This article may contain affiliate links where we make a small commission for purchases you make from links that you click from this article. For more details, read the disclosure page.Easter Island is a place of imagination, wonder, and mystery. With over 800 megalith statues scattered all over the island, you’ll find yourself drawn to the stories and legends of why they were built, how they got there, and why it suddenly stopped.
As you start planning your trip, you’ll want to know how travel to this remote island works. With this guide to visiting Easter Island, we’ll be sharing all the important details of what to expect including the new Rapa Nui National Park rules, how much it costs, which guide to use, ways to save money, where to stay, secret travel tips, and more.
Read more about Chile
How to get a good price on Easter Island
- Hotels – With Genius tier, you can save 10-15% on Easter Island properties on Booking.com. We stayed at Takarua Lodge.
- Car rental – You won’t be able to rent from the standard car rental companies. We ended up renting from Insular and we cover the details in our guide to rental cars on Easter Island.
- Guides – In order to visit the main sights, it’s mandatory to have a guide now. We’ve partnered with Green Island Tours and EcoChile to provide you a great deal. Keep reading to find out what they are!
- Travel insurance – If something happens, you want to make sure you’re covered, especially with the closest major hospital being over 2,000 miles away, you want to make sure you pick the best travel insurance for your trip and also Medjet in case you need a medical evacuation back home.
- Flights – We have an insane hack on how to save hundreds. Don’t miss it in our article on how to get to Easter Island!
Here’s what we’re covering:
Things To Know Before Going To Easter Island
As we’ve done with our extensive Torres del Paine travel guide and San Pedro de Atacama travel guide, there’s a lot of information to cover and we want to make it as digest-able as possible.
In this section of our guide to visiting Easter Island, we’ll start with the high level facts about the island.
- Country – Easter Island is part of Chile.
- Electricity – 220 volts, 50Hz
- Type L (Italy and Chile)
- Type F (most of Europe)
- If you have Type F adapters, these will work fine. No need to invest in Type L.
- Currency – Chilean Peso (CLP)
- $1,000 CLP = $1.089 USD = $1.469 CAD = 1.089€ EUR
- For many, it’ll just be easier to consider $1,000 CLP as $1 USD but if you want something more accurate, make sure to print a currency conversion cheat sheet before you go.
- Timezone – GMT -05:00 (all year round). This means it is 2 hours behind continental Chile (including Santiago) and is 3 hour ahead of EST (New York, Toronto). Easter Island observes daylight saving time (DST) as does most of mainland Chile.
- ATMs – These are 2 ATMs on Easter Island – Banco Estado and Banco Santander.
- SIM card – The main cellular companies in Chile are Entel, Wom, Claro, and Movistar. As you may have seen from our Patagonia guide and Atacama guide, we highly recommend Entel based on local recommendations because of their excellent rural coverage. Entel works the best on the island but set your expectations low as the speed is quite slow. More on this in the connectivity section.
- Alternative data options – eSIM or wifi hotspot are good alternative options. For eSIM, we recommend Airalo (15GB/10 days Chile only for $18 USD) and for hotspots, you can’t beat the price of PokeFi especially with our special offer where GAP23200 saves you $25 USD ($200 USD for the device and extra battery and 5GB, top up of data is 5GB/2 years global coverage for $15 USD).
- Measurement system – Metric scale is used for distance and the Celsius scale for temperature.
- Tipping – Tipping is standard practice in the country including Easter Island. Chile is unique in that at most restaurants, an automatic 10% tip is applied and you can accept, decline, or change. Guidelines for these tips provided in the money section.
- Language – The official language is Spanish. The local Rapanui people speak the Rapa Nui language which is an Eastern Polynesian that’s similar to Tahitian and Marquesian language. It’s estimated that there are only 4,000 speakers in the world.
Where is Easter Island?
Even if you’ve heard of Easter Island, seen the pictures of the stoic stone heads, or read about their story, you still might not know where it is located on the world map.
Easter Island is one of the islands in the Pacific and but is the furthest east when you look at the Polynesian Triangle which is a loosely defined area for the areas in which the Polynesians traveled to and settled.
What makes this island so unique is because it is the most isolated inhabited island in the whole world. The closest inhabited island is Pitcairn which is roughly 2,000 km (1,243 mi) away and the closest mainland is Chile’s coastline at 3,700 km (2,299 mi).
On top of being isolated, it’s in the southern hemisphere and belongs to the country of Chile.
10 Reasons To Go To Easter Island
Our 9 day Easter Island itinerary shows just how incredible a trip to this mysterious island is but if we were to summarize the top reasons to go to Easter Island, we’d distill it down to these points:
- There are moai (Easter Island heads) everywhere on the island and there are way more than you think there are.
- The stories, history, and culture of Rapa Nui is absolutely fascinating.
- See the full snapshot in time through archeological sites to find out what really happened with the cult of the moai.
- It’s under-developed and raw. You’ll appreciate that the island isn’t packed with resorts and big tour buses.
- The island is laidback and has ample ways to enjoy its beaches or read a good book by your favorite moai.
- The moai and their platforms are ridiculously photogenic.
- The seafood is superb.
- Locals are incredibly friendly.
- It’s a place that very few people have set foot on.
- The rano kau crater is eroding and eventually much of the village will have to be relocated. See it while you can!
Brief history and chronology of Easter Island
Of all of the archaeological mysteries in the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island has generated the most literature thanks to the iconic ‘heads’. For most of us, ‘Easter Island’ is a name that we are familiar with but don’t know the full story about.
A trip to Easter Island will fill your head with the as complete of a picture as has been discovered so far but we wanted to prepare you with a brief chronological history of Easter Island. Note that all dates are approximate.
- 3 million – 100,000 years ago – The island was formed by 3 volcanic eruptions, resulting in its triangular shape.
- 700 AD – The intrepid Polynesians paddled over 2,000 miles from, most likely, French Polynesia, with the hope of starting a new outpost.
- 1000 to 1600 AD – Ancestor worship was strong ingrained in Polynesian culture but somehow, it became part of tradition to build platforms and carve ancestral representations in stone in order to look over the village and descendants. Over time, they became more proficient, and thus, larger and more intricate.
- 1722 onwards – The first European explorer arrived. Jacob Roggeveen from the backing of the Dutch West India Company, put eyes on the on Easter Sunday of 1722, and thus getting the name ‘Easter Island’. Several other ships came by including Captain James Cook.
- 1770 to 1838 – The moai were overthrown by humans with the two theories being, inter-tribal wars because of lack of resources or the islanders lost faith in the moai.
- 1862 to 1866 – This is when the Rapa Nui culture effectively came to an end. Peru abolished slavery in the 1850s but were in need of cheap labour. They started to round up Pacific islanders and Easter Island became an easy target. There was international outcry but only 15 were sent back to the island, and with smallpox, decimating the population. Only 111 people were left on the island in 1877.
- 1888 – Through the ‘Deed of Cession’, Chile was given full sovereignty over Easter Island for an indefinite amount of time.
- 1903 to 1953 – A Scottish/Chilean nitrate and sheep farming company, Williamson, Balfour & Co, acquired the island through a 25 year lease and literally set up ‘Easter Island Exploitation Company’, turning the entire island into a sheep ranch. This was further extended by another 20 years in 1936. At the same time, the local islanders were segregated to the capital of Hanga Roa.
- 1953 to now – This is the most recent segment of history. Turning the corner, islanders were allowed to elect their own mayor in 1965 to finally getting full Chilean citizenship in 1966. There’s been a slew of other changes including the island being a secret US spying station, Rapa Nui National Park declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the recent growth in tourism.
This is just a tease of how utterly fascination the stories are and what you’ll learn from your Green Island Tours guides during the 9 days on Easter Island.
Save Money with EcoChile
Looking for a packaged tour where you can be more hands off with planning and allows you to see all of the main sights? This 4 day Easter Island tour is an excellent option. This package includes accommodations, activities, airport transfers, entrance fees, and breakfast.
Save up to 5% – We’ve partnered with EcoChile to offer you 5% on all pre-packaged tours (not just Easter Island). You can also book a custom tour but the discount will vary. Simply put your inquiry through our form below!
What is the proper name of Easter Island?
While most people know the island as Easter Island, talk to any local, and they refer to their home as Rapa Nui.
According to the history books, Rapa Nui isn’t necessarily the original name of the island but it was the first recorded name dating back to 1863.
Of the survivors of the Peruvian round up, they referred to their home as being a larger version of the French Polynesia island of Rapa. As a result, they named it Rapa Nui which literally translates to ‘Big Rapa’.
In 1873, it was recorded that oral history has islanders calling it Te Pito O Te Henua which translates to ‘The Navel of the World’. It’s possible that this was the original name, especially given it’s geographical isolation.
The truth is, the concept of naming an entire island probably wasn’t introduced until the explorers showed up. It’s more likely that islanders simply named specific areas of the island such as a hill or bay. With no other island nearby, they simply called it Te Kainaga, translating to ‘The Land’.
In Spanish, the island is called Isla de Pascua so you’ll see that name used fas well.
How To Get To Easter Island
Getting to Easter Island seems like a tall order. The truth is, it’s more do-able than you think.
What’s important for you to know is that you can only get to Easter Island by flying with LATAM from Santiago, Chile. It’s that simple!
Looking for more details such as, whether you can use points to fly there, what their frequency is, the special check-in process, COVID entry rules, the flight experience, Easter Island travel restrictions and more, we’ve written a separate article on how to get to Easter Island that’s definitely worth reading next.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Easter Island?
There are 2 primary seasons for travel to Easter Island – summer and winter. That said, it makes more sense to look at dividing the best time to visit by how busy it gets.
Keep in mind that Easter Island is in the southern hemisphere so the seasons are flipped, but since it’s close to the equator, the changes aren’t the most dramatic.
As with travel to most places in the world, the best time of the year to go to Easter island is during the shoulder season (April to June and October to December).
High Season (January – March)
These months are the busiest because this is when the summer holidays are for those in the southern hemisphere, including all of South America.
This is the warmest time of the year but it doesn’t get insanely hot and evenings are very comfortable. The highs average at 28°C (82°F) and lows of 20°C (68°F).
Prices are typically the highest during this season and accommodations fill up quickly.
- Jan – New Year’s Day
Shoulder Season (April – June, October – December)
The shoulder season are the months between summer and winter. April to June is autumn into early winter and October to December is late spring into winter.
