Easter Island is one of the most remote islands in the world and while it looks like an excellent place for a grand adventure, getting to the island without breaking the bank can be quite tricky. One thing is for sure, Easter Island is not your typical destination where you can get by with US$50/day but I can assure you, traveling around the Easter Island is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life and I am writing this article explain how I got myself there and how you can too.
Why go to the Easter Island
For one, Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and yet the island was a home to one of the most amazing culture, the Rapa nui. The island is also known for its numerous monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapa Nui people. There is no other place like it in the world and if you are interested in the history or the mystery surrounding the moai, you should definitely visit Easter Island.
If you are not into this kind of stuff but still enjoy being in nature, Easter Island has you covered as well. With its volcanic landscape, untouched nature and the remoteness of the island, you will be able to experience nature in its entirety here. Also, away from the polluted cities of the world, at night, if you drive out of town, you will be engulfed by a 180 view of the Milky Way. If this doesn't convince you, I don't know what will.
When to Go
The beginning of February is the best time since your trip will coincide with the Rapa Nui annual event celebrating the history and culture of the island, the Tapati Festival. You will be able to see the locals perform traditional dance, music, and theatrical performance. The event usually takes place at the beginning of February for almost an entire month. Be sure to check and confirm when the Tapati Festival begins here.
How to Get There
The most expensive part of this trip that deterred most backpackers and travelers is the airfare. LATAM airline is the sole operator for the island and in order to fly to the Easter Island, you will most likely have to go through Santiago, Chile. Because of that, it will be almost impossible to find a price less than US$1,000 round trip nowadays and the closer you book to your departure date, the more expensive it gets. It cost me US$ 1300 for a round-trip flight I booked a month in advance.
Keep an eye out for cheap tickets on Skyscanner.
How to Get Around
There are many ways you can get around the island and the price ranged from cheap to crazy expensive. The cheapest option is renting a mountain bike which should cost you around US$28 per day but keep in mind that the island is hilly and it would take you around one hour to two hours to bike across to the other side. You would need to rent it at least 3 days in order to see everything on the island.
The next option is a scooter or a motorbike which will set you back around US$60 - US$70 per day and you are required to have a valid motorbike driving license. You can't use your car driving license to rent a motorbike.
Next up is the ATV which cost US$90 per day. For ATV, you can use your car driving license to rent. This is what I chose as my mode of transportation because I didn't have a motorbike driving license and I wanted the flexibility of driving at night so I can be the first to see the sun rises at Ahu Tongariki.
Car, jeeps and vans are also available but it will cost you from US$150 or more per day.
Last but not least, you can go with an organized tour through local agencies. They will pick you up at your guesthouse and take you to all the places you want to see. Although, you do lose the flexibility of having your own transportation.
Hanga Roa - Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana - 22.00 USD/Night
Traveling here is quite expensive and not very budget-friendly but there are options. You can expect to spend around 50 - 70 USD per day per person for food, accommodation and transportation.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
Things to Do
Hanga Roa (Day 1)
Arriving on the island, the first thing to do is to find a mode of transportation. Spend the first evening walking around the main street and find a store to rent your transport. My recommendation is to rent for 2 days and spend the rest of your time in town, learning the culture and the history of the island.
Ahu Tongariki (Day 2)
Once you have rented a vehicle, the next morning, wake up around 3 AM and drove from Hoga Roa towards Ahu Tongariki. Ahu Tongariki is the largest ahu on Easter Island and the perfect place to watch the Milky Way and the sunrise.
It should take you no more than 25 minutes to drive across the island to Ahu Tongariki. Why so early? Well, when you are out in the middle of the island at 4 AM, turn off your vehicle lights and then look up. This is what you are going to see.
Once you arrive, you will find that the entrance to the Ahu Tongariki is closed until the sunrise. Don't sweat since you can drive around the fence and watch the milky way shine its bright light on to the moai statues from the fence.
Around sunrise time (7 AM in February), you will be able to go inside and watch the sunrise. Even if you are not a morning person, I will still recommend you to wake up for the sunrise. It is wonderful to see the shadow of the moai statues moves around you.
