Easter Island is the most remote inhabited island in the world. Would you like to go there?
Traveling is such a gift—throw in some surf and a diverse culture at a far away location (sometimes really far) and you’ve built the perfect adventure.
A place I have dreamed about for years is Easter Island. This island encapsulates excitement, uniqueness and an unexplainable sense of mystery. Easter Island is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, so it must be rad.
Easter Island holds a truly extraordinary place in the entire world. The island has a unique archaeological history. I am sure you have seen you those megalithic statues or what is commonly known as Moai on large constructed stone platforms (also called Ahu). There are 887 of those mysterious statues on Rapi Nui.
Dude, I know you have seen them. it is unknown how or why ancient Polynesians carved more than 25 million pounds of stone to make the Moai.
Nobody knows: maybe aliens?
Keep reading because we’ll examine a few of the theories surrounding the statues and also talk about where to surf on the island.
Enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you.
Easter Island is also know as Rapa Nui. It is a Polynesian island located in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeastern most point of the Polynesian Triangle. The capital of Easter Island is Hanga Roa; bet you didn’t learn that in school.
Let’s check it out on the map so you can get an idea where the hell this place is located . . .
Easter Island is a territory of Chile (South America bro) which is about 3,600 km or 2,237 miles east of the island. The island is about 24.6 km (15.3 mi) long by 12.3 km (7.6 mi) at its widest point.
The island has a triangular shape. It has an area of 163.6 square kilometers (63.2 sq mi), and a maximum altitude of 507 meters (1,663 ft). There are three freshwater crater lakes on the island; at Rano Kau, Rano Raraku and Rano Aroi.
Easter Island Location
Due to its remote location, the island is hard to reach. By plane it’s 5.5 hours from the nearest continent with very limited options to get there. The only regular flights are via LAN Airlines. They fly weekly to Tahiti and daily to Santiago de Chile (from Easter Island). With no competition for fares on this route, fares range between US $300-$1200 round trip from Santiago.
Getting to Easter Island can be an expensive affair but, as always, good planning and research can bring down the cost considerably. Booking a flight/tour from mainland Chile can be very expensive.[box type=”info” size=”large” style=”rounded” border=”full”]If you’re flying into Chile on Lan Chile, it’s not very expensive to add a Santiago Easter island return to your international ticket.[/box]
Easter Island can also be easily included in a trans-Pacific route if you’re flying from Australia/New Zealand via Tahiti to mainland Chile as there is a LAN Chile service from Tahiti to Santiago that stops at Easter Island, making it ideal as an inexpensive stopover for a few days. The same applies if you’re planning a round-the-world trip that covers the South Pacific and South America.
Once you have your flights arranged, you can opt to go online and book a reasonably-priced hotel and car (or hotel + tour package) separately at one of the many Chilean tour operators or online.
For more info see Wiki Travel
Archaeological evidence has shown that surfing was practiced on the island as far back as its settlement by early Polynesians, who used roughly crafted boards for transportation and fishing. Easter Island is a haven for surfers of all levels and has been for centuries.
In the early 1990s, the island found its way onto the surfing radar. The best time of year to surf on Rapa Nui is during January and February when the crystalline swells rolls in under a cloudless sky.
However, you can have epic waves at any time of year. But, be mindful of the shifting winds and the occasional rain storm. Tracking the tides is also necessary. The rocky shoreline is exposed during low tide, so you’ll want to keep an eye on those reefs and exposed spots when the tide starts to drop.
The bay at Pea Beach near Hangaroa’s town center is the optimal how-to location and good for a warm up session once you arrive. The crystal clear waters stack in perfectly at high tide, and your gal (or guy) can watch you while sipping a nice cocktail from the shore.
The best spots for adventurous surfers is along the island’s south side of the boomerang-shaped island, particularly the bays of Paka Ai and Papa Tangaroa.
On the west side, you will find large waves, much like Indo where the swells come out of deep water right onto the island’s continental shelf. Check the bays of Tahai and Mata Veri; the latter’s long waves are particularly well suited for big wave riders. The swells on both these sides allow for plenty opportunity. Rent a car and explore.
This video shows a few well known surfers that made their way from Hawaii to Ester Island and scored some great waves.
Surfing classes are informal, don’t expect Kelly Slater style lessons. The best place to saddle up with a board is at the thatched shack beside the tourist information center in Hangaroa, easily spotted by its bright orange walls. Mai Teao, local surf pro and instructor extraordinary, offers classes throughout the week barring inclement weather.
Call Teao (09-212-0473) the day before to set up a time for the following morning. He then will contact the local Chilean military outpost to get the stats on swells, tides and the forecast. A one-hour course including gear (board and wet suit) will cost 20,000 Chilean pesos for a private lesson or 15,000 pesos per person for a small group (half-day board rental only costs 10,000 pesos).
