Prepare your visit to Easter Island
Favorite thing: Off course you want to prepare your visit to Easter Island before you are leaving from home. The more you know the more you will understand of the mysteries of the island. And you will be able to have the right questions on a guided tour.
Reading a guidebook (and off course the tips on Virtual Tourist) is the best way. But I can highly recommend 'The complete Guide to EASTER ISLAND'. This book, edited by the Easter Island Foundation, has much more depth than the usual travel books (like Lonely Planet and others).
This guide is a mixture between latest scientific and tourist information. There are sections on history, legends, conservation, antiquities. Besides the chapter on the Rapanui language, there are a lot of interesting maps, also if you will decide to explore Rapa Nui on your own.
On the website you will find more books about Easter Island.
You can order this book for USD 25 (excluding costst of shipping) from:
The Easter Island Foundation
If you just want to look for more information on the internet, surf on these websites:
making the most of Rapanui for 3days independently
Favorite thing: Hi, well lucky you to be there for 7 days! I was there in November for 3 nights, 2 days and an afternoon and evening.
I loved being there and would love to have been able to stay longer - particularly re the kiwi and Maori language connection.
There are officially 2 ATMs but when I was there one was not working and some locals who went past said it had been out for the past week but there was a Santander bank with ATM just around the corner - I ended up using it twice during my stay - both quite close to each other and just down the hill from the main shopping street - ask locals for directions but also you can get a map from the tourist office.
Take a back up stash of USD or £ in case you have problems but I didnt have any problems. I took about 120,000 pesos with me from Chile to pay for the 3 nights accommodation (75,000 pesos) that I estimated would make up the bulk of my costs and then if needed more than that I aimed to rely on ATMs and credit cards. They also take US dollars on Rapanui. In both Chile and Peru you can withdraw either local currency or USD with a withdrawal fee so I had about 200USD with me as a back up. I used my credit card for the rental card I had for a day. ,The lady who owned the cabana I stayed at phoned the tour company for me about tours as it had rained and when it rains the tours often dont run as some of the roads are dirt roads. and they come and pick you up from wherever you are staying. It cost 20,000 pesos for an afternoon tour to Vinapu, Puna Pau and Ahu Akivu. Luckily my cabana lady took me with her to Orongo with a couple of view points along the way and then waited with a souvenir stall she had while I went to look at the excellent Orongo crater and village and info centre.
then the tour the next and picked up a 4x4 jeep that evening ready to leave home for sunrise the next morning at Tongariki.
I had read around, listened to my cousin who had travelled around Sth Am and Easter island independently and then decided to do an afternoon tour and then rent a car for one full day to jam pack one of my days driving myself around. This worked really well and pleased I chose to do that instead of the entire trip being tours as my travel agent had suggested...saying Id get lost as there were so many roads and bad roads... which would have made the trip to EI cost twice what i did pay looking after myself.
So for the time you have I recommend that you do at least one good tour of the island to get your bearings and get some good verbal info as an intro. I also got invited by my cabana owner to come to her evening church service my first night in Rapanui - a sunday night - which my guidebook had recommended to take the opportunity of...that was brilliant and the guy in charge of the church music got a CD to pass on to Cecelia to pass on to me before my flight back.
The 2nd night I went to the traditional music and dance night of Vai Te Mihi on the recommendation of my cabana lady as she said it was more traditional and real rather than commercial Kari Kari - Vai Te Mihi was also just 2 minutes from her cabana. It was really really excellent - the music was excellent and wanted to buy some of the back up groups music but they only had a dvd for $25 which in a way I wish I had taken the opportunity but thought it was a bit expensive.
then i had an excellent day driving around with 4x4 jeep. loved being out on my own. it is still a pretty big island but a horse ride would probably be very nice. I saw a of horses around the island on my travels and a number of locals out in various places on their horses. The tourist office or your accommodaton should be able to provide or suggest a range of choices. There is quite a lot to do so I would plan carefully strategies to see things but also read up on what there is to see and do.
There is no problem with bringing food into Chile that is processed and packaged - if it is organic matter such as fruit and veges and cheese or meat they are more careful because of the risk of contagions that can affect agriculture etc on the island. they ask you to declare any items and on each occasion that I went through customs they were very pleasant - as I still had my Foxs glacier mints from the Uk with me!
