12 Incredible Must Do’s At Easter Island


Before dawn at Ahu Tongariki. Easter Island

If you thought being stranded on one of the world’s most isolated islands would be terrifying (or even boring) then think again!

Easter Island (Rapa Nui: Spanish: Isla de Pascua) boasts an impressive array of tourist activities, ranging from surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, horseback riding, trekking, swimming, fishing and much more—not to mention views of stunningly gorgeous sunsets (Hanga Roa) and sunrises (Ahu Tongariki), watching (and even partaking in) traditional Rapa Nui dance ceremonies, and, of course, to see the mysterious moai statues.

SEE ALSO: Easter Island Tips & Tricks: Every FYI You Need To Know

Here are twelve reasons why Easter Island should be on every traveler’s itinerary!

1. Rapa Nui National Park

Take a guided tour to Rapa Nui National Park and see firsthand the mysterious and awe-inspiring moai statues. I highly recommend Kia Koe Tour, which I took when I visited the park. The guide, Rosie, conducted the tour in both English and Spanish and did an excellent job explaining the history and significance of the moai in great detail.

At the time of my visit (May 2015) the park entry was free so this would be a good time than ever to visit, especially if they end up charging as much as the entrance fee for Galápagos Islands (USD$100). It’s also possible to visit the area (though not the park where the moai are located) on your own, whether by bicycle or on foot. Remember, only guides with direct Rapa Nui ancestry can be licensed to conduct tours.

1 Oldest constructed moai near Ahu Akahanga

Oldest constructed moai near Ahu Akahanga.

2. Rano Kau

For those looking for a good trail with spectacular panoramic views of the island and ocean, then a trek to Rano Kau is a must. Located in the southwest portion of the island, take the Te Ara O Te Ao trail to Rano Kau, site of a now extinct volcano. The trek takes about an hour (walking from Hanga Roa) and though it’s not a difficult trek to undertake, it’s always a good idea to bring water with you. The trail ends once you reach the top of the volcano where a crater lake can be found (one of only three natural bodies of water on the island).   Measuring over a mile across, the crater is a wetland with a unique microclimate, containing many igneous rocks such as basalt, obsidian and pumice.

2 Coastline near Ahu Akahanga

Coastline near Ahu Akahanga.

3. Orongo

If you walk past Rano Kau and continue along the roadway for another twenty minutes or so, you’ll find the ancient stone village of Orongo. Comprised of 54 homes made of stone slabs, Orongo was most likely built at the end of the 16th century and used for ceremonial purposes by the Manutara cult and for the widely popular Tangata manu (bird man) competition. It also special significance as it signaled a change from the worship of megalithic statues (moai) to the adoption of a new political and religious system as represented by the Make-Make god. By the 1860s, much of the island had been converted to Christianity, thus prompting the village to fall into disuse. Orongo is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and represents an important turning point in Rapa Nui’s history.

Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the view! With some of the best photo ops anywhere on the island, Orongo is the best place to admire the beautiful views of Motu Ití, Motu Nuí, two small islets located not far off the coast, and Motu Kao Kao, a sea stack neighboring the islets with a height of 20 meters (65 feet) above sea level.

3 Moai at Rano Raraku, Rapa Nui National Park

Moai at Rano Raraku, Rapa Nui National Park.

4. Ana Kai Tangata

One of the most interesting places (and one of my personal favorites) of Easter Island would have to be the caves of Ana Kai Tangata. Depending on which translation you read, Ana Kai Tangata typically translates to “the cave of cannibals”, though there is no archeological evidence of cannibalism on Rapa Nui. Ana Kai Tangata is unique because it houses wall cave paintings of birds (manutaras), drawn with animal fat and natural earth pigments. It is believed to have once played an important role in the birdman competition.

The best part about Ana Kai Tangata was watching the gigantic waves continually crash and wash over the rocks with such resounding force and speed, that it can be a little difficult to hear yourself at times; truly awe-inspiring, to say the least!

4 Two moai statues in Rano Raraku at Rapa Nui National Park

Two moai statues in Rano Raraku at Rapa Nui National Park.

5. Ma’unga Terevaka

One of my favorite treks at Rapa Nui is to the summit of Ma’unga Terevaka volcano. Now extinct (it last erupted around 10,000 years ago), the trek to the top is easy, largely flat land and offers some of the most beautiful and encompassing views of the entire island. Keep in mind that it can get very windy at the top, so a light jacket, sunglasses and lunch wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s a nice place to rest, picnic and enjoy the view!