Classes are a great way to learn more about the island’s past, as Teao vividly brings to life the fascinating history of local surfing along with a retelling of the ancient myths and legends involving sea spirit worship and tribal practices. For more on surfing Easter Island see the links at the end of the book.
Dude, Easter Island is way out and there is close to no public transportation on the island. No trains, no buses and no ferryboats as well. But on the other hand, getting around on this small island is not difficult—taxis, rental cars, and scooters are at your fingertips.
Cars can be rented either by the day or by the hour. If they are rented by the hour renters usually have to take them for an eight hour minimum, and the cost is $50 USD. Keeping a car for a full day (24 hours) is obviously going to be more expensive.
Need something bigger? Did you bring your SUP?
The cost for a rental van is quite expensive running about $125 per day. The cost of gas on the island is relatively high and there is only one gas station located near the airport. You can find car rental companies in any hotel and as well as in the main part of town or at the airport.
Most people opt for a 4 wheel drive because of the nasty roads. But stay chill because taxis are always available to take passengers anywhere they want to go in the island.
You can rent a motorcycle, bike or even grab a horse (does not come with racks). With a car, it’s possible to see most of the sights on the island in a few hours. Most locals will also rent out their jeep to you (at a very competitive rate) if you simply ask.
Sample prices of car rental are as follows:
Explora Rapa Nui – Explora Easter Island features 30 rooms in one floor facing the ocean. The rooms extend to the north and south from a central building all having excellent ocean views. The lodge has welcoming indoor spaces which integrate aspects of the local culture.
Rate: $120 – $160 :: Website: No site :: Ocean Views
Tupa Hotel – Tupa Hotel is located 3 blocks from Hanga Roa City Centre and one km from Tahai Archeological Museum. Free private parking is possible on site.
Overlooking the ocean and west coast of the island, Tupa Hotel offers rooms with sea and garden views. Free shuttles to and from Mataveri airport can be arranged. A free Polynesian breakfast is offered daily.
Rate: $120 – $200 :: Website: http://www.tupahotel.com :: Ocean Views
Altiplanico Rapa Nui – Situated in Hanga Roa, this resort is close to Dos Ventanas Caves, Museo Antropologico Sebastian Englert and Te Pahu Caves. Also nearby are Ahu Kote Riku and Ahu Vai Uri. In addition to a restaurant, Altiplanico Isla de Pascua features complimentary wireless Internet access.
Other amenities include a rooftop terrace and a garden. Guestrooms open to balconies with partial ocean views and feature safes and desks. The hotel features a pool and free parking. Anakena Beach is a 15-minute drive away.
Rate: $300+ :: Website: http://www.altiplanico.cl/en/altiplanico-easter-island :: Ocean Views
Chez Joseph Rapa Nui – Peacefully located in central Hanga Roa. Chez Joseph is 50 metres from the beachfront. It offers spacious accommodation, a tour desk, bicycle rental and free parking.
The Chez is centrally located, with local restaurants and bars within walking distance. The hotel conveniently offers a car rental service. Free transfers are provided.
Rate: $95 – $160 :: Website: http://www.hotelrapanui.com/en-us/ :: No Ocean Views :: Central
Mana Nui Inn – Mana Nui offers charming villas with balconies in Hanga Roa´s lively Tahai neighborhood. It is 10-minute walk from Hanga Rora diving centre and 50 metres from Caleta surf beach.
The town centre is a 10-minute walk away. A breakfast with seasonal fruits and freshly baked bread is served daily, and guests can use the barbecue facilities. For dining, Tahai Mall offers several restaurants only 10-minutes walk away.
Rate: $120 – $150 :: Website: none :: No Ocean Views
Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa – Situated near the beach in Hanga Roa, this hotel is close to Ahu Vai Uri, Ahu Kote Riku and Museo Antropologico Sebastian Englert. Local attractions also include Puna Pau and Ranu Kau.
In addition to two restaurants, Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa features a spa tub. Other amenities include concierge desk and massage/treatment rooms. Guestrooms open to balconies with ocean views and feature televisions with cable/satellite channels. Other amenities include complimentary high-speed (wired) Internet access and sofa beds.
Rate: $250 – $600 :: Website: http://www.hangaroa.cl/en-us/ :: Ocean Views :: Luxury
Chez Maria Goretti – Situated near the airport, in the city center, this hotel is close to Ahu Vai Uri, Ahu Kote Riku and Museo Antropologico Sebastian Englert. Local attractions also include Puna Pau and Dos Ventanas Caves.
