Easter Island or Isla de Pasqua is a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Well known for its famous Moai statues, Easter Island’s location makes it one of the most remote islands in the world. It’s a place that many people dream of visiting and I’d always wanted to go there myself. Since we were already going to be in Chile, there was no better time to visit it.
We are big fans of the Pacific Islands and we’ve visited a fair few of them already. We love the feeling of arriving on a remote island, where time just seems to stop. The smell of fresh air and flowers, the smiling locals and the Polynesian culture; what’s not to love?
Add in the stunning scenery and it is a recipe for pure bliss! So, we were hoping that Easter Island would be equally as relaxing and that we’d finally get to learn about the Moai. We were so excited when we landed and when we were greeted with a flower lei, we felt even better. We’d arrived in paradise!
Not a good start
However, sometimes things don’t go as planned, and our time on Easter Island certainly didn’t turn out how we’d envisaged. That’s not the fault of the island but mine instead because I managed to break my leg there! A real bummer if you ask me.
So what happened? Well, while walking along a path, I slipped on some gravel, and while trying to catch myself, I fell backwards into a ditch on the side of the path. I ended up lying up against a pile of black volcanic rock and was lucky not to smash my head on it. I guess a broken leg is better than a shattered skull and indeed, I was very lucky.
Still, my accident tarnished our time on the island, especially since it happened on our first full day there. After a few hours waiting in the island’s version of an ER, I was released, sporting a cast that covered most of my right leg.
While the cast made visiting the island very difficult, we still managed to see the best parts. There was no way I was going to stay stuck in a hotel room while in paradise! Sometimes you’ve just got to not feel so sorry for yourself. We didn’t do everything we had planned but we did enough to leave us with some good memories to balance out the bad one.
So, if you are about to visit Easter Island, there are plenty of awesome things to see there. It’s not just about the statues, although they are pretty neat and they do add an element of mystery to the whole experience.
What can you do on Easter Island apart from breaking a leg?
1- Hire a car and drive around the island
The best way to see the island is to hire a car and drive around by yourself. This way you can explore every corner in your own time. Stop whenever you feel like it, get out, snap some photos and walk around. Get away from the main tourist sites and enjoy the beauty of the island. It takes just over an hour to drive around the island without stopping; but believe me, you’ll be making plenty of stops!
We hired our car from Insular Rent-a-car. We started with a Jimmy Jeep but sadly we had to upgrade from the second day onwards because, with my massive cast on, I no longer fit in the car! It was quite a lot more expensive but it had to be done.
If you prefer not to drive a car, you can also hire bikes, quad-bikes or take one of the many group or private tours available.
2- Catch the sunset at Ahu Tahai
Located a short walk from the village of Hanga Roa is Ahu Tahai, the island’s best sunset spot. Ahu Tahai is home to five Moai statues, standing together side by side, on top of an Ahu. There are also two other statues set off to the side, away from the main group. Watching the sunset behind them, against the backdrop of the deep blue sea, is a perfect way to end the day.
3- Take a swim at Anakena Beach
Anakena Beach is the most beautiful and the most popular beach on the island. It too has a set of eight Moai standing tall to guard this beautiful beach.
The water is crystal clear, the sand is white and there are palm trees all over. It’s a little piece of paradise. Unfortunately, I never got to enjoy it but I wish I had. Instead, I sent Simon off to explore it and snap off some photos. I was so jealous as I sat waiting in the parking lot in our boiling hot car!
4- Get up early for an amazing sunrise at Ahu Tongariki
With fifteen Moai statues standing next to each other, atop their ceremonial platform, Ahu Tongariki is one of the most beautiful spots on the island. The statues are also the best-restored Moai on the island.
Sunrise is the best time to visit Ahu Tongariki, as the sun rises between the statues and the colours in the sky change. Sadly we only got to visit during the day because getting around in the dark with a cast on was too difficult for me.
5- Visit the quarry of Rano Raraku
I was so glad that we did this on the first day, before my accident. This place is an absolute must-see while on the island.
This quarry was used for carving out the statues and they were then extracted and moved all around the island. In Reno Raraku, you’ll come across many Moai in all stages of construction. One of the unfinished Moai is massive!
From Rano Raraku, you also get some pretty awesome views of the north side of the island.
6- Drive up to Rano Kau Crater
For impressive views of the Rano Kau crater, drive up to the viewpoint. From there, you’ll get an extended view of the huge caldera, with the ocean in the background. The caldera is now a lagoon filled with reed plants. It’s just another place on the island that will blow you away!