Have a good guide book with you - i used the footprints guide which was good but didnt have a map of Rapanui in it. but got a few on my travels anyway. Also bought a map in London before i flew over.
Have a great time!Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
Take a guided tour
Favorite thing: Of course we did read a lot about Easter Island and found excellent information on the internet (also VT), but we HIGHLY recommend to take at least one guided tour on the island. Otherwise it is almost impossible to understand the mysteries of the moai and the very special culture of Rapa Nui.
We still regret we didn't take other (half) day tours !!
We did a whole day tour with AO Tour, with Patricio Ballerino. This guy is really one of the best guides we ever had during our travels. Patricio has always small groups, because he has to transport his 'guests' in his mini bus. He speaks English very well.
He was more a host than a tour guide. Always willing to explain things, never in a hurry. Besides he is a great guy.
My story of the MOAI
Favorite thing: Our visit to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) was part of an around the world trip. A more or less affordable way to visit this most remote inhabited island in the world. We were attracted by an article in a travel magazine and a TV documentary. Off course we saw pictures of some standing moai and thought that might be all.
We were so curious to ‘discover’ Rapa Nui and to see the giant stone statues with our own eyes. The reality was so different from the pictures, it was almost unbelievable. We saw 38 re-erected moai standing on 8 altars (ahu) all over the island. But we never realised there were much more moai. Most impressive is the ‘moai factory’ on the slopes of the Rano Raraku, where almost 400 moai in all stages of carving can be found.
Some facts about the moai, which we heard, read or saw with our own eyes.
If you have more or supplementary information about the moai of Rapa Nui please let me know.
- total number of moai on Easter Island: 887
- number of moai successfully transported to an ahu: 288
- number of moai in the Rano Raraku quarry: 397
- carving and erecting moai started around the year 700, but the most were made between 1000 and 1650
- due to fighting’s between rival tribes the moai were destroyed; the last one was thrown down in 1864
- from 1950 on moai were restored and re-erected
- the smallest moai is just 1,13 m; the largest moai once erect is 9,80 m
For those who are interested to read more about the moai and the mysteries of Rapa Nui I can recommend a couple of websites:
- http://www.world-mysteries.com/easter_island.htm (with a lot of links)
Hope you will enjoy your trip to Rapa Nui.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Making the most of your time
Favorite thing: Originally posted in 2007, this tip started out as a link to an excellent site that I wish I'd found before I arrived on Easter Island. It was jam-packed with excellent advice on how to get the best photos of all the island's sites, especially the best time of day to visit the various ahu so that you have the benefit of the optimum lighting of the moai.
2010 update VT 's not the only website to have been revamped lately - the Island Heritage site that featured this excellent photography advice has also been given a new look, and in the process the photography page has been removed. Maybe it will be restored - I certainly hope so.
Maybe some compensation for its demise will be this page of excellent advice on how to spend 5 days on the island. There's also a page on the impact of tourism on the island that should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking of visiting this most remote and fragile island.
Rapa Nui people are the best local guides
Favorite thing: We hired a local guide who also owned his taxi and he was the best tourist guide ever. My two American tourists were delighted to hear his stories, with his local accent, and so much passion about his ancestors. Chile has made up the term 'certified guide' but locals are much more trustable and they really know what they are talking about. We learned a lot of Rapa Nui words, went to the local restaurants and mini markets that he knew well and his price was totally fair. His name is 'Vaito' and as soon as I heard from him I can give you further details. We had a wonderful experience! Let's help local Rapa Nui people to keep money in the island to preserve their culture!
Fondest memory: The green grass moving like little soft waves and the ocean against the rocks while feeling the wind on my face. Hearing our guide Vaito telling all details about Moais, boat houses, and ceremonies, how we felt he was so honest and knowledable, like most of people at Rapa Nui.Related to:
- Horse Riding
In the beginning, there was speculation.
Favorite thing: One of the most important activities I can recommend is that you read about this island before you arrive. There is a lot of speculation and guessing about the cultural and environmental history. Some important aspects of the most popular theories have been challenged.
Guides tend to tell a single version. They try keep the story simple and dramatic, and to ignore or at least fail to mention alternatives. They have difficulty with uncertainty partly because people prefer to hear 'what happened' rather than 'what might have happened'. People prefer a good story.
