If ever get lucky to visit one of the most mysterious and remote islands in the World – do not just go there for 2 or 3 days. There are a ton of things to do on Easter Island, and to cover most – you might need at least a week!
Please note: you will need to buy a one-time pass to the Parque Nacional Rapa Nui (National Park of Rapa Nui) to access all the major sights on Easter Island where Moai statues are located. You can get it right at the airport upon your arrival (recommended), or at either one of these two sights: Rano Raraku park (sight #1), or Orongo village (sight #17). The ticket costs $60 (USD) or 30,000 Chilean pesos for foreigners (it costs much less for citizens of Chile) and is valid for 5 consecutive days (unlimited number of entries).
As you probably heard already, it is quite an expensive location, but it is possible to visit Easter Island on a budget.
Let’s now review all the amazing and fun things that are awaiting you on this magical island!
1. Visit Rano Raraku – meet the Moai!
Some of the most famous Moais (the huge, monolithic ‘human’ statues) in the World are located in this large and beautiful park, on the Southern side of the island. There is a narrow trail on which you can walk on along the main side of the park, meeting some of these most-photographed ‘celebrities’ as you stroll by.
This awesome park is also known as the place where the Moai statues where carved at. Using the tuff, or the compressed volcanic ash found here, the Rapa Nui natives were able to carve them “easily”. The mystery surrounding the Moais, lies in not how the statues were carved, but rather in how they were transported to the other, remote parts of the island, as these statues weight tens of tons. As an evidence, you will find some unfinished Moais left in its original state here as well.
Behind the main side of the Rano Raraku park, there is a crater with a gorgeous lake that is not to be missed. You can find this location by following the sign pointing to the lake. It is a bit of a hike up then down to the crater, and it will take about 20 minutes to reach this serene place.
You can also spot some additional Moais that are not open to the public, located a bit farther away on the right side of the lake.
2. Watch the sunrise at Ahu Tongariki
Located not far from the Rano Raraku park, Ahu Tongariki is the largest platform with the Moai statues found on the island. There are 15 giants sitting side by side, facing the island with their back towards the ocean.
It is a beautiful and popular spot to watch the sun rise over the water behind the statues, which are illuminated with a gorgeous glow as a result. P.S. Just don’t forget your park’s entrance ticket, since there is a park ranger checking it diligently (yep, even before the sun is up).
3. Attend a Polynesian dance show
There are several unique and fun shows that you can attend on the island, all located in the Hanga Roa town. Each show offers a nice opportunity to immerse yourself in the wonderful Polynesian culture, through one if its primary art forms.
Kari Kari Ballet Cultural is the oldest show on Easter Island, located in the heart of Hanga Roa town, on the main street called Atamu Tekena. It doesn’t have a restaurant but it has a bar where you can purchase some drinks. It can be attended only on a Tuesday, Thursday or a Saturday, at 9pm.
Te Ra’ai is the newest addition on the island, which quickly became one of its most popular shows. In addition to watching the performance, you can have a dinner at the restaurant, have your face painted on, or even participate in the show by dancing with its performers. It’s located on Kaituoe street, and is offered every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 7:30pm to 11:30pm. You can find more information on its official website.
Vai Te Mihi is also one of the newest shows located by the ocean, not far from the old cemetery at Hanga Roa. Just like the other shows – it offers a chance for you to learn a bit more about the history of Rapa Nui, participate in the performance and have your face painted on. You can watch it on Monday, Thursday or Saturday, at 9pm.
4. Hike the Rano Kau Volcanic Crater
The magnificent Rano Kau is the largest volcanic crater on Easter Island, offering some incredible views over the Southwestern tip of the island. Located not far from the Orongo village (sight #17 on our list) and the Mataveri airport, this gorgeous sight is a great place for hiking, but beware of the high winds at the top.