This is a great time to go to Easter Island because the crowds are kept at bay and the weather is quite moderate. Highs average around 24 °C (75.2°F) and lows of 18°C (64.4°F). This means that the climate is quite comfortable but you might need a jacket when the sun dips.
The flip side to good weather is that being spring, April to June has the most rain. As a result, it’s not quite beach weather every day but you can definitely get out to Anakena and Ovahe Beach. Just don’t expect it to be Greek Islands hot.
LATAM will also sometimes reduce their schedule starting with the shoulder season.
As a quieter part of the season, prices are sightly lower, especially the flights and accommodations.
- Apr – Easter Friday
- May – Labour Day
- May – Battle of Iquique Day
- May – Corpus Christi
- Jun – Saints Peter and Paul Day
- Oct – Columbus Day
- Nov – All Saints’ Day
- Dec – Conception Day
- Dec – Christmas Day
Low Season (July – September)
The least desirable time of the year to go is between the months of June and August.
In the winter, the swings in temperature aren’t massive and it doesn’t get cold in the traditional sense. The highs range from 21°C (69.8°F) and lows of 16°C (60.8°F).
It’s worth noting that July usually has the most days of rain in the year.
From a daylight perspective, winter has the shortest days but not by much. The shortest day is Winter Solstice in late June at less than 10.5 hours. By the end of September, this grows to 12 hours and 20 minutes.
With all of the above, you could say that it’s really not that bad. Winter isn’t overly cold but winds pick up that gives it a cooler feeling. This means that a good windbreaker and layers are needed.
Prices are definitely the lowest during this season but it’s possible that some businesses will close. The other thing to consider is that if you’re extending your trip to other parts of Chile, winter might not be an ideal time of the year to visit, especially Patagonia.
- Aug – Assumption Day
- Sep – Army Day
Special events to consider
In terms of festivals and events on Easter Island, there are two that are worth mentioning.
Tapati Rapa Nui Festival – First two weeks of February
During high season is the most important event of the year, the Tapati Festival which translates to ‘Rapa Nui Week’. This is a 2 week cultural festival that celebrates the traditions of the people of Rapa Nui and is one of the most important events in Polynesia.
For 15 days, the whole community competes in various artistic and sport activities to honor their ancestors, relive important traditions, and is meant to select the Queen of Tapati from the candidates presented by the different clans.
One of the main highlights is haka pei where challengers race down a hill with sleds made of tied-up banana tree trunks. The winner is the one that travels the furthest distance.
While it’s an amazing time to experience the best of Rapa Nui culture, keep in mind that it’s also one of most expensive, the capital balloons to 20,000 people, and traffic is a disaster.
Arts and Culture Week – End of April
This is a relatively new event that started in 2010 and is organized by the Tongariki Cultural Center. During this week, there’s a showcase of local products, handicraft workshops, musical performances, and other activities.
Easter Island Marathon – June or July
For those that are looking for a unique races in the world, the Easter Island Marathon starts in Hanga Roa, crosses the middle of the island to Anakena Beach and turns back.
Participants can choose to do the full marathon, half-marathon, or 10K and the event is capped at 180.
9 Day Easter Island Itinerary
This seems to be a lot of time but this ended up being the best way to see Easter Island. Get a day-by-day breakdown with this itinerary.
9 Days on Easter Island
What You Need To Know About Rapa Nui National Park
Covering 43% of Easter Island, Rapa Nui National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a protected area that is meant to preserve the Rapa Nui culture.
The park encompasses 71.3 sq km (28 sq mi), has 888 moai statues, 398 moai remaining at the quarry of Rano Raraku, 300 ceremonial platforms called ahu, more than 500 petroglyphs of Make-Make, remnants of the Birdman Cult, delicate ecosystems, and more.
Of the 888 moai statues (including a new moai discovered in 2023) on the island that have been discovered, 398 at the quarry of Rano Raraku, 288 were erected on ahu, and 92 left enroute.
Currently, Rapa Nui National Park is under the administrative control of the Ma´u Henua Polynesian Indigenous Community, gaining back control of their ancestral lands on December 1, 2017.
The intangible value of Rapa Nui National Park’s cultural heritage is enormous.
Rules for visitors
As a precious and delicate place, it’s incredibly important to respect the National Park rules. Not only are there potential fines, you want to do our best to make the least impact as possible so that visitors can enjoy and learn about the Rapa Nui culture for generations to come.
These are the main rules to follow:
- Don’t touch – You might be tempted but the cumulative impact of touching has long-term effects.
- Respect the perimeters and don’t walk on the platforms – At most sites, there are wooden signs that identify how close you can get to the platforms but at others where there aren’t any, you want to make sure you don’t step on the ancestral burial site.
- Stay on the path – The curated trails are designed to keep you at a distance so that visitors do the least damage to the archeological sites.
- Drones are not allowed – There are no exceptions.
- Smoking is not allowed – You’re not allowed to smoke within the limits of the National Park.
- No alcohol or when under the influence – This is another National park law that you must abide by.
- Don’t litter – Dispose your garbage in proper bins back in town and don’t leave anything in the park.
- Don’t remove any objects or structures – You’re not allowed to take any element, whether archeological or geological (sand, stone polished stone, obsidian, etc.).
- No pets – Sorry, your furry friends aren’t allowed!
The National Park guards/rangers take these rules seriously and there are hefty fines if you cause damage.
STORY: Stories of vandalism are rare but in 2008, a tourist removed part of an ear lobe from one of the moai at Anakena. This required him to climb onto the platform to get up there as well. He was caught and was fined $17,000 USD and was placed under 3 weeks house arrest.
Where to buy tickets for Rapa Nui National Park
One of the first things you’ll need to do when you visit Easter Island, is you need to get a Rapa Nui National Park ticket which is valid for 10 days from the day of purchase.
As a foreign visitor, the cost of the ticket is:
- Adults – $72,000 CLP (approximately $80 USD)
- Children (7-12) – $36,000 CLP (approximately $40 USD)
- Children (6 or younger) – Free
There are two ways you can purchase a Rapa Nui National Park ticket.
1 – Buy your ticket online
The easiest way to buy your tickets is to do it online ahead of time through the official Rapa Nui National Park page.
We did not go this route but we presume that you’ll get an e-mail with your ticket after purchase. When you need to show your ticket, you can simply pull it up on your phone.
Something we haven’t confirmed is whether you can drop by the support office to pick up a map. These aren’t maps that they freely hand out and even when we purchased our tickets in-person, they wouldn’t give us two.
TIP: When paying online, you’ll be asked to choose between ‘International and National Credit Card’, Webpay, and Khipu. A heads up that Webpay charges an extra fee if you’re using Mastercard or Visa. Khipu isn’t for non-Chileans.
ProsConsEven with the service, the tickets online are cheaper than in-person ($74,500 CLP vs. $76,000 CLP)$2,500 CLP service fee added per ticketYou can make your purchase at all hours.You have to know your dates ahead of time and they are fixed (although not a big deal because of the 10 day validity)You don’t get a paper map although it’s the same as ‘Visitors Guide’ on the ticket page.2 – Buy your ticket in person
We’ve noticed that they’re really making a concerted effort to not mention that you can purchase the tickets in town but rest assured, you can buy tickets at the Ma’u Henua customer support office.
The office is right in the center of Hanga Roa and easy to get to and has ample parking. The office is connected to the souvenir market, Feria Artesanal.
There is one main counter there and usually two attendants. To purchase your tickets, they’ll ask for your passport or a form of personal ID (driver’s license will do). They only take credit card and the machine will charge you in Chilean Pesos (CLP).
It’s worth noting that there used to be an office at the airport and you can still see signs for it right when you enter the terminal, but it’s permanently closed.
Hours: Monday to Friday 9AM – 5PM, Saturdays 1PM – 5PM, and Sundays 9AM – 1PM.
TIP: Don’t show up in the last 15 minutes of their hours. They start shutting down their systems ahead of time so don’t cut it too close.
ProsConsAfter you buy your ticket, you’ll be given a physical paper map which is nice to have.Tickets are more expensive when paying in-person.You’ll get an official ticket if you collect these as souvenirs.They don’t take cash.You can be more flexible about when you purchase tickets in case you want to play it by ear after you land (although you could easily do that online as well).You have to follow their office hours.How to visit Rapa Nui National Park
In the early days (pre-COVID), you were allowed to freely explore Rapa Nui National Park, which is why so many older travel guides recommend renting a car. They abolished this in August 2022 when the island re-opened to the world and that has drastically changed how you plan your visit.
As most of the island is part of the National Park and the archeological sites are scattered all over, there are no official gates or specific entry points.
Currently, you can only visit the Rapa Nui National Park in one of two ways:
- With an accredited guide – They have a full list of guides but we ultimately used Green Island Tours
- A Rapanui host of legal age (18+) – This is primarily for friends and family of those living on the island.
If you’re thinking outside the box, this means that any local can in theory can get you in. This could be taxi drivers, random locals, or the guards (called muto’i) themselves. More on travel tips later.
Which sites are actively managed
Example of a managed entrance booth
Ahu Tongariki managed entrance booth
Rapa Nui National Park sites are officially open Monday to Sunday from 9AM to 6PM.
The exceptions are the sites that are popular for sunrise and sunset.
- Tongariki – Monday to Sunday 7AM – 6PM
- Tahai – Monday to Sunday 9AM – 9PM
Officially, these are the 13 sites that National Park actively manages. You can visit all of these more than once with the exception of Orongo and Rano Raraku in order to protect the most fragile parts of the island:
- Orongo – You can only visit once
- Akahaŋa (Akahanga)
- Rano Raraku – You can only visit once
- Ahu Toŋariki (Tongariki)
- Te Pito Kura
- Haŋa Rau (Anakena) – You don’t need a ticket to visit
- Tahai – You don’t need a ticket to visit
- Vai a Mei
- Roiho – This leads to Ana Te Pahu
- Ahu Akivi – There’s also a guard booth for the road that you have to walk to get to Ana Te Pahu
- Puna Pau
The truth of how sites are managed
Unmanaged Papa Vaka
Rano Kau Crater hike unmanaged entrance gate
As much as they are managed in terms of having an attendant/guard booth with official entrance, here are a couple of notes about what the truths of what’s really happening on the ground:
- The hours aren’t reliable – It’s unfortunate but the stated hours aren’t the most reliable when it comes to the smaller sites (basically everywhere but Rano Raraku and Orongo). Even with our guides, we’d stop by somewhere and the gate would be locked and the booth unattended. This could be in the middle of the day or near the end when officially, it should close at 6PM. It was head scratching to say the least.