7- Enjoy a traditional dance show
As with every other Polynesian island we’ve visited, the people of Easter Island are big on tradition and culture and still practice many their traditional dances.
You can sign up for a traditional dance show. There are a few of them to choose from in Hanga Roa but Kari Kari seems to be the best.
8- Explore Hanga Roa
Hanga Roa is the only town on Easter Island. It’s in the southern part of the island, set between two extinct volcanoes, Terevaka and Rano Kau.
Hanga Roa is where you’ll find anything you need on the island (apart from crutches; more on that later!). There’s souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, car rental companies and tour operators. Hanga Roa little’s harbour area is also a great place to relax and enjoy the sea views. You may even see a few turtles swimming close to shore.
For a quick swim without crossing the island, you’ll find Playa Pea and Playa Poko Poko right in town.
9- Admire the stunning coastline
Easter Island is not just about the Moai. The coastline of the island is another reason to take a trip to this amazing island. It’s rugged, volcanic and wild. The waves offshore are really strong and watching them smash against the rocks is so soothing. Stop off to check it out during your tour around the island and chances are you’ll be enjoying it all by yourself.
If you’re an experienced surfer, you’ll also have a lot of fun tackling the tough waves. But check with the locals first to learn the best (and safest) places to surf.
Remember, don’t even attempt to swim outside of the safe swimming beaches. Otherwise, you might end up much worse than breaking a leg!
10- Enjoy ceviche
Ceviche is very common in Chile but on Easter Island, they have some of the freshest ceviches you’ll find anywhere. The fish served in the restaurants come straight from the local fishermen. Yum!
11- Visit Ahu Akivi, the only Moai facing the ocean
The Moai of Ahu Akivi are the only Moai facing the sea. That’s right, all the other Moai on the island face inland. Why? Because they were usually positioned to “keep an eye” on the village they represented. But in Ahu Akivi, the village was built near the shoreline and they had no other choice but to put the Moai behind the village. There are seven Moai in Ahu Akivi and they are all still in pretty decent condition.
12- Check out the ancient petroglyphs at Papa Vaka
There are a few petroglyphs all around the island but Papa Vaka is where you’ll find the most significant ones. In Papa Vaka, you’ll discover such diverse marine creatures as octopus and turtles, along with canoes and fish hooks. The main figure is a large double canoe with two hulls measuring twelve meters long.
How to get to Easter Island?
It’s not that hard to get to Easter Island, especially if you are already in Chile, as we were. But it’s not cheap to fly there. LAN Chile has two, daily flights leaving from Santiago de Chile and there is one weekly flight from Papeete in French Polynesia. It’s easy enough to get a flight but since the airline has a monopoly on the flights, they control the prices and believe me they know how to make money!
After weeks of researching flights, we finally found some acceptable prices and booked our flights. The trick with the flights is to be very flexible with the dates. Of course, that’s a whole lot easier when you’re not in a hurry to get there or don’t have any specific plans. Staying longer on the island tends to get you cheaper flights, although that’s not always the case.
Where to stay on Easter Island?
Do you want to splurge?
The Hangaroa Eco Village is the best luxury hotel on Easter Island! It’s only a short walk from town and faces the ocean. You’ll get the most incredible sea views from your patio. You can choose to go with breakfast only or go all-inclusive for a worry-free holiday.
Find their latest prices here.
Or are you on a budget?
Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana offers both rooms and tents. You can get private or shared bathrooms, as well as a well-equipped kitchen and a barbecue. It’s perfect for those travelling on a budget.
They offer a free airport shuttle on arrival (although it’s right around the corner so you could almost walk there!).
Ask at their tour desk for some very good deals on car and bike rentals. We stayed here and the manager was super nice and very helpful throughout our stay, especially after I broke my leg.
Find their latest prices here.
If neither of those take your fancy, use HotelsCombined to search across all the major accommodation websites. We use them all the time.
What if you do break a leg?
Well, good luck finding crutches on the island! We checked at all three pharmacies and the hospital. No-one stocked them. We were told to check with our car rental agency; apparently, they sold them (weird!). But no, of course, they didn’t!
Thankfully, the lovely manager at Hostal Tipanie Moana had a very old pair of crutches that he kindly lent me for the length of our stay. He saved the day!
My advice, do everything you can to avoid breaking a leg. Out of all the places in the world, there just have to be millions of better places to do it if you really have to!
Now, we may not have had the best time there because of my broken leg but we still loved Easter Island. The beauty of it makes the money spent well worth it. We’d love to return one day to explore it again, this time without any incidents. Enjoy your time on the island!