Easter Island 4-day itinerary – Moai head statues and much more

In a previous post about planning a trip to Easter Island, Valentina Merico got us totally hooked to visit the island far far away than anything continental. Now it’s time that she shows us how we can explore the island better – with a detailed day-to-day itinerary and plenty of photos.

Although you can see the main spots of the island in just 1 day if you rent a car and really rush it (it’s only 23km long), I really recommend taking the time to explore the Natural Park by foot, enjoy all the hiking opportunities, have fun at the beach, contemplate the nature and just take in all the mystery and magic this place has to offer.

For me, 4 days turned out to be the perfect amount of time, even though I could have easily stayed there for 4 weeks. I explored on my own and by foot, the three days then went on a full day tour.

The ultimate Easter Island 4-day itinerary 1170 x 360

Day 1 of Easter Island itinerary – Ahu Vau Uri, Ahu Ko Te Riku, Ana Kakenga, Ahu Akivi 

After exploring Hanga Roa right after I landed, I started to walk more or less aimlessly along the west coast, stopping and looking at every real or fake Moai I would encounter along the way, in awe. I don’t know why but in my head I was picturing only few Moai statues on the island, probably very difficult to reach and to spot. Well, it turns out there are almost 1.000 of them on the island, so I stopped taking a million pictures of every single one after I understood they’re pretty much everywhere you go.

I then got to Ahu Vau Uri, where four standing Moai demand some time to be contemplated and I decided to eat my sandwich here, sitting on the rocks of the small beach right next to the statues.

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

A few meters after Ahu Vau Uri, you can find the platform of Ahu Ko Te Riku, with one of the most photographed Moai statues on the island. This is how I found out that Moаi has eyes (quite creepy, really) made of coral or mother pearl and a hat, although many locals say that is not a hat but it represents the typical way men used to tie their long hair back then. Basically a Polynesian ancestor of the man-bun.

I continued walking in between stones’ relicts and cows until I reached Ana Kakenga, a cave known as the “two-windows cave”, where I stopped a second time, trying to test if the dozens of free-roaming horses would come and say hi. They didn’t, and they seemed bothered by my presence.

I then started to walk back towards the village, taking a more internal route and passing in front of Ahu Akivi, also known as the celestial observatory and made up of seven Moai of the same size. There was not too much to see after this point and I just rushed to get back to my hostel, as it had started raining and I needed some time to rest after this overwhelmingly beautiful first day.

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

Day 2 – Orongo and Ranu Kau

As I was heading out of my hostel, I went to check out the only church of Hanga Roa, which features a curious combination of Polynesian and Christian’s symbols and aspects, making it for sure a very interesting sight.

I then walked along the coast again, but this time heading south. I briefly stopped at the cave of Ana Kai Tangata and admiring all the horses walking around while being less impressed with the cows, who tried to charge me every time I wanted to walk past them (maybe they know how much I like burgers?).

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

After dodging the evil cows, I started my hike up to Orongo and Ranu Kau. Orongo used to be a ceremonial village where the annual Birdman competition took place. The ceremony had the goal of appointing a new island chief and it consisted in numerous challenges with the final objective of collecting the first sacred egg of the Manutara bird and bring it back (intact!) to the village. In order to get to Orongo, you first need to climb up the Ranu Kau volcano, with its crater perfectly preserved and a wonderful view in every direction.

Because this was one of the main things I wanted to see in Easter Island and I’m particularly fascinated by volcanoes, I took all the time in the world to enjoy the hike, the view and take another thousand pictures from above. As it turned out, I was way too slow and relaxed, because once I was on top of the volcano, the weather drastically changed and a terrible storm started to scourge me. I was literally shaking in my boots because I only had a light jacket on and I found repair under a big stone, hoping for the pouring rain to stop. After waiting almost an entire hour and asking myself if it wouldn’t be better to give up and go back, the sky suddenly opened and a scorching sun came out. That’s Easter Island: weather changes a million times per day and you are never dressed properly.

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

Once in Orongo, I realized I was more than rewarded for my wait, as this place is absolutely magical! I was looking at the small islets in front of me wondering how did those men manage to jump from a cliff, swim all the way there, climb back up, and all of this while carrying an egg?? The fine line between myth and reality disappears in this place, and while looking at the ocean in every single direction, I could only think about one thing: I really was in the most isolated place on earth and I conquered it on my own!

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

Between the long hike, the rain, and a cow who wouldn’t let me pass (this started to become a constant in my hikes), I had spent almost the whole day visiting Orongo, so I headed back to town, only to find parades of a bunch of kids dressed as vampires, skeletons, witches and so on. Mh, I thought to myself: that’s a strange local tradition…and then I realized: it was Halloween! In this place, the time stops, and I had completely lost track of what day or month it was, so I watched delighted this cute little monsters roaming the streets and offering candies to locals and tourists.

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

Day 3 of Easter Island itinerary – Ahu Akahanga, Rano Raraku volcano, Te Pito Kura, Anakena beach, Rapa Nui dance show

Today I took a full day tour with Mahina tour in order to explore the east and north sides of the island, too far to be reached by foot. The tour was very well organized, our guide was a local and he was so informative and never got tired to answer all our questions around the Moai statues and the Rapa Nui people.