Rano Kau’s crater is over a kilometer in length and 200 meters in depth. You can access it on foot (or by car) directly from Hanga Roa town; a one-way walk will take about an hour. To get there, you can walk (or drive) in the direction of the airport, then turn right, pass the gas station and continue straight ahead.
5. Gaze down at Ahu Nau Nau Moais
Another famous sight on the Easter Island – are the Ahu Nau Nau Moais located on the beautiful Anakena beach (sight #14). To get the best view of these gorgeous giants against the baby-blue backdrop of the ocean – go up the hill opposite the Moais, until you can see them nicely from above.
6. Watch the sun go down at Tahai
The best, most popular spot to watch the sunset in Easter Island is the ‘Tahai’, located on a close walking distance from Hanga Roa town.
There are actually 3 different platforms with Moais found in here. The first platform with five Moais is called Ahu Vai Uri (pictured below), the second has only one, semi-destroyed Moai, known as Ahu Tahai, while the third platform is called Ahu Ko Te Riku also holding only one, well-preserved Moai.
7. Try horseback riding
If there’s one thing that Easter Island has no lack of is the number of wild horses (and cows), which can be found in large quantities, wandering freely all over the island. Some of these horses have been domesticated and trained for “human” purposes, one of which is the horseback riding. So if you have never tried it before – now is a perfect chance.
Another reason to try this fun activity is to explore some large, “off the beaten track” areas on Easter Island, which are completely inaccessible by car, but can be accessed by a horse. One example is the Terevaka Mountain (sight #9), the largest peak on the island.
There are few different companies offering these services:
- Cabalgatas Pantu, located in Tahai, phone: +56 322 100577
- Cabalgatas Papatekena, located on Va’a-Va’a Tea, phone: +56 987 636752, or +56 973 808231
8. Explore Hanga Roa town
Possibly one of the smallest towns on Earth, Hanga Roa is a nice and peaceful place to explore on foot. Since this is the only town on Easter Island – all the local conveniences (grocery stores, cafes and bars, car rental companies, souvenir shops, ATMs, etc) are located here.
It’s main street, Atamu Tekena, is stretching across the entire town and it’s where all of the major business are located. The Atamu Takena street starts at the Mataveri airport and ends at Tahai (sight #6).
Probably the most beautiful part of Hanga Roa is located by the ocean side, where you can find a number of beautiful, tiny beaches, panoramic views, and parks.
9. Climb the Terevaka mountain
Well it’s not actually a mountain, it’s merely a hill. Standing tall at 511 meters above sea level, Terevaka is the highest point on Easter Island, offering beautiful, panoramic views from the top.
As mentioned in sight #7, you can access it on a horse or on foot, since there are no cars allowed. The entrance to this incredible sight is located about 50 meters from Ahu Akivi (sight #18), and there should be a sign indicating it.
The entire hike should take about 4-5 hours, and it requires light to moderate physical strength (since the hill is mostly “flat”).
One of the coolest things that you can do on the island is to go snorkeling or even scuba diving in the Pacific Ocean! Besides swimming through some fascinating underwater caves, along with the colorful fish, you can meet the only submerged Moai statue located at the bottom of the ocean!
This activity normally takes about 2 hours, including instructions and preparations. There are several tour companies offering these services (in alphabetical order):
- Atariki Rapa Nui, located in Hanga Piko, phone: +56 32 255 0227
- Mike Rapu Diving Center, located in Hanga Roa, phone: +56 32 255 1055
- Orca Diving Center, located in Hanga Roa, phone: +56 32 255 08 77
- Tortuga Hanga Piko, located in Hanga Piko, phone: +56 32 255 00 99
Puno Pau is famous as the area where the red Moais’ hats (or pukaos) where made at. The pukaos were made out of scoria, a type of soft volcanic rock, with a high concentration of iron, which supplied them their distinct, red color.
Puno Pau is located on top of a small hill, from where you can also get some amazing views of the nearby located Hanga Roa town.
