• Monday, December 11, 2017

Visiting Easter Island

Easter Island - Easter on the Island
April 20, 2011
By , Founder and Editor-in-chief

Where better to CELEBRATE Easter than on the island named for the day it was discovered? Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, as it’s known by the locals, has a style and culture all its own. This is one of the most remote inhabited places on earth, where you’ll feel like you’ve arrived on the island of LOST.  Located in Polynesia but part of the country of Chile, a holiday on Easter Island is an EXTRAORDINARY lifetime experience. 

Easter Island is most famous for the moai, ancient monolithic statues that date back to around 1000 A.D. – but this wild isle has so much more.  Even for hardcore city folk who are averse to nature, it has a way of drawing you in. The island is about the SIMPLICITY of a good hike, and gazing out at what must be some of the most dramatic vistas on earth. 

EXPLORA Rapa Nui is the silver platter of ecotourism: It’s a green resort that respects the culture and natural environment, while also providing an ultra-comfortable place to call HOME.  In short, it’s simple luxury. 

You can rough it by hiking, biking, climbing and snorkeling, but you’ll return to a lodge that is an oasis of COMFORT, with gourmet meals and exceptional service. Explora Rapa Nui has service on par with some of the great hotels of Europe, which makes the Easter Island experience an exceptionally enjoyable one, even for those of us who are not outdoor types. Explora will tailor each of the excursions – in the morning and afternoon – to your personal preference. You’ll also never take out your wallet at Explora. All meals and drinks – they make a killer pisco sour – and excursions are included. Compared to the New York/European prices of food and entertainment in town, it’s quite a deal. 

There are some musts while you’re on the island. The terrain is diverse, from uncultivated land and stunning cliffs and caves, to lakes that only existed in your imagination. One of the island highlights is the Birdman Crater, a beautiful volcanic crater. The Explora guides are all Rapa Nui by lineage, and will fill you in on local history and culture. 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 city folk will get, walking among the wild horses and cows that roam freely on the island. After your hike, the guides bring out fresh fruit juice, which will become quite the obsession during your stay. At the lodge, gourmet three-course meals are served, where the fish veggies and fruit are all grown on the island. With the exception of breakfast, every meal will be a surpise of the local catch of the day and the chef’s grand creations. 

Other highlights include the Mahatua Ovahe, which are the restored 15 moai, and the Ahu Akivi, the only statues that face the sea. 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.

Explora arranges biking, hiking and special snorkeling excursions, where you’ll need to be experienced (and brave enough) to face the rough seas. If more tranquil is your style, they’ll happily set up a lazy afternoon picnic at the gorgeous Anakena Beach. Splash in the Pacific Ocean as the moai loom over the sandy shoreline – definitely a life-is-good moment on your trip. 

When you return from your afternoon excursion, you’ll meet up with your Explora guides to talk about upcoming trips, sharing pisco sours and perfectly prepared hors d’oevres. After a relaxing dinner – and all the wine and bevs you can drink – wander back to your comfortable room for one of the quietest nights of sleep that you’ve had in a long time. But, do 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 upon 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 the men scantily clad in hamis, where let’s just say it’s full backside on view, reminiscent of Chippendales.  The Rapa Nui take the performance very seriously, though, and afterwards, locals will proudly teach you the Rapa Nui dancesteps.

If you want to experience local restaurants, be ready to pay up. Most have New York price tags, because everything not grown or fished within the island is imported from Chile. Tourism is their only industry, so they have “special prices” just for us.  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 dancefloor at the discos Piriti and Toreko.

After all the hiking, biking and 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 those eyes seem to follow you everywhere. The moai statues are not inexpensive, where marked prices  start at $400. China this is not: If you start by negotiating, you likely won’t get the price you want. The Rapa Nui are very proud people, and they expect visitors to show respect for their culture. If you want to try, build the relationship first, and return the next day. 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 Tomás Pate Riroroco creating his moai masterpieces by hand. Also worthy is Mokomae Tatoo, where a moai may not be the only souvenir you come back with.  When you arrived, Easter Island may have felt like the island of Lost, but by the time you leave, you’ll realize you’ve been found.