Regardless of whether you ended up having seven days on Easter Island intentionally (very wise), or because of flight schedule windows (as was my case), you would have more time on the island than the typical in-and-out tourist. This means you can consider a slower and more personalised experience of Rapa Nui.
Here are some things that I discovered that could help you to personalise your week on Easter Island.
- Is it affordable to stay seven days on Easter Island?
- Accommodation options for staying seven days on Easter Island
- Getting food for seven days on Easter Island
- Food options while out touring Easter Island attractions
- Dietary choices while on Easter Island
- Transportation options around Easter Island
- Where can you get WiFi on Easter Island?
- Getting the ticket into Rapa Nui National Park
- The Easter Island sites you probably planned to visit
- … and the Easter Island sites you probably didn’t know about
- Easter Island stone sculptures which are not moai
- Other things to do on Easter Island
- Easter Island travel information for the sustainable traveller
- Carbon offset information to Easter Island
Is it affordable to stay seven days on Easter Island?
If you suddenly happen to have a week on Easter Island when you initially meant to have a shorter trip, you might wonder if you can still afford it. After all, the flights to get there would already wipe out a significant sum of money.
There are already some overviews for how to visit Easter Island without breaking the bank on the internet. I won’t repeat the information. I myself benefited from existing articles such as the one I linked for my own planning. But suffice to say that it is not that bad, if you are prepared beforehand.
In this article, I’m only giving the additional details that I discovered personally.
Accommodation options for staying seven days on Easter Island
Accommodation costs look like it would be extremely expensive, if you are booking conventionally on the internet (especially in English). Here are some alternatives aside from resorts and hostels.
1. Stay in an Airbnb
While there can be ethical issues with using Airbnb in metro and city areas, among other ethical issues with Airbnb itself, in remote areas it can be the most sustainable option. This is because Airbnb does open a way for local hosts less travelled destinations to directly accommodate guests, bypassing the obstacles of capital and bureaucracy. This allows the local person to benefit more from the tourism, than if they worked at a foreign-owned hotel.
A side effect is that it is also typically a more affordable accommodation option than the hotel options you would find online, for these particular destinations.
2. Try your luck and find a local host on the island
If you feel a bit more intrepid, you could look for rooms after arrival. This option is more suitable if you’re coming in the off-peak season. Otherwise, there might not be any vacancies.
I discovered that there are local Rapa Nui who have added guest rooms for tourists on their property, but who aren’t found online. The artist who took me around on the island had such a room. My taxi driver for Tongariki also had a friend who rented out private en suite rooms at just 17,000 CLP per night. This is comparable to a hostel, but much more pleasant and civilised.
This option allows even more of the tourism revenue to benefit an islander (basically 100%), compared to Airbnb.
3. Stay in the camping ground of Anakena
You can also camp for a couple nights at Anakena beach. This is the only other location on Easter Island where you can spend the night, aside from Hanga Roa town, as the entire island is basically a UNESCO Heritage Site. This is the least expensive option, but also the least comfortable.
Getting food for seven days on Easter Island
Food costs on Easter Island is not very cheap (for obvious reasons). Being remote and without significant island agriculture, food and groceries are more expensive than on the mainland.
However, I would say that if you’re flashpacking, I can confirm the article I linked above: the cost for eating out on Easter Island is not actually that bad. On the other hand, if you intend on backpacking on a shoestring budget, you will feel this more. But on the other hand, Easter Island probably shouldn’t be your destination for now.
If you have access to a kitchen (see above for non-resort accommodation options), you could also consider cooking, which could drop your food budget further (depending on how you cook). You could buy groceries while on the island, but the better option is to bring groceries with you from the mainland.
LATAM has a generous baggage allowance for flights to and from Easter Island (airport code IPL: Isla de Pascua), giving 2x 23kg luggage allowance per ticket. With this, you could easily choose to bring groceries, and from my observation, some actually do. This would be just about worth doing if you have a week.
Food options while out touring Easter Island attractions
In terms of eating while sightseeing, there was no food sold at the archaeological sites. So it’s best to bring a packed lunch or snack. I did see a closed cafe at the Rano Raraku quarry entrance building; perhaps this is different in the peak season.
The exception to this is Anakena, where Ahu Nau Nau is located. Anakena is a recreational beach, and there are many cafes there.
Dietary choices while on Easter Island
For Muslims: Being an island, it is relatively easy to keep halal via the seafood options. I recommend trying the ceviche. Fish here is very fresh, so it is quite good.
Easter Island is also doable as a vegetarian. I found some vegetarian options when I do eat out. (I’m not sure about vegan options, though.)
Transportation options around Easter Island
Having seven days means you could do your sightseeing around Easter Island more slowly. It becomes more palatable to consider going without a car. Here are some options for moving around the island, including ballpark costs in 2017.
