As a top South America travel destination, Easter Island (or Rapa Nui as it is natively known) offers more than most. This far-flung island—dotted in the Pacific Ocean—is at once a mystery, a natural wonder, and a cultural gem to discover that is bound to leave its mark on anyone lucky enough to visit.

Make no mistake, Easter Island is a rugged and raw place of windswept coastline, hilly terrain and volcanic craters, yet the untamed wilderness of Rapa Nui only adds to its appeal. And amongst that natural landscape it’s the history, culture, and unmistakable Moai statues that are the real draw to visiting Easter Island.

If you’re thinking of the perfect trip to Easter Island, having some of the essential information in advance will make your vacation even more enjoyable and even more
personal. That’s why we’ve put together our Easter Island travel guide, giving you everything you need to know to see Rapa Nui your way, and ensure this fascinating island leaves its mark in you too.

How do you get to Easter Island?

Easter Island is found in the Pacific Ocean, and incredible 2,200 miles west of mainland Chile and 1,200 miles from their nearest inhabitants on Pitcairn Island.

The only way to get to Easter Island is via Chile, so we would always recommend extending your tour to include some of the many highlights of Chile like the Atacama Desert, Patagonia, or picture-perfect Lake District for an even more incredible experience. The flight from Chile to Easter Island departs from Santiago and takes around 5-5 ½ hours before reaching Hanga Roa, the capital of Rapa Nui. Flights are daily (and take an hour less on the way back due to tailwinds) so a trip to Easter Island should be able to work with your wider travel plans and, as (currently) only LATAM Airlines fly to Easter Island, spaces can be limited so booking early is always recommended.

Once there, travelling around Easter Island is best done in the company of an expert local guide. Roads can be challenging if you’re unfamiliar with the area, so having someone who has both the vehicle and knowledge to navigate leaves you to simply sit back and enjoy the views.

Certain Moai sites and areas of natural beauty on Easter Island are also only accessible by foot, so be sure to pack your walking boots and for active types—you’ll find fantastic mountain biking and horse-riding trails here too!

Things to see and do on Easter Island

Easter Island is best known for its iconic Moai statues, and these giant figures—1,000 of them carved from volcanic rock—have bewitched visitors for centuries. Widely thought to be ancestral offerings, the precise placing of the Moai and even how they were moved is still a mystery, so discovering this history and wonder is a must.

There is plenty else to see and do on Easter Island however, with some of our favorite activities, tours, and day trips including:

  1. Rano Raraku Quarry. There’s no better place to start than at the origin site of many of Easter Island’s Moai Statues, the Rano Raraku Quarry. Rano Raraku is actually a volcanic crater (perfect for a hike after visiting the quarry), where the Moai were carved directly into/from these steep slopes before being taken to their final resting place. Rano Raraku takes you to another time with the surreal sight of many unfinished statues still in the ground, toppled, or abandoned altogether. With nearly 400 Moai at the Rano Raraku Quarry alone, it’s an experience to remember wherever it features in your trip.
  2. Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki. You may have seen the famous images of Moai Statues standing tall on the Easter Island coastline with the Pacific Ocean lapping behind them and no civilization in sight, well Ahu Tongariki is the perfect place to witness just that. Situated not far from Rano Raraku, you can easily tie the two sites together, though we recommend getting there early to watch the sunrise over Ahu Tongariki for something truly special. Ahu Tongariki is probably the best-preserved site for standing Moai Statues, so taking the time to appreciate it in full is recommended.
  3. Sunset at Ahu Tahai. If you’ve seen the sunrise at Ahu Tongariki, then watching sunset at Ahu Tahai is the perfect way to end any day. It’s a beautiful and mesmerizing sight as the sun dips behind the standing Moai here, casting shadows and light across this stretch of Easter Island coastline and the ceremonial complex of Tahai.
  4. Visit Orongo Village and Rano Kau Crater. Orongo Village, an impressive ceremonial center on the cliff edges of the even more impressive 2km-wide Rano Kau Volcano, has an important place in Easter Island history. It was here where Rapa Nui’s ancestors moved from Moai worship to honoring the birds, holding an annual competition to swim the waters around Moto Nui Islet, steal a bird’s egg from the native Sooty Tern’s nests, and return with it intact. The first to do so would be declared king and honored at Orongo. Moreover, the Rano Kau Crater and clifftop views are well worth the visit alone.
  5. Hike Maunga Terevaka. Outdoor types will love the challenge of hiking Maunga Terevaka, Easter Island’s tallest volcano that’s an unbeatable spot for timeless elevated views of the entire island, and out to sea in every direction. You can trek or horseback ride up Maunga Terevaka, and we recommend saving the spellbinding views for one of your last Easter Island excursions to leave a lasting impression at the end of your trip.
  6. Swim at Anakena Beach near Ahu Nau Nau: Easter Island isn’t known for its long swathes of sandy beaches, instead most of the coastline here is wild and cliff-edged—though there are some exceptions. Anakena Beach is one of them, and the white shores here are a great place to swim on Easter Island. What’s more, you can do so with the standing Moai Statues of Ahu Nau Nau still in sight.
  7. Mountain biking, hiking and horse-riding: Outdoor activities on Easter Island are abundant thanks to the undulating and unpopulated landscape, and often you’ll have a stunning archeological site as your final destination. There are many routes to choose from, either departing from Hanga Roa or your hotel in the company of a local guide.
  8. Scuba diving: Easter Island scuba diving is not for the faint hearted, as although the corals and caves make for an exciting underwater adventure, that water is cold! If you’re used to cold water diving, the seabed and sea life around the coast of Rapa Nui will add something special to your tour.
  9. Visit the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum: Whether at the start of your trip before visiting the Moai sites or at the end to bring everything you’ve seen together, this museum provides an interesting insight into the cultural heritage, ancient past and fascinating history of Rapa Nui and its people.
  10. Explore Hanga Roa: Hanga Roa, the capital of Easter Island, is a town that’s very proud of its cultural heritage and traditions. You’ll find great seafood restaurants here as well as occasional festivals, laidback bars, and a slower pace of life all-round. Taking the time to explore the central hub of Rapa Nui’s population adds an extra layer to your understanding of this enigmatic place, both its past and present day.

