Known as Rapa Nui, Isla de Pascua, and Easter Island – no matter what one may call the island, it’s sure to bring mysterious and surreal images to mind. Images of moai, the enormous stone heads/torsos that dot the landscape, are often recalled from childhood explorations through back issues of National Geographic magazines. The island is a bucket list item for many, and for those looking to experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure destination while on their luxury vacation to Chile – look no further and travel to Easter Island.
Though Easter Island is a famous name, few know what other treasures the island holds beyond its notable, and albeit incredible and mysterious Rano Raraku quarry – where all of the iconic stone statues are housed. In reality, the island offers much more to curious travelers looking to step into a new world. We’ve put together some of the need-to-knows about visiting Easter Island for your information, but rest assured that the Kuoda travel team will manage all of the logistics and ensure you have a stress-free, thrilling and inspiring visit to one of the most remote parts of the world, Easter Island.
– The History Of The Island
Easter Island has a colorful history where it was first explored by outsiders in 1722 and named by Dutch naval commander Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Sunday. It was also where Captain Cook and his crew recuperated during one of his many explorations and where, in 1805, a vicious raid by slave traders left a scar in the community. It was annexed by Chile in the late 19th century and now maintains an economy based largely on tourism.
Easter Island has nearly 1,000 megaliths, known as moai. They have oversized heads and generally stand about 4 meters or 13 feet high. They were carved by a Polynesian tribe more than 500 years ago. The figures were carved by the indigenous Rapa Nui people sometime between the years 1400 and 1650 and positioned to form a ring around the island, facing inland. They were figures of spiritual devotion for the Rapa Nui, embodying the spirit of a prominent ancestor. Each one was considered to be the person’s living incarnation.
– How To Get There
While commercial cruising is an option for exploring Easter Island, most cruises to the Island are part of a greater Pacific or a world cruise, often exceeding 20+ nights at sea. For those looking to visit Easter Island as a part of your luxury vacation to Chile, Kuoda highly recommends flying. Currently, LATAM is the only airline that flies to Easter Island and their planes depart from Santiago with a flight time of around six hours on the outward journey. On the way back to Santiago, the flight time is only four and a half hours thanks to prevailing winds.
Getting to Easter Island from Chile is relatively straightforward as these flights leave up to three times daily in the high season, October through April, and up to twice daily, Wednesdays and Sundays, in the low season, May through September.
When you arrive at Easter Island, you’ll land at Mataveri Airport, the main entry point for the more than 100,000 tourists who travel to Easter Island each year to admire its archaeological sites and other attractions. The Rapa Nui airport is considered the most remote airport in the world, but once you land – this small airport is easy to quickly understand. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a flower lei and taken to your accommodations for a true Rapa Nui welcome to the island.
– When To Go
The shoulder seasons between April and June and October and December are the best times to visit Easter Island. The warm climate of the Southern Hemisphere combined with the light crowds during these months makes them an ideal time to discover the many highlights of the island.
Between January and March is summer in the Southern Hemisphere and high season, when visitors flock to the island. The Tapati Rapa Nui Festival takes place every year at the beginning of February, a celebration that brings the Rapa Nui culture to new generations of the island’s people and tourists. Activities during this festival include horseback races, dancing, a triathlon, swimming, and canoeing.
Falling between winter and spring, October, November, and December are pleasant months to travel to this remote Chilean outpost as they give you the best of the winter months and the room to stretch your legs while exploring the manmade and natural wonders of the island while the crowds are at bay.
• For Nature Lovers
Surrounded by lush landscapes in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, nature enthusiasts will love all of the experiences surrounding Easter Island’s diverse flora, fauna, and landscapes. Dramatic coral reefs, mountainous backdrops, birdwatching and surfing, snorkeling, and diving in the crystal clear waters of Easter Island’s shores are just a few of the attractions on Easter Island. For those that would rather explore by land, the Ana Kakenga Cave is part of the island’s underground complex of taverns where spelunking gives you great views from cliffside vantage points out over the sea. The remote location of the island also makes it a perfect spot for some stellar stargazing, where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the Milky Way, nearly year-round.
• For History Lovers
History lovers are spoiled for choice on Easter Island when it comes to activities. Visitors can experience the ancient carvings, which provide a written legacy in the form of pictorial petroglyphs. There are still traces of Rapa Nui petroglyphs all around the island, with some of the most important ones found in Papa Vaka, Ana Kai Tangata, and Orongo village.
These petroglyphs often depict several marine scenes that include fishing, the use of canoes, and various marine animals. Part of the daily life of the Rapa Nui. Additionally, history lovers can visit Ahu Akahanga, said to be the burial location of the first king of Rapa Nui; Ahu Akivi, which is the only site on the island where the moai are looking out to sea rather than inland, and Ahu Tongariki, where some of the best-preserved moai stand including ‘Paro’, the largest statue of all which weighs around 82 tons.
For a deeper look into the birthplace of the Birdman Cult which ended the period of moai building, visitors can head to Orongo, which consists of several low, round-walled, and windowless houses that you need to crawl in to enter. Over 4,000 petroglyphs related to the cult can be seen around Orongo, a major cultural insight into the early Rapa Nui.