We started from Ahu Akahanga, an ancient village with a lot of remains of what were once houses and ovens, together with many toppled Moai, which are now lying face up or face down in their former platforms. Quite sad to watch really, but part of the long history of the island. We learned about Hotu Matua, the first king of the island, about the boathouses that people used only to sleep, while they cooked and spent their entire day outside, the first Polynesian settlers, and their contribution to the rise of the Rapa Nui civilization, and this was just the start of the tour!

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

We then stopped at the quarry where all the Moai statues were created and this is the place where you see all the most recognizable pictures of Easter Island. It was impressive to see carved Moai up to 2m long, and to discover that they have a body! We only see the head because the rest of the statue is stuck in the terrain due to centuries of layers of dirt that covered them. Every year new Moai are dug up from the soil, so no one is really sure how many statues there are on the island. If this wasn’t impressive enough, the way Moai were transported to the coast (the quarry is on a hill) is still a mystery, probably the biggest one of Rapa Nui. For centuries locals believed that the Moai walked themselves to the beach or that aliens moved them. With that said, there have been some new theories that have been accredited as the most reliable ones on how the inhabitants used to move their statues: you can see a video here.

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

Next to the quarry, you can go up to the volcano Rano Raraku, and of course, I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity! I loved everything about it: the views from above, the microenvironment that formed in the crater, and the fact that we could take a break to enjoy it all. I hate when tours rush you from one place to the other just to take pics and that’s it. Our guide was relaxed and was going at our pace, making it a lovely all-round experience.

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

When we were ready to move on, they took us to Tongariki, probably the most famous sight of Easter Island. Here is where 17 Moai were toppled during the civil war, the altar was swiped away by a tsunami, but luckily everything was restored in the late 20th century and you can now enjoy this majestic view. Usually, tourists come here at dawn or sunset to admire the 17 silhouettes against the sky and the Pacific Ocean, but it was fulfilling and absolutely impressive even without the sun behind it and with at least 100 tourists taking selfies in front of it. Obviously, I was one of them.

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

After a quick stop to Te Pito Kura, also known as the navel of light, a magnetic stone that allegedly contains supernatural energy called mana, we arrived at our last destination: Anakena beach. This spot has everything you would expect from a Caribbean paradise: coconut and palm trees, white coral sand, and crystalline turquoise sea. Needless to say, I and all the people in my group spent an entire hour here relaxing and enjoying this little spot of paradise.

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

As if this day wasn’t packed enough, I decided to spend the evening watching a typical dance show at Ballet Kari Kari, the first and most famous school of traditional Rapa Nui Arts. This was definitely one of the highlights of my stay in Easter Island. Although undeniably touristy, the evening is so well structured and gives you a sensorial experience difficult to forget. You start by watching a video on how the school was born, its purpose, and interviews with locals who really want to stay in touch with their roots and hand them down to future generations. After the video, the show can start and it’s mesmerizing: beautiful men and women move with the elegance and lightness of birds, they sing, they play, they jump, they do it all! A side note that deserves attention: the dancers only wear traditional costumes, this means that no undergarment is present…let’s just say that sitting in the 3rd row while men were jumping, I’ve seen WAY more than I bargained for!

After the show, you are served a typical dinner and the fish was delicious. What a perfect way to end my already wonderful day in Rapa Nui!

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

Day 4 – tattoos and Ahu Vau Ur sunset

Walking through the island for a few days, you will notice that tattoos are a must, t-shirts are optional and Jack Johnson is always somehow playing in the background. I focused on one of these aspects: tattoos. Locals flaunt big, intricate and beautiful tattoos, mostly with Polynesian symbols or Rapa Nui petroglyphs. I wanted to do something that would remind me of this experience forever, so I thought: why not get a tattoo?? But it was my last day there and there were only 2 tattoo shops opened that day, so I thought it would have not been feasible. I entered the first shop just to ask for some info and…I came out 45 minutes later with a new tattoo! I don’t think it’s the most aesthetically beautiful tattoo I could have gotten, but the meaning it has for me is invaluable!

As I had already covered the main sights of the island, in the afternoon I went back to the places I visited on my first day to enjoy them with a bit more sun, and I then stayed at Ahu Vau Uri to watch the sunset. So beautiful and romantic, even as a solo traveler!

Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary
Plan a trip to Easter Island - how to get, where to stay, what to do and 4-day Easter Island itinerary

Before going back to the hostel to pack for the day after, I treated myself to a fancy dinner, happy and proud of myself for achieving e life-long dream and fulfilled with the wonderful experiences that this island had kindly shared with me.

Iorana Ka oho riva-riva, Rapa Nui!

The ultimate Easter Island 4-day itinerary
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We’re so thankful to Valentina for her exciting posts about Easter Island! Can’t wait to visit it ourselves and we know we’ll be ready to plan the trip and do the most fascinating itinerary on the Rapa Nui island!