Where to stay on Easter Island

Thankfully there are no big hotel complexes or over-development on Rapa Nui. Instead, there are a handful of unique luxury Easter Island hotels that we always enjoy—both for the properties themselves as well as their prized locations.

For your Easter Island vacation, we’d recommend:

  1. Explora Rapa Nui: Designed to minimize environmental impact and merge into the pristine landscape in which it sits, Explora Rapa Nui showcases sustainable luxury living alongside exploration of all that the island has to offer.
  2. Nayara Hangaroa: This ocean-facing resort seemingly takes some design cues from ancient Orongo Village, and it really works. Adorned with natural and reclaimed materials, though not short on refinement like the spa and swimming pool, luxe restaurant and guestrooms, Nayara Hangaroa combines comfort and culture in one.
  3. Hotel Hare Uta: Boutique Hare Uta offers an intimate stay on Easter Island with just 9 guestrooms styled like houses, and surrounded by tropical gardens. If you like a quieter pace of life with coastal views to match, a spa, swimming pool and gourmet restaurant, you’ll love Hotel Hare Uta.
  4. Altiplanico Rapa Nui: Altiplanico Rapa Nui is a chic escape that comes with a good range of accommodation options, including those with a private garden or hot tub. When it’s not windy, dining out on the terrace with nothing but sea views for company is a real highlight of this hotel.
  5. Villa Homiti: If travelling to Easter Island as a group, Villa Homiti is a great choice. This self-sufficient 4-bedroom luxury villa offers everything you need for a private Easter Island experience. Sunset from the terrace is particularly memorable, while inside all the rooms are spacious, respectfully decorated and full of amenities.

Unique Easter Island experiences

In addition to the Moai Statues, archeological sites and volcanic wonders on Rapa Nui, there’s other unique Easter Island experiences that connect you with the people and culture here. An energizing song and dance performance is always enjoyable and a great insight into the Polynesian culture that Rapa Nui people are so proud of and you can find one both in Hanga Roa and outside.

If the key to understanding a population is through their food however, then we recommend a traditional cooking class while in Hanga Roa—with the regeneration of local cuisine especially important given the island’s turbulent history with starvation and famine in the 17th century.

Day-to-day activities like wood carving are fun with children, while larger events like the Easter Festival or Tapati Rapa Nui Carnival make for insta-worthy memories!

Easter Island travel tips

As with any remote travel destination, there’s plenty to consider before packing your bags for East Island—from the climate to the landscape to getting around. We’ve put together our 7 top tips for travelling to Easter Island, helping make sure your visit is the best it can be:

  1. What to wear: Pack for all weathers on Easter Island, the climate can be changeable and is often windy, sometimes wet, but can also be sunny and humid. If you’ve planned plenty of excursions during your trip, then we recommend a mix of walking boots, rainproofs, swimwear, and comfortable clothing.
  2. When to go: As a year-round destination, temperatures on Easter Island remain quite consistent throughout, averaging between 21° C – 28° C and roughly 85mm-130mm of rain per month. The low season tends to be April-June and September-October, though festivals in February and around Easter can be a real draw if you’re happy to mix with the crowds.
  3. Internet: Due to the infrastructure and above all, the location of Easter Island, internet coverage can be patchy. Be prepared to get cut off from the rest of the world at times, potentially!
  4. Currency: The currency on Easter Island is the Chilean Peso, though some places will accept US Dollars. Be sure to have some cash with you too as remote sites and some beach bars, for example, do not have the facilities for card payments.
  5. Getting around: We would always recommend a private guide and car to get around Easter Island easily. There are no regular bus services and self-drive can be challenging—especially if satellite navigation fails to pick up a signal.
  6. Cuisine: Though varied, seafood—as you might expect—is central to Easter Island cuisine. Think tuna, octopus, swordfish and more, all whipped up with local flavors, Polynesian and French influences, and fresh fruit.
  7. Length of stay: It takes less than 2 hours to drive from one side of Rapa Nui to the other and yet, although small, there is plenty to see and do here so we’d recommend at least 4 full days to enjoy it all at a gentle pace (not including travel time to and from Chile).

No matter what your interests or group size, speak to the South America travel specialists at Atelier and they will craft your dream tailormade tour to Easter Island and beyond.

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