The uncertainty of what happened on Easter Island was highlighted for me when I read in the airline magazine on my flight to Easter Island a version relating Buddha to this history. Despite my earlier reading, this was new to me. Even in the museum, I read a display that gave a quite unusual dating for the arrival of humans to South America.
If you read enough, you will have heard more than one story. You will appreciate the mystery that remains. For me, this mystery was certainly one of the islands main attractions.Related to:
- Budget Travel
How long to stay?
Favorite thing: There are probably thousands of getaway islands in the world but none more away from it all than Easter Island. Is is physically (1,700 miles from the next closest population) and culturally removed from the mainlands of the world. Because of the limited availability of transport to and from the island, you are almost forced to decide upon the length of your visit before your arrival.
You could probably see it all in 2 days, although three days makes more sense, but what most makes people sad to leave is the relaxed friendly atmosphere. The local people are in no hurry. In fact, stores just close up between 1 and 5 pm. There are some nice places to eat, a small but beautiful beach and you might even catch a great sunset. This can be addicting.
Fondest memory: I think my best memory was that moment when I lifted up my field glasses and saw that I was indeed headed directly to the quarry mountain. I had looked at my map and headed off the road across the volcanic rock strewn fields on what I had hoped would be a shortcut. After the pleasure from being alone with Moai apparently left in the fields in transit to some never reached destination, and the suffering from stumbling through the dry open landscape, it was almost like a moment of discovery. And I had the right tools (field glasses), and boots, and stamina, and spirit of adventure . . .
Of course, let me be honest--what I initially saw through a cluster of trees at the base of the mountain was the reflection from the white tourist vans parked at what later proved to be one of the entrances. I had to get much closure to make out the moai on the mountainside.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Not quite treeless
Favorite thing: The image of a totally bare island is somewhat belied by the photos here. Certainly by the time the first Europeans came to Rapa Nui, the rapacious demands of the moai cult had seen the island all but completely denuded of trees. The great stands of palm trees similar to Chilean wine palms were completely gone, and the few specimens of the hauhau, from the fibre of which they made their ropes, and the toromiro - a good firewood tree - were poor stunted things. When Thor Heyerdahl arrived even these sad specimens were reduced to a single, sickly toromiro that struggled on until 1964, and then was gone. The native trees of Rapa Nui were extinct.
The arrival of European settlers - Chileans and a British livestock company that leased the island for many years as a sheep farm - saw the introduction of eucalypts as plantation trees, and guava. The guava are everywhere now and form an important part of the island diet, you are bound to be given guava juice for breakfast whilst you're on the island and it will probably be your welcome drink as well when you first arrive. As they have proved in so many other parts of the world, eucalypts bring their own problems - they are very efficient colonisers and do not allow other plants to invade their territory. Planting them is now actively discouraged but the eucalyptus groves dotted around the place do provide a welcome stretch of cool shade every now and then. Monterey cypress are being planted in their place as plantation timber .... which may bring its own problems in time. Coconut palms shade Anakena beach and Hanga Roa streets and gardens are planted with a wide variety of exotic species.
For the most part though, the island's landscape is one of treeless grassy slopes and a wild black rocky shore.
Fondest memory: Meanwhile, a dedicated group of botanists around the world are striving to bring one species back from extinction. Before that last toromiro died, seed and tissue samples were taken from it and stored. An international programme has been operating for several years now to raise enough trees from those samples to reintroduce the tree to Rapa Nui. The prognosos isn't wonderful, the gene pool is restricted to that one last tree, but progress is being made and a small plantation of 150 trees has been planted on the island, though it isn't doing very well. For the time being, the toromiro is a botanical oddity, teetering on the absolute edge, with the Easter Island plantation and a few specimens growing in far-flung botanical gardens.
Favorite thing: There is only one bank and one ATM on the island. The ATM operates 24/7 but only accepts Mastercard, so if you will need to bring traveller's cheques (US dollars only) or cash (Chilean pesos or US dollars) if you don't have Mastercard. The bank is only open in the mornings from 8am to midday.
There are several internet cafes on the island - access can be frustratingly slow and is quite expensive, but it is there if you can't bear to be deprived of your regular contacts withthe outside world.