- There are unmanaged sites – Beyond the 13 sites above, there are several that don’t have any guards. There are also no guards for the hikes up to Poike or Terevaka, the trail along the north shore, and around the right side of Rano Kau crater.
- There are moai everywhere – There are moai statues scattered close to the edges of the island and sometimes even next to the road, and some are in private property. Since these aren’t managed, the ones that are accessible, you can walk close to. In speaking to locals, this is totally fine if you have your own car as long as you respect the moai and adhere to the same rules.
- Sometimes the guards just aren’t there – In some cases, you might roll up to a site and the booth is empty and the gate is left open as well.
- About Tahai – This is the famed sunset spot that was walking distance from our hotel, Takarua Lodge. While they don’t check for tickets here, there are guards there and particularly noticeable during sunset where they’ll whistle at people if you accidentally walk past the the designated perimeter or break any other rules.
- About Anakena – This is where you’ll find the iconic Ahu Nau-Nau and Anakena Beach. This is the other location that doesn’t check for National Park tickets but similar to Tahai, there are guards walking about so make sure you follow all of the rules.
Which sites are not managed
Example of an unmanaged site with this moai on the side of the roadSo what are the main sites within Rapa Nui National Park that aren’t actively managed where there are guards checking for tickets and enforcing the rules on require a guide?
This list is by no means complete because there are hundreds of archeological sites but more importantly, these are ones that you can easily visit with a car rental.
- Hanga Kio’e – To the north of Tahai is a lesser visited moai and two ahu.
- Pu’o Hiro – This is a small “stone trumpet” and ancient musical instrument that is on the side of the main road.
- Papa Vaka – There’s an unmanned turnstile off the side of the main road that’ll take you into a site with quite the significant petroglyphs of fish hooks, canoes, tuna, and other marine life.
- Ana Kai Tangata – South of the airport you’ll be able to take stairs down to a large sea cave with cave paintings of Manutara or the sooty tern (part of the cult of the Birdman). It’s not actively promoted because the cave ceiling is said to be unstable.
- Ana Te Pora – On the northwest coast is a refuge cave similar to Ana Te Pahu where you’ll find a structure of rocks that resembles a bed or grave.
- Ana Kakenga – This is the cave of the two windows, another lava tube except this one exits out into the ocean.
- Ahu One Makihi – Near Rano Raraku is a great example of an unrestored ahu with fallen moai.
- Ahu Huri A Urenga – Restored in 1976, you’ll find a single moai that has two pairs of hands. You’ll spot it driving on the main road but it’s hard to find the parking area. Use GPS coordinate 27° 09′ 15″ S 109° 24′ 04″ W.
- Ovahe Beach – From the parking lot, you can walk down to the twin beach which is quite popular for local Rapanui.
Which sites have restrooms?
There are only 3 restrooms in Rapa Nui National Park so plan your day accordingly:
- Orongo – There’s a new visitor center here and there are good facilities here.
- Rano Raraku – A bit of an older restroom area but totally serviceable
- Anakena – Being a public beach as well, this is the largest restroom area with plenty of stalls.
Those are a lot of names of sites and if you were like us, your head is spinning a bit because there’s no connection to which is which. If you keep reading, you’ll learn about the most important archeological sites, and ultimately the importance of using a tour guide.
Mystery of the Moai
Image via WikipediaThere was once a great civilization that developed here. As ‘Te Pito o te Henua’, the navel of the world, it was a thriving Polynesian culture that ballooned to possibly a population of 17,500.
One of the cornerstones of their beliefs was in carving large stone reincarnations of ancestors of each clan. The moai began as basic stone carvings and evolved to become massive ceremonial centers with platforms, full rows of statues, ramps for canoes, and funeral spaces.
In one hand, there’s an incredible amount of evidence that can explain how this process worked. From the quarry at Rano Raraku where the volcanic stone was carved out of the mountain, the quarry at Puna Pau where they carved out the red stone used for the top knots/hats, broken moai abandoned along the way, and all of the ones fallen or restored on the platforms.
On the other hand, there’s still many mysteries about how they managed to transport the 100+ tonnes of stone across the island, whether the red stone was used to represent a hat or a top knot, why they abruptly stopped making moai, the rise of The Birdman cult, and the civilization’s ultimate demise.
How you’ll learn about the moai
Image via Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA
The best way to learn about the history of Easter Island and the moai is through a local guide because it’s the visual connection of what you’re seeing, the stories that accompany it, and even in song.
This is why we’re in favour of seeing the island with a guide such as Green Island Tours, because there are so many hidden stories that you won’t get from exploring on your own.
Another great way to deepen your knowledge of Rapa Nui is at the MAPSE Museo Rapanui which has the Easter Island Museum (also known as the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum) open the public. This is the only museum on the island and has a very well-curated exhibit about its history.
It was so good that we ended up buying their companion book for $10,00 CLP.
Lastly, before you come to Easter Island, it will be worth watching the 1993 movie, Rapa Nui, which is available for streaming on Amazon. While not necessarily historically accurate, it will give you good cross-section of the Rapa Nui history with cherry-picked facts and theories about the moai and its people.
How To Get Around Easter Island?
Unlike car-friendly islands like on Paros in Greece, or around New Zealand where the answer is clear-cut, it isn’t as straightforward on Easter Island.
In the past, you used to be able to explore Rapa Nui National Park on your own but with the new changes where you can only visit with a guide, it changes the calculus of whether having a car is even worth it.
Since we’ve gone through the rules of what’s allowed in the National Park, there is some wiggle room and cases where having a rental car makes sense but it depends on how much time you have.
Here are the main ways that you can get around Easter Island:
- Book a tour – Use certified local guides to get you into the main sights in Rapa Nui National Park.
- Book a taxi – Taxis mostly do routes in the town of Hanga Roa but they also make good guides.
- Rent a car – Having your own car will give you the freedom to drive around the entire island but you’ll only be able to go to certain places on your own.
- Rent a bike – If you’re prefer to cycle, you can rent a bike from your accommodation or in town.
There are no buses on Easter Island.
How to rent a car on Easter Island
On most trips, you’d be looking at renting a car but this isn’t really the case with the new rules on the island. Still, some of you may still want to so how exactly do car rentals work on Easter Island?
We’ve written an extensive guide on rental cars for Easter Island that you won’t want to miss.
Taking the Taxi in Easter Island
I’m sad to report that Uber and Lyft don’t exist on Easter Island. Instead, there are cars that have yellow “TAXI TOUR” signs on the windshield.
These are as official as taxis get around here. Hail them as you normally would and they can take you anywhere in the island.
Locals also told us that any sedans on the road can potentially be taxis as well. If you flag them, and they stop, they might be willing to take you to where you need to go.
They don’t have traditional meters so you’ll have to negotiate a rate beforehand. Payment is by cash (ideally CLP but I’m sure they’d be willing to take USD if you ask) and a round-up or 10% tip is expected.
As an example fare, we took the taxi from Ohi Sushi at Aloha Food Truck to our hotel, Takarua Lodge, cost $5,000 CLP ($6.22 USD) and that is within Hanga Roa town limits.
If you’re looking to do longer trips, that fare can be negotiated. As an example, a ride from Hanga Roa to Anakena should cost $25-$30 USD round trip. In scenarios like these, you definitely want to schedule a return time because cell phone coverage is quite spotty outside of town and you don’t want to be stranded.
TIP: Taxis can also be guides. They might not speak English but you can negotiate a driver to take you around to all of the main sights. We spoke to another guest at our hotel and they were able to secure a driver for $150,000 CLP ($187 USD) for a full day, and $80,000 CLP (99.47 USD) for half a day.
Best Guide To Book on Easter Island
Photo with Marc, owner of Green Island Tours at the end of our North Coast hikeThis is the perfect segue to who you should book as your guide when visiting Easter Island. With the new rules on mandatory guides with Rapa Nui National Park, having a quality guide will make or break your experience.
As you delve into this research, you’ll realize that most of the tours are very similar. By nature, the tours are designed to be more compressed because most people don’t tend to stay on the island too long, or are passing through on cruise ships.
In addition to being mandatory, we felt that having English speaking guides enhanced our experience significantly. With a guide, you’re able to understand what you’re looking at instead of walking around in wonder but not really understanding its significance and “Easter eggs” (pun intended).
Our shortlist of the best tour companies in Easter Island are:
- Green Island Tours Easter Island – We eventually chose them because of their breadth of offerings, customizability, and how hands-on the owner is, whom I got to know from watching his Rapa Nui Life videos. Also ranked #1 on TripAdvisor. They’re also one of the few that offer photography tours.
- Kava Kava Tours – Similar tour offerings with the others, just with different names, such as Full Day Easter Island Highlights, The Birdcult, and Moai Monuments Tour.
- Easter Island Travel – They have some interesting offerings such as ancestral BBQ lunch and they have a 2-day highlights. That said, I was a bit confused with their website because it presents like a blog but they are actually a tour company.
- Easter Island Spirit – Author of A Companion to Easter Island, they are a high-priced operator but has the benefit of including lunch.
When choosing your guide, cost is a factor but you also want to make sure that the guides that they employ are experienced, could put together a custom private tour, are well-connected with the community, can tell the full story of Rapa Nui, and the very important skill of helping take photos.
We felt that Green Island Tours ticked off all of the boxes and that is why we ultimately went with them.
Promotion with Green Island Tours
It’s impossible to try every tour company but we can fully attest to the quality of tours by Green Island Tours. We spent a total of 3 days with them including Moai Monuments Tour, Historic Pathways Tour, Stargazing Experience, and North Coast Adventurer. Marc and Ludo were awesome guides.
Special offer – Use “Going Awesome Places” under “discount code” when you book your tour and get Marc’s photography book (sells for $35,000 CLP at the airport).
Top Things To Do on Easter Island
We’d be remiss to not include the highlights of archeological sites and top activities.
Instead of stretching out this guide to visiting Easter Island, we’ve actually written a separate article on the top things to do on Easter Island.
