What to do, see, eat on Rapa Nui including moai statues

Rapa Nui, if not known as Easter Island (or Isla de Pascua), is 1 of the most remote inhabited areas on the earth. It is difficult to uncover on a map — the island is minor more than a stray dot in the vast southeastern Pacific Ocean. Its closest neighbors are the very small Pitcairn Islands (some 1,200 miles away), when the closest continental level is Chile, which is 2,200 miles to the east — or 5 hrs by flight.

Map of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui.

Even with its excessive seclusion, most men and women know of Easter Island for one explanation: the moai sculptures. And they are ample to appeal to almost 100,000 vacationers each and every year to this island of just 5,700 inhabitants.

Touching down in the center of nowhere

Approaching by airplane, three distinctive volcano craters emerge on a triangle of green grass fringed by black coastline. Every thing else — in all directions — is barren blue ocean.

Aerial watch of the Ranu Kao volcanic crater.

Patricia Hamilton

Flights arrive at Rapa Nui’s compact Mataveri Airport in the town of Hanga Roa. The feel in this article is instantly far more Polynesian than Chilean, inspite of Chile’s annexation of the island in 1888.

Apart from the language, imported food stuff and family products, the connection in between Rapa Nui and Chile is obscure. Most of the island’s inhabitants are of Polynesian descent and a lot of even now discuss a regional dialect, in addition to Spanish. And the most well-known inhabitants — the stone-confronted moai — have no link to Chile at all.

The moai of Rapa Nui

Tremendous and legendary, the cartoon-like moai statues scatter the windswept island as sentient guardians of the area culture. Their porous, basalt surfaces seem featureless and historical, however their stature offers them lifelike attributes and a sense there is additional to them than fulfills the eye. Right after remaining in their presence prolonged sufficient, the rock effigies seemingly occur alive.

Website visitors can get near — but not touch — the moai sculptures.

Kevin Cox

What is astonishing is the selection of moai on the island, in popular locations and lesser-identified spots. Looking at the sculptures is easy — people can walk suitable up to them — but touching the moai is strictly forbidden, as they however have excellent religious significance to the locals.

At Rano Raraku, believed to be the quarry wherever most of the moai have been carved, roped-off pathways direct up the volcanic hillside wherever hundreds of heads protrude from the soil, entire bodies lean at awkward angles, and ruined or unfinished sculptures lay on their sides. Wandering amongst the statues reveals refined dissimilarities concerning them — every a person one of a kind in look and character.

Feral horses wander freely all-around Rano Raraku, wherever some moai sculptures lean or have toppled in excess of.

Kevin Cox

Several continue to wonder how these types of prodigious statues — which date as much back again as the 11th century and vary from 3 to 11 meters (10 to 36 ft) tall — were being moved to so several locations around the island. Archaeologists and engineers have experimented with, unsuccessfully, to obtain the response. Some folks feel it to be the operate of aliens from a further environment. These mysteries include to the moai’s enduring allure.

A trio of volcanoes

When the moai tends to dominate worldwide consideration, it is Rapa Nui’s spectacular coastline that certainly mesmerizes.

Rapa Nui’s shoreline.


Jagged volcanic rock varieties a crusty perimeter all around the island, with inlets that are rhythmically thrashed by the ocean waves. Royal blue water contrasts with good white surf, as tides race in and roar violently from the black cliffs, spraying h2o higher into the air.

There are three principal volcanoes which kind the best details of Rapa Nui, but only a person — Rano Kau — can be comfortably reached without a guide. It is property to a little museum and visitor centre found in the restored ceremonial village of Orongo.

Outside of the village, people can sit on the rim of the volcano for unobstructed views 400 meters (1,312 ft) into the crater. There is also the alternative to easily stroll alongside the volcano’s summit to close by cliffs that neglect two noteworthy islets — Motu Iti and Motu Nui — that shoot up from the deep sea considerably less than just one mile from the shore.

The crater of the extinct volcano, Rano Kau.

Kevin Cox

To get to the other two volcanoes, a information can be conveniently arranged by most hotels for an even far more remote island experience. It is here, in the moments absent from other vacationers, the place you sense alone in a spot the rest of the environment forgot.

Additional than just moai

Contrary to popular assumption, Rapa Nui is not a beachcomber’s paradise. With extra cliffs than beach locations, the island presents only two options.

