The ancient and mystical allure of Easter Island extends well beyond the Polynesian island’s iconic stone shrines (moai). Rapu Nui—the original name of the Chilean territory as well as its indigenous culture—is located in the South Pacific ocean, some 2,000 miles off of the Chilean coast and a five-hour flight from Santiago. Surrounded by an infinite blue, this tiny (163.6 km²) triangle-shaped island is one of the most isolated human settlements in the world—and yet is a cradle of history and adventure.
Walk whitesand beaches, climb volcanoes, meet its people, see historical relics and, of course, stand before the alluring human-faced carvings. Here are the top five things to do in Easter Island:
1. Cross Tongariki Off Your Bucket List
It wouldn’t be a proper list of top things to do in Easter Island without the inclusion of the Ahu Tongariki ancient ruins. While the name may not ring a bell, most global travelers are familiar with the image of 15 moai sculptures standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their backs to the Pacific Ocean. While there are said to be one thousand moai on the island, this group is particularly special.
Located near two extinct volcanoes (Poike and Rano Raraku), the moai were carved from volcanic ash using a toki ( a chisel made of rock). Researchers and anthropologists believe that Tongariki, the largest ahu (platform) on Easter Island, was the sociopolitical and religious center of one of the earliest and most powerful tribes, Hotu Iti.
As brawny as the moai of Tongariki may appear (in fact, the largest weighs 86 tonnes), they have been restored over time due to early civil wars and 20th century earthquakes. The mystery of how Rapu Nui managed to move these mammoth sculptures remains, though a common theory is that they were rolled on logs from the carving site to the ahu.
2. Bike the Entire Island—in Just One Day!
The sole urban center in Easter Island, Hanga Roa just so happens to be the main gateway to adventure experiences. A superb activity to get to know the miniscule island from a different perspective is on a scenic bike tour. Sounds intimidating? Keep in mind that the area of Easter island is just 163.6 km², which is slightly smaller than Washington, D.C.
Meaning “wide bay or long bay” in the Rapa Nui language, Hanga Roa is located between the Rano Kao and Terevaka volcanoes. Bike tours begin in the city and can follow various itineraries depending on travelers’ abilities and the weather. A rewarding 42 km-bike ride circles the entire island, taking cyclists to beautiful beaches (such as Anakena), important archaeological sites like Ahu Hanga Te’e, and eventually to Ahu Tongariki.
The freedom of setting the pace and taking stops when desired; the ocean breeze and generally flat roads—biking around the island is one of the top things to do in Easter Island as travelers can fully embrace the natural highlights and some of the lesser known areas too. Travelers can also opt for a horseback ride.
3. Hike Volcanoes for Impeccable Views
Compared to the towering Ojos del Salado (6,893 meters) on mainland Chile, Easter Island’s Maunga Terevaka and Rano Kau volcanoes are of miniscule height—and yet, the impressive views they offer make hiking these volcanic slopes one of the top things to do in Easter Island.
Despite measuring a mere 507 meters above sea level, Terevaka remains the highest point on the mountain-less island. Located on the northern point of triangle-shaped Easter Island, the inactive volcano is characterized by grassy undulating slopes that can be traversed by foot or upon horseback. At the trailhead of Terevaka is Ahu Akivi, an ancient ceremonial platform made up of seven moai. Having reached the top of Terevaka, travelers can take in a 360-degree view of the island.
Smaller yet arguably more beautiful, the 324-meter Rano Kau carries an awe-inspiring elliptical caldera filled with rainwater. One and a half kilometers wide and an estimated 10 meters deep, the lagoon of Rano Kau was once a main source of fresh water on the island; the body of water also led to the natural development of a microclimate upon the interior walls of the crater, allowing for the conservation of endemic plant species.
Located on the island’s southwest corner, Rano Kau is dotted with caves, petroglyphs, and remains of sacred platforms and houses. At the crest of Rano Kau is a viewpoint that provides views of Orongo, a striking ceremonial village of stone houses.
4. Unwind on Anakena Beach
The white sand beach known as Anakena makes for a paradisiacal destination post-hike or simply to relax. Fringed with palm trees, the postcard-worthy beach is met by stunning turquoise waters that gently wash up to the shoreline. Families can wade into the calm, clear waters that remain at a near-constant temperature of about 70ºF.
A beach fit for royalty, it is believed that Rapa Nui’s first king, Ariki Hotu Matu’a, landed here with his men when he first arrived on the island. For this reason you may hear locals refer to the beach as Kings Bay or Hang Rau Ariki.
As in other important villages on the island, the long-faced moai sculptures are present at Anakena Beach and can be seen while one sunbathes or comes up above the water’s surface after a scuba outing. Enjoy the clear, calm beach with a backdrop of centuries-old stone giants when you visit Anakena Beach.
5. Stay at Explora Rapa Nui Hotel
Taking full advantage of the silence, privacy, and spaciousness of the surrounding landscape, Explora Rapa Nui Hotel provides guests with the ability to disconnect from the outside world and delve into ancient mysteries.
Built on 9.6 hectares and just 8km from Hanga Roa, land and sea excursions abound at this eco-friendly hotel as do on-site activities. Indulge with a massage or spa treatment, soak in the pool or jacuzzi, and dine on locally sourced foods with a wide selection of Chilean wines. By day and night enjoy an excellent view in the company of your family or travel group, as all 30 private rooms are ocean-facing.
Surrounded by the intense blue of the Pacific Ocean, Explora Rapa Nui is ideal for travelers seeking an active and cultural experience. For that reason, rooms are not equipped with TVs or WiFi. Afterall, it’s not every day that one travels to Easter Island: the cradle of a unique and enigmatic culture.
When to Go:
Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and kissed by a cool ocean breeze, visitors to Easter Island can enjoy a pleasant subtropical climate nearly all year round. That said, when deciding when to go to Easter Island travelers should bring a windbreaker or light raincoat as wind and rain can be unpredictable.
High tourism season on Easter Island is, unsurprisingly, during the dry summer months (December-March) when temperatures hover around 80ºF. Within this popular time frame is the Tapati Rapa Nui festival, an annual celebration of the island’s culture and heritage that is held during the first two weeks of February.
Come April, humidity levels rise and steady rainfall quenches the thirst of the island’s endemic flora. From July to September, winter temperatures rarely dip below 60ºF. Unlike the spring season in the northern hemisphere, primavera (October-December) marks the beginning of Rapa Nui’s dry season.
No matter what time of year you venture to Chile’s isolated Rapa Nui, enjoy the temperate climate and superb stargazing presented by this small and mysterious island.
For more information regarding a customized journey to Easter Island, contact our award-winning travel team.