In addition to complimentary wireless Internet access, Chez Maria Goretti provides a rooftop terrace, free parking and a garden. Guestrooms open to balconies with courtyard or garden views.
Rate: $110 – $210 :: Website: http://chezmariagoretti.com/ :: Budget
Lorana Hotel – Situated in Hanga Roa, this hotel is close to Museo Antropologico Sebastian Englert, Ahu Vai Uri and Ahu Kote Riku. Local attractions also include Puna Pau and Dos Ventanas Caves. In addition to a restaurant, Lorana Hotel features an outdoor pool.
Other amenities include a poolside bar and a bar/lounge. In addition to balconies and refrigerators, guestrooms feature air conditioning along with safes and desks.
Rate: $110 – $210 :: Website: http://www.ioranahotel.cl/ :: Budget
More hotels here: http://www.easterislandhotels.com/hochezgorreti.html
The cultural development on the island has been fodder for widespread speculation. Since the island consists of volcanic rock, the early inhabitants quarried the material into giant statues, some as high as 14 feet, 6 inches and weighing about 14 tons.
This was the reason for the reduction of the rich forestry. The villagers on the other hand used the trees to transfer these giant rocks all over the island as early as AD 700. The majority of the statues are facing out to the sea and are lined along the shore. Their faces and bodies resemble similar statues in Polynesia but have evolved uniquely.
The statues represent male authority and power throughout the societal structure of inhabitants and it is believed that the statues are impregnated by sacred spirits.
Widespread knowledge regarding Easter Island’s eccentric statues has fueled many interesting theories.
One man wrote that Spanish armadas carrying elephants from Africa had been blown off course by typhoons and ended up on the island. The man goes on to argue that the elephants were then used as the force behind the movement of the said monuments. A man named Tom Gary suggests that Easter Island passes on energy to Mexico and South America, kind of like an energy beacon in the middle of the ocean.
The monumental statues of Easter Island have been the source of great mystery ever since the island was first discovered by the Europeans on Easter Sunday in1722.
There is lots of hearsay about the ancient monumental statues or Moai. According to the legend, the Moai “walked” to their respected places in Easter Island and some researchers say that it might be true to a certain degree.
On the contrary, California State University at Long Beach Archaeologist Carl Lipo and Hawaii Anthropologist Terry Hunt stated that, ancient Polynesian might have used ropes and manpower to “walk” the huge figures from the excavation to constructed platforms (reports from National Geographic). In fact, Lipo and Hunt made a demonstration; three strong ropes and as few as 18 people could possibly and easily move a 10 feet and 5 ton Moai replica a few hundred yards.
There are approximately 900 Moai or monumental statues scattered across the island. Some of these statues were placed facing towards the center of the island, on platforms or what is called “Ahu” that was build along the coasts. In local tradition, the Moai are also described as possessing “mana” or a beneficial power. All the giant statues on Easter Island have long ears, and some islanders still practiced ear elongation at the time the first Europeans arrived.
There is said to be a distinct difference between the statues at Rano Raraku and those on the Ahu which is that the statues at the crater have a pointed base, destined to be buried in the ground, while those on the Ahu have a flat base, so that they can stand on these monuments.
The statues at the crater are scattered around in a random manner, whereas the statues at the Ahu, when they were still standing, were perfectly aligned and in a group. Although the giant statues appear scattered haphazardly, they actually form three major groups on the inner slope of the crater, facing north, such that they all have their backs to the face of the volcanic rock from which they were carved.
Since researches haven’t found all the missing links of Easter Island’s culture yet, the reconstruction of their past wanders between myth and reality. One of the most characteristics legends of the island is the one of the seven explorers.
According to this legend, before the journey of King Hotu Matua, following the instructions of a clairvoyant, seven sailors came to the island in search of an appropriate place to settle and plant yams, food that was key for the nutrition of the immigrants. Two of them also bought a moai.
In fact, some deduct that the seven explorers symbolize the seven generations that inhabited the place, or maybe seven immigrant tribes, from which only one survived in order to mix with Hotu Matua’s people.
The researchers concluded that the king died 20 years after arriving to the island, and that he was succeeded by his older son Tuu Maheke.
The last member of this dynasty was Gregorio O Roroko He Tau, also known as the Child King, who died in 1886. Today, there is still a family who claims to descend from the great king Hotu Matua.
The type of religion that has characterized Easter Island from the beginning states a series of prohibitions and precepts, all of them related to what they consider sacred, and which receives the name of Tapu. The religious practice that persists in the island up to this day is called Ivi Atua, and it is based on the immortality of the soul. Their beliefs evolve mainly around Make-Make, the creator god, supreme god and he who is omnipotent.