To get the most out of your trip to the island, we recommend renting a car, ATV, a bike, or a scooter. You can only see so much when you take a tour or even by walking, since Easter Island is not that small.
There are a number of renting companies offering their services on Easter Island. You will find them all on the main street (Atamu Tekena) in Hanga Roa town. They all require a credit card deposit and your driver’s license.
Please note there’s only one main gas station on the island, located right by the Mataveri airport.
13. Go inside the Ana Te Pahu cave
One of the largest underground ‘channels’ on the island, Ana Te Pahu cave is measuring 7 kilometers in its length! It originated from one of the volcanic eruptions on the island, created by a large lava flow. Some parts of it were once used as living quarters by the Rapa Nui tribe, and later as a hiding place from the visiting slave traders.
The cave is located between Ahu Akivi (sight #18) and Ahu Te Peu sights. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight and to wear some good, sturdy shoes, when going to this fun place.
14. Go swimming at the Anakena beach
Considered to be the best beach on the island, Anakena is definitely a place not to be missed. Grab a swimsuit, sunscreen and a towel, and a day full of leisure and fun is almost guaranteed. There’s also a nice bar right by the entrance, which serves food and drinks, in case you get hungry (or thirsty).
15. Visit a museum: Museo Antropologico P. Sebastian Englert
One of the best ways to learn more about the ancient and mysterious Rapa Nui culture is to visit the only museum dedicated to it, located on its home island. You will find there a number of interesting artifacts, photographs and even the single female Moai statue ever made!
In addition to the museum, there’s also a library with several thousand volumes of books about Easter Island.
- Hours of operation: Monday-Friday: 9:30am-5:30pm; Saturday-Sunday (and the holidays):09:30am-12:30pm.
- Location: Tahai s/n; phone: + (56) (32) 2551020
- Official website: http://www.museorapanui.cl/679/w3-channel.html (in Spanish only)
16. Touch the wonder of Te Pito Kura
According to an old legend, the first King of Easter Island arrived here with a big, round stone (pictured below, in the middle) full of spiritual energies. Te Pito Kura (or the “navel of light”) as it became known, is since believed to be full of these magical powers, making all kinds of electronic devices (including compasses) behave in a strange manner.
Some still believe to this day that if you put your hands around this stone, you will be charged with its powerful energy. Not sure what you believe in? You can always try it for yourself!
The ceremonial “village” of Orongo was the primary site where ancient rituals and ceremonies were conducted. One such famous tradition was the cult of the “Birdman” (Tangata Manu) where every year a set of men set out to undergo extreme living conditions, jumping into the ocean from a high cliff, and swimming to the nearby rocks in order to collect and bring back an egg of a seagull (this was done during a nesting period).
The first guy to make it back with an egg, was pronounced to be the governor of the island. Until the next year, when this competition was repeated all over again.
Even though it is strictly forbidden to try repeating this ritual in our present time (these rocks are now a protected area, not to mention the danger of jumping from such a high cliff), you can still wander around the beautiful site of Orongo and explore its unique caves!
It is interesting to note that this “village” was never actually lived in (because of its remote and high location), but only used for rituals, ceremonies and cults.
18. Gaze at the ocean with Ahu Akivi
All the Moais stationed on the Easter Island, were always positioned in a direction facing inland, with their back towards the ocean. All but seven of them. All seven of these “outliers” are located on one single platform at Ahu Akivi. Another unique thing about these Moais is their location, which is farther inland than any other Moai, which were always installed by the ocean (except those left behind at the Rano Raraku park).
There are numerous legends and myths circling around as to why these seven Moais are the exception to the “rule”. But like all things mysterious – we might never find out the truth.
19. Go camping
If you’re looking for the most authentic (and scenic) experience, or to just get a bit closer to nature – you can always try camping. And Easter Island is an ideal place for this activity since the island is blessed with not having any dangerous or poisonous creepy crawlies that could possibly kill you.
