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.There’s nothing like the being able to explore a new island like Easter Island on your own with a rental car. The thing is, Rapa Nui National Park has new rules in place where it completely changes the game.
Using our first-hand experience we’re going to provide to you an honest look at getting a car rental on Easter Island – when does it make sense, who to rent from, what it’ll cost you, the road conditions, 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’ll cover more details about how it works below.
- Guides – In order to visit the main sights, it’s mandatory to have a guide now. EcoChile offers a brilliant 4 day Easter Island tour and if you book through our referral, save 5%.
- 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:
Guide to get a car rental on Easter Island
For many travelers, one of the steps after booking a flight and accommodation is to look at renting a car. For many of you, this is the preferred way to travel.
On Easter Island, things are a little more complicated. Not that you can’t easily get a rental car, but there are reasons why it might not make that much sense.
In our guide to Easter Island car rentals, we’re going to arm you with all of the knowledge you need to make the right decision, and if you go ahead with it, the process of renting a car, and what it’s like to drive around Rapa Nui.
Why it doesn’t make sense to rent a car
For most of you, sticking to guided tours will make the most sense. This is Green Island Tours’ van.There was a time when it was a no-brainer to suggest getting a car rental on Easter Island. Pre-pandemic, this was the case.
It’s a different world today and since it’s now mandatory to have a guide to visit the important monuments and archeological sites of Easter Island, it no longer makes that much sense. If you did, your car would end up sitting idle.
Don’t miss these: We cover the new Rapa Nui National Park rules extensively in our guides for how to get to Easter Island and the Easter Island travel guide.
In addition, all accommodations are centralized in the capital city of Hanga Roa. This is a small town and everything is within walking distance. This means that there is even less of a reason to rent a car on Easter Island.
Lastly, many lodges include airport transfers so that’s one less thing to worry about.
Which guide did we use?
We did quite a bit of research for who was the best private tour company on Easter Island and we loved the energy of Marc Shields from Green Island Tours Easter Island after seeing his YouTube channel and the rave reviews.
Special offer – Mention “Going Awesome Places” when you book your tour and get Marc’s photography book (sells for $35,000 CLP at the airport).
When it makes sense to rent a car
If we flip things around, then in what scenario does it make sense to rent a car on Easter Island?
If you have extra time (4 or more days), having a car is handy when you’re ready to explore the island independently.
A car rental makes sense to do the following things:
- See the unmanaged sites – Visit the smaller sites that aren’t managed or guarded by Rapa Nui National Park (go to our guide to visiting Easter Island for which ones those are).
- Go hiking – Do independent hikes such as the hike to the summit of Terevaka or around the Poike peninsula although we’d still recommend going with a guide. A hike that you can do on your own is the eastern rim of the Rano Kau crater. Ask your guide for tips or follow this AllTrails map.
- Soak in the sun – Anakena Beach and Ovahe Beach are great, especially in the summer. You don’t need a guide for beach days and this is when having a car really helps.
A smart way to do this is to try to do all of your guided tours first, leaving a bundle of continuous days where you’re on your own. Getting a car rental on Easter Island makes sense on these days.
The good news is that renting a car isn’t difficult and we will explain that in the next section.
TIP: Start with your guided tours at the beginning of your trip so you can see of the important sites first and learn as much as you can. You’ll have a much better idea of where you want to go and an appreciation for what you’ll see if you do it this way.
Car rental companies on Easter Island
This might be one of the few places where none of the big car rental companies like Avis, Hertz, or Enterprise don’t have a presence. You won’t even find any results from other platforms we recommend traveler’s to check – Rentalcars and DiscoverCars.
As the most remote island in the world, you also can’t be too surprised.
Local car rental companies
Oceanic Rent a Car in Hanga Roa
Inside Oceanic Rent a Car
This means that you need to turn your focus to local car rental agencies. These are the ones available on Easter Island:
Alternatively, accommodations also might have their own fleet of rental vehicles. An example of this is Cabañas Christophe who offers rentals for $50,000 CLP per day. Pikera Uri Eco Lodge also has their own cars starting at $45,000 CLP per day. They typically only rent to guests with the exception of Rent a Car Vaiora where they rent to anyone.
Be careful with these though, as they might be quite informal and don’t come with any paperwork. In some instances, we’ve heard that they literally let you drive their own car.
