Exploring Easter Island

Moai statues on Easter Island.

In the waters of the Pacific Ocean, there is a tiny island that is one of the most popular destinations for those seeking a one-of-a-kind experience. Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui to the locals, is only about 64 square miles big, but is full of history. Home to rocky volcanoes, pink-sand beaches, and the iconic 1,000 moai statues, Easter Island is a place seemingly untouched by time.

What to Do

The first thing on every explorer’s list should be the world-famous, giant, volcanic ash moai sculptures. The best two sites to see the sculptures are Ahu Tongariki and Rano Raraku quarry. Ahu Tongariki has 15 huge statues on its cliffs and is the more photogenic of the two, while Rano Raraku is home to over 400 sculptures and is the production site for the creation of these monuments. Be sure to ask a professional tour guide for information and history of the sculptures so that the appreciation is not lost.

The island’s sole museum, Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum, offers an in-depth look at the moai and other artifacts. The ceremonial village of Orongo is made up of 53 houses. These structures were built with flat stones and petroglyphs in the village pay homage to the fertility divinity in Rapa Nui culture. The central hub of the island is Hanga Roa. Bars, clubs, restaurants, shops, ice-cream parlors, diving schools are all here in this quaint little town. Hanga Roa is also a great place to watch the sunrise or sunset and to see the occasional sea turtle.

If you want to relax at a stunning beach, Anakena is the place to go. Full of luscious palm trees, sandy shores, and turquoise waters, Anakena is a great place to soak up some sun. Snorkelers can observe the vibrant life under the sea including sea turtles and scuba divers can explore underwater lava caves. For those of you wanting to explore by land, there are many activities available. Running or walking is a great way to have some alone time. Visitors can also go hiking or horseback riding in the beautiful scenery. And last but not least, you can travel to the Rano Kau crater. One of the three volcanoes that created the island, Rano Kau has a freshwater lagoon, totora islands, and lush vegetation.

What to Eat

When you travel to Easter Island, there are some Chilean dishes that you have to try. Ceviche de pescado, raw tuna fish marinated in lemon juice. You can have sopaipillas (pancakes) with coffee for breakfast, barbecued meat and salad for lunch, and grilled fish plates for dinner. There are also tasty desserts such as empanadas and po’e –  a spongy dessert made from coconut cream, manioc, and bananas. Big meals are traditionally cooked with hot stones in an umu pae (earth pit) for Rapa Nui celebrations. 

Some of the best restaurants on the island include: Te Moai Sunset, Haka Honu, Te Moana, Ariki o Te Pana – Tia Berta, and La Kaleta. The prices at the restaurants are a little high, but that is because the island is isolated. Even with that, the local cooks are able to consistently make delicious meals for both residents and tourists.

What to Shop For

Crafts and souvenirs on Easter Island reflect the simplicity and creativity of its culture. The Feria marketplace is the biggest place to go shopping and it is here that local souvenirs of all different sizes and shapes such as necklaces, moai statues, lizards, moai kava-kava (a skeletal figure), locally caught fish, grown fruits and vegetables and more are sold. It is located at the intersection where the main street Atamu Tekena and the beach Pea.

The other place to go is the handicrafts market located next to the church, Mercado Artesanal. As this market is dedicated to handcrafted gifts and souvenirs only. The pieces here are intricately carved so keep an eye out for the price tag so you’re not completely surprised when you pay for them.

Where to Stay

With the exception of a couple of hotels in the middle of the island, most accommodations are located in Hanga Roa. Visitors can stay at camping grounds in Anakena and Hanga Roa (but not the national park), cabañas (cabins), and residenciales (homestays) all across the island. Due to the rising tourist economy, quite a few luxury hotels are being built as well.

Some of the best hotels on the island include: Lemu Lodge Vaihu, Camping Mihinoa, Pikera Uri, Explora Rapa Nui, and Cabañas Christophe. The prices vary, but most are a bit of the high side so plan accordingly.  Happy travels!

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