Is Easter Island Safe?
We did say that this is the most remote island in the world, right?
As a solo female traveler, here as a family or couple, or in a large group, Easter Island is incredibly safe.
Whether you’re traveling solo, as a family, as a couple, or in a large group, San Pedro de Atacama and the Atacama Desert will never feel unsafe. That said, you always want to be aware of your surroundings and travel smart.
Intuitively, as an island that is hard to get to, expensive to live in, is highly dependent on tourism, and is a place where everyone knows each other, crime is nearly non-existent. Where are you going to run, right?
That said, you can’t say that the island is crime-free. There is a prison next to the airport for a reason after all!
Regardless, common sense should always prevail when traveling so keep your valuables out of sight when you can, never leave your bags unattended, and leave your passports in the hotel if you don’t need it.
When it comes to your personal health, Easter island doesn’t have too many high risk areas but it’s worth covering the main topics.
Tap water comes from underground freshwater and is then treated in a plant. While it is completely safe to drink, even locals will tell you that it’ll taste funny.
Everyone reacts to this kind of water differently so the general recommendation is to stick to bottled water. In order to reduce the impact of plastics, we suggest buying large jugs of water and make use of re-useable bottles such as the Hydrapak SkyFlask.
Of course, you can totally use tap water to brush your teeth.
On Easter Island, the best place to buy water might be your hotel, eliminating the need to have to carry it all the way from town. Hanga Roa also has numerous markets that sell water. The cost of a 6L jug in town is $6,490 CLP or thereabouts.
TIP: Check the prices for water at your hotel. At Takarua Lodge, we discovered near the end of our trip that they were significantly cheaper than in town at $5,500 CLP for a 6L jug.
Other than the requirements entry Chile and the special requirements for Easter Island, there’s no need for any other special immunizations.
West Nile, Zika, Yellow Fever, and Malaria are not known issues here. There have been cases of Dengue but frequency of cases is decreasing.
Traveler’s diarrhea is always a possibility when traveling so you can look into getting Dukoral before your trip. That said, Easter Island isn’t known contaminated food.
It’s worth noting that there is only one hospital on the island but the good news is that it’s relatively new with the Chilean government’s injection of funding to modernize and support the island. However, when it comes to complicated operations, an evacuation is necessary to the mainland.
We highly recommend that you have the right travel insurance before you go to Easter Island
You’ll be glad to hear that altitude won’t be an issue when visiting Easter Island, unlike the Atacama desert, but being a volcanic island with cliffs, sharp rock, caves, and rough waters, you need to be careful.
You’ll be spending all of your time on Easter Island outdoors and the main thing as travelers is to be aware of your surroundings and to know your limits.
These are the main things to be aware of:
- Physical fitness – The trails and summits are defined as moderate difficulty but everyone has different levels of fitness. When it comes to activities overall, do the ones that you know you’re capable of doing and don’t push yourself over the limit.
- Watch for cliffs and edges – It’s easy to get distracted with taking photos or it might look like an edge is stable but it isn’t.
- Know where you’re going – You can explore on your own but in many parts of the island including the trails, things aren’t as well-marked as you think. Use apps such as AllTrails or Gaia GPS or the Apple Watch Ultra backtrack feature to ensure you can find your way back or have path to follow
- Volcanic rock is sharp – Whether you’re trying to squeeze through rock, using it as a hold, or walking over them, remember that it is the least forgiving type of rock and will cause cuts without remorse.
Don’t be fooled by Easter Island’s tropical status. It’s warm but is never really hot and it feels like it should be incredibly humid, but its often not.
- Temperature drops at night – Once the sun goes down, you’ll start feeling the chill. It’s always a good idea to have a windbreaker type of jacket or shell with you.
- It feels dry – It’s not as bad as the desert but you’ll notice that it isn’t as nourishingly moist as other tropical islands. We developed plenty of hang nails during our trip.
- It can get windy – On stormy days, it can get quite blustery on the island.
- Unpredictable weather – Weather systems can pass through quickly and sometimes with a vengeance. Check the forecast regularly and adjust your itinerary on the fly if you need to.
- UV – Easter Island is quite bare and thus there’s essentially no cover anywhere you go. Make sure you have a good hat like a Tilley, have breathable long sleeve like the Echo Hoodie, use plenty of 50SPF sunscreen, and stay hydrated with water.
There are mosquitoes on Easter Island but they are not a heavy presence.
The subtropical climate and higher humidity in the summer means that they can certainly thrive but at the same time, the island is relatively quite dry and lacks trees, so they are not very noticeable.
It’s worth noting that there was a dengue outbreak in 2002, most likely coming from Tahiti. Since then, there were a few blips in 2016 and 2018 but cases have been dwindling.
We suggest that if you are prone to mosquito bites to use mosquito repellent.
The primary animals you’ll encounter are the horses that roam free, stray dogs, and cattle and sheep from farms.
Stay dogs are primarily found in Hanga Roa but there are nowhere near as many as there are in San Pedro de Atacama.
Horses are also relatively harmless but it’s recommended that you leave them alone and avoid getting too close.
As we mentioned in our How To Get Around Easter Island section, the biggest danger is driving at night when horses, cattle, and sheep love to be on the road.
Is Easter Island safe to travel alone?
Yes, Easter Island is very safe for solo travelers.
In addition to the island itself being safe, Rapa Nui also has the benefit of weeding out (most) bad travellers as well because of it’s natural barriers to entry (distance, cost, travel requirements).
Whether you’re staying at one of the many hostels on Easter Island to split costs of tours, or staying on your own in a hotel, you’ll find the locals to be welcoming, and other travelers you meet to be friendly as well.
Anecdotally, we were scuba diving with two solo travelers, George and Juan, who had met on the plane ride to Easter Island. They ended up touring around the island together which seemed like a win all around.
Be safe just in case
Out of an abundance of caution, you should always be prepared for the worst whether it’s visiting Easter Island or anywhere else in the world. It’s not something you really want to think about but there are a couple of things that we always make sure we have in place for any trip.
- Pack a first aid kit – It’s always a good idea to have a mini first aid kit. If you’re prone to blisters, make sure to pack moleskin and other remedies.
- Hydration pack – Having a hydration bladder system as part of your backpack is super handy to make sure you have water accessible at all times.
- Stay connected – Let your friends and family know your itinerary and buy an Entel SIM to get access to cellular data when it’s available on the island. If you’re taking taxi as a guide, let the hotel know!
- Have travel insurance – With the amount of outdoor activities you’re doing, we highly encourage you to have insurance in case sh*t happens. A medical evacuation back home, trips to the hospital, and other health emergencies, you’ll want to make sure you’re protected.
If you’re in Canada, check RATESDOTCA to make sure you get the best rates. If you’re anywhere else in the world including the United States, World Nomads is a popular provider that we know many people use because they have excellent sports coverage.
Given that Easter Island is part of Chile, Spanish is the official language of the island. Secondarily, the local Rapanui speak their own Rapa Nui language, which is close in dialect to Tahitian and New Zealand Maori.
Outside of tour guides that offer their services in English such as Green Island Tours, knowledge of English will be quite minimal between restaurant servers, taxi drivers, and shop owners. Your life will definitely be a lot easier if you can speak Spanish.
When comparing to our experiences in Atacama and Patagonia, we definitely felt like we could get by a bit better with English on Easter Island. With a majority of people being part of the tourism industry, it feels like you’ll encounter more locals that have some knowledge of it.
TIP: Make sure to download Google Translate’s Spanish language pack for offline use before you go.
Food on Easter Island
The food on Easter Island is better than you think it will be and that’s largely thanks to the amazing seafood it has access to.
Food To Try on Easter Island
When we think about our top meals in our 9 day Easter Island itinerary, here were our most memorable dishes.
TIP: Stick to the seafood on Easter Island. We gave other meats a shot but we kept going back to seafood. They know how to cook their fish and usually cheaper as well!
There’ll always be the debate about whether Peruvians or Chileans invented ceviche but it doesn’t matter because it is so good here.
You’ll find ceviche practically on every single menu and it’s one of those things that you can rely on being delicious no matter where you go.
Each restaurant will have a slightly different spin on it and there’ll be several types available including the classic Leche de Tigre (Peruvian style), or a local chef’s special. The fish they use is the local selection they can get access to which ends up being either tuna or other type of white fish.
Simple, fresh, and delicious, pescado grillado or grilled fish is always a winner.
Traditional local fish that are grilled include Matahuira, Kana Kana, Mahi Mahi, Pici, and Sierra.
Every single one we had was grilled to perfection and well-balanced with vegetables and rice.
Like it was for us in Atacama, empanadas became our go-to takeaway food for lunch especially since it wasn’t included in our guided tours.
Marc from Green Island Tours introduced us to the over-the-top friendly Panaderia y Pasteleria Hitu and we just kept going back over and over again.
They’re constantly churning piping hot empanadas with flavors such as shrimp, chicken, octopus, and tuna to name a few.
The prices are quite reasonable and they’re a good place to pick up some coffee, pastries, and cookies to go.
Umu Rapa Nui
Also known as Easter Island curanto, this is when a meal is cooked in the ground with fiery hot stones and firewood, covered with plantain leaves, and then loaded with meat, chicken, and fish.
This is similar to umu all around the Pacific Island and the only places you can find this are Te Ra’ai, which is also the location of the traditional Rapa Nui dance performance, and Via Moana Hotel.
Fresh Fruit Juices
This seemed to be a trend throughout Chile but continued into our Easter Island leg of the trip.
When we weren’t ordering the local Mahina pale ale beer, we were choosing from one of the fresh fruits available for their juices.
Pescado A Lo Pobre
This is a very typical Chilean dish. The difference here is that instead of this being a beef, pork, or chicken, it’s beef instead!
There’s something very comforting about being able to have fresh fish that’s topped with a fried egg (done over-easy) and French fries.
Where To Eat on Easter Island
Over the course of our 9 days visit to Easter Island, we managed to try a lot of different restaurants in Hanga Roa. Not all of them were hits but the ones we felt were most memorable were these ones that you should definitely consider adding to your trip itinerary.
- Neptune’s Island – A charming oceanside restaurant where the portions were large, and everything was delicious including their grilled fish and seafood curry. This is one restaurant I’d recommend for special occasions because of their level of service, reasonable price-point, atmosphere, view, and food.