And for those who’d like to ride in style, there’s a great horseback riding tour you can take which takes you from the outskirts of town to the summit; a terrific option for experienced equestrians or ambitious novices eager to learn how to ride (leaves at 9:30AM and costs CLP$30,000 or USD$45).   Speaking of horses, there are plenty of wild horses roaming the island, which, sitting from your high perch, shouldn’t be hard to miss.

As the tallest point on Easter Island (511 meters or 1,678 feet above sea level), it will take you at least an hour to reach the start of the trail. It’s worthwhile to take a taxi, though pricey ($10 one-way or $20 round trip back to town). To save time for other activities in the day, I organized a pick-up time with my taxi driver, which was four hours from the time I was dropped off (the trail begins at Ahu Akivi, which is the starting point for the trail). It takes about an hour to reach the summit and a little less to get back down.

And if you’re like me and you love to travel off the beaten path, then I would recommend organizing a pick up time with your driver at least 5-6 hours from the time you get dropped off. That way you have time to trek and explore the surrounding areas near the summit.

5 View of moai at Rano Raraku

View of moai at Rano Raraku.

6. Surfing

Anyone who loves to ‘hang ten’ will undoubtedly want to surf the waves of Rapa Nui. The best time to ride a wave is during the winter months of January and February, though any time of year should offer some nice surf breaks. If you’re an experienced surfer, then the head over to Hanga Roa, Paka Ai, Papa Tangaroa, Tahai or Mata Veri for the best waves. There are also plenty of surfing classes available, either in Hanga Roa or Pea Beach where the waters are shallow and a great place to practice.

6 Moai statue in Rano Raraku, Rapa Nui National Park

Moai statue in Rano Raraku, Rapa Nui National Park.

7. Scuba diving & snorkeling

If you feel the waves are calling, then you’ll find plenty of fun scuba diving and snorkeling at Easter Island. Almost 150 species of algae and more than 100 species of tropical fish reside at Easter Island (20 percent of all flora and fauna are endemic to the island), so you’ll for sure see some unique marine life in the water. Water temperatures average around 22 ºC (72 ºF) year round, with visibility up to 50 meters (164 feet) in many locations. Crystal clear water and diverse ocean floor topography will ensure a unique diving or snorkeling experience from any shore you choose to dive from.

7 Profile view of moai statue in Rano Raraku at Rapa Nui National Park

Profile view of moai statue in Rano Raraku at Rapa Nui National Park.

8. Sunset

If you’re in the mood to watch a magnificent sunset then Easter Island will not disappoint. A small park next situated next to Hanga Roa, Hanga Vare Vare is a great place to buy some food, sit back and relax with friends to watch the sun slowly descend below the horizon. Or you can head to Hanga Roa, buy some ice cream from the nearly shop and watch the many surfers take turns riding the waves as the sun goes down. To catch amazing views of sunset make sure to arrive before 8PM.

8 Ahu Tongariki

Ahu Tongariki.

9. Sunrise

And for the early risers out there, the sunrise at Ahu Tongariki is worth getting out of bed for. The best time to visit is between Summer Solstice (21 December) and Winter Solstice (21 March) when the sun rises between the Ahu platform and in between the moai statues.

You will need to hire a taxi or car to take you there (it costs about CLP$30,000 or USD$45). The sun rises around 7AM and it’s 30-45 minutes away by car. It’s worthwhile to ask others from your hostel or hotel to accompany you, that way you can split the fare.

9 Moai at Ahu Tongariki

Moai at Ahu Tongariki.

10. Rent a bicycle, ATV, scooter, motorcycle or jeep for the day

Though the island measures less than 25km in diameter, you’ll be surprised to see so many vehicles available to rent. You have everything from bicycles, ATVs, scooters, motorcycles, and jeeps available for daily or multi-day rentals (check out Island Rent-A-Car for more info). There’s no need to rent a vehicle (I pretty much walked everywhere, so I didn’t rent) but given the somewhat high prices and the fact most people stay a week or less, it’s actually worthwhile if you have a lot planned and want to maximize each day with as many activities as possible.

A helpful tip for those looking to ride an ATV, most agencies (if not all) will require that you have a motorcycle license in order to approve the rental.

10 View of Ahu Tongariki from afar

View of Ahu Tongariki from afar.

11. Traditional Rapa Nui dance

For an entertaining evening full of culture and history, check our Vai Te Mihi, a musical group showcasing traditional Rapa Nui song and dance. Male and female dancers dress in traditional Rapa Nui garb, performing perfectly choreographed sets of traditional island music. The show starts at 9PM and costs CLP$15,000 (USD$23) to enter.

Jerry Leon contributor profile

Photos: Flickr/Jerry Leon




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