The Mana is the mental, supernatural and sacred power shared by the chiefs of the tribes, their priests and sorcerers. In general, this power could be used for their benefit or it could be directed against an enemy in order to harm them.
It is said that the ancient islanders resorted to this psychic and supernatural power in order to transport the Moai, and that the statues walked to their destination because of it.
As for death, the islanders believed that, once detached from the body, the spirit would stay close to their family before leaving for the spirit world, located far away to the west.
For one or two years, the deceased’s body remains wrapped in vegetable bits.
Sometime later, when the decomposition ia done, the skull is detached and engraved. Finally, the bones are washed and placed in a stone chamber, where the spirit could meet with their ancestors.
However, the most important religious demonstration is the worship of the birdman, also known as the bird of luck. In the language of the islanders, it is called Manutara.
The date of establishment of this event is uncertain, whether at the end of the 17th century or the beginning of the 18th century. It is a ritual competition that was celebrated in the month of September in Orongo, a ceremonial village in front of the three islets of the island. In the biggest and most distanced of them, called Motu-Nui, the competitors assembled in the caves with much anticipation, waiting for the birds.
Whoever took the first egg of a Manutara (sooty tern) was the winner. Once they found it, the fortunate competitor swam with the egg on his head in order to give it to his chief, who was consecrated as the birdman.
Three days later, the Manutara egg was emptied, filled with vegetable fibers and placed on the birdman’s head, where it would remain for a year.
There are many beautifully crafted structures on the island, here is a listing of the main types that you’ll find and should explore.
Ahus – They are ceremonial structures dedicated to the worship of each descent’s deified ancestors, around which ceremonies, mortuary rituals, assemblies, initiations and celebrations for food distribution were developed. These sacred places protected by specific Tapu were reserved for the nobility, that is, priests, political leaders, warriors and worship specialists, as well as their multitude of servants.
According to local legends, these figures represented ancestral beings of special religious importance, and islanders believed they harbored the Mana, the impersonal and supernatural power that protected the communities that held it. The essential element of an Ahu is a high rectangular platform delimited by great blocks of carved or fixed rocks and filled with stones, gravel and dirt.
The upper part is flat and paved. It is joined with a terrace or square in front of it. Some platforms are astronomically oriented. The oldest structures date from the 6th and 7th century. Over time, these structures evolved and became bigger and more complex. Also, numerous architectonic, esthetic and worshiping elements were added, such as a frontal ramp to access the platform, lateral wings, crematoriums, statues and stone pavement.
Pukao – These are statues that carried cylinders of red slag on their heads. They can weight approximately 11 tons. Their meaning is ambiguous. Some authors point out that they are the representation of a hairstyle or bun; others say it represents a hat.
The absence of the Pukao in several statues suggests it is a more recent feature that was added with esthetic purposes.
Hare Paenga – Its shape is similar to an inverted boat. The floor is elliptic and is defined by carefully carved soleplates of basalt. The poles that supported the vegetal structure were inserted in the top side. The frontal side presents an exterior pavement shaped as a half moon. Generally, the inner space was much reduced and was used exclusively to sleep.
The average size ranges from 10 to 15 meters long by 1.50 to 2.5 meters wide. These houses were inhabited by people of high social status.
Hare Oka – They are houses with a circular floor. Their base is conformed by basalt stones. Studies point out that these houses were temporary rooms, which coincides with archeological evidence. In general, there are no domestic structures typical of other places destined for permanent occupation.
Houses of rectangular floor – Researchers have found around 250 houses like these in the higher areas of the island. The foundation is made of rectangular stones, inserted in the land with concrete. The superstructure is vegetal, but the shape is conjectural. Typically, they are associated to lithic workshops and great stone courtyards.
Tupa – These rooms were used by priests to execute astral observations and determine the beginning of the lunar year, the planting season, harvest seasons, religious festivities and the arrival of migratory birds and fish that were important food resources.
Most of the houses and rooms were built with hay walls and roofs, as well as stick shells. The houses did not have any windows, and sometimes, they presented a stone pavement in front of them.
Easter Islands Food and Drinks
When the resources were depleted and war broke out in the 16th century, the population collapsed. While relying on mainland Chile for decades, Rapa Nui is increasingly learning to be self-sustainable. For the first time in the islands history, they have begun to export products: papayas and beer.
In 2010, Easter Island began selling its first beer called Mahina, which is available as a Pale Ale (4.8%) and a Stout (6.8%). Both are one hundred percent natural and follow a double fermentation process.
Nothing like grabbing a beer after your surf or trek around the island.
On a side note, the company is partially owned by one time underwater diving champion, Mike Rapu.
You can as