- Panaderia y Pasteleria Hitu – There are a lot of local empanada shops but we didn’t dare try anywhere else after tasting theirs. In addition to being a great place for takeaway lunch, we loved their friendly service despite not speaking much English. While you’re here, also try their cookies.
- Makona Restaurant – One of our favourite ceviche’s. Loved their seafood Pil Pil dishes as well.
- Ohehe Surf Cafe – Cozy surf shack vibes with epic proportion Pescado a lo Pobre where a bed of fries is topped with the perfectly grilled tuna steak, caramelized onions, and egg over-easy.
- La Taverne du Pecheur – Located beside the row of diving shops, we were surprised by the quality and presentation of their ceviche and fresh fish (Matahuira). That said, I have to deduct a few points for using plastic straws – something you’ll rarely see on the island.
- Dulce Mar – Would definitely recommend them for lunch. They have fresh fruit smoothies, sandwiches, fish, and tortilla bowls.
- Polynesian Coffee and Bar – For those looking for healthy options and are on a budget, this is an excellent lunch and dinner spot (yes, we went twice!). Their tuna croissant, açai bowl, fajitas, and Pil Pil were excellent.
- Te Moai Sunset – It certainly has a great view of Ahu Tahai. To guarantee the view on the second floor, it’s recommended to make reservations. We enjoyed the food but thought it was a little expensive.
- Te Moana – The fresh Pissi fish and ceviche here was outstanding, albeit on the pricier end.
Not all of the restaurants we visited were hits though. Here are a few that we wouldn’t recommend:
- Ohi Sushi at Aloha Food Truck – Rice was mushy and ultimately not up to our sushi standards from back home.
- Poco Poco – This might’ve been more because they told us they had no fish in stock that day but we thought the beef and pork dishes we had were pretty average. Again, stick to the fish!
It’s worth mentioning that having visited near the start of the re-opening after the pandemic, many restaurants were still closed but scheduled to re-open and some just completely closed.
- Hai Tonga RapaNui
- Hani Hani TunuAhi&Bar
- Berta Empanadas – Confirmed to be permanently closed.
The last thing to keep in mind is that it is quite challenging to get supplies onto the island. As a result, prices are naturally higher than on mainland Chile. While we were there, we heard that there was a recent Coca Cola shortage.
TIP: Many restaurants close on Sundays such as Te Moai Sunset. Also, Neptune’s Island is closed on Monday.
Connectivity on Easter Island
What the Entel prepaid SIM card looks likeThe internet is bad on Easter Island. When I say bad, it’s REALLY BAD.
Here’s a breakdown of ways you can connect to the internet while you’re here and well, just how slow it is.
This is pretty straightforward. Outside of the free wifi you’ll get from your hotel, don’t expect to find free wifi.
This means that you’ll be hard pressed to find free wifi at restaurants as well. The only exception is perhaps Te Moai Sunset.
From a speed perspective, it’s very slow. While I don’t have any actual numbers, I do know that I had attempted to run a speed test multiple times on my laptop and smartphone, but each time, it failed. That’s how slow it is.
Streaming any sort of video, whether Netflix or YouTube, will be impossible and any heavy-loaded websites will either fail loading or will take an extremely long time to load.
If you’re using social media apps like Instagram, videos would either fail or somehow miraculously push through. Posting photo-based Instagram stories and posts were do-able.
The reason why the connection is so slow is because there isn’t a physical line connecting Easter Island with mainland Chile. As a result, any internet connection on the island is ultimately via satellite.
TIP: Make sure you download as much as you can offline before coming to Easter Island. This includes books, movies, and TV shows on your favorite apps.
The other way you can access the internet is through cellular service. You can do this through:
- Local SIM card
- Roaming with a home SIM card
- Wifi hotspot device
Local SIM Card
There are 4 main providers in Chile that have prepaid SIM cards – Entel, Wom, Claro, and Movistar. Without a doubt though, Entel is the best one because they have much better rural coverage, including Easter Island.
What you’ll love about Entel is that specific music, social media, and message apps are unlimited and don’t use data. This includes Spotify, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Where can you buy an Entel SIM card? To buy a prepaid Entel SIM card, you can head to the Entel store on Easter Island, which is located next to Banco Estado. It’s $2,500 CLP for a SIM card that’s loaded with 1GB and 30 minutes and you’ll find these in most local pharmacies or convenient stores. You don’t need to go to an Entel store.
Is it easy to activate the Entel SIM card? It’s quite easy but since the SMS instructions come in Spanish and require you to complete steps in Spanish, you might need a local to help you out. Activation takes 2 minutes.
Is it easy to recharge the Entel SIM card? You can load more data to your plan by going to a pharmacy or convenient store. Another way to do it is through the Entel app. You first have to load money into your Entel account with a credit card. With that money, you’ll purchase a data and minutes plan ($8,000 CLP = 20GB, $5,000 CLP = 10GB).
TIP: Many of your credit cards have two-factor authentication enabled on international purchases where it’ll send you a text message with a code. This won’t work because your phone will be using the Entel SIM. There’s not much you can do about that but there’s bound to be a credit card that doesn’t do this so we recommend that you bring as many credit cards as you can on the trip.
How is Entel’s coverage on Easter Island? Entel’s coverage in Hanga Roa is quite good but becomes quite spotty once you leave. There isn’t a consistent map if coverage here so you’ll find that it comes in and out.
How fast is Entel’s internet speed? This is probably the better question. The speed is similar to the hotel wifi. It’s not consistent in that sometimes it’ll be faster than wifi and sometimes unusable. All I can say is that it’ll drive you crazy if you try to do anything serious on your phone.
NOTE: This only works if your phone is unlocked.
Advantage – The cheapest method and ensures you are connected to Entel.
Disadvantage – Buying a SIM card may not be as convenient and may require a local Chilean to help with activating and reloading.
Home SIM Card
If you don’t want to deal with buying an Entel SIM card and getting it set up, it might be easier to just roam with the SIM card from home.
We don’t recommend this because it’s really hard to say whether your home network will be able to roam onto Entel. If it can’t, you won’t get any connection and your phone will continue to hunt for a compatible carrier.
TIP: Make sure your plan has international roaming enabled. This is usually done from your carrier’s online portal or you can call in.
Advantage – Requires no additional work.
Disadvantage – Easily the most expensive method of connecting and ultimately may not work with Entel.
If you already own a wifi hotspot device, this may be a good option for you. These are pocket devices that you load up with data and can roam onto local 3G and 4G signal and converts them to wifi signal that you and your family/friends can connect to.
There are many companies that sell these devices and plans including Solis and PokeFi.
PokeFi is the most affordable where plans are $15 USD for 5GB. The device itself is $200 USD and ships from Hong Kong.
However, similar to roaming with your home SIM card, there’s a chance that your hotspot won’t latch onto Entel.
Advantage – You can share the connection with multiple people and it can work globally.
Disadvantage – Hotspot device needs to be charged and it is not as cheap as a local SIM. There’s also a risk that the device you have doesn’t connect to Entel.
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The newest method of connecting to cellular data while travelling is through eSIM technology. If your smartphone has this capability, you can definitely consider this option. In some cases, some phones only allow eSIM.
eSIMs aren’t physical cards but something that can be activated by software on your phone.
The biggest player in the eSIM market for travelers is Airalo. With them, you have the option to purchase an eSIM that can work globally or be specific for a country.
Here are their sample rates:
Notice how the prices vary quite a bit between the two. Depending on your trip and whether you’ll be hopping to different countries, you can choose what makes sense.
We ultimately don’t recommend this either because it’s hard to know whether the eSIM will connect with Entel.
Advantage – Relatively convenient solution that is completely digital and can be done from home. The prices are also reasonable.
Disadvantage – Airalo has limited validity days unless you purchase the larger packages. The prices are definitely higher than wifi hotspots and local SIMs. There’s also no way to tell whether it’ll work with Entel.
Let’s dive into the topic of money. It’s something that’s easy to overlook but this’ll help guide you through figuring out how much money you should change, other currencies to carry, how ATM withdrawals work, hidden fees, and more.
To start, the local currency in Chile is the Chilean Peso or CLP.
Banknotes come in the denomination of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 pesos. Coins come in 10, 50, 100, and 500 pesos.
Easter Island has two banks in Hanga Roa which makes things easy in case you don’t have all of your cash on hand. That said, it’s a good idea to have at least some CLP with you when land.
The VAT tax in Chile is 19% and is simply built-in.
When will you need to use credit card?
The good news is that you can use your credit card in most places when visiting Easter Island. There are a few exceptions though which we’ll cover next.
You’ll be able to use your credit card everywhere from restaurants, gas station, grocery store, pharmacy, some souvenir stores, tour operators, and some entrance fees.
On Easter Island, there are also a few things that is a good idea or mandatory to pay by credit card:
- Rapa Nui National Park Entrance – This is mandatory whether paying online or in-person.
- Hotel – Since your hotel bill will be quite large, it doesn’t make sense to pay by cash.. Unlike in Atacama, where you can save 19% tax by paying in USD, it doesn’t matter here. In fact, even if you book through Booking.com and it says you’ll be paying in USD, they’ll likely charge you in CLP.
- Guide – Many of the tour companies require you to pay in full when booking online. They take credit card or some even Paypal. The charges are typically in USD.
- Car rental – You need to provide a credit card as a guarantee. When you return the car, they’ll put the charge on that same card.
When will you need to spend cash?
To help with figuring out how much cash you should actually have with you, let’s look at where you’ll be spending cash. It’ll also be useful to know how much of that should be USD.
Here are instances where you’ll want to use cash:
- Tips – You’ll want small bills for airport transfer, guides, restaurants, and housekeeping (CLP or USD)
- Souvenirs – Everything from the souvenir market to the small business stands selling moai (CLP)
- Scuba diving – They only take cash (CLP)
The rest, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and gas station, are at your discretion. Depending on where you are on your trip, you may want to conserve your use of Chilean Pesos and shift to credit card use, or you want to spend as much as you can so you don’t have any left over.
Where can you get Chilean pesos?
There are 4 ways travellers can get Chilean pesos:
- Money changer in your home country
- Large bank in your home country that has an exchange office
- Withdraw from an ATM in Chile
- Money changer in Chile
Why change money at home? Depending on your itinerary, you may not have time to exchange money in Santiago or when you land on Easter Island. It’s nice to not have to stress about going to the ATM right away. We’ve also heard stories of ATMs on Easter Island running out of money. Use a local money changer in your home country or your bank. CLP is a bit of a specialized currency which means that you might need to put in a special order, so plan ahead.
