Visiting Easter Island was definitely on the bucket list for us ever since we were little. Albie recalls seeing them in pictures for the first time when he was very young on the Britannica CD (who remembers CDs and Britannica!) and since then, he had a goal to one day visit. It was particularly a dream come true to be able to witness the Easter Island heads in person, otherwise known as the moai.
We were fortunate enough to visit for the first time this year mid October and spent 4 days, 3 nights. It was definitely an expensive trip for the both of us as the airfares to Easter Island are generally pricey, not to mention the food and accommodation on the island. But overall it was well worth the money. Here’s our experience and thoughts on what to do and where to stay.
Where is Easter Island and how do I get to Easter Island?
Easter Island is part of Chile in Polynesia. It is a small volcanic island which is only reachable by plane through Santiago Chile landing into the airport named Mataveri. It is important to note that LAN is the dominating airline to get to Easter Island. Unless you are flying through Tahiti for example, your best bet is to go with LAN via Chile. There are a number of flights on select days of the week.
We flew with LAN, which is the local airline when we were based in Chile and paid a slightly cheaper airfare as we had Chilean temporary residency status at the time. If purchasing your tickets via LAN, you may notice that there is a surcharge fee at the airport applied to low cost airfares if you are not Chilean residents. Check other websites such as Expedia for better foreigner rates. The cost runs anywhere from $200USD up to $900USD return. It depends on how early in advance you book, the time of the year you intend to travel and whether there are sales. The flight itself was short with no delays. Generally the weather is great to go throughout the year and none of the sites or activities are closed. We choose to fly in October as we were able to get a special on the airfares.
First impressions of Easter Island
When you arrive in Easter Island you’ll be welcomed with open arms and flowers by the staff from your hotel, resort or hostel. Landing in Easter Island, you immediately get the carefree and chilled vibes of other islands around the world like Hawaii or Tahiti. The local designs, fabrics and artworks all resemble closely to what is found in other islander communities. Having never been to Hawaii, we were pleasantly surprised and it was definitely an unique experience.
Upon arriving, you will also be notified that you require a permit to enter parts of the island as the island is considered a natural rainforest reserve. This needs to be paid in cash at the airport or if you do not have any cash on you, you can visit the local office and pay them in person to receive the permit. The permit must be with you at all times in case you are asked to present it upon entering various sites.
Easter Island Heads up close
One of the main reasons to travel to Easter Island is to witness first hand the impressive moai statues otherwise known as the Easter Island heads. There are well over 900 monumental statues scattered around the island which were hand crafted by local Rapa Nui inhabitants during the 10th-16th centuries.
Although you will see the Easter Island statues all around, the best spots to see them in all their glory are:
– Ahu Tongariki: Here you will find 15 maui statues all in a row with some of the greatest views just to make it even more perfect. Overlooking the water, it’s an impressive sight to see.
– Rano Raraku Quarry: If you’ve ever seen photos in national geographic or in newspapers of the iconic maui statues, it’s been from the Rano Raraku Quarry. In recent times, they have discovered the bodies of the Easter Island heads. You will also be able to see maui statues being carved from big volcanic rocks.
– Tahai: We also enjoyed visiting Tahai on our first afternoon on the island. This place has been recommended as the spot to view a beautiful sunset with the Easter Island statues in the backdrop. It’s the perfect place to see 5 maui statues all lines up.
5 must see attractions besides the Easter Island statues
The Easter Island heads are the main attractions for visitors coming to Easter Island. For us personally, it was the main reason for visiting. However, it’s interesting to learn when you arrive to Easter Island that most of the island is a national reserve with many archaeological sites, beautiful landscapes and a whole lot of animals roaming around to explore.
To get around easier, we decided it would be better and more fun to rent a car instead of going on package tours. Tours range from $60AUD up to $90AUD per person for half day or full day respectively. This was compared to renting a automatic car $120AUD per day ad having the ease and freedom to do whatever you want. Driving on Easter Island is easy as there is not traffic and if you can drive a manual, it should only cost you no more than $50AUD per day.
Here are five other attractions that are well worth a visit while you are in Easter Island.
1. Rano Kau Volcano
The Rano Kau volcano was actually out first stop on day one of our trip. It was a unique volcano site to witness as it wasn’t what we initially expected it to look like. The vibrant greenery and fresh rain water filled the crater in such a spectacular way unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
2. Anakena Beach
Relax under the sun with breath taking views of the sand and water. Anakena Beach is the perfect place to unwind and chill for half a day. The best time to visit Anakena Beach to avoid lots of people is in the morning till lunch time. All the tours generally take tourists during the afternoon during sunset.
Terevaka is the largest and tallest volcano and is part of the National park area called Rapa Nui. This takes approximately 3 hours in total to walk up and down to get the whole view of the island. It’s mainly uphill but if you enjoy a nice stroll with fresh air and great views, this might be a well deserved activity.
4. The landscapes
While driving or biking around the island, you’ll notice some amazing sights and views. Take all of this in. It’s pretty special how they have taken care of the island so well. We really felt like we were in eden (or an oasis) sometimes with the picturesque landscapes and horses roaming around making it such a magical place.
5. Watch the sunset
One of the perks of staying at the hostel that we did was the fact that there were breath taking views of the water right outside our window. We literally walked 1 min witness beautiful sunsets. It’s a great romantic way to enjoy the evening especially after a long day walking and sightseeing. If you end up staying in a place that is not in view of the ocean sunset, the island is really pretty small and walking or driving nearby won’t take long.
Easter Island Accommodation options
Accommodation on the island is expensive for what you end up getting. There are a lot of tourists coming in and out of the island and therefore, when booking during peak season, the price increases. It might be useful to also book in advance if you can as anything decent tends to book out. On the cheaper end, you’ll find many places offering camping grounds with shared bathroom and shower facilities. On the high end there are a few fancy eco lodges.
We booked with Hostal Tojika and stayed in a private room with a private bathroom. We paid around $80AUD for a double bed room. The price was not that bad but the service was not what you expect for the amount you paid for. Firstly, the gas stove was broken with a gas leak that burnt off our finger hairs. For safety reasons, we had to open the window constantly. Although they claim to have internet wifi access through the hostal, it was super hard to get a signal and once you were connected, it was extremely slow. The hostal staff were generally never around and so if you needed some assistance with anything, it would be nearly impossible to get the help you needed. One problem we had was the lack of hot water in the shower system. We could never get the staff to look at it properly and decided to shower in the mornings instead. The hostal also does not provide breakfast and the little cafe infront of the hostal which is owned by them have limited selection of food for lunch.
Although we are very independent and work around some of the issues we encountered, if we ever came back to Easter Island we would not go back to this particular hostel and opted for an airbnb service instead.
Overall impressions of Easter Island
We loved every minute of the experience. Easter Island has lots to offer and spending a good 3-4 days is plenty of time to explore the entire island. We would definitely recommend visiting Easter Island not only for the magnificent Easter Island heads, but also for the sheer beauty that the island has to offer.