• For Adventure Lovers
Adventure lovers can rejoice at all of the experiences available in this remote part of the world. Dust off your hiking boots and commence the 2-hour trek to the top of the Terevaka Volcano, the highest point on Easter Island with stunning 360-degree views. For those looking to catch a wave, Hanga Roa offers world-class surfing and surfboard rentals. For scuba and snorkel enthusiasts, head during high tide, as this area attracts turtles and other incredible marine life that you will not want to miss.
Hike the historical Orango Village perched on the side of the volcano itself for a mix of adventure and culture and don’t forget to rent a bike and take the bike trail to Anakena Beach, a postcard-worthy beach with golden sand, turquoise water, gentle waves, and folding palm trees, plus 8 moai.
– Top Experiences in Easter Island
• See The Moais at Rano Raraku National Park
This is the main attraction on Easter Island and the one place you shouldn’t miss. The site houses the main moai (statue figures) quarry and the place where you’ll see them in all their glory and all stages of production. In fact, about half of the moai of Easter Island are located in this national park. They look inland towards the clan that created them as a sign of protection.
• Stargazing on Easter Island
The remote location of Rapa Nui makes it one of the most phenomenal places to admire the night sky. When the sun sets, the stars come out in all their glory! The remoteness of the island provides the ideal condition for clarity and clearness of the sky on Easter Island. The best part is you don’t even have to leave your hotel to see the Milky Way. If you happen to be on the island during a new moon the lights from Hanga Roa only have a small effect on the sky, meaning you can see everything from town.
• See a traditional Rapa Nui dance show
Get a taste of the Pacific Islander life at a traditional dance show, put on by the local Rapa Nui community. Music and dancing are very important to Polynesian culture, including Rapa Nui – with elaborate costumes, dances, and lively and inspiring shows, it offers a deeper look into the community and their customs and traditions which have shaped the island for thousands of years. You may even feel compelled to join them in the dances, as they frequently engage the audience!
• Scuba Dive With The Underwater Moai
Scuba dive to the depths of Easter Island and find the iconic Moai statues laying on the ocean floor. Sitting about 20m below the surface this moai makes for some incredible underwater photos. The ocean is stunningly clear and gives you an unforgettable Polynesian diving experience. There are also other excellent dive sites around Rapa Nui, including some cavern and wall dives for scuba diving enthusiasts looking to explore more.
• Watch The Sunrise From Tongariki
Tongariki is one of the most iconic sights on Easter Island – here you will see its 15 moai statues stand next to each other on an Ahu (ceremonial platform) facing inland as you see the orange sunrise right behind them, creating a shadowy silhouette out of the statues. Be prepared for a late sunrise, sometimes at 8 or 9 am! Watching the sun peak over the statues and illuminate the sky is by far one of the most magical travel experiences one can have.
– Best Places To Stay
• Explora Rapa Nui
The award-winning architecture of Explora Rapa Nui blends effortlessly into the surroundings of spectacular Easter Island, offering an exceptional oasis from which to explore the many attractions of this renowned destination. Located just eight kilometers from Hanga Roa, Explora Rapa Nui has a wonderful assortment of rooms and suites, designed to take full advantage of the silence, exclusivity, and spaciousness of the surrounding landscape.
Guests will be spoilt for choice by the mouth-watering menus created at the hotel’s restaurant, with all dishes complimented by fine Chilean wine. Tranquil hours can be spent in the sparkling swimming pool, Jacuzzi or sauna, and massage areas. The convivial Explorer’s Bar is the central meeting point for guides and guests to discuss the day’s up-and-coming exploration and is also the perfect setting for groups to swap tales of their adventures in the evenings. Explora Rapa Nui offers over 20 different, half-day and full-day hikes, bike trips, and fishing and snorkeling explorations, which are hosted by local guides and tailored according to your level of expertise.
• Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa
Set in the main town of Hanga Roa, right on the shoreline looking out to sea, is this large hotel, spread across 17 acres and designed in the traditional style of the indigenous Rapa Nui people. Rooms are set in individual huts formed of grass-covered roofs, wooden pillars, and dark stone walls. Stroll just three blocks and you will come to the fish restaurants, bars, art galleries, and souvenir shops that make up the majority of the town. Inside you will find white walls, high ceilings, and modern furnishings.
The expansive spa is also Rapa Nui-inspired with indigenous architecture. Staying as part of the Discovery or Experience programs, you will have a half-day group excursion each day included in the price, or can opt for bike hire or a trip to the beach.
• Hare Uta
This hotel is located on the outskirts of Hanga Roa, on the road that leads to Anakena Beach, on an elevated terrain from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the interior of the island. The hotel consists of four rustic-style houses connected by wooden walkways. Each one contains four spacious private rooms with a shared bathroom, and a shared living room and kitchen, making this ideal for a family vacation to Chile.
In the lower area, find a small pool built with stones, that mimics the natural pools where the islanders bathe. This is a pleasant place to relax along with the acclaimed Umanga Restaurant, located in the center of the property and open to the general public, where the chef serves traditional Easter Island cuisine based on local produce.
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