Petrol is cheap as it is subsidised - there is only one petrol station on the island, in Hanga Roa, near the airport. There is only one paved road outside the town, this crosses the middle of the island out to Anakena. All the other roads are unpaved, some little more than very rough tracks. If you're heading for somewhere off the main tracks ask about conditions before you set out as heavy rain can cause considerable damage to the lesser tracks.
Outside Hanga Roa, the only public loos are at the museum, Orongo Village, Rano Raraku and Anakena.
There are three small supermarkets and one bakery where you can pick up food for a picnic if you're heading off for the whole day away from Hanga Roa. Remember that virtually everything - and certainly anything manufactured - is imported from the mainland when you look at the high prices of food here. Fresh fruit and vegetables are available from the Feria Municipal in the centre of town. The only place to get food or drinks outside the town is out at the beach at Anakeva.
Favorite thing: Visitors to the island in the summer should expect both sun and rain. The good news is that I never experienced a downpour. Rain was usually light and did not last a long time. The vast majority of my week long stay was in sunny or partly cloudy skies. Nevertheless, some rain protection for you and your camera equipment would be a good idea.
Temperatures were in the mid 60's (just under 20C) at night and maybe near 80 (25C) in the daytime. Wind is common on the island. Of course, the strongest gusts were on top on Maunga Terevaka. The sun is strong here, so I do recommend a high degree of sunblock in addition to a wide brimmed hat while exploring.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Sunrises and Sunsets
Favorite thing: No visit to Easter Island would be complete without either watching a sunrise or a sunset somewhere on the coast. For sunrises, Tongariki seems to be the favorite spot. There, one can watch the sun rise behind 15 moai. I was not an early riser here, so my prefered way to watch the sun was to see it set behind Tahai. Tahai is likely the most popular sunset location. It is ideal for the same reason Tongariki is for the sunrise. There will be moai in the photos, which proves that this is indeed an Easter Island experience. Bring lots of memory card space, sit back, and enjoy the show.
Fondest memory: I visited Tahai for several sunsets and enjoyed it every time.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Watching the sea
Favorite thing: Everyone knows about the archeaology aspect of the island, however I was amazed at the appearance of the ocean here. Easter Island has no coral reefs to help protect it against the force of the sea. This means that some very large waves will pound against the coast. The island generally has a rocky coast with the exception of a few spots. Not only does it make wave watching fascinating, there are also tide pools in many locations. At low tide, it is worthwhile to look at the tidepools and glimpse a little bit of the sealife here. The coral can be really colorful.
Fondest memory: The island is very photogenic, particularly at the shore. Any place is good just to sit down, take a break, and watch the ocean.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Mountain biking the island
Favorite thing: I rented a mountain bike for the entire week in order to explore the island in this fashion. Rental was $20 a day. I must warn that this is not for everyone. In fact, I did not encounter any other bicycles at places like Anakena, Rano Raraku, and similar outlying areas. Bicycles were more common close to Hanga Roa. Nevertheless, it was a great adventure as well as a workout. Easter Island is hilly, so there will be a lot of ups and downs. In addition, wind can sometimes be a factor. Of course, taking the saddle road between Hanga Roa and Anakena will be a major challenge in addition to going up to Rano Kau.
Many roads are not paved. This means they will be dusty. I had very dirty clothes upon returning back to the hotel.
When cycling, be sure to bring plenty of food and water for a day's outing. Outside of Hanga Roa, there is not likely to be a place to get food or drinks.
Motorists are friendly to bicycle riders here. They will slow down for you and pass slowly to avoid kicking up too much dust.
A lock was also supplied with the bike. Likely, it would not be stolen. When stopping somewhere, I usually had to lock the bike to itself. There are not a lot of places where the bike can be locked to something. I get the feeling that bike theft is very rare here.
Fondest memory: Seeing the island with only the help of a bicycle and my own two feet.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Just one bank
Favorite thing: Rapa Nui has just one bank 'Banco del Estado de Chile', which is located on Tu'u Maheke Street (close to the Information Centre) and is open from 8.00 am - 1.00 pm on weekdays.
It is possible to change cash and travellers checks, but rates are poor and the commission on checks is high. We could get our (Chilean) money from the ATM at the bank, using our 'Cirrus' debit bank card. It accepts also 'MasterCard', but NOT 'Plus'.
The ATM operates 24 hours per day.
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