Aside from the accommodation rentals, all the others have locations in Hanga Roa. This means you can easily walk to the company and grab your car on the day of.
Mileage is unlimited and some companies can also drop off the car at your hotel or at the airport.
SIDE STORY: We initially had booked Cabañas Christophe for our trip but ultimately switched to Takarua Lodge because we were looking for a hotel that offered free breakfast and was closer to town. In retrospect, this was a better decision as we really enjoyed being close to Tahai.
Cost of car rentals on Easter Island
The rates between the companies are pretty similar and so are the types of vehicles that they offer.
The cheapest car and most readily available is the Suzuki Jimny, a 2-door SUV that can fit 4 people but is really made for 2. The others are the Suzuki Grand Nómade and Suzuki Grand Vitara which are more expensive. Most of the cars are manual transmission but automatic transmission is available in the larger cars.
SUVs aren’t necessary to drive around Easter Island so if you’re looking for sedans, there’s the Suzuki Celerio and the Suzuki Alto.
TIP: While these companies do have their own websites, you learn quickly for Easter Island, and all of Chile for that matter, that it is much easier to get a quote and response from their WhatsApp contact than it is their contact form or direct e-mail.
Here’s a nifty table that summarizes the prices for each company (primary ones in bold). Note that these are all manual transmission prices. Also, where we had personal conversations on prices, I’ve added what the “real” prices are.
CompanyPriceNotesOceanicSuzuki Jimny – $80 USD
Suzuki Vitara – $110 USD
Suzuki Nómade – $140 USDInsularSuzuki Jimny – $90,000 CLP (negotiable to $50,000 CLP)
Suzuki Grand Vitara – $120,000 CLP
Suzuki Nómade – $150,000 CLPMahinaturSuzuki Jimny – $80,000 (negotiable to $70,000 CLP)
Suzuki Vitara – $120,000 CLP
Suzuki Nómade – $150,000 CLP (negotiable to 130,000 CLP)Amar PascuaSuzuki Jimny – $35,000 CLP
Toyota Corolla – $55,000 CLP
Nissan X-Trail (auto) – $55,000 CLPThey are located at Pont, Hanga Roa (website is incorrect)VaioraSuzuki Vitara – $60,000 CLP
Suzuki Nómade – $60,000 CLPThey are a cabañas but rent to everyoneCabañas ChristopheSuzuki Nómade – $50,000 CLPGuests only (Informal rental)Pikera Uri Eco LodgeSuzuki Jimny – $45,000 CLP ($40,000 CLP for 2+ days)
Suzuki Nómade – $70,000 CLP ($60,000 CLP for 2+ days)Guests onlyTIP: Don’t be shy about negotiating especially if you’re renting for 2 or more days. In our case with Insular, their listed rate is significantly higher than what they can offer.
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.
Easter Island Itinerary
How does car insurance work?
This is where things become a little iffy. The short answer is that you’re on your own.
Car insurance is neither offered as an additional package whether booking online or in person. All cars come with Compulsory Insurance or Seguro Obligatorio built-in. There’s nothing else available that can be added or upgraded to.
This insurance is essentially a type of liability insurance that protects the driver, passengers, and third parties in case of accidents but any damage is the full responsibility of the lessee. This means there is no coverage and you’ll be on the hook for the cost of the damage.
This is why it makes even more sense to put the car rental on a premium credit card such as the American Express Aeroplan Reserve (if you’re Canadian) that has car rental coverage built-in.
Companies like Insular and Mahinatur also have a cost schedule for additional services:
- Loss of car key (non-smart) – $150,000 CLP
- Loss of car key (smart) – $20,000 CLP
- Rescue in unauthorized places – $50,000 CLP
- Repair of punctured tires – $5,000 CLP
- Vehicle delivery during non-business hours – $10,000 CLP
- Return of vehicle during non-business hours – $10,000 CLP
- Additional hour – $10,000 CLP
Other vehicles you can rent on Easter Island
If you’re interested mountain bikes, baby carriage for those bikes, scooter, dirt bike, quad, or a Kymco buggy, they are also available for rent.
The big companies – Oceanic, Insular, and Mahinatur all have varying supplies of these alternative vehicles.
Documentation to bring when renting a car
When renting a car, make sure to have your driver’s license, passport, and credit card.
