Our trip to Easter Island, Chile was amazing! We highly suggest that you add this place to your South America travel bucket list due to its uniqueness. See the intriguing moai with your own eyes!
We visited in July 2016 which is considered a “low season” so we didn’t encounter massive crowds at the sites. We stayed on the island for 7 nights/6 days and spent the time hiking, wandering, and eating. Some may feel that the timing is too long as the island is not large and you can see the major sites in 2 days. With the week, it was plenty of time for us to explore and see most of the main attractions. We would have done more but had a scooter accident which required rest time.
If you didn’t see our last post on how to visit Easter Island on a budget, check out the post here.
Here is a suggested list of things to do on Easter Island:
1. Visit the moai and uncover some of their mysteriousness.
How did they arrive at their present location? How long did it take for them to get transported?
Moai are everywhere! Most have not been raised on the ahu, the stone platform, so you’ll see many lie flat on their backs or face down. There are plenty of opportunities to see the moai, whether they are at the main tourist spots or along the roads.
Ahu Khivi has 7 moai which are on the ahu. They are the only erect ones inland and face towards the ocean. All other moai are by the ocean and face inland. This was one of our first stops and has a beautiful view during the sunset.
Puna Pau is an awesome place to see where the pukao, the cylindrical red topknots, are made and worn by the moai. What do you think the pukao represent? Feather headdresses? Topknots dyed with red earth? Barkcloth turbans made of machute? You don’t see moai at the Puna Pau, but you get to see many topknots. It’s intriguing to think about how the pukao and the moai quarry were transported on the island since these two areas are far from each other.
Rano Raraku is the epicenter where the moai were created. We call it the “moai factory”. There are two routes to take – if you take the right route, it leads you to the numerous moai and left route is a lake with a few moai overlooking the lake. Unfortunately, you can’t visit the moai up close in the lake area as a gate blocks off the section. You can easily spend a few hours here taking photos. Many moai are still in the ground or in the mountain itself waiting to get transported. The National Park admission ticket is required at this site. Highly recommended place.
Ahu Tongariki is nearby Rano Raraku. There is an impressive 15 moai on an ahu overseeing a village. Some petroglyphs in the village remain. Walk in the direction of the Rano Raraku and you’ll see a raised walking path to view the petroglyphs better. Not sure if the National Park ticket is required to see this site, but we showed the person who was selling gifts our ticket for access.
Ahu Nau Nau and Ahu Ature Huki are located in the Anakena Beach. Ahu Nau Nau has moai wearing pukao. Ahu Ature Huki is the first moai to be re-erected in modern times using ancient technologies as a challenge to see how long it could take to raise the statue.
Ahu Te Pito Kura has the moai, Paro, which is one of the largest moai that has not yet been resurrected. We met one of the National Park workers who provided an overview of this area and how the large stone exhibits a lot of power and energy also known as mana. It is known as the “Earth’s Navel.” People used to be able to touch the stones though and they are now blocked off for preservation.
Vinapu was closed when we visited. We snuck in for a few minutes to see the area. The area was underwhelming, but we enjoyed seeing the stones altogether and without any gaps. Be careful with the dirt path and deep puddles as our scooter skid in this area.
Ahu Vai Uri, Ahu Tahai, and Ahu Ko Te Riku are within walking distance from Hanga Roa. They are located past the cemetery. Ahu Ko Te Riku is unique with having white painted eyes and a topknot.
Don’t forget to purchase the tickets ahead of time. The most important part is to purchase the Rapa Nui National Park pass. Purchase them on arrival as it will be at the CONAF (National Forestry Corporation) office at the airport. Cost is 30,000 CLP or $60 USD. We paid in local CLP instead of USD as there was a better exchange rate to $45. You can use the pass once for the Orongo and Rano Raraku sites.
2. Visit Orongo and Rano Kau
Need a break from the moai? Visit Orongo and Rano Kau. Be careful with the dirt road and the rolling path, especially when riding a bicycle or a scooter. At the time, they were maintaining/fixing the road.
Orongo is a ceremonial village area. There is an indoor visitor center where you can read more about the history. Show your National Park ticket to the representative, receive a map, and walk around the area. It was interesting to see the oval-shaped huts and the small entryway. I’m not sure how anyone could fit into the entryway. You would need to be a child size or tinier! Check out the petroglyphs of the birdman (human body with bird heads and beaks).
Rano Kau is a large volcanic crater. It doesn’t look like there has been much activity, thus, vegetation growing everywhere.
3. Spend time at the beaches.
We went to Anakena Beach to see the moai. The beach was far from Hanga Roa, about a 25-minute drive. The entrance to the beach has a tropical setting with lovely palm trees. The beach was pretty with the light beige sand. It wasn’t the cleanest beach we’ve been to since there were small amounts of litter. Check out the Ahu Nau Nau and Ahu Ature Huki which are nearby.
There are also smaller beaches in Hanga Roa to relax. Admire the sunset.
4. Explore the Caves
We read that there are many caves on Easter Island. You may consider hiring a tour guide to take you to hidden caves. We went to a few caves that were easily accessible by a vehicle.
Ana Kai Tanata is along the main road. You’ll need to walk down some stairs to arrive in the lower part of the cave. Enjoy the faded paintings and the ocean view.
Ana Te Pahu is along the same road as Ahu Tongariki. Park your vehicle along the side of the road and walk into a side dirt path. We came across Ana Te Pahu which has an underground cave. Bring a flashlight or headlamp as the caves are low and dark. Wear hiking boots as the ground is wet.
5. Hang Out in Hanga Roa.
Hanga Roa is the main downtown area with various cafes, restaurants, drugstore (Cruz Verde), convenience stores, and souvenir shops. Purchase water at one of the convenience stores.
Try the fresh empanadas stuffed with cheese, meat and/or seafood. They are a cheaper snack option at 2000-2500 CLP (~$4 USD).
Consider purchasing baked goods on the island since everything is made fresh. Our Airbnb host recommended Panderia Mana for pastries, and they were delicious!
Visit the Catholic church at the end of the main intersection if you would like to explore the architecture or attend on Sundays.
Stop by the post office to stamp the coveted moai in your passport or on postcards. Leave a small tip as a thank you. On a side note, we received comments on the unofficial passport stamp from various immigration officers.
The cemetery is an interesting place to visit. Pay your respects to those who passed away. The tombstones are different with moai, religious, and celebratory designs.
Things We Didn’t Get the Opportunity To Do:
- All day hike from Anakena Beach to Te Pau – Due to the scooter incident and leg injury, we didn’t have the chance to do this. We wanted to do the 6-7 hour hike where you see caves with petroglyphs, archeological sites, the vast ocean, etc. It’s a secluded hike as you may or may not see another group along the same trail. Vehicles are not allowed on the trail.
- Scuba diving or snorkeling – It was a bit cold to do these activities in July.
- See the traditional Polynesian dance and music evening show.
- Credit cards are accepted on the island. You may need to purchase a certain amount to qualify for the purchase.
- Transportation is a must for the island. Feel free to rent a car, scooter, ATV, or bicycle at any of the rental places in Hanga Roa. We didn’t see too many taxis around the island. The island has one gas station when you leave Hanga Roa. A customer service representative fills up the gas tank for you. There could be a long line depending on the time.
- Food and Water – Bring these with you when going on excursions. Once you leave Hanga Roa, there isn’t an option to purchase items.
- Hospital – The island has a hospital with emergency care, which we used. Facilities are fairly basic.