A visit with the Moai on Easter Island

“There’s only one place I want to go and it’s all the places I’ve never been” – Nikki Rowe

Now THIS was one of those places! Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it is known by its inhabitants is 2,334 miles off the coast of Chile. The island is well known for the giant mysterious heads that have stood watch over it’s people for centuries. They face inland like silent sentinels keeping secrets they will never tell. These statues are called moai and there are over 800 of them found throughout Rapa Nui. Join us as we introduce you to the magic and mysteries of this fascinating island…….but don’t be surprised if you are left wanting to make the journey there yourself!

Getting There

Decisions, decisions…..Nope! None to make! Only one airline services the island of Rapa Nui. Latam Airlines flies out of Santiago once a day in low season, twice in high season. This is your only option with the exception of a flight out of Tahiti once a week! The flight takes around 5 hours from Santiago and prices were high. I paid approximately 1,600. USD to fly from NYC to Easter Island. Was it worth it? Every penny!!!

Where to Stay

Taha Tai: I really loved this hotel ! Fun little pool with a bar (alcohol makes everything fun!) Free wifi, free breakfast, free parking and free airport shuttle. …free things are fun too! Taha Tai is a 5 minute walk from town and rooms were comfy and clean with a small patio.

What to Do

Hike the Rano Kau crater and explore Orongo. Rano Kau is one of those places that you can just stand and stare out at for a while. It’s beauty is hypnotizing. There is a section where part of the rim has collapsed offering amazing views of the Pacific Ocean beyond the crater. It makes sense to visit Orongo after hiking the crater, as they are right near each other. Orongo is the site where the legendary “Birdman” competition took place each year during the 1600 and 1700s. There are restored stone houses , unbeatable views of the ocean and a visitors center with some additional info. This is a good place to go to with a guide so that they can explain the significance of the Birdman and point out petroglyphs in the area. We went with Mahaki Tours. It was a husband and wife team and they were awesome! Julio is native Rapa Nui and his wife, Daniella is from mainland Chile. They run several small group tours on the island and honestly gave an amazing tour!

Visit the Quarry where the moai were “born”. OK…By far my favorite thing to do on Rapa Nui! It was like entering a treasure box and climbing inside… A treasure box filled with moai in all different stages of development. Some were partially carved, some were half buried and still others had fallen to the ground . In my warped imagination this is how the story goes….the moai had all been at a “quarry-party” getting drunk and falling down when the music stopped and they became frozen in time…never to tell the true secrets of what happened there. A path leads all around the quarry. This site can only be visited once with your park pass, so spend as much time as possible here. Perhaps you will get lucky and the moai will finally break their silence…but you will be lucky enough just to be there.

Soak up some sunshine at Anakena Beach. Better than any travel magazine could capture, Anakena is the definition of paradise. Protected by a cove with soft white sand (I heard it was imported from Tahiti?) and turquoise waters with 100% visibility….need I say more? Yes…I must! There are several restaurants there for lunch AND if that’s not enough…there are moai right there on the beach to keep you company!!! We spent the day at Anakena. My body has come home, but my mind remains there. Paradise.

Watch the sunrise at Tongariki. This is a happening. Tongariki is about a half an hour from town so you have to get up pretty early to witness the sunrise here. My alarm went off at 6;20. My son was not loving it. It was an awful sound. My biggest concern was how to obtain a cup of coffee that early…with no Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks on Rapa Nui, (thank god) finding coffee at 6:30 am was a challenge to say the least. But as we pulled into the parking lot of Tongariki there it was..like seeing a gas station ahead when your fuel light comes on…a hut with a sign that read COFFEE. I ordered my cafe con leche y sucre (you’re impressed) and took my first sip. At the same moment a friend we had made on a previous tour pointed out a clear baggie hanging from the ceiling filled with ……water? yes, I think it was water. rain water? Pond water? Fear overcame me. Was this coffee man’s water supply? After all, there is no running water on this part of the island. It was just so odd. Upon further inspection there was sand or some unknown substance in the bottom of the bag. Suddenly I felt like a mouse in a twisted lab experiment. I did not finish the coffee. However, the sunrise was SPECTACULAR! I dare say “spiritual” as I am not a spiritual person!

Watch the sunset from Ahu Tahai.…almost as magical as the Tongariki sunrise! It’s a short walk from town along the volcanic shoreline with grazing horses along the way. The only moai with eyes is here (not the real coral eyes that they all once possessed when completed though) along with 5 moai on an ahu and another standing alone. (I titled him; “All by Moai Self”). People start gathering to watch the sun go down about an hour before to watch the sky change colors as the sun slips down towards the horizon.

Explore the Rapa Nui Museum. This is a great way to spend an hour or so. There’s some good information about the islands early inhabitants, the impact that European explorers had on them and theories about their mysterious moai. There’s also a few artifacts including the only remaining original coral eye from a moai. An added bonus; the museum is free!