It’s also worth noting that a credit card is necessary as a hold in case something happens. In our case with Insular, they didn’t actually take an real hold on the card (charged and then refunded upon return).
GOOD TO KNOW: An international driver’s permit (IDP) is recommended for Chile but they do not check for it in Easter Island. It’s still worth getting in case you get into an accident as authorities may ask for it.
How far in advance should you book your Easter Island car rental?
Your best bet is to rent a car when you get there. Things can change when you get to the island. Bad weather can cause your itinerary to shift around, or perhaps you change your mind about which days you want a car rental.
Reserving ahead of time requires payment ahead of time and for the main car rental agencies on the island, if you cancel with less than 5 days notice, you only get 50% back.
Factor in the fact that guides are now mandatory on Easter Island, there are even less people renting cars. As a result, the supply should be quite high.
The only exception would be during Tapati Rapa Nui Festival which occurs the first two weeks of February.
Driving on Easter Island
Inside a MT Suzuki JimnyIf you end up opting for your own car rental on Easter Island, you’ll be happy to hear that driving around is quite easy.
Perfect NASA-paved roads
Dirt road near Ahu Tongariki
East coast road is not in the best condition but easy to drive
For the most part, the paved roads on Easter Island are pretty good especially when you compare it to the Atacama Desert which is mostly dirt roads.
There are two types of paved roads on the island:
- Paved by NASA – The main road that cuts through the island from Hanga Roa to Anakena was literally built by NASA and is impeccable with no cracks or potholes.
- Regular quality – The other roads are good but you can tell are quite a few notches down from NASA. These have cracks that have been filled and the occasional pot hole but is still easy to drive Like I said, a far cry from the conditions in Atacama.
- Compacted dirt roads – These are the brownish red roads that are quite flat and easy to drive on. Pot holes are typically easy enough to avoid.
Be on the lookout for animals on the roadDriving is quite laid back on the island because there aren’t too many cars on the road and traffic is practically non-existent.
The official speed limits are 30km/h (18.6 mph) in Hanga Roa, and 60km/h (37.3 mph) outside of the city center although we didn’t see a sign go faster than 50 km/h (31.1 mph).
We did not notice any speed traps, radar guns, or any of that sort on the island. There did not seem to be many police cars on patrol either.
The only time where you have to be really careful driving is at night. Since there aren’t any street lights outside of Hanga Roa, you need drive slowly and be on the look out for cattle, horses, and other animals that might pop out, or literally be plopped in the middle of the road.
There are also horses that hang around Tahai, including the road to get to its parking lot (the same lot for Takarua Lodge guests), so always be on the look out.
Being a small island, there are only so many roads you can take. For the most part, it’ll be easy to go to all of the best things to do on Easter Island, but there are a few caveats.
- Lack of precise addresses – With Hanga Roa particularly, most addresses you’ll find online are simply the street names. When you search for this on Google Maps, it just picks a random spot on the street.
- Hidden street signs – In Hanga Roa, you won’t find your typical street sign on a pole or dangling above. Instead, streets are spray painted with yellow and black lettering on the curb itself.
- Google Maps isn’t the most reliable – While most of the moai and ahu are labelled on Google Maps, some businesses aren’t on the map. Case in point, Cabañas Vaiora for some reason doesn’t show up. Instead, you have to look on their website for directions on how to get there. Also, when you search Cabañas Christophe, there are two pins, one in the city, and the other accurate location, which is very deceiving.
- Download maps for offline use – In our Easter Island Travel Guide, we talk about the poor connection speeds even if you have a SIM card with data. 4G signal is pretty spotty once you leave Hanga Roa so make sure you save Google Maps for offline use or use an alternative offline map app.
While these can be annoying, it is still a tiny island at the end of the day where it’s pretty hard to get lost.
There’s basically none.
The only time you might encounter a bit of a slow down is in Hanga Roa when kids are starting or finishing at school. At most we’re talking about a line of 5 or 6 cars.
Parking is free on the island!
In the main town of Hanga Roa, there aren’t any issues parking on the side of the road and they usually aren’t hard to find.
Moderate conditions when off paved roads
Mild example of going “off-road”
It’s quite rare that you’ll have to go off-road. The only times you’ll be doing so, are to get off the road and towards the coastline.
These are worse than the compacted dirt roads we’ve mentioned earlier. They’re bumpy roads of exposed soil that have been usually created from tires repeatedly driving over grass.
