7 Days Easter Island: Everything You Want To Know (But Didn't Think Of!)
Regardless of whether you ended up having seven days on Easter Island because of choice (smart one, by the way), or because of flight windows (as was my case), you would have more time on the island than the typical in-and-out tourist. With a little bit more time, 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.
- Stuff You Didn't Think to Ask about... the Travel Basics
- Stuff You Didn't Think to Ask About... Sightseeing in Easter Island
- Other Things To Do on Easter Island You Might Not Have Thought About
- Sustainability Considerations You Might Not Think to Ask About Rapa Nui
- Carbon offset information to Easter Island
Stuff You Didn't Think to Ask about... the Travel Basics
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 some overviews for how to visit Easter Island without breaking the bank on the internet. I won't repeat the information. But suffice to say that it is not that bad, if you are prepared beforehand. Here I'm only giving the additional details that I discovered.
Staying 7 days on Easter Island
Accommodation looks like it would be extremely expensive, if you are booking conventionally on the internet (especially in English).
The Rapa Nui Airbnb option
However, while there are ethical issues with using Airbnb in metro and city areas, among other ethical issues with Airbnb itself, it does have a positive effect in remote areas. Airbnb serves as an easy platform for genuine local hosts to access potential guests. It is also typically more affordable than the hotel options you would find online.
The try-your-luck stay with a local host option
If you feel a bit more intrepid, and are coming in the off-peak season, you could even look for rooms after arrival. There are local Rapa Nui who have added on guest rooms to their homes for tourists, but who aren't found on online booking platforms. The artist who took me around on two of my days there had such a room. Alex, my taxi driver for Tongariki, has a friend who rents out private en suite rooms at just 17,000 CLP per night. This is comparable to a hostel, but much more pleasant and civilised.
The Rapa Nui camping option
If you are an outdoorsy sort, a supplementary option could be to camp for a couple nights at Anakena beach. This is the only other location on Easter Island where you could spend the night, aside from Hanga Roa town. However, there are only camping grounds here.
Getting fed for 7 days on Easter Island
Food would be the next thing to worry about. I would say that if you're flashpacking, I can confirm the article I linked above - eating out on Easter Island is not actually that bad. Of course, being remote and without significant island agriculture, the food and groceries are more expensive than on the mainland. But not terribly so. (If you intend on backpacking on a shoestring budget, you will feel it more. But on the other hand, why are you going to Easter Island in the first place then?)
If you have access to a kitchen, you could also consider cooking, which could drop your food budget further (depending on how you cook).
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. It's far more than I normally need as a traveller. However, this does mean that if you have been travelling around Chile before your Easter Island travel segment, you could easily choose to bring groceries to the island from the mainland. This would be just about worth doing if you have a week on the island.
What about food options while out touring Easter Island sights?
In terms of eating while sightseeing, there are no eating options at the archaeological sites (although I saw a closed cafe at the Rano Raraku quarry entrance building). So it's best to bring a packed lunch or snack. The exception to this is Anakena, where Ahu Nau Nau is located. This is a recreational beach, and there are many cafes there.
Dietary choices on the island
Being an island, it is relatively easy to keep halal on Easter Island via the seafood options. I recommend trying the ceviche. Fish is very fresh, so it is quite good.
It is also relatively easy as a vegetarian. I found sufficient vegetarian options when I do eat out. (I'm not sure about vegan options, though.)
Getting around Easter Island for a week
Having seven days on Easter Island means you could sightsee more slowly. It becomes more palatable to consider not renting a car (the option with the highest carbon footprint). Fuel for the vehicles must be shipped thousands of miles to a tiny remote island, after all. There's 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.
Instead, you could consider renting a bicycle, which is about 8,000 - 10,000 CLP a day. With the exception of Tongariki and Anakena, you could also plausibly hike to the sites of interest if you're reasonably fit. If you're camping in Anakena, you could hike or bike to Tongariki for the sunrise quite easily. From there, Rano Raraku is also nearby.
If you want to mix it up and hire a taxi to get to the northern coastline sites (Tongariki, Rano Raraku quarry, and Anakena), this cost me 60,000 CLP for a full day hire, without negotiation.
However, if you still want to hire a car, hiring for more than 3 days or so is when the day rates are the lowest. I got two separate recommendations for Oceanic car rental - one from my host, and the other 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.
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.
Where can you get WiFi on Easter Island?
Unless Chile has changed its policy on traveller SIM cards, you probably don't have data on your phone.
On Easter Island, there were three public WiFi hotspots at the time of my visit. 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.
Stuff You Didn't Think to Ask About... Sightseeing in Easter Island
You need to buy a ticket for Rapa Nui National Park (i.e. all the interesting archaeological sites). ('Rapa Nui' is the local people's name for their island, so I use it interchangeably with Easter Island).
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 it moves quickly and you really don't want to bother with this later.
The price was 54,000 CLP in 2017. You will get a map that gives more information on the key sites around the island.
