Isla de Pascua. Rapa Nui. Easter Island. This island has many names, lots of mysteries, and dramatic scenery. It consistently lands on bucket lists, best-of lists, and trips-of-a-lifetime lists. It’s also extremely isolated and difficult to reach. So does it live up to the hype?
Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The volcanic island is located 2,300 miles from Chile’s west coast in the middle of the southeast Pacific. Polynesians first settled here in the first millennium AD. They thrived for thousands of years and created huge carved heads, called moai, that became the symbol of the island. By the time European sailors arrived in the 18th century, disease and dwindling resources had greatly reduced the population. The decline continued when Chile took control of the island.
More recent changes have been positive, though. Most of the island is now protected as a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rapa Nui culture is thriving. And tourism has aided in both those respects.
You arrive in Hanga Roa, the island’s only town. The bright green prairie is in the distance. Extinct volcanoes are beyond that. You’ll return to visit the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum, the Catholic Church of Hanga Roa, the boat-filled wharf, and the shops along Avenida Atamu Tekena. But first, your hotel.
Hare Noi is outside of Hanga Roa. It has spacious garden rooms in stone houses and sunset hares with ocean views. Everything is centered upon you relaxing after a day exploring the island. Cool off in the pool when you’re hot and sweaty. Relax your aching muscles at the spa after hiking. And eat seafood feasts as the sun sets. But you have to earn it first.
How, you ask? Watch the sun rise at the Rano Raraku quarry to see where the moai were carved. Almost 900 statues are on the island, and nearly 400 more are here in varying stages of production. Absorb the view of the coast from the windy top of Maunga Orito. See the largest moai site, with 15 restored moai, at Ahu Tongariki. Visit two beautiful beaches: Ovahe has pinkish sand, and Anakena has white sand lined with palm trees. Take a panoramic picture from Vaitea, the highest point on the island.
Climb Poike, the oldest volcano. Sail to the offshore islets to go fishing. Then have a BBQ lunch when you return. See one of the most sacred places on the island, Ahu Akivi, where the moai face the vast Pacific. Return to watch the sun set with a pisco sour. You’ve earned it. And it’s worth it.