A tiny speck in the middle of the ocean, Easter Island is subject to sudden changes in the weather. Given the nature of the activities it offers, and the spread out nature of the sites you will be visiting, you need to be aware of this and be prepared, especially if you're hiking.
Bright hot sunshine can change very quickly into cold, wind and rain, and an overcast morning can just as quickly turn into blazing sun. The wind can be really strong, especially when you're up on the island's high spots. Changes in the weather can be very localized.
Setting off for the whole day? make sure you carry
30+ sunblock (and use it!)
some sort of wind/rain jacket
a shirt with sleeves
and, as there are some fairly nasty creepy-crawlies out there in the long grass (Black widow spiders, scorpions and mosquitos) preferably
Heading for caves? Carry
One thing the islanders take very seriously is the respect that must be shown to the ancestors. This, combined with the need for strict measures to ensure the preservation of the amazing and unique statues and structures of Rapa Nui mean that touching any of the statues or walking or sitting on the ahu - all of which are regarded as sacred to the ancestors by the islanders - is something to be avoided at all times, and by everyone.
The very nature of Easter Island, with so many sites spread over the whole island, many very isolated and unguarded, means this has to be a matter of trust - and, of course, not all visitors have the sensitivity or sense of respect that is necessary to observe this. You can be sure that if a ranger sees you standing or sitting on an ahu or touching an ahu you are in for an uncomfortable few minutes as you will be picked up on it severely. Your own sense of what is right and proper should mean you won't find yourself in that position of course.
If you have a mobile phone and want to use it on Easter Island, be aware that not only can it be tricky registering it on the network, but it is also difficult to get much network coverage anywhere outside of Hanga Roa. In other words if you get into trouble or your car breaks down, your mobile will probably be of little use to you.
Some parts of the island can be quite isolated and get very few visitors. If you do break down, I would advise walking to the nearest road and waiting for a passing car.
As of September 2004, there is only one cash machine (ATM) on Easter Island, and it does not take Visa. It is possible to take money from the bank using your Visa card, but on the two occassions we did this it took 30 mins and 45 mins as it requires joining two different queues to get the money - the first to get an authorisation number, the second to get the cash. As there is also only one bank on the island, you can't take your custom elsewhere...
For the record, and as the photo shows, the ATM does take MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus
In many cases on Easter island, the caves are old lava tubes. They can therefore be extremely narrow inside, and you virtually have to crawl through them in places.
The entrances can also be very small and very hard to find as they are not marked in any way. The only clue you can get is to follow wheel tracks in the grass or just flattened patches of grass. Otherwise looked for a parked vehicle or tethered horses as some tours go by horse.
The entrance to the cave shown here is Dos Ventanas Cave (meaning two window cave). This was the only time we had a guide with us (in this case it is Bicky who we were also lodging with - See my accomodation tip). I don't think we would have found this entrance for ourselves.
Lao make sure you take at least one torch with fully charged batteries. It is pitch black at some points in these caves, and with the really narrow parts, you can do some pretty serious damage to your head (I say speaking from experience - even with a torch!)
There is only one town on the whole of Easter Island. This has a few restaurants and mini supermarkets, but this is the only place on the island that you can buy food and drink. The best advice I can give is to have a huge breakfast, go and buy enough drink and food to last the daylight hours, and then set out exploring. Otherwise you will either by thirsty and hungry all day, or finding yourself heading back to Hanga Roa in a hurry.
It takes longer than you think to get around Easter Island, and it is a very exposed island with a lot of wind, making it very dehydrating, so go prepared!
If you do get caught short, look out for the wild guavas. They grow on small trees around a lot of the roads. The golden coloured ones are the ripe ones. You eat them like an apple, with or without the skin on. They are quite juicy, but no match for a real meal.
Easter Island is a tiny piece of land in the middle of a huge piece of water (the Pacific Ocean). The normal weather patterns we see in mainland countries just do not apply there as there is no land around to affect weather patterns.
Clouds and storms get blown in (and out) very quickly, and if you are in an elevated position, it can be pretty severe!
MAke sure you take wet weather gear, and something light but warm to pop on to. It may look lovely in the morning, but by the afternoon, things can be very different, and it can be a long way back to Hanga Roa to get more stuff. With the ridiculously low crime levels on Easter Island, just leave stuff in the back of your vehicle if you have one, there is almost no chance of anything being stolen.
The picture shows me stuck in the car in the middle of a cloud (I was at the highest point in the island at the time!). Note the emergency supply of wild guavas (see other tip) in the dashboard pocket!