1. Car hire
From a sustainability perspective, car rental on Easter Island has an even higher carbon footprint than it normally would, because fuel for the vehicles must be shipped thousands of miles to a tiny remote island.
However, self-driving is still the most popular option among tourists. If you have a week to go around, it’s worth hiring one for at least 3 days, to get the lowest day rates. Oceanic car rental was recommended to me twice – once from my host, and again from another tourist. At the time of my visit their rates were 50,000 CLP for 1 day, 40,000 CLP/day for 2 days, and 30,000 CLP/day for 3 days.
There was one fuel station on Easter Island when I was there. However, there are probably two by now because I also saw a second one under construction. Clearly demand is growing, probably from tourists.
Even if you do hire a car, set aside time for sightseeing without. It’s a very different mood and experience. Savour the feeling of being this remote from everywhere by going slow and on foot.
2. Bicycle hire
Your next option is renting a bicycle, which costs about 8,000 – 10,000 CLP a day. The terrain on Easter Island is undulating, not flat. So you should expect to have to bike up and down hills. I’m not sure about nowadays, but in 2017 there were no e-bikes on the island.
Aside from that, you should be able to reach all of the Easter Island sites by cycling.
3. Taxi hire
There are taxis on Easter Island. You’ll find them relatively easily in Hanga Roa. It’s highly likely that they also do tours. You can chose from the pre-set itineraries, or hire them for the whole day for a more open ended itinerary.
I hired a taxi driver to get to the northern coastline sites (Tongariki, Rano Raraku quarry, and Anakena), because I wanted to see the Tongariki sunrise and couldn’t be bothered to cycle there at the crack of dawn. This cost me 60,000 CLP.
With the exception of sites along the northern coastline (the hike would take way too long), you could also plausibly hike to the sites of interest if you’re reasonably fit.
On the other hand, if you’re camping in Anakena, then you could hike or bike to Tongariki for the sunrise quite easily. From there, Rano Raraku is nearby.
Easter Island is a Polynesian island, and hitchhiking is normal. In fact, I reached half of the moai sites through hitchhiking (although I didn’t ask, but was offered). Just don’t ask a taxi for a hitchhike, that’s just rude.
Where can you get WiFi on Easter Island?
Unless Chile has changed its policy on travel SIM cards, you probably won’t have data on your phone.
On Easter Island, there were three public WiFi hotspots in 2017. I hope they’re still there, or hopefully the amenities have improved. The most convenient one is at the little park, Plaza Riro Kainga. You’ll probably know it just by the number of people loitering about all looking at their phones.
Getting the ticket into Rapa Nui National Park
Rapa Nui National Park (i.e. all the interesting archaeological sites) encompasses nearly the whole island. You need a ticket into the National Park in order to visit any of the cool sites.
The most convenient way to do this is upon arrival. The line will be very long, because let’s face it, everyone is buying this ticket. But you might as well buy it immediately rather than waste your Easter Island time coming back to buy it. The good news is that the line moves quickly.
The ticket price was 54,000 CLP in 2017. You will get a map that gives more information on the key sites of interest around the island.
The Easter Island sites you probably planned to visit
No, this is not a gotcha section. I’m not going to say that this site or that site is overrated. In fact, I’m saying that all the famous tourist draws of Easter Island are absolutely worth coming for. Especially if you’ve allowed enough time to experience them at leisure.
The following are the most photogenic sites of Easter Island, which is probably why you wanted to come in the first place:
- Ahu Tongariki is the long row of moai, often photographed at sunrise.
- Rano Raraku is the quarry nearby. This is the site of the half-buried ‘Easter Island heads’ you probably associate with Rapa Nui.
- Ahu Vai Uri at Tahai is the shorter row of moai, often photographed at sunset because it is on the other side of the island.
… and the Easter Island sites you probably didn’t know about
However, with seven days, you can do full justice to Easter Island. These are the lesser-known sites you’ll want to visit when you find out about them:
- Ahu Akivi, the only seaward-facing moai platform.
- Puna Pau, where the moai’s red topknots are quarried from.
- Ahu Nau Nau, the site of the first landing of the Rapa Nui.
- Orongo village, the site of the Tangata Manu (birdman) ritual in the Rapa Nui era after the moai period (ha! did you even know there was an interesting period after the moai one?)
There are also smaller sites that you can pick up along the way to these, which you can read about in the linked stories.
The excellent anthropological museum near Tahai Archaeological complex is also well worth a visit, giving you a better grounding on Rapa Nui culture and history, including the part after the moai-building civilisation.
Easter Island stone sculptures which are not moai
The artistic inclinations of the Rapa Nui people have not gone away just because the old civilisation has gone. Art and artists are still part of cultural life on the island. I managed to meet two artists without even trying.