Is it safe to withdraw from ATMs in Easter Island? Yes, it is safe. There aren’t any stories of cards being cloned on the island. This is a different story in Santiago where we heard from one traveller that their card got cloned after using an ATM in the Santiago Airport’s T2 (international) terminal.
Can you withdraw money at the bank counter? Yes you can but you’ll need to bring your passport. Rates will of course be worse here than in say, Santiago.
Which banks are available on Easter Island? Easter Island only has Santander and Banco Estado banks. Both of them are located nearly next to each other in Hanga Roa.
Do ATMs in Chile charge a fee?
While we were in Santiago, we experimented with most of the banks in Chile to figure out what their ATM withdrawal fees are for international debit cards. Since Easter Island only has two banks, we’ll only mention those ones. If you’re curious about the others, check our Atacama Travel Guide.
- Santander – $7,000 CLP ($200,000 CLP limit)
- Banco Estado – $5,500 CLP (no posted limit)
Keep in mind that your home bank might also charge an international withdrawal fee. It will show up as a “PLUS” transaction. In our case, this was $5 CAD.
Is it a good idea to use money changers in Chile? While you can, the rates that they offer are typically not favourable. That said, we did not notice any money exchange offices on the island but it’s possible we weren’t looking that hard.
What other currency should you carry?
The only other currency worth carrying when visiting Easter Island is the US Dollar. Some places may take the currency as an alternate form of payment but this is typically limited to tour operators.
What confuses a lot of travelers is that a lot of prices are listed in USD but this is done to make it easier to understand their prices. In reality, most businesses still charge in CLP.
You can also pay tips in USD but I’m pretty sure they would prefer CLP. It works in a pinch though.
Compared to other currencies, USD also has the better exchange rates compared to say CAD, GBP, or EUR.
Overall, it’s a good idea to have at least $200-$300 in USD for emergency use.
Credit card fees
Your life will be much easier if you are okay to use your credit card throughout Chile. This alleviates how much cash you have to bring.
Foreign Conversion Mark-Up
By using your international credit card, just remember that you’ll be charged an additional 2.5% on the currency conversion. It’s a hidden fee that’s embedded into the rate that’s used to convert to your home currency.
The exception of course are special credit cards that don’t have no foreign transaction fees (0% fx) such as the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card in Canada.
Point of Sales (POS) Credit Card Machine Fee
From Transbank (a majority of POS credit card machines), their machines added a new fee for international Mastercard and VISA starting February 1, 2021. On the receipt, this shows up as Recargo tarjeta extranjera.
According to Transbank these are the current surcharges but they are based off of a USD fee so it will change according to the exchange rate. This is supposed to be adjusted annually.
Purchase AmountSurcharge in CLP$0 – $1 USD$0 CLP>$1 – $20 USD$347 CLP>$20 – $80 USD$1,227 CLP>$80 USD$2,677 CLPOur recommendation: This feels counterintuitive to say but American Express is the way to go in Chile. Avoid using VISA and MasterCard.
Carrying over what we learned in Patagonia and Atacama, tipping is said to be not essential, but at the end of the day, is common practice.
These are the standard tips for Chilean tourism services:
- Guides – $10 – $15 USD per person, per day, given directly to your guides
- Restaurant Staff – 10% of your restaurant bill
- Housekeeping – $5 USD per room, per night
- Drivers – $5 USD per person per day, given directly to your drivers
Of course, adjust your tipping based on actual service received.
Tipping in restaurants
Something quite unique to Chile is that restaurants automatically add a 10% tip but instead of sneakily leaving it there, they’ll usually ask whether it’s okay or not. You have the option of saying yes or no.
On the bill, it’s labelled as propina (Spanish for tips).
Personally, I found 10% to be quite reasonable and appreciated the fact that we had the choice instead of some countries where they slip it in without you knowing and you end up paying double the tip.
How To Save Money on Easter Island?
Calama’s El Loa AirportWhen visiting Easter Island, you know you’re in for an expensive trip but there are definitely ways to save so it softens the blow on your wallet, even if it’s just a little bit.
Here are a few obvious, and not-so-obvious tips we wanted to share from our experience.
- Pack snacks from home – Especially on tours where lunch isn’t included or even free days, save money on lunch by munching on granola bars, energy gels, and other snacks. You can pack them from home or in Santiago if you have a layover.
- Buy food from the grocery store – Restaurants are expensive and it can add up. You can easily buy food from the grocery store and make it at your accommodations if you have access to a kitchen.
- Book flights from the Chilean website – If you’ve read our guide for how to get to Easter Island, you’ll know that there are significant savings when you purchase your flight to Easter Island from https://www.latamairlines.com/cl/es. We’ve confirmed that you can use International credit cards on the site so you don’t need to do the complicated process of calling in afterwards.
- Save on credit card foreign transaction fees – Use a credit card that doesn’t apply a 2.5% rate mark up on the exchange rate.
- Don’t use MasterCard or VISA – Transbank in Chile clearly has beef with them so make sure you have an American Express or other branded card for your credit card spend.
- Choose CLP when using your credit card – For machines that give you the option, always choose CLP because your home bank will usually have a better conversion rate.
- Drive manual transmission – If you know how to drive manual, you’ll find cheaper car rental rates.
- Check Viator and GetYourGuide – Before booking any guides or activities, check Viator and GetYourGuide platforms because we noticed that those prices are sometimes lower.
- Booking’s Genius Tier works – You can find properties on Easter Island that participate in the Genius program and offer 10%-17% off. This is why we booked Takarua Lodge on Booking instead of direct, because it came out to be cheaper! Cancellation is also super easy and you don’t need to send that awkward “sorry” e-mail that you would if you booked directly.
- Alternative for guides – If you’re on a budget and looking to bypass official guides, you can 1) book a taxi as a guide. They likely won’t know any English but you can book them for a full day or more, and 2) Pay the guard to be your guide (we heard $10,000 CLP per person at each site).
- Look for cheaper souvenir moai – Yes, they’re mass produced and probably not made from actual stone, but if you’re looking for an iconic Easter Island souvenir, keep an eye out for the roaming vendors.
THINKING ABOUT PATAGONIA AS WELL?
If you like all of the details in this Atacama travel guide, make sure to jump over to our Patagonia travel guide that focuses on Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.
Torres del Paine Travel Guide
What Souvenirs to Buy on Easter Island
If you’re looking to buy something for friends and family back home, or as a your own travel keepsake, there aren’t a lot of crafts that stand out, especially if you’ve already been to other markets in say, Santiago, or San Pedro de Atacama.
Skipping over most of the made-in-China type of generic souvenirs, there are only a few things that will stand out on your visit to Easter Island.
- Stone-carved moai – This is the obvious selection. There are miniature moai at every single shop and stall. The key differentiator is size, quality, and the stone used. The cheaper ones are low quality rock while the expensive ones use actual volcanic rock, similar to the ones found at the Rano Raraku quarry. All of them come with a red top knot. The cheapest price for a medium-sized moai we found was $5,000 CLP for 2 or 3 small-sized moai for $5,000 CLP.
- Wooden moai – Instead of stone, these are wood-carved moai. In comparison, these are more expensive than their stone counterparts.
- Necklaces and head pieces – Similar to the ones worn by the Rapa Nui dancers, you can also buy them at the markets.
- Guide book – You’ll find that there is just so much information to absorb about Rapa Nui that it might actually make sense to buy a book while you’re there. This is more for you so you can read more about the sites that you’ll be visiting. We ended up buying A Companion to Easter Island from our hotel reception.
Of course, if you collect things from your travels such as postcards, magnets, and patches, you’ll be able to find them as well.
Where to shop for souvenirs?
Inside Feria Artesanal
Stalls inside Mercado Artesanal
If you’re looking for one of the popular souvenirs on Easter Island, you’re better off focusing on these locations
- Feria Artesanal – This is next to the National Park ticket office. It has quite a few vendors and pleasant to walk through because it’s a newer building.
- Mercado Artesanal – They are much large when compared to the other one and have more vendors. This is farther but still walkable. The extra distance means that it’s less busy as well, although don’t expect much of a price difference.
- Randomly at sites or on the main street – This is the hardest to pinpoint because these are basically traveling vendors that focus on extremely cheap moai. We saw different ones set at the entrance Tongariki and Tahai. We also walked past one on the main street of Atama Tekena.
There are also souvenir stores in some of the permanent stores in Hanga Roa but the above markets always had better selection.
What To Pack For A Trip To Easter Island
Stargazing tour at AnakenaNot sure what you need to pack for your trip to Easter Island? As a continuation of our trip that started in Patagonia and Atacama, you’ll find everything I packed in the Patagonia packing list but we’ll highlight a few things that are Easter Island specific.
- Windbreaker jacket – A waterproof shell is handy to have because the island does get rain.
- Pack layers – Temperatures can vary from day to day and from daytime to night time. It’s handy to have a thin fleece like the Arc’teryx Kyanite Lightweight Hoody in case it gets chilly.
- Hooded long sleeve sun shirts – The sun is pretty strong and there isn’t a lot of cover on Easter Island. The long sleeve and breathable Echo Hoodie is excellent.
- A good hat – If you want good coverage, the Tilley Airflo LTM6 is great but for something low profile, we like the Arc’teryx Calvus Cap.
- Shorts and Swim suit – You won’t really need this for Atacama and Patagonia (unless you’re doing hot springs) so remember to pack these for these for the beach and scuba diving.
- Lip balm – The worst feeling when travelling is having dry lips and not having lip balm.
- Nail clippers – Hang nails are going to happen so you’ll want to have this handy.
- Eye drops – Your eyes will get dry.
- Re-useable water bottles – Reduce your use of plastic bottles by refilling your own water bottle.
- Good hiking shoes – You’ll likely have these already but just a reminder that Easter Island is far from being a beach vacation. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and hiking so have a good pair of Keens on top of your flip flops or sandals.
- USB Key / SD Card – If you plan on going diving and take advantage of the photography package, you’ll need to give them one of these so they can transfer the photos to you. Remember, the internet speed is really bad here.
