Easter Island TravelEaster Island – 1,234 Miles from… Anything
Just a man, his thoughts, and some wild horses. Sounds like the opening scene of a made-for-TV romantic drama. Also sounds a lot like Easter Island. A tiny dot in the South Pacific, Rapa Nui, as it’s known to the locals, has a culture and mystery all its own. This is a bucket list trip in that it’s about as remote as you can get. It belongs to Chile, but it’s 1,243 miles away from the nearest inhabited place. The upside (that is, if you don’t consider extreme remoteness a plus) is that you won’t have to give up your creature comforts to visit.
Why now: It’s a new year, and why not start out big with a trip that meets the criteria of experience of a lifetime? Easter Island is rugged, mystical, and inspiring – a trip you’ll remember forever.
Good for: Couples, friends, families, and solo travelers looking for an active, history-filled, and introspective experience. There is something spiritual about Easter Island, even for the most hardened city folk.
- Staying at Explora Rapa Nui, a luxury eco-lodge that makes this remote destination accessible and enjoyable for travelers of all levels of fitness – and all levels of luxury expectations. The lodge is just a part of why Explora is a highlight; their guides open up the island to you in ways you would otherwise not experience
- Watching wild horses amid the breathtakingly rich colors of the lake
- Enjoying an afternoon swim at Anakena Beach, followed by a picnic lunch while chatting up the locals
- Exploring Birdman Crater, which is surreally beautiful. It’s precisely at this moment that you’ll get introspective about the meaning of life
Suggested Stay: 4 days. It is almost impossible to do anything less with limited flights on and off the island. Think the island is just a few statues? You quickly learn that it’s far more, and offers a diverse choice of hiking, biking, boat exploration, and other activities that make time fly.
It’s All in the Logistics
Explora Rapa Nui serves up eco-tourism on a silver platter, and makes the island a desirable destination for those who like their high-thread-count sheets, gourmet meals, and pisco sours after a long day of physically challenging excursions. It’s a complicated logistics game to get the details down for each guest in a place this remote and unspoiled. With typically over a dozen daily options, the team is all-pro, even down to the homemade snack mix of dried strawberries and nuts that seem to magically appear just when you’ve hit your physical limit. At prices of around $800–1,000 daily, it’s full-freight to experience Easter Island to the max, but that price is all-inclusive, from meals, snacks, beverages (yes, including wine, beer, and mixed drinks) to all your excursions. Late-afternoons look like a war room in the lounge, as guests seriously plot their next-day adventures with expert guides (albeit over drinks and canapés before the gourmet three-course dinners). The guides, many of whom are local Rapa Nui, share both the official history of the island and stories passed down from their grandfathers. At night, with the satisfaction of physical exhaustion, you’ll fall into one of the deepest sleeps you’ve had in years.
Taking It All In
The terrain is diverse, from uncultivated land and stunning cliffs and caves to lakes that you thought only existed in your imagination. Explora arranges biking, hiking, and special snorkeling excursions – you’ll need to be experienced (and brave enough) to face the rough seas. While you’ll be driven to a comfortable distance from a number of the sites, plan to bring good hiking shoes as excursions are typically 3–4 hours on foot or by bike, where possible. You’ll choose your own adventure, but there are some must-sees while you’re on the island. Begin by surveying the terrain on the Coastal Platforms Walk, to see what the moai ruins look like unrestored. It’s the closest to untouched nature that many urban dwellers will get, walking among the wild horses and cows that roam freely on the island.
Other highlights include the Mahatua Ovahe, which are the restored 15 moai, and the Ahu Akivi, the only statues that face the sea. If more tranquil is your style, they’ll happily set up a lazy afternoon picnic at the gorgeous Anakena Beach, where the moai loom over the sandy shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll especially appreciate the majestic moai after you’ve viewed the quarry where they were built and then transported without modern machinery to all corners of the island. Within the quarry lies a stunning lake, where the wild horses gather to drink water – and it’s here that you’ll connect with the spirituality of the island.
Your Negotiation Tactics Don’t Work Here
After hiking, biking, and soaking up local culture, spend a morning in town to acquire moai artwork and artifacts of your own. The main town is also where you can see the only moai with their eyes restored, which can be a little haunting, as their gaze seems to follow you everywhere. The moai statues are not inexpensive; marked prices start at around $400. China this is not: If you start by negotiating, you likely won’t get the price you want. The Rapa Nui are proud people, and they expect visitors to show respect for their culture. If you want to bring home a prized moai, build the relationship first, and show interest in their craft. You’ll find two main artisan markets in town, but the best places to buy are Artesanía Puku Rangi Uka,where you can watch artist Luis Tomas Pate Riroroco creating his moai masterpieces by hand. Also worthy is Mokomae Tattoo, where a moai may not be the only souvenir you come back with.
Blending in with the Locals
If you want to experience local restaurants, be ready to pay up. Most have New York price tags, because everything not grown or fished on the island is imported from Chile. Tourism is their only industry, so they have “special prices” just for tourists. Even so, standout restaurants include Marao for dinner and drinks, and Te Moana, Haku Heru, and Kanahao, all of which are strong on seafood. If you’re here for the weekend, hit the dance floor at the discos Piriti and Toreko.
But, for the brave, pick one evening to attend The Dance, a performance of the traditional Rapa Nui. Topantongi is a popular spot, though Explora will steer you to the best option depending on the night. When you first sit down, it feels like a tourist trap, but then you see the locals streaming in to view the show. The tribal dances feature men scantily clad in hamis. If you don’t know what a hami is, it’s worth looking up beforehand or checking out our article in Style this week. The Rapa Nui take the performance very seriously, though, and afterwards, locals will proudly teach you the Rapa Nui dance steps. Just know that those who have a phobia of personal space invasion may get slightly uncomfortable. OK – really uncomfortable. But let’s face it, it’s all part of the experience. After all, when you’re visiting a place that’s remained virtually unchanged for 200 years, it’s probably best to do things their way.