The Easter Island sites you probably planned to see... and those you didn't know about
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Good morning! 🌅 Charismatic monuments pull you in, don’t they? Although I was on Rapa Nui in the off season, there were quite a few other tourists that morning with me. Most stayed up close to the ahu, and it took some time to angle for good shots close to the moai. 🗿 However, noticing some more astute photographers keeping a distance, I did likewise, and discovered many incredible sunrise angles. This one is one of my favourites, the sun perfectly behind the tallest moai, and the puffs of cloud illuminated overhead. 🌅 Ahu Tongariki is charismatic up close, yes. But you capture more drama if you give it some space. #thinktwice #fromadistance #onthehorizon #awesome_shots #awesomedreamplaces #awesomeplaces #awesome_surreal #rapanui #tongariki #easterisland #offseasontravel #sunrise_sunsets_aroundworld #sunrisesunset #sunriseporn #sunrisephotography #bucketlist✅ #vacationgoals #unescoworldheritage #tourandtravel #tourists #instatraveling #letsgoeverywhere #rumoursworld #hello_worldpics #places_wow #photogram #worldingram #openmyworld #lifewelltravelled #roundtheworld
These are the most photogenic ones, which were probably your inspiration:
- 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.
These are the ones you want to see 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.
There are stone sculptures on Easter Island 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.
For example, along the southwest coastline, from the jetty to Tahai Archaeological complex, you can find stone sculptures by the sea.
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Instead of going to Tahai by road, walk up the west coast of Easter Island, hugging the coastline. You’ll pick up additional moai sites (e.g. Ahu O’rongo), and come across these really cool sculptures by the sea! #roundtheworld #rapanui #polynesia #polynesianart #easterisland #sculpturebythesea #sculptures #instasculpture #southpacific #isladepascua #notjustmoai #hikingworldwide #jelajahdunia #coastalwalk #hikinglovers #discoverart #travelguide #traveltips #chiletravel #offthebeatenpath #travelstoke #islandexploring #traveldiary #discoverchile #wordoftravel #getlostnow
Other Things To Do on Easter Island You Might Not Have Thought About
With seven days on Easter Island, you could start to consider doing additional activities. Here are some ideas:
Check out Rapa Nui cultural experiences and crafts
You can see 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. The 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 souvenirs, you can find here 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, seashell souvenirs can quickly become unsustainable to the local ecology. So, I would refrain from purchasing these, especially for a destination that's in danger of overtourism. Of course, if you're gifted something by a local Polynesian, that's a bit different as there's courtesy considerations.
Do some scuba diving around Easter Island
Despite being a diver, it had not occurred to me to think about diving in Easter Island, until much later (but at least not after arrival!). There are a few scuba diving centres at the jetty-side 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!
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Join a Polynesian Sunday church service
Especially for my Christian friends: Present day Rapa Nui are overwhelmingly Christian. The Catholic church is quite interesting in that it has Polynesian motifs, and with hymns sung in Rapa Nui.
There's a nice shady park area next to it, if you just want to listen to the hymns but not actually go to services yourself. It's small, but pleasant enough. The artisanal market is next door.
Hike around Rapa Nui and explore the island caves
One of the things that I wish I did more, was to explore the island itself.
For one, there are many more moai than the ones at the main ceremonial platforms. They're all over the island, some restored, and some not. 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.
Climb Maunga Terevaka
The highest point of 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 (statistically tends to be male...), that's the one you want for Easter Island. Other high ground spots are Rano Kau, near Orongo village, and Poike, near Tongariki.
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. 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!
Sustainability Considerations You Might Not Think to Ask About Rapa Nui
Let's start by considering that this is probably the remotest inhabited spot on earth. It's about 4 hours' flight to either Santiago or Tahiti. Rapa Nui itself is not very big either.
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 of February. My host told me that in this month, flights arrive and depart almost constantly.
Use water mindfully on Easter Island
If you apply my top three habits for sustainable travel, you would wonder where the water supply comes from. Rapa Nui is supplied primarily by rainwater, held in lakes such as the crater lake of Rano Kau.
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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.
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 has to be taken 2,000 miles back to the mainland. 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. From the inflight magazine, I learned that LATAM flies back 140,000 tons of plastic, aluminium, and cardboard waste from Rapa Nui, every year.
That said, being an island heavily dependent on tourism, it can be challenging to keep zero waste principles, as I discovered.
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While considering whether I should go to O’rongo even after spraining my ankle, I decided to treat myself to an ice cream. Not from an ice box, scooped right then onto a wafer cone. So far, so zero waste... until the guy slammed it into a plastic cup and jammed a tiny plastic spoon in it. 😦😐😨 But why, Easter Island, why??? #easterisland #icecream #icecreamcones #icecreamtime #dessert🍰 #treatyourself #zerowaste #zerowastefail #plasticpollution #singleuseplastic #beatplasticpollution #travelchile #earthlingmovement #sustainabletravel #itried #zerowastetravel #sigh
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.
Hope these tips helped you personalise your dream trip to Rapa Nui! Are you considering to spend seven days on Easter Island? Pin for later!