Along the southwest coastline, from Hanga Roa jetty to Tahai Archaeological complex, you can find stone sculptures by the sea.
Other things to do on Easter Island
With seven days on Easter Island, you can also add different activities to personalise your trip. Here are some ideas:
1. Experience Rapa Nui culture
You can attend a Polynesian dance performance on most evenings. Along the high street of Hanga Roa you’ll come across signs indicating one of two performance organisers. I noticed that they seem to alternate the performance days between them. These shows usually include dinner. I meant to book myself to one of them, but somehow never actually did.
In terms of crafts, you could go souvenir shopping at the Mercado Artesanal. Aside from the typical tourist souvenirs, you can find copies of the Rapa Nui lost script of rongorongo, written on bark or carved in wood. A popular jewelry material is a kind of bright red seed, which are among the trees that still grow on the island.
Polynesian crafts and jewelry often involve seashells, for obvious reasons. However, seashells as tourist souvenirs can quickly cause unsustainable harvest from the local ecology. So it’s best not to purchase these. Of course, if you’re gifted something by a local Polynesian, that’s a bit different.
2. Do some scuba diving
Despite being a diver, it didn’t occur to me to dive in Easter Island, until much later (but at least not after arrival!). There are a few scuba diving centres at Hanga Roa to choose from. Be warned that Easter Island is a lone volcanic outcrop surrounded by the Pacific; though tropical, diving in its waters could be colder than you expect!
3. Join a Polynesian Sunday church service
Present day Rapa Nui are Christian. The Catholic church is interesting in that it has Polynesian motifs, which Christian travellers might be interested to attend. I sat in the nearby park next to the artisanal market when mass was underway, and learned that hymns were sung in Rapa Nui.
4. Hike around Rapa Nui and explore the caves
There are many more moai than the ones at the main ceremonial platforms. Actually, there are moai all over the island, though most of them have toppled to the ground. Some have been restored, and some not. You could opt to hike around the island discovering these smaller sites. I would have enjoyed looking for them and seeing how many I could find.
There are also little caves on Rapa Nui which are signposted, but not marked on the tourist map. I would have enjoyed searching them out as well.
5. Hike up Maunga Terevaka
The highest point on Rapa Nui is Maunga Terevaka, which can be hiked or biked. So for those of you who simply must claim the highest point on the land wherever you go, that’s the one you want for Easter Island. Other high ground spots are Rano Kau (near Orongo village), and Poike (near Tongariki).
6. Go to the Easter Island post office for the most special souvenir
When I passed through Philippine immigration the year after this trip, the immigration officer lingered on one page of my passport, smiling. Without looking, I knew which one.
It’s the page with the Easter Island stamp, featuring the iconic moai statues of the island.
You can get this at the Hanga Roa post office. The inkpad and stamp are just on the counter, and a donation box to the side for the privilege!
Easter Island travel information for the sustainable traveller
Easter Island is probably the remotest inhabited spot on earth. It’s about 4 hours’ flight to either Santiago or Tahiti. Nor is the island very big at all. Yet the infrastructure is modern, and you can get modern goods in the shops.
Rapa Nui hosts about 100,000 tourists a year, most of them arriving in the peak season in February. My host told me that in this month, flights arrive and depart almost constantly.
1. Use water mindfully
Rapa Nui is supplied primarily by rainwater, held in lakes such as the crater lake of Rano Kau.
As you can see, Rano Kau is not that big. And this same water is shared with the fragile remnant native ecosystem that the National Park authorities are trying to revive.
2. Reduce waste, and separate your rubbish
If you hike all over the island, you will notice that there aren’t any landfills or incinerators. Garbage from Easter Island is taken 2,000 miles back to the mainland. From the inflight magazine, I learned that LATAM flies back 140,000 tons of plastic, aluminium, and cardboard waste from Rapa Nui, every year. So, the less you generate in the first place, the less needs to be ferried back.
My local host asked us not to buy bottled water (not a problem for me ever since Nepal), and to separate our rubbish. I wondered if the separated rubbish really does get all the way to recycling. But it does at least get to the mainland.
That said, being an island oriented around tourism, it can be challenging to keep zero waste principles. Even when I only ordered an ice cream cone, it somehow got handed to me upside down in a disposable plastic cup with a disposable plastic spoon!
Carbon offset information to Easter Island
I went to Easter Island as part of a longer journey around the world. Had I gone close to my original plan, a return flight from Kuala Lumpur to Easter Island via Sydney and Santiago produces carbon emissions of approximately 17,414 lbs CO2e. It costs about $87 to offset this.
Are you considering to spend seven days on Easter Island? Hope these tips helped you personalise your dream trip to Rapa Nui! Pin for later!