Where To Stay On Easter Island
Hoteles Pueblo de TierraFinding a good place to stay on Easter Island is an important part of trip planning but with the exception of one big name, there aren’t any recognizable hotels on the island.
In fact, there really aren’t any hotels or resorts on the island. With the decision to not let much outside investment into Easter Island, it’s prevented big resorts from demolishing big pieces of land, and this is a good thing. Instead, what you’ll find here are mostly locally-owned and small-scale lodges that have that cozy B&B feel.
In fact, hotel is not a word often used to describe these accommodations. Most of them on the island are called cabañas which are very similar to a pension in French Polynesia.
When making your decision for where to stay on Easter Island, here are a few questions you’ll want to think about.
- How far out of central Hanga Roa are you willing to be? More specifically, how much walking are you okay doing every day?
- Do you want to be close to the main streets or would you rather be in a quieter part of Hanga Roa?
- Is it important for you to have breakfast included with your stay?
- What style of accommodation are you looking for? Something closer to a full-service hotel, a unit rental, or hostel?
- Is there free cancellation and do you need to pre-pay?
- Do they offer free airport shuttle service?
- Does the hotel have Starlink wifi?
While it should be easy to trust that Easter Island properties on Booking.com, Expedia, or Hotels.com are on the official list of approved hotels, it’s still worth checking the second step of the Single Entry Form . That is why I’d be weary of VRBO unless you can verify that they are on the list.
Hotels and Lodges
Luxury: Explora en Rapa Nui
When we said earlier that there hasn’t been outside investment, this one is the exception. The owner of the land was allowed to lease to a private company
Explora is a luxury all-inclusive resort that puts an emphasis on conservation and sustainable travel. They are deeply ingrained in South America with properties in Atacama, Patagonia, Machu Picchu, and El Chaltén.
In addition to all meals being included, you have your choice of activities that they call “explorations” that have a mix of hiking, biking, snorkeling, diving, and cultural tours.
High-end: Takarua Lodge
This is how close Takarua Lodge is to TahaiReception is through those doors and to the leftEach unit has their own wifi extenderThis was truly a treat of a hotel to stay at and while we didn’t know it a the time of the booking because we didn’t have a good grasp of the where things were located but we absolutely loved being close to Tahai.
Sure, it’s a 20 minute walk into the center of town, but every morning we could step outside of our room and see moai and at sunset, it was easy to run to our room to grab camera gear and back out as if Tahai was in our backyard. I mean, it kind of is!
Takarua Lodge only has 7 units and it’s a simple construction that’s simple, elegant, and modern that’s fitting with the island’s vibe. Each is designed like the wooden bungalows of Tahiti especially with its pointed high ceiling and open square space divided between the bedroom and bathroom. The walls look like sheathing but it works.
Inside the room is a small square table with chairs and this is where you’ll eat or where you’ll work from if you have a laptop. On the other corner of the room is a small wooden organizer with a mini fridge below and LCD TV above it.
Behind the wall is the bathroom and closet area. On one side is a room with the toilet and another with the shower. There’s a single vanity and tons of counter space for the sink that’s in the middle. The shower has good pressure and consistent hot water.
Lastly, the closet area has several open shelves with more than enough organizing space to lay out what you have. There are also hangers for your clothes and a mini safe.
One of the advantages of staying here is the inclusion of breakfast. Each evening, you can either let them or write on the whiteboard, what time you’d like to have breakfast. Breakfast is delivered straight to the room and comes with a healthy mix of fruit, bread, yogurt/cereal, a rotating dish (i.e omelette, Chilean deli/cheese), cake, juice, coffee, and tea.
They also offer complimentary shuttle service from the airport. They contract this out to a local driver and upon arrival, you’ll be given a lei and on the way back to the airport, you’ll get a souvenir wooden moai necklace.
The check-in process is quite easy. You’ll be given a welcome drink and like other hotels in Chile, they’ll make copies of your passport and PDI document when you entered the country.
Lastly, if you’re renting a car, there’s a patch of grass by the Takarua Lodge sign and the sliding gate that can be used. Right in front is the Tahai public parking lot.
Mid-range: Inaki Uh Hotel
A property that was a top contender for us as its prices were a bit lower and was recently renovated.
The key to this property is that it’s located right in the heart of Hanga Roa, making it ultra convenient and a short walk to all of the shops, restaurants, and services in town.
Their rooms are modernly furnished and decorated that is reminiscent of a Hawaiian holiday rental. Inside, you’ll find a TV, mini-fridge, and mini safe.
Shared between the units is a common area under a gazebo, kitchen and water dispenser.
All guests also get free breakfast each morning with your choice of 3 menu items.
From reviews, it’s noted that they use Starlink wifi so internet speeds should be much faster than our experience.
Affordable: Cabañas Christophe
This was the initial lodge that we booked on Easter Island. It has glowing reviews, is tidy and spacious, and very affordable. There’s very much a cabin feel to this place.
Cabañas Christophe is a typical Rapa Nui bungalow right at the slopes of Rano Kau. There are multiple private rooms here that are equipped with an LCD TV and fridge. They also have a shared fully-equipped kitchen and dining area.
While they don’t cook breakfast for you, the kitchen is stocked with breakfast supplies.
The only thing you have to keep in mind is that it’s located on the outer fringes of Hanga Roa. In fact, it’s right across from Ana Kai Tangata which is south of the airport and then some.
We highly recommend that you rent bikes from them or have a car rental if staying here. We walked all the way out here one day, and in our opinion, it’s a bit too far on foot.
A bonus is that they have their own car rentals. Before we cancelled our booking, they let us know that they charge $50,000 CLP for a Suzuki Nómade.
There 4 hostels that we’d recommend on Easter Island that have a sufficient number and mostly positive reviews are:
- La Casa del Kori – Highest rated score.
- Hostal Vieroto – Most number of reviews. We met a family that stayed here and they said it was a great hostel.
- Hostal Aorangi – Well reviewed and has a Genius discount.
- Chez Hiva Hostal – They’re called a hostel but honestly is more of a lodge and extremely affordable.
Each one of the above are on the approved list of properties on the island.
Most properties (including hostels) offer free airport transfers but be sure to double check when you book.
If airport pick-ups aren’t included, there are services like this private arrival transfer that costs $40 USD.
While the town and most hotels aren’t far from the airport, there’s still a considerable amount of walking you’d have to do so it’s best to stick to transportation options.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ATACAMA
Complete the Chilean triangle by visiting Easter Island and then combining it with Patagonia and the Atacama Desert. If you liked the amount of detail in this guide, you’ll love our Atacama travel guide.
Atacama Travel Guide
How Much Time To Visit Easter Island?
Rano Kau Crater from OrongoWe cover the topic of how many days you need on Easter Island in our article on how to get to Easter Island because especially when flights aren’t running daily, you’re at the whim of the schedule.
Expanding on our previous thoughts, let’s look at this question from a different perspective.
Tight on time and want to cram everything in
Perhaps you’ve got a small budget and really want to visit or you don’t have the time to carve out that many days for Easter Island.
A better question is maybe “what is the minimum number of days you need to visit Easter island?”. In which case, we’d say 1 day and two half days (total 3 days) is the absolute minimum.
The tour operators have adapter their tours to account for this type of traveler and as a result, many offer products that do exactly this. Being a small island, there’s a lot of things you can cram in.
The amazing thing is that you’ll pretty much see all of the main Easter Island sights but the tradeoff is that it’ll be a whirlwind, it’s a quick pace, and you won’t have time to really let it all sink in. Before you know it, you’re off again.
You want to do Easter Island justice
Now let’s say you have a bit of time to work with and want to see everything without feeling rushed.
For most people, we think that 4 days and two half days (total 5 days) is a great choice.
With 2 days already taken up by the standard tours (Green Island Tours calls them Moai Monuments and Historic Pathways tours), this gives 2 choose-your-own-adventure days. Depending on what your interests are, you can get active and do a hike or go scuba diving, see the spectacular sunrise at Tongariki and not be absolutely exhausted, perhaps you want to add stargazing, or maybe have a chill day.
You want to take it slow and see Easter Island thoroughly
Our 9 day Easter Island itinerary certainly falls in this category. To be honest, the flight options forced us this direction at the time, but in retrospect, it worked out really well.
Travelers that are a fan of slow travel will enjoy spending 7 days and two half days (total 9 days) or more.
On top of the advantage of being able be thoroughly immersed in all things Easter Island, the extra time had these benefits:
- If something unforeseen happens, you can more easily shuffle things around.
- It’ll make more sense to rent a car and drive around yourself.
- You’ll have the time to go off the beaten path. Very few people get to hike the north coast, summit Terevaka, or explore the Poike Peninsula.
How Much Does A Trip To Easter Island Cost?
This is probably the big elephant in the room. How much does a trip to Easter Island cost?
Easter Island is ultimately a relatively expensive destination. Considering how remote it is and they have to bring all of their supplies in by plane or by large cargo ships from Chile, it shouldn’t be a surprise. In addition, the new National Park rules and inflation have made a big impact so it’s definitely not as cheap as some other guides make it seem.
How much a bucket list trip like this comes down to several variables and what end of the range you’re in.
- Flights – Do you book early and use the Chilean website trick or do you pay the steep last minute prices?
- Tours – This is expensive but worth it. Of course, you could find ways to hack (see our money saving tips).
- Accommodations – Hostels can be $50 USD/night. Middle of the pack is roughly $150-$200 USD/night. Not unreasonable but you’re also not getting a fancy resort either.
- Food – The food isn’t cheap but we thoroughly enjoyed all of our meals. On average, dinners will be $25-$30 USD per person but you can also find nice price points at the local empanada bakery and a restaurant like Polynesia Coffee & Bar where it’s just $10-$20 USD per person.
- Activities – Factor in costs for things like diving, boat trips, and Rapa Nui dance shows.
- Car rental – With how Easter Island is set up, this is more of a nice-to-have. Expect to spend $60/day for this including gasoline.
Hypothetical Easter Island trip expenses
In the previous section for how much time to visit Easter Island, we shared 3 likely scenarios for those wanting to plan a trip to Rapa Nui. Using these, we’ll give you an idea of what a trip to Easter Island will cost.
For all of these suggestions, we’ll be choosing a mid-range hotel where the expectation is that you’ll be eating out for dinner and having simpler meals for lunch. Flight prices will also be averaged out. All of these costs are in USD and for two people.