North East from Ahu Tongariki is Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater where all the rocks for the Moai statues came from. You can see many moai statues scattered all over the quarry, some were incomplete.
You can still see some of the statues being built before it was abandoned after the carvers encountered hard rocks in the material.
Rano Raraku is usually crowded during the day so the earlier you come the better.
After hiking up Rano Raraku, wouldn't it be nice to be able to relax on a beach somewhere? Anakena is a white coral sand beach in the north of the island and you can drive up from Rano Raraku, have a nice lunch or simply just relax under palm trees and listen to the sound the waves crashing on to the beach. Nothing is more peaceful than that.
Be sure to also check out the Ahu Nau Nau, one of the best-preserved statue on the island.
Enjoy the ride
This is why I recommended going for an open-air vehicle like a bike or an ATV. Driving around the island can be a highlight in itself. As you drive around you will see the shift from the wonderful green landscape to a ruggedness of a volcanic landscape. You might also stumble upon surprising things like wild horses or a lone moai in the middle of nowhere so look out for them.
Enjoy the Tapati Festival
Once you get back to Hanga Roa in the evening, go into the town center and attend the Tapati Festival. The local performance with the locals dressed in traditional clothes and dance to upbeat island traditional music, nothing gets better than that!
Be sure to coincide your days with either the opening or the closing ceremony so you can witness the best of the festival while you are there.
Ahu Akivi (Day 3)
The next morning, you can start a little late and drive off to another Ahu, the Ahu Akivi. This one is a particularly sacred to the Rapa Nui people due to its absolute astronomical precision. It consisted of seven moai statues and are all faced exactly towards the point where the sun sets during the equinox which also aligns with the Moon.
Hike to Ana Kakenga
Ana Kakenga is a refuge volcanic tube formed a thousand years ago through volcanic activities on the island. What makes this cave special is its location overlooking the ocean. You have to hike to get to the entrance which is a small hole with no sign indicating that this is an entrance. It is very difficult to locate but if you have a guide with you, he/she will show you where the entrance is. The view is worth it though.. or so I heard since I couldn't find the entrance myself!
Rano Kau is one of the most impressive places to visit on the island. The crater is an extinct volcano which consisted of wetland/lake at the center. Due to its formation, crater walls sheltering the lake from the wind that wet the island, the crater has its own microclimate.
With your vehicle, you can reach the lookout point easily and you will be able to see the entire crater from the top. Also be sure to go further and visit the Orongo village, a ceremonial village and a center of a birdman cult back in the days.
Ahu Tahai (Day 4)
On your fourth day, you will no longer need your vehicle so return it before they charge you an extra day. Walk around the city center and toward the north, you will find Ahu Tahai, a ceremonial complex comprises of three Ahu platforms, one of which has its eyes restored. Did you know before that some moai statues have eyes!? I did not!
Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum
In order to appreciate all that was and is the Easter Island, I would recommend you visit the anthropological museum and learn the history of the Rapa Nui people. The museum is walking only a distance away from Ahu Tahai The museum is closed on Monday so prepare accordingly.
Rest and Chill on the island
For the last half of the day, take your time and enjoy the scenery from the city center and hang out with the locals at the park or at a restaurant.
The good thing about visiting during the Tapati festival is that there is always performance happening in the evening so be sure to check it out before retiring to your guest house.
Fly Back to Santiago (Day 5)
On your last day, you must be completely exhausted but be sure to walk around a bit more and shop for a souvenir before you depart to the airport. The miniature moai statue, in particular, was my favorite and I had to buy for my place at home 😊.
Even though I spent close to US$2,000 for this trip, I had no regret doing it. Being able to immerse myself in nature in such a way was soul recovering and was a much-needed break from the grind of going city to city in South America. Easter Island is not for regular budget travelers but if you are determined enough like I did, being there will be one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life.
What do you think about the itinerary? Do you have any suggestion or feedback? If so, please do tell me in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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