Sneak a peek at the rock paintings in the “Cave of the Cannibals”. Many locals will not go near the cave because they believe it is haunted . What would ever give them THAT idea? As a fan of anything spooky, I wanted to see for myself. Besides, the cave held its own mysteries about Rapa Nui with fascinating rock paintings covering its interior. The cave is about a half hour walk from town. It’s naturally carved out of a cliff with the most powerful waves I’ve ever seen pounding near the entrance. My son decided that it felt like the perfect setting for a horror film. To reach the cave you need to climb down steep steps carved into the cliff ….now things were getting exciting! As we came towards the final steps a sign warned us not to go further due to EVIL SPIRITS! No…due to unstable rocks above the cave. I quickly snuck past the sign to get a closer look inside ! The rock paintings were really cool and as I looked up I saw them all along the ceiling. We did not stay too long and I wasn’t brave enough to proceed past the second area with another warning sign (which was chained off). If you dare to visit, save your appetite, maybe they will have you for dinner!

Watch a traditional Kari Kari show. We opted for the dinner along with the show, but you can also just go to the show. Dinner ensures a seat in one of the first two rows and the meal was pretty good. You may question whether you want to be in the first two rows when the very sweaty dancers repeatedly beat their chests and the sweat visibly sprays everywhere. The show was entertaining, lasted an hour and at times felt like a polynesian version of Chippendales….Would have been awkward dumping a bunch of Chilean pesos into their “thongs” only to be escorted out by security.

Other Things to Do

Horseback riding up Teravaca Volcano

Shopping at the markets in town

rent bicycles and go for a ride.

hike the lava tubes and caves on the west coast

take a glass bottom boat tour

Visit the only moai on the island that face the ocean at Ahu Akivi

Where to Eat

Tia Berta. Best empanadas ever! They were insanely large and a good cheap lunch!

Te Moai Sunset. Great for dinner… at sunset!

Hangaroa Eco Village . They told us at the front desk that their restaurants are for guests only so we left and entered through a different door. We enjoyed a great dinner at their bar/restaurant with views of the coast.

Te Moana. Food was excellent and we loved the atmosphere. Great views of the Pacific from our table.

Club Sandwich. We actually liked this place so much that we ate here twice. Very reasonable prices for amazing sandwiches. I wish there was a Club Sandwich in my town!!!

Helpful Tips

You need a park pass to visit many of the sites on the island. There’s a stand as you get off the plane to purchase your passes. They take Chilean pesos or American dollars. Adults are 80.00 USD , under 18 years is 40.00. Keep the pass with you.

They say the water in town is safe to drink. For the most part, we drank bottled water. Our hotel had a refill station for 50 cents a refill. It was good because we were not wasting plastic by reusing our bottle and it was cheaper than buying new water everyday.

Bring sunscreen! I have never burned so fast! And bug spray…..they have occasional dengue outbreaks on Rapa Nui.

Bring your passport to the cultural center in town. They will stamp your passport with a really cool Rapa Nui stamp for free. Just give them a little tip as a thank you!

Shopping is better off the main street.

Rent a car for a day and explore on your own. We actually rented for 2 days with Oceanic in town. It cost about $120.00 USD for the 2 days and was great for getting around. Watch the potholes, the roads are almost as bad as the Grand Central Parkway in Queens, NY. Almost.

Keep some change handy. Most bathrooms charge 500 Chilean pesos.

!0% is customary for tips in Chile, but it was either automatically added or suggested on every bill we received….so look at your check . “Propina” is tip in Spanish.

Wait until you get to the island to reserve a car or book tours. We found them much cheaper there than online. The locals are such honest people that they gave me their price instead of the internet price when I accidentally double booked a tour!

So if you are up for a truly worthwhile adventure, hop on a plane heading south to Santiago and then board the plane heading west to the tiny dot in the middle of the Pacific known to the locals as “Rapa Nui”. I promise, the moai will be right where I left them…standing watch, keeping their secrets and patiently waiting……..

Suggested reads; The Statues That Walked by Terry Hunt

12 comments

  1. Worldtrekkingwombat, you are my favorite traveling blog to follow. I always find your posts so entertaining and detailed. Its as if i am experiencing your tours with you but from the comforts of my own home and am super envious of you and your sons passports. Loved your creativity withRapa Nui and the scenarios you described the Moai. What if the secrets they are hiding is what they have observed about tourists that go and see them for the last few centuries?!?! maybe they have a lot to say and are judging you more than you them! Also, it seemed like all the stair climbing and walking of the great wall you did last year paid off because in one picture, your son and you are jumping higher than the Moai. Keep on trekking and exploring the world. Whats next on for your travel plans?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. perhaps somewhere in Europe. I hear the islands of Greece are paradise.I hear theres one island with a funny name (Zakythnos) where you can swim in water of the blue caves, see an ancient ship wreck that tells mysterious stories of itself. Swim in the water where the mountains secrete its fat but very healthy for skin and stay on the cleanest beaches around the world. It can be one of your relaxing safely trips instead of suspect water, dangerous caves or a shitload of climbing. Just don’t get caught steeling anyones goats while there.

    Around the world and back, until your next adventure wombat.

    Liked by 1 person

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