You can purchase a tent at Easter Island or bring your own, but you will still have to pay a small camping fee (which will be a lot cheaper than any accommodation on the island).
There are several designated camping areas, as you cannot just camp anywhere you want. Some of them are listed below (in an alphabetical order):
- Camping Ana Otai, location: Mirador Tahai; phone: +56 998 943242 (open only from September to March)
- Camping Ana Tekena, location: Anakena beach (sight #14); phone: +56 996 906941
- Glamping Domos Mamma Nui, location: Taniera Teave, Hanga Roa; phone: +56 973 955796
20. Meet the ‘unfortunate’ Moais – Ahu Akahanga
Since the time Moai statues have been “re-discovered”, they have all been in a very desperate, sad state. Some of them have been badly damaged, some are 80% covered in the ground (hence many people think that Moais are just “heads”, without a body, which is absolutely not true), and some are still laying face down, forgotten and unrestored.
Easter Island officially belongs to Chile, on which it depends for many of its services and resources. However the Chilean government has never made it a priority to help restore these wonderful artifacts. In fact, it was an American anthropologist, William Mulloy, who helped restore and preserve many of the now-famous Moai statues.
You will find some of the “saddest” Moai statues at the site of Ahu Akahanga. It is important to see them, in order to get a full, unbiased experience of this beautiful, peaceful and humble island.
21. Visit Vinapu Temple
Vinapu Temple was once an important religious and social center of the island. One of its surviving, preserved sights is the seaward wall (pictured below, in the middle) used for sacred ceremonies and burials. This amazing construction is unique to Easter Island but similar erections can be found all over the World (one example is the ancient temple of Sun in Cuzco, Peru)
The seaward wall (or what’s remaining of it) was built with a big precision and sophistication – it’s huge blocks were cut and polished to fit in perfectly with each other, never to be moved or re-arranged. In addition to the wall, you will find several Moais, one laying completely underground, with only his face showing up, facing the sun.
You can find this interesting and very mysterious sight close to the Mataveri airport.
22. Study the petroglyphs at Papa Vaka
The first thing that will come to your mind, upon seeing this fascinating site, will probably be the Nazca lines, located in Peru. But there are quite a few differences between them, one of them being its size. The Nazca lines are huge, and can only be observed through a plane, circling in the sky. But the Papa Vaka petroglyphs are quite small and can be easily viewed on foot.
The drawings include a shark, an octopus, a huge 12-meters long canoe, a few turtles and some other marine life.
The petroglyphs are located on the North side of the island, not far from the Anakena beach (sight #14) and Ahu Akahanga (sight #20). Please note: they are best viewed in the early morning light!
23. Explore the cave at Ana Kai Tongata
One of the most interesting caves on the island (there are a lot actually, but the majority is not open to public) is the one called Ana Kai Tongata, located not far from Hanga Roa town.
It’s quite large in size and has a big opening facing the ocean – making for nice, scenic location to watch the waves. In the back, on its left wall, there are interesting murals depicting some birds (pictured below).
After your well-rounded and informative trip to Easter Island, you might want to commemorate it with an awesome passport stamp as the “proof” (okay well, a show-off!) for your visit.
You will find the stamp at the local post office, located between Atamu Tekena (main street in Hanga Roa) and Te Pito O Te Henua. If you’re not sure how to find it – ask a local!
Opening hours: Monday-Friday: 9am-1pm, and 3pm-6pm; Saturday-Sunday: 10am-1pm.
The service is free of charge but a small donation is encouraged.
And finally, as you’re heading back home – don’t forget to have your picture taken next to your plane at the Mataveri airport! The airport is tiny with only one runaway and an average of… 1 flight per day! (Though there are more flights in the high season).
You will find a small cafe, a few souvenir shops and a… Moai waiting for you at the airport as well.
Please remember to take only memories, and leave nothing but footprints!