The three examples of these are:
- Boat ramp and pier near Vaihu – There are several clear dirt paths created by cars that get you close to the water and also the small boat ramp and pier for fishermen. There are some remnants of ahu and moai here (Tarakiu Poukura and Hanga Te’e).
- Ahu One Makihi – There are a few in situ moai here. This is a great example of a ceremonial platform that wasn’t restored. There’s an easy-to-drive and short dirt path to get you here.
- Tahai parking lot – In Hanga Roa is a pretty poor condition dirt road that leads to the parking lot for Tahai. It’s extremely bumpy, is easy to bottom out on, and has pot holes.
In these instances, you can understand why having a raised 4×4 comes in handy versus a compact sedan. That said, you’ll never encounter a condition where a smaller car couldn’t get through.
There is only 1 gas station on the island remaining and it has the name of Puna Vai. It is a full-serve station with 93 octane fuel.
What will surprise you is that the prices for fuel aren’t exorbitant. For comparative purposes, we saw gasoline at $1,326 CLP/liter in San Pedro de Atacama and within the same month, $1,396 CLP/liter on Easter Island.
For another frame of reference, we had a 4 day car rental and only used 2 ‘ticks’ of the fuel gauge on the Suzuki Jimny. The cost to fill the tank to the top was $27,400 CLP ($34 USD).
There’s also a convenient store inside if you need to stock up on snacks and water.
Do you need to tip? Personally, we don’t think you need to from observing how locals are at full-serve stations throughout Chile.
So How Do You Get To Easter Island?
There’s the simple answer but as someone that’s been, there are a lot of small details that we share including a flight hack that’ll save you a ton of money.
Guide For How To Get To Easter Island
Realistic cost of car rentals on Easter Island
Using our example of a 4 day car rental during our 9 day Easter Island itinerary, here’s what it came out to:
- 4 day rental of a manual transmission Suzuki Jimny from Insular: $200,000 CLP
- Gas fill up: $27,400 CLP
Total cost: $227,400 CLP ($279.89 USD)
That comes out to roughly $70 USD per day.
How to save money on car rentals
Here are a few tips that we have on how to save money with your Easter Island car rental.
- Don’t rent a car – In jest, but really, if you’re staying for a short time or can avoid it, save your money and put it into a good tour guide.
- Drive manual transmission – If you know how, this will give you the lowest rates.
- Get the smallest and cheapest car – On Easter Island, that means the Suzuki Jimny.
- Minimize the number of days – Compress all of the days where you’ll need a rental car together. Avoid idle days.
- Drop off or pick up at the airport – Ask if this is possible. This will make a difference for those that don’t have free airport transfers.
- Drop off or pick up at the hotel – Some companies offer this. Find out if there’s any additional cost. This could be a time saver especially when you have to think about the logistics of your luggage and how you’ll get getting from or to the airport.
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!
We love the freedom of having your own car when traveling but it became clear in the planning of our Easter Island trip that we wouldn’t be able to do it fully independently as many others have done in the past.
Booking tours with Green Island Tours, we strategically planned it so that we would do the guided experiences first and then half the back half of our time on the island for us to explore with a rental car.
This worked out quite well.
At the end of the day, it’s very easy to get a car rental on Easter Island. The roads are easy to drive, there isn’t a lot of driving required, it’s not crazy expensive, and you can figure it all out when you arrive.
The main part you’ll want to figure out for yourself is where can you go on your own without needing a guide.
Frequently asked questions
Is an international driver’s permit required for Easter Island? Car rental companies won’t ask for an international driver’s permit (IDP) but officially it is required in Chile so it is recommended to have one. Is it easy to get around Rapa Nui with a rental car? Yes, driving a rental car is quite easy on Easter Island. The road conditions are pleasant and being a small island, it’s hard to get lost. Is there Uber on Easter Island? No, there aren’t any ride share apps available on Easter Island. Does Easter Island have automatic cars for rent? Yes, car rental agencies on Easter Island do have automatic transmission cars for rent. Do you need a 4×4 on Easter Island? This is a nice to have for confidence around dirt roads and the occasional potholes but absolutely not necessary to explore Easter Island. You can definitely get by with a compact sedan but what you’ll find is that the cheapest car to rent is the Suzuki Jimny, a compact SUV.
What you should read next
Appeared first on: goingawesomeplaces.com