Anakena is the primary seaside this small cove of beige coral sand is situated following to a park with shacks serving new foods and beverages. A grassy slope of swaying palms potential customers to the beach and Ahu Nau Nau, a platform of 7 historic Moai the moment buried in sand, but which now view in excess of the bustling bathers beneath.

The much less populated Ovahe Seashore is just around the edge of the cove and is a good location to escape the crowds.

A person of the 7 moai of Ahu Nau Nau, with Anakena beach front in the track record.

Atlantide Phototravel

Hiking and biking options on the island are abundant, each foremost to archaeological ruins, much more Moai or eye-popping vistas. Guidebooks and maps are handy for self-guided circuits to see the sights by car or truck or on foot.

There are hundreds of underground caves fashioned by lava flows, a handful of of which can be safely explored by non-spelunkers. Ana Te Pahu — the biggest lava tube on the island — allows a lot more than 1 kilometer of subterranean exploration. Around the coastline, the 50-meter (164 ft) Ana Kakenga, recognized as the “cave of two home windows,” ends at two jagged holes that peer out to the sea.

A single of two openings of the Ana Kakenga cave.


In spite of their acceptance and very well-marked entry, the caves are not for everyone. As paths are slippery and lighting is bad, mountaineering sneakers and a flashlight are encouraged for these who want to explore them.

Sunrises and sunsets on Easter Island

A profit to leasing transportation is the ability to witness the extraordinary sunrises of Rapa Nui from different factors throughout the island. Each working day, website visitors and locals alike, make a pilgrimage to the edges of the island to take pleasure in the magnificence of dawn.

Sunsets on Rapa Nui.

Buena Vista Photos

To revel in all of nature’s glory, it’s greatest to stay clear of the crowds at the normal destinations, this sort of as the extraordinary 15 moai system of Ahu Tongariki, where by buses of visitors arrive every early morning. Alternatively, head to a distant oceanside spot to witness the pastel pink sky increase previously mentioned the sea.

For a nightcap, sunset at the grassy Ahu Akivi — one particular of the island’s several inland moai platforms — features an inspiring perspective of 7 Moai staring straight into the sinking sunlight.

Sensational seafood

A reward to getting so far out at sea is the plenitude of fresh seafood. Impartial fishermen glide up to the two tiny wharfs on the edge of city with their every day catch of red kana kana and some of the ideal deep-h2o tuna 1 can come across. Guests can invest in fish from the fishermen at modest charges.

Just about each and every restaurant serves seafood in some form, which includes mahi mahi, lobster and even snails from the rocky shoreline. The tuna ceviche is not to be missed, with herbs, avocado and meaty cubes of tuna so clean they’re nearly crunchy.

Tuna ceviche so fresh it truly is “crunchy.”

Kevin Cox

For more cost-effective eats, go for a tuna empanada with its golden crust and properly cooked chunks of fish inside they’re finest acquired from foods carts on Policarpo Toro Avenue on the island’s waterfront.


Getting there
Presently, to get to Rapa Nui by air, travelers ought to both start off in Chile or French Polynesia. There are day-to-day flights from Santiago, and one flight weekly from Tahiti, both on Latam Airlines.

Finding about
Rapa Nui can very easily be explored independently to fully value both the moai and the island’s pure splendor. Navigating is quick, as there is just one principal highway that prospects to the most preferred archaeological websites. The remaining roads, positioned alongside the shorelines and deeper into the island, are largely made of dust or gravel.

The most effective vehicle alternative is an SUV, which are abundant at the rental businesses in town. Mountain bike rentals and horseback excursions are a well known way to discover distant areas these as Maunga Terevaka — the island’s tallest volcano — and to visit other spots where vehicles are not authorized.

There are about 1,200 documented petroglyphs — or rock carvings — on Rapa Nui.

Kevin Cox

Renting a four-wheeled ATV offers the best access to slender filth tracks foremost to desolate roads that hug the shoreline. There, small ahus (platforms that once supported moai sculptures), scattered stays of settlements, moai ruins and petroglyphs are mainly overlooked by travellers and can be explored with nothing at all but a map and the sound of the sea in the track record.

Exactly where to continue to be
Rapa Nui has a quantity of intimate luxury accommodations, ecolodges and hostels for almost any style. For substantial-conclude Polynesian convenience, there is the Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa beside the sea or the Explora Rapa Nui in the hills. Other site visitors to Rapa Nui opt to rent bungalows or cabanas they let for a lot more privateness and room as effectively as an impartial Easter Island knowledge.

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Thai gilr living in New York and work as a part time editor on news magazines.