How to plan a trip to Easter Island

Welcome to a guest post by a very promising future travel blogger Valentina Merico. Valentina will take us to the magical Easter Island! Bon Voyage!

Since I was a kid and watched the 1994 movie “Rapa-Nui”, I have been fascinated with Easter Island and developed a real obsession with it over the years. On the other hand, it’s difficult not to feel drawn to this magic island in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean as there is still a lot of mystery wrapped around this place and scientists and anthropologists alike remain with a lot of unanswered questions around the ancient inhabitants of Rapa Nui and its massive giant headstones.

With this in mind, it goes without saying that when I planned my 4-months sabbatical in South America, the first thought was: “I need to go to Easter Island!”. I was traveling on a budget and I knew that going to Easter Island is no joke for your wallet, so I decided to skip Ecuador and Galapagos and make my life-long dream come true instead. Sorry giant turtles, I’ll see you next time!

When the time came, I was already over the moon about the fact that I was in South America (which turned out to be my favorite continent so far), and if on one hand, I couldn’t wait any longer to jump on that plane that would make my dream come true, on the other one I was almost afraid that the time on the island would fly by too fast. Yep, that’s how excited I was: I was sad about leaving Easter Island even before I got there!

Now, I know that tourism to Easter Island is still pretty limited because of its location and prohibitive costs, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated or expensive. Let me guide you through my experience and share some information that you might find useful when planning your own special trip to this magic land.

How to plan a trip to the Easter Island 1170 x 360

5 Things to know before you go to Easter Island

1 – Easter Island is located in the Pacific Ocean and the nearest land masses are the Pitcairn Islands, 1,931 kilometers west. However, Easter Island officially belongs to Chile, even though it lies exactly 3,746 kilometers west of the country.

2 – Don’t call it Easter Island in front of the locals! The real name is Rapa Nui, like the inhabitants who first set foot on the island. The locals prefer to call it Te Pito te Henua, but will reluctantly accept Isla de Pascua or the “Navel of the world”, too.

3 – The head statues are called Moai and there are no “s” in the plural: two or more Moai, not Moais.

4 – Moai had eyes and they have bodies, too. The online pics usually depict Moai with only the eye socket because the eye made of coral was the last thing to be added after the statue was carved and transported to the island. Coral also deteriorates sooner than stone, leaving most of the Moai eye-less.

5 – None of the Moai you currently see were erected by the ancient Rapa Nui civilization. All the Moai statues were toppled during the civil war or “stolen” by archeologists, museums, collectors, and so on. The current Moai were erected by modern explorers and archeologists, but the original upright Moai and the method of erection are lost forever.

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

How to get to Easter Island

Flying to Easter Island is not cheap and there’s no sugarcoating around it. You can currently only fly there from Santiago, Chile (one flight daily) and Tahiti (one flight weekly), but the Santiago route is the preferred one and probably the only one that will remain. The flight takes a little less than 6 hours and will cost you between $600 and $1000. If you book in advance and have flexible dates, however, you can pay as little as $300! I booked only 2 weeks before and I paid around $750.

The small airport of Hanga Roa is the cutest airport I’ve seen (although the Rurrenabaque one in the Amazon rainforest comes very close to it) and you are welcomed with a flower necklace and the happiest people waiting for you. It is common for hotels and even hostel owners to offer free airport pickup.

At the arrival, I strongly recommend you buy the National Park Entrance Ticket which is around $60. This will not only give you access to all the main spots on the island, but it will also contribute to the maintenance of the latter, so you can do your part to keep the island as it is for future generations of explorers.

As the last recommendation, plan some buffer time for your travels. I have spent 4 days in Santiago before and was planning to spend 3 days in Valparaiso after. But because delays or flight cancellations may happen more often than in other destinations, you might want to plan accordingly. My return flight to Santiago had 4 hours delay and I couldn’t get to Valparaiso on the same day as I had planned to. This resulted in spending only 2 days in Valparaiso and boy, did I regret it! I unexpectedly fell in love with this charming little city and I wish I could have stayed much longer!

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

Where to stay

As the whole island is considered a National Park, you are only allowed to stay in Hanga Roa. Camping sites are sparse but available, and so are Couchsurfing hosts, even if very limited.

Mid-range hotels can cost you about $40-100 per night and eco-lodges can cost you around $70-150 per night.

Hostels are more expensive than in Chile and way more expensive than in the rest of South America, but they are generally clean and with good services and friendly owners.

I stayed in the hostel “La casa del Kori”, run by Kori, a local Polynesian man, and his lovely Chilean wife. The 4-bed dorms were clean and the beds comfortable, breakfast was included in the price and there was a big shared kitchen to cook your meals.

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

Where to eat on Easter Island

Food on Easter Island is very good but generally expensive. Note that by Western standards, it can’t be considered very expensive, but compared to Chile and the rest of South America, it is.

LATAM airlines allow you to check-in for free 2 pieces of luggage on your flight to Hanga Roa, so what most budget travelers do is stock up on groceries in Santiago and cook in their hostel when they’re on the island.

Because I’m a foodie and I love to try local food, I decided to adopt an in-between strategy: I would go to small local shops to buy cheap bread, cheese, and ham to live on sandwiches during the day, and I will then allow myself to eat out at night. I still struggled when I saw my first ceviche-and-pisco-sour bill, but hey…you only live (and probably go to Easter Island) once!

Among the places I tried, I would recommend the followings:

  • La Kaleta: a lovely little restaurant close to a small beach that cooks using fresh local products, mostly fish or seafood. My go-to choice was always ceviche and I didn’t regret it!
  • Te Moai Sunset: surely touristy, but a great place to enjoy a moderately priced meal, with a good cocktail and an incredible view of the ocean. As the name suggests, try to head there for sunset.
  • Empanadas Tia Berta: I usually don’t eat in the same place twice when I travel because I want to try as many different places as possible, but I have to admit I went to this place 3 times in 4 days! Their empanadas are huge, cheap, and sooo good! (then again, I never had a bad empanada in South America…)
  • Haka Honu: more on the fancy side, this restaurant sits in front of the beach, and offers good gourmet food and a Pisco sour to die for (if you haven’t tried the Pisco sour in Peru, that is). This was my treat to me on the last night on the island.

Stay tuned! Now that you planned your trip to this magical island, let’s check out a detailed 4-day itinerary on Easter Island with lots of photos!

How to plan a trip to the Easter Island
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