In Hanga Roa, it appears that almost everyone has a dog. However almost without exception these dogs appear to virtually ignore humans (certainly in the hostile sense), unless you are with another animal (especially another dog), which is easier than it may sound. Some dogs adopt tourists and follow them around for hours (in a very friendly way), however other dogs then tend to be much more agressive, but only to the other dog.
On the roads, care needs to be taken even when right out in the middle of nowhere. You may suddenly find a few horses standing in the middle of the road. It appears people just let there horses roam freely all over the island, so take care around blind corners.
Take care not to step into any deposits left by horses or cows too, these litter the ground almost everywhere you go, even in the places you least expect.
There are very very few trees located on Easter Island, and there is no where to get shade. We were there in December and it was just so hot. Especially when we did walking like at the Rano Raraku volcano where the walking is strenuous and there is no shade, we felt exhuasted. Drink lots of water and be sure to wear sunscreen and wear a cap. I know this sounds like simple advice, but when you can find no shade, it makes sense.
We flew LanChile from Buenos Aires to Santiago to Easter Island. We were told that when changing planes in Santiago, we actually had to physically pick up our luggage, go out of the hall, and re-check it in. It was quite confusing. We then checked in the luggage and boarded our plane to Easter Island, but when we arrived, the luggage was missing.
I have dealt with missing luggage several times, as I am sure all travellers have. However, as we had to physically re-check the luggage, I was quite surprised that the luggage was lost. The thing with Easter Island is that there are only a couple of flights per week. So by the time our luggage arrived in Easter Island, we were already gone to Tahiti. And because we had to wait for the next flight coming from Easter Island to Tahiti, we had to wait in the end 1 week for our luggage. none of this is a disaster, especially being in a hot and tropical place, a pair of shorts and a tshirt will do.
Nonetheless, if you have to do the same in Santiago, I would highly recommend that you check to make sure your luggage has been checked to Easter Island and not some other odd destination...as otherwise it may be awhile before you see your luggage again.
This might seem like a common-sense tip for most people...however my friend and I probably lacked good judgment when we went to Easter Island.
When we travel we usually carry minimal cash, no traveller's checks. We just use ATM machines to pay for our expenses along the way. Unfortunately this plan did not work here coz somehow the single ATM machine in the island does not accept VISA/Cirrus/Plus cards (even though the signs say it accepts Cirrus cards). Moreover, the bank is closed on weekends (and supposedly charge high exchange rates) and only few places accept credit cards. After spending all our cash, the only option left was to buy something from a store and have them charge us more in exchange for giving us cash-back. The good thing is the storeowner, who we made this request to, was very amiable to the idea. Oh well...don't go through all the hassle we went through and just bring money from the mainland!
At many of the sites within the National Park you will see signs warning visitors not to touch the artefacts. This may seem obvious but it is amazing to see the amount of people who think its OK to touch and even climb on top of these ancient treasures. It is not only the moai themselves which can’t to touched but the ahus on which they stand are also off limits, not just due to their fragility but also because they are considered sacred places. While exploring some of the more remote sites it is easy to get up close and personal with many of the moai statues and there aren’t always signs telling you not to touch but whether there are signs or not, it is forbidden to touch any of the artefacts regardless of their size or location.
While hiking along the remote north coast, you will come very close to some sheer cliff faces. Be extremely cautious along this route as crumbling cliff edges and long grass can make a stumble or trip very likely. There is little hope for anybody who falls from the edges of these cliffs with jagged rocks lurking below and strong rough seas bashing the cliff face. This is also a consideration you should bear in mind if seeking out the White Virgins Cave which is located in a cliff face and is not the easiest or safest place to locate and access. You need a good head for heights and willingness to scramble down a sheer cliff face! Not to be undertaken lightly.
During our visit to Easter Island we saw lots of (semi) wild horses on the island.
Is seems if everybody on the island has at least one horse. We saw people do some shopping on horses, little children riding without a saddle. But most of the horses we saw around the moai and in the inland.
The horses were introduced to Easter Island in 1866 and till today they survive in increasing numbers.
When we were driving around on our rental scooter we met a herd of horses on and along the road. Be aware you can meet this animals everywhere on the island, on the road and after a corner. It is a must to drive carefully (not only because the horses) !!!
While not always immediately apparent to visitors to Easter Island there is underlying political discontent on the island. Rapa Nui independence from Chile is a controversial topic on the island and one which casual visitors would be advised to steer clear from unless you know what you are talking about. While it probably won’t affect your stay here it is important to remember that the isalnders do consider themselves very different from mainland Chileans and are fiercely proud of their unique culture, language and traditions. Be aware of political sensitivities and don’t voice your political opinions until you are sure who you are talking to and that they are comfortable talking to you about the topic. Rapa Nui culture was fiercely suppressed by the Chilean government in the past and resentment is still evident.