshing and easy to drink- a great alternative to pisco sours.
- PISCO SOURS are a staple on the island. Concocted of pisco (a grape liqueur), sugar, lime, and egg white, every restaurant does theirs a little differently. Do yourself a favor and try as many of them as you can. They range from sweet to sour, some have a sugared rim, and all seem to be the pride of the establishment serving them.
- FARAVA RESTAURANT, right off the main road, was my favorite meal on the island. Definitely more of a local joint, the ceviche was fresh and delicious, and the pisco sour was very tasty. A few at the table raved about the whole fish (served with potatoes-roasted or mashed- or rice). We sat outside in the back on the covered porch. No English menus and lots of island natives, so this isn’t a touristy restaurant- a perfect place to spend some time in between tours! Lunch for two (a round of drinks and two entrees): $50
- LA KALETA is on the water and definitely caters to tourists, but we enjoyed the food nonetheless. Our group split both the hot and cold table to start- the cold table was olives, smoked salmon, and cheese, and the hot table was shrimp, calamari, and fish. The shrimp curry (recommended to me by another traveler) was delicious and filling, and the crab cake was presented more as a crab dip- tasty but very rich. We were not disappointed, and we were not hungry for quite a while! Dinner for two (appetizer, two rounds of drinks, and two entrees): $100
WHERE TO STAY
- TAURA’A HOTEL, just a five minute drive from the airport, was exactly the right choice for our launching pad to the island. Owner Edith will pick you up (with a traditional lei to welcome you to island life!), give you a quick driving tour of Hanga Roa to orient you, and provide you with comfortable accommodations and delicious food. Our room had a double bed, plenty of storage for clothes, and a modern bathroom (complete with a shower that had both hot water and incredible water pressure!), but don’t expect conveniences like TV or radio- and, frankly, if you are, Easter Island might not be your kind of vacation. Wireless internet was free (though spotty- completely understandable for an island that is five hours by plane from anywhere else!), but the best part was breakfast. Eggs that become omelettes just hours after they are laid? Yes. Guava and mango picked that morning? Of course! Fried plantains and fresh smoothies? I’m amazed we didn’t roll away from the breakfast table each morning. Many accommodations on the island provide breakfast as part of the room rate, but don’t pass up on Edith’s- she may be the best cook on the island. Another bonus: the hotel is right off the main road, and it’s about a 5 minute walk to shopping and the grocery store and about 20 minutes to Ahu Vai Ure- so you can save money on renting a car or a bike.
More Information: TauraaHotel.cl
WHAT TO KNOW
- TAKE A TOUR with a Rapa Nui guide. Island natives aren’t just the most knowledgeable when it comes to history and facts, they can bridge the gap between perception and tradition. We took a tour with Marauru Tours, and when we asked our guide how in the world her ancestors moved those enormous stone carvings around the island, she shrugged and matter-of-factly told us, “It was Mana.” Mana, the term used to describe the divine power some possessed and used to command the Moai to move, probably isn’t the explanation given by guides who have merely studied the island’s history, but after hearing a real descendant relay the tales passed down for generations, you can’t help but believe in the power of the Papanui.
More Information: MaururuTravel.com
- GET YOUR PASSPORT STAMPED at the post office! You can stamp your passport yourself for free, and it’s guaranteed to make you smile (and make your friends jealous) when you flip through your passport’s pages in the customs line.
- YOU’RE GOING TO SPEND MONEY HERE, and you should budget for that before you go. Locals receive shipments from the mainland every six weeks by boat, so anything you buy- including food, toiletries, and clothing- will reflect the high price it costs to get it to the island in the first place. Meals will likely cost around $25-50 per person (including a beverage). Great meals can cost a lot more than that when you factor in drinks. Souvenirs are also expensive, and don’t be afraid to shop around. Everyone sells moai statues, and you will see incredible ranges for the same size and quality. Most prices are firm, but some shop owners (especially at the indoor market off the main road) may want to haggle with you. Invest in great tours and one or two souvenirs for yourself- you’ll want something to remind you of this magical place when you’re back home, but the memories you’ll make while experiencing the island firsthand will be the most important investment you make during this journey.
- THERE IS ONE FLIGHT A DAY, and if you’re not on it you might miss your chance. Consider spending the night in Santiago before connecting to Easter Island. We didn’t do that, and the price we paid was a completely frantic two hour layover spent waiting for and rechecking our luggage (and having several airline staff tell us neither us nor our baggage would be traveling because there wasn’t enough time between receiving our luggage and our next flight) and, eventually, an anxious five hour flight wondering if a change of clothing would be in our future. If I were to plan this trip again, we would have spent a night in Santiago and had at least three hours at the airport to avoid the panic, the sprinting, and the worry that clouded the start to this adventure.
- THERE ARE TONS OF STRAY DOGS, but they’re all friendly. On our first night in town, while cooling our tired feet in the Pacific waters, a scruffy pup approached me and dropped a shell by my side. I threw it for him, and he chased it down and brought it right back for another round. Sweet strays who play fetch? Definitely my kind of paradise! The dogs are plentiful, but they won’t bite, beg for food, or hurt you. Treat them well, and throw the shell for them if you’re chosen as their next playmate.
- BRING SOME PESOS WITH YOU so you have some cash on hand right away. We intended to stop at an ATM in the airport in Santiago during our layover, but because our baggage and the airline staff had other plans for our time, that didn’t happen. There are two banks on the island- Santander and Banco Espana- and it’s common for the ATMs to run out of money (especially on weekends). Exchange some cash before you go, as not everyone takes credit cards just yet. Credit cards are pretty widely accepted at restaurants and hotels, but stores are hit or miss and it all depends on if their machines can get enough reception to processes the transaction.
- GO! This is a true trip-of-a-lifetime, and there is nothing that will ever dull the memories of laughing with new friends over ceviche and beer, watching the last gorgeous sunrays disappear over the horizon, and gazing up in awe at the Moai, some of the most incredible and mysterious stone carvings known to mankind. Only 50,000 people make the trip to Easter Island each year- and it’s time you’re one of them. Make it happen.
Destination Guides are our recommendations for things to do and see in each featured location. They are by no means definitive, they’re just based on our own experiences. If you have additional recommendations please let us know in the comments!
* From time to time, our travels are directly impacted by a service or company. We selected these tours, restaurants and hotels based on our own research and travel needs; we were not offered and did not receive compensation of any kind from them or any other party in exchange for our review.