ExpenseCost (for two)Flight$1850Accommodation$333Guide$850Food$120National Park Ticket$160Tips$30Souvenirs$10TOTAL$3,353 USD4 night stay
ExpenseCost (for two)Flight$1850Accommodation$666Guide$1000Activities$100Food$240National Park Ticket$160Tips$60Souvenirs$10TOTAL$4,086 USD8 night stay
ExpenseCost (for two)Flight$1850Accommodation$1333Guide$1350Car Rental$250Activities$160Food$680National Park Ticket$160Tips$100Souvenirs$20TOTAL$5,903 USDReal Easter Island trip expenses
Instead of speaking in hypotheticals, it makes the most sense to share our practical expenses.
In our itinerary for Easter Island, we break down all of our real costs but here, we’ll show you the expenses at a category level.
From the above chart, you can see that a majority of your expenses will be in flights, your guide, and accommodations.
In total, our trip was $5,385.68 USD which for 9 nights is much cheaper that our example estimate tables. There are definitely ways to find efficiencies especially in meals, cheaper flights, accommodations.
In the end, we ended up paying roughly $2,700 USD per person over 9 days.
At $300 USD per day, that’s not on the low end but it’s also not astronomical. For comparison Atacama was $240 USD per day and Patagonia was $760 USD per day.
Is Easter Island Worth Visiting?
Easter Island is absolutely bucket list worthy and lives up to everything we imagined the trip would be.
Why a trip to Easter Island will blow you away:
- You’ll be able to slowly peel away the onion around the mystery of the moai.
- There is such a diverse display of artefacts that it’ll feel like you’re on an archeological expedition.
- The Rapanui story is one that you’ll contemplate, create theories for, and force you to think about the effects of climate change and resource mismanagement.
- There are way more moai sculptures around the island than you think.
- There’s a pure and rawness to traveling to Easter Island that are harder to find in places like Thailand and Iceland as an example.
What a visit to Easter Island isn’t:
- This isn’t your typical tropical getaway where you get pampered and you stay at your resort.
- The snorkelling and scuba diving aren’t particularly memorable.
- Going beyond the moai, you won’t find a large diversity of activities.
- Don’t get us wrong, we recommend that you stretch out your trip and try to spend at least a week here, but it’s not necessarily a place where you can say you’ll want to stay here forever. Eventually , you’ll get to the point where you’ll feel like you’ve seen enough moai.
- It sure isn’t cheap. When you add it up, it’ll make a bit of a dent in your wallet. Not to say that you can’t find ways to save money, it just isn’t necessarily a place you would go if you’re looking to travel on a shoestring.
In our opinion, Easter Island ranks as one of our best trips around the world and that includes the likes of safari in South Africa, road tripping in Iceland, hiking the Inca Trail, Maldives, and of course Patagonia.
If you’re building a trip to Chile, it would be a shame to not include Easter Island itinerary. You have to go through Santiago to get there and it may be your only chance to make it happen.
Easter Island Travel Tips
We learned a lot from our visit to Easter Island. Like every trip, you discover a lot along the way that can trip you up or cause you to scratch your head. It’s part of the process but whatever I can do to make
- When in doubt, WhatsApp – We’re used to relying on e-mail as an official form of communication but that’s not the case here. If you’re able to find a business’s phone number, check to see if they are on WhatsApp and reach out to them there.
- Communication is slow – This is very much a Chilean way but when you add to the fact that they have terrible internet speeds, it’s no wonder you never hear back or their websites don’t work.
- Keep track of the day of the week – Not everything is open everyday. For instance the Kari Kari show is currently only Wednesday and Friday, Mike Rapu is closed on Sunday, and the Easter Island Museum is closed on Monday.
- Have your cash sorted before you come – The worst is stressing about running out of cash. Trust me, converting your CLP at home will make things easier.
- Internet is extremely slow – Come to Easter Island expecting to have a slow connection (i.e. tell your workplace) and enjoy disconnecting. Remember to also download your TV shows and movies for offline viewing before you leave Santiago.
- Entel SIM – For those that are going with the local SIM option, we also recommend that you get that sorted in Santiago ideally so you don’t
- Buy your National Park ticket online – Having bought the tickets in person, we realized that it’s cheaper to buy them online. With 10 days to work with, there’s almost no reason why you shouldn’t. Do it when you land in Santiago or the day before you leave home if you’re worried about things changing.
- Plan buffer days – You never know when bad weather might hit or something unforeseen might happen. With the 9 days we had to work with (7 full days), we were lucky to have to room to shuffle things around when we had a bad day of rain. We were also there during the Rano Raraku fire of 2022 and they closed for a few days. Easter Island is definitely worth staying a week or more.
- Setting the time on your phone – You’d think your phones would pick up on Easter Island’s timezone automatically but for some reason it doesn’t. Make sure to do this manually or else you might inadvertently still be on Santiago time.
Tips For Photography on Easter Island
Photography and timelapse set up in TahaiThe opportunities for incredible photography are through the roof on Easter Island. The raw landscape, rugged coastline, and of course, the moai are endlessly photogenic from all angles.
Whether you’re new to photography or a pro, we’ve compiled some learnings and tips that we think will help set you up for success.
What photographers should know about Easter Island
- Having a guide that understands photography is helpful – One of the reasons why we booked with Green Island Tours is because Marc is a photographer himself. This is important because they understand the importance of light, the extra time and care that’s required for good photos, and is someone that can handle the camera.
- Photography tours – Again, Green Island Tours also has photography tours that are all about capturing the best photos. This is perfect for those that really want the best photos of Easter Island.
- Entering Tongariki at sunrise – According to the newest rules on guides, you need to pay someone to basically take you in. We were lucky to be let in by a hostel’s guide who actually offered to let us in. This means that you should be able to do this too. Ask another guide bringing guests in and I’m sure they’ll help you out.
- Sunrise composition at Tongariki – itself has a lot of space to work with but most people will stand smack in the front middle which can really ruin your shot. Using a tripod is recommended for low ISO but be prepared to run around.
- Sunrise location at Tongariki – Most people are looking for that perfect sun flare between the moai. Most of those classic shots are in the summer where the sun comes up right behind. In the winter and shoulder seasons, the sun comes up at more of an angle. It’ll be worth using an app like PhotoPills to check this ahead of time or ask your guide.
- Timelapses at Tongariki – You’ll want to plant your tripod somewhere close up, or far back. You won’t have any control of people walking in and out of your shot so think about this ahead of time.
- Middle of the day is incredibly harsh – There’s no cover at any of the main archeological sites so at mid-day, the sun blasting and is often in your shot. If you’re doing a private tour and you want to capture a location at the best light, make sure you let them know ahead of time so they can move things around.
- Sunset at Tahai – This is a popular location because of how close it is to town, making it convenient for you to grab dinner before or after. When you’re done, you can easily walk back to your hotel. In addition, you don’t need a guide to enter and there’s plenty of space to move around to get all the angles you want.
- Tripods are allowed – There aren’t any restrictions for tripods anywhere on the island so no worries here.
- About drones – This is an absolute no-no and extremely difficult to get permits for. Just don’t bother.
- Astrophotography – The moai make great foreground elements for astrophotography
- Special access at night – Green Island Tours might be the only ones with the ability to get into National Park sites after dark.
- Off-the-beaten-path spots – Ahu Tahai comes to mind as somewhere that everyone goes to but if you do a bit of walking, shooting sunset at Hanga Piko (south of town) or Hanga Kie’o (north of Tahai), you’ll be able to capture sunset without anyone around you.
- Telephoto lenses won’t get a lot of use – While I had my OM System 150-400mm f/4.5 lens with me, it basically saw no use because there aren’t that many birds and other wildlife on the island. For Easter Island, I think a compact telephoto like the OM System 40-150 f/4 is the most reach that you’ll need which will come in handy at Tongariki. There’s an amazing shot where you can be composed in front of the giant moai with a unique compressed perspective.
- Bracket your shots – It’s almost a best practice of mine to take bracketed shots of 5 frames across 2.0EV. When you do this, this gives you the option to process these for HDR using whatever combination of frames. This is super helpful for tricky lighting situations where the sky is too bright and the moai aren’t well lit. The only exception are shots that I take for more documentary purposes.
- Wide angle and multi-purpose lens will get the most use – Paired with the OM-1 body, the 7-14mm f/2.8 and 12-40mm f/2.8 got the most use on Easter Island because it’s mostly landscapes you’re shooting.
- Ask for the corny photos – What I loved about Marc at Green Island Tours is that he knew all of the touristy photos. I wasn’t that into it at first but they were the cutest photos with my wife either jumping, pushing the moai upright, or being in line with the moai on the platform. Normally they’re super cringy but in this case, I really liked how they turned out.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to visit Easter Island? The best time to go to Easter Island is during the shoulder season months of April to June and October to December. This is when prices are low, weather is fair, and there are very few crowds. What is the recommended number of days on Easter Island? it’s recommended to spend at least 5 days and 4 nights when visiting Easter Island. How big is Easter Island? Easter Island is in the shape of a triangle, being made out of 3 volcanos that combined to create 173km2 (66.8 mi2) Is Easter Island safe? It is incredibly safe to visit Easter Island. Is Easter Island prone to tsunamis? Easter Island is in an area that can get tsunamis but the last one to hit was in 1960 so the chances are low. There are no specific seasons for tsunamis. Can you visit inside the crater of Rano Raraku? You used to be able to get up to see a better view of the moai on the interior of the crater but that’s not possible anymore. It is also not possible to hike the side or upper reaches of the crater. Does Easter Island have Uber or Lyft? No, there are no taxi-hailing apps available on Easter Island. How many moai are on Easter Island? There are a total of 888 moai that have been registered and this includes the ones that are outside of Easter Island. Where is the newest moai discovered in 2023 and can you visit it? The newest moai was discovered inside the Raro Raraku crater but it was left in its current state and you cannot visit inside the crater. Is there a post office on Easter Island? Yes, there is one post office on the island called CorreosChile. They sell stamps and you can drop off your postcards in the mailbox outside. Their hours are 8:30AM – 12:30PM and 2PM – 5:30PM on weekdays. They are closed on weekends. What are the bank hours on Easter Island? Both Santander and Banco Estado are only open Monday to Friday 8AM – 1PM. The ATMs are open 24/7.
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