Updated August 10, 2020.
Easter Island is the most isolated island in the world, but you can see it for yourself! I recently had a chance to visit this mysterious island with my sweet husband for this year’s “Trip of a Lifetime,” but even with all my travel research strategies I found preparing for this trip a bit tricky. Here are some things we learned and some things we’re glad we knew before we went!
- Rapa Nui: This is the original name of the island. A Dutch explorer “discovered” this island on Easter Sunday in 1722, and he dubbed it Easter Island. But the local people still call it Rapa Nui, they themselves are Rapa Nui people, and their language is called Rapa Nui as well.
- Moai: These are the big heads! Yes, they also have bodies. They were chiseled from a special type of stone at a quarry on the island from around 680 A.D. until 1680 A.D. At one point all the currently standing Moai were knocked over. Find out more in yesterday’s post all about the Moai!
- Ahu: This is the stone platform the Moai are standing on. We kept seeing the word “Ahu” in relation to the Moai, but we had no idea what it meant! Now you can do your research with this knowledge.
- Pukao: This is the red topknot (looks like a hat, but it’s a topknot) on some of the Moai. Most have been lost or broken over the years, but all the Moai were created to have one originally.
- Ana: This is a cave or lava tube. Rapa Nui was formed by three volcanoes, so there are plenty of caves around! Some had ceremonial purposes, some were for hiding, and some still include traces of petroglyphs. Don’t miss the Anas!
More here: 10 Reasons to Visit Easter Island
Language: Spanish, Portugese, and Rapa Nui
But everyone we met there also spoke English, at least enough to help the tourists! Spanish is the official language of Chile, but on Rapa Nui the locals have preserved the native Rapa Nui language. Brush up on your Spanish, and maybe your Portuguese (with a Brazilian flare), but be prepared for some words you won’t recognize! All signage and written information was written in both Spanish and English, and some in Portuguese as well, but not all.
Currency: Chilean Pesos (CLP)
Bring some Chilean pesos with you from mainland Chile because there are only two ATMs on the island, and I read that sometimes they run out of money! We did not run into that problem, but we brought some with us just in case. Everyone also accepted U.S. dollars, but you will lose on the exchange rate if you use them.
Seasons: Southern Hemisphere
Easter Island is relatively mild year-round, but in their winter, which is June-September for them, temperatures are between the mid-50s to the upper-60s Fahrenheit. In summer, which is December-March, the South Pacific sun will be beating down. Pack accordingly: Packing for Dudes: Easter Island in Winter and Packing for Ladies: Easter Island in Winter
You should bear in mind that if you visit in the wintertime, the sun will rise around 9:00am! And you definitely do not want to miss the Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki while you’re there.
Accommodations: No Chains!
There are no chain hotels, and many hotels and B&Bs on the island do not have air conditioning. We didn’t need it in the winter, but I think we would have been missing it in their summer! We loved our stay at Hotel Puku Vai. Their hospitality, their pool, their location–it was the right choice for us. My husband forgot his phone charger in the room when we checked out, but one of the owners found it soon after we left and drove into town to find us before our flight! Awesome.
Keep reading: How to Spend 5 Days on Easter Island
Archaeological Sites: There are Two Sites You Can Only Visit Once
Your park ticket is good for 10 days, and you can visit all sites as much as you want–except for Orongo (the Birdman village beside the Rano Kai Crater) and Rano Raraku (the quarry where the Moai were made). You can only visit those once, so make your time there count!
Passport Stamp: At the Post Office
Did you know you can get a special Rapa Nui passport stamp? Now you know! You will get stamped going in and out of Chile, but just for fun, you can bring home some Moai in your passport as well. It is free, but the owner of our hotel told us it’s customary to donate 500 CLP (about 75 U.S. cents).
Helpful info: Your Ultimate Guide to Passports
Getting There and Getting Around
Coming by Air: Flights on Latam Airlines from Santiago or Tahiti
You have two options for flying to Mataveri International Airport (IPC), the Easter Island airport. There is typically only one flight per day from Santiago, Chile, on Latam Airlines. It leaves at 9:30am from Santiago International Airport (SCL), so you may have to spend up to a day in Santiago before you go. You can also fly from Tahiti once per week! That one comes in Monday night and leaves Tuesday morning.
Fun facts: Flying Business Class on Avianca
Coming by Sea: Cruises
There are some cruise ships that stop at Easter Island. A quick Internet search told me that Princess Cruises, Holland-America Cruises, and Crystal Cruises stop at Easter Island on a variety of routes from French Polynesia, Australia, and even starting in Ft. Lauderdale, FL! These cruises appear to be lengthy, expensive, and seasonal, so make the most of it if you choose a cruise!
