Only by hearing the name of this island, you are instantly intrigued. Why and who named it like that? Where is it? What is there?
The explanation is simple. The island was named like that because the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen arrived here on Easter Sunday the 5th in 1722. Nowadays, the local people call it Rapa Nui. Located in the Pacific Ocean at the southernmost point of the Polynesian triangle, this Chilean island of volcanic origin has been on the bucket list of many travelers, including mine.
Apart from its name and remoteness, what appealed to me to visit it, was the unfathomable mysteries behind the famous Moai statues. Not so appealing though – the price for the plane tickets! But, with a little research, we discovered how to get them five times cheaper. Five! Plus flying business class on the way back!
How to find cheap flights to Easter Island?
Plane tickets to Easter Island in high season can reach up to 1000 $ for Economy with LATAM airlines, which is a rip-off. No matter how desperate I was to get there, I wasn’t ready to pay crazy money for it.
The trip to Chile was nearing and we almost scratched off Easter Island from our list. Until my friend decided to check on the tickets for one last time. Suddenly, she saw the price of 240 $ and when she wanted to book it, Google took her to the Chilean website of LATAM. This is the trick. If you buy the tickets from the Chilean website, which is in Spanish but pretty self-explanatory, you get them 4-5 times cheaper. Also, even if you look for Economy tickets, sometimes the website gives you only Business Class almost equivalent to the price of Economy. So yep, start learning some Spanish if you want cheap tickets.
A rough idea about the prices in Easter Island
Apart from the plane tickets, the hotels are also very expensive. In fact, everything is expensive there, since it’s so remote and popular, so prepare your pockets. Just to give you a rough idea: renting a car (automatic) will cost you 100 $ a day, manual gear is much cheaper – around 40$; the entry ticket for the park is 80 $, but you can use it for your entire stay; a budget hotel will be around 100 $ a night. We stayed in Rangi Moana, which is a medium-range hotel. It’s “cutish” and the staff was very helpful. But I am sure you can find cheaper options.
When it comes to food, a nice dinner with cocktails would cost you around 100 $ for 2 people. We didn’t save money on that, as we like to indulge ourselves with good food. Instead, we chose to cook breakfast in our little villa, which had a kitchen.
The best way to get around the island is by car, although you can also find plenty of tours. Renting a bicycle can be another option. Bear in mind that the island is not that small so if you want to lose some weight, then the bicycle might be the perfect option for you.
Top 8 best things to see and do in Rapa Nui
1. Anakena Beach
Our first encounter with the Moai statues, was at Anakena beach – in fact, the only beach on this Polynesian island, but with all the beach requisites: cocktails, sun, sand and a restaurant.
From the beach, you can drive along the coast and enter different sights of the park in search of Moai statues. You will find some of them standing, some laying down, some crashed or broken by the wind, time or people. There are around 600 Moai scattered around the island. Have fun discovering!
2. Sunrise at Tongariki
I am sooo not a morning person. Only a sunrise at Tongariki can wake me up at 5:30 AM. If you Google pictures of Easter Island, you will bump into one picture over and over again, which represents a glorious sunrise over 15 Moai statues.
The drive itself to Ahu Tongariki is also enjoyable, as you drive along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. The restless waves make a perfect soundtrack for the drive.
At Tongariki you will find many people, as this is a major attraction, but don’t worry, you will find your spot. There are different angles from which you can approach this beauty.
You can sit in the front line where all the camera and iPhone battles occur to get the best shot; or, you can be in the rear line with the people who already retired from the frontlines pretending they don’t need the epic shot.
I have fought in both lines and I can confirm that the rear line is the best. You are safe and cool here because you can really contemplate the unfolding sunrise over the majestic Moai statues, with the waves of the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop.
As I was watching the sunrise, I grounded myself and understood where I physically was. The middle of the middle of never-imagining place I could ever reach.
After this metaphysical beginning of the morning, my expectations for the rest of the day rose above the stratosphere. Rano Raraku lived up to them.
3. Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku is an important archeological site on Easter Island. It is the birthplace of Moai sculptures because here they were carved and transported to different parts of the island. You can wander amongst the 400 statues, most of them being buried halfway into the ground, leaving outside only stern faces. Also, in Rano Raraku you can find the largest Moai, still attached to the rock, named “El Gigante”, which is approximately 22m long and weighs around 270 tones. Impressive.
But why? Why would the ancient inhabitants of this island put so much energy to build these behemoths? There are so many theories out there. Some researchers think they were build to honor the tribal chiefs or other important people who had passed away, whilst others believe that the mysterious “Easter Island heads” were placed to mark sources of fresh water. I guess we can endlessly speculate on this topic and cracking the mysteries of this remote island will always be a fun thing to do, especially for inquisitive tourists like me.
4. Rano Kau volcano
The next stop on our day trip was Rano Kau volcano, which is one of the three volcanoes whose eruption created Rapa Nui, the indigenous name of Easter Island. The 1km wide crater of the volcano holds a lake with lush vegetation. Another idyllic place to think about your life and say your thanks for whatever you are grateful for.
5. Orongo ceremonial village
Not far from Rano Kau are the ruins of the Orongo ceremonial village. I liked more the panoramic view of the crater and the dramatic cliff-edge drop into the Pacific, rather than the ruins themselves. But, that is because I innately always loved nature more than stones, no matter how old they are.
6. Maunga Terevaka hike
Another volcano you can visit in Rapa Nui is, Maunga Terevaka. Maunga Tere-what? Can’t stop laughing, as the name of this volcano is just too damn funny. “Vaka” in my language, Romanian, means “cow”.
Anyways. This volcano doesn’t have a pretty crater, like Rano Kau. Instead, it offers you a 360 view of the island, as it is the highest point.
The hike starts from Ahu Akivi and should take you around 1,5h one way. It’s an easy hike and you can do it by yourself. No need for a guide.
7. Sundowner and dinner at Te Moana restaurant
We finished the evening with a delightful sunset and dinner at Te Moana restaurant. Yes, everything is Moana on Easter Island. We liked this restaurant so much, that went twice there. Try to seafood platter with a glass of Veramonte white wine.
I remember vividly that evening, sitting outside in front of the ocean. The colors of the sky were bright yellow, as only Polynesian yellow can be. And the wine was matching the yellow of the sky. And the moment was perfect.
Another memorable place from where you can watch the sunset is, Ahu Tahai. In fact, it’s claimed to be the best place to watch the sunset on the island. Unfortunately, we didn’t go there, as we confused Ahu Tahai with another place to watch the sunset, which is a single Moai statue not too far from Te Moana restaurant. It was still gorgeous though.
8. Tapati festival
Whilst on Easter Island, we found out that there was a cultural festival going on – Tapati. What I mean by that is: beautiful women wearing mermaid-shell bras and feather headdresses dancing graciously on the notes of indigenous songs, and Polynesian men wearing nothing but a loincloth doing bodyboarding – surfing on a small board made of totora reeds. What a time to be alive!
The festival lasts for two weeks and it involves the participation of almost all inhabitants. They take it very seriously and rehearse throughout the year. Tapati festival is much more than dances and sports competitions. It’s about painting, stone and woodcarving, costumes presentation, making of jewelry, cooking traditional food and so on. You will need an agenda to plan your days.
What I liked most?
The picturesque sunrise at Tongariki and the charming sunsets at Te Moana restaurant made it to my Chile archived memories.
– Natalia –