Street Signs: Not a Thing on Easter Island
Nope! We saw no road signs (or stop lights!) anywhere on the island. But let’s be honest: there are just not that many roads anyway. All the maps we used named the roads, but also showed landmarks like gas stations, businesses, the church, the Ahus, etc., so it was easy to find where we were going and get around. But please know there are no road signs before you go–otherwise you’ll get very frustrated! Don’t worry, there are stop signs in Portugese–they say “PARE“!
Several sites are walking distance from the one and only town, Hanga Roa. Some are kind of a hike, but it’s doable! However, one day we accidentally walked 17 miles on very tough terrain (lots of loose rocks). Bring water!
Day Tours: Go for “Private Tours” Over “Guided Tours”
This is a fantastic way to make the most of your trip, especially if you’re only there a couple of days. But if I had it to do over again, I think we would have paid a little more for a private tour. The Guided tour option was rather inefficient, and we were not there in the best light for photos. We might have had some flexibility and could have asked to go to Rano Raraku in the afternoon for better light, since you can only go to that one once during your visit!
More here: Touring the Moai of Easter Island
Other Options: Bikes, Mopeds, Motor Bikes, ATVs, and Cars
I think if we had it to do over again, we would definitely rent a car or an ATV for a day or two. We enjoyed relaxing and walking most places, but I think we would have liked to go back to Anakena Beach (the day we went with our tour it rained), and it would have been nice to go back to a few other sites that were too far away to walk.
Mapping: Paper Beats GPS
Rapa Nui is remote and not very populated. So the map on your phone won’t be as accurate as the paper map you’ll receive when you pay for your National Park Pass or what you’ll get from your hotel on the island. Don’t know how to read a map? Check out How to Read a Map on the blog! See the difference:
Read on: Ruined: Beauty in the Broken Places
Easter Island National Park Ticket: Cost Varies and is Subject to Change
There is one price for Chileans and another price for everyone else ($80 USD or CLP 54,000). This ticket can be purchased at the Easter Island airport upon arrival or at the CONAF Office. You can pay in Chilean pesos or U.S. dollars, but not with a credit card. The exchange rate is not good if you are using U.S. dollars, so get some CLP before you leave Santiago! These tickets are good for 10 days.
Fun facts: Where Can I use the U.S. Dollar Abroad
Flights: $500-$1700 USD
Latam has the monopoly on the routes to and from Easter Island, but sometimes Air Tahiti Nui flies in as well. Ticket prices can vary by hundreds of dollars, so look at tickets a couple of months out and be flexible if you want to find a good price! We paid around $580 round-trip, per person, in the off-season (August).
Bathrooms: 500 CLP (about 75 U.S. cents) or $1.00 USD (you lose 25 cents)
There were no public restrooms, but most restaurants had a facility you could use. Some (but not all) sites had a bathroom you could use for 500 CLP or $1. At the Ahu Akivi, they charged 1000 CLP or $2. Do not put the toilet paper in the toilet.
Water: Bring Some
You will only go through security once, since this is a domestic flight from Santiago, so fill up your refillable water bottle or buy some in the airport. The flight attendants only came by with water twice–on a five hour flight! I was glad I brought my 20-ounce to-go mug and some tea. The flight attendants did not seem to mind filling it up with hot water for me a couple of times.
Food: Breakfast or Lunch
You will get breakfast on the way to the island, then lunch on the return flight back to the mainland.
Hungry for more? What to Eat on Easter Island
Check In: Latam App or at the Ticket Counter
We used the Latam App to check in the day before, but we still had to stand in line to get printed tickets as the app will not give you an electronic boarding pass. We probably could have printed our tickets at the hotel, but we had already asked for a lot of favors by then and didn’t want to ask for more! There was a separate line for people who had already checked-in, so we didn’t have to stand in line. Also, there are check-in kiosks at the airport, but they appeared to be broken and were not very obvious–the line for security went right in front of them!
Luggage: Scanned at IPC
When you enter IPC for your outgoing flight, your luggage will be scanned whether you are checking it or carrying it on. This didn’t seem to be a big deal, but we got ours scanned and were on our way.
Amenities Outside Security: Restaurant and Souvenir Shops
There is a restaurant on-site as well as several souvenir shops in case you need that one last item to take home with you. There is also a restroom available–this one will not cost you 500 pesos!
Pesticide: On the Aircraft
In many tropical locations, you will find that flight attendants spray a non-toxic (to humans) pesticide on the plane before it takes off. This happened on Easter Island, too. There was an announcement about it, but I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it because the flight attendants spray it toward the floor very discretely.
Don’t miss this: How to See the Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki
I hope this was all helpful for you! Do you have more questions to help you get prepared for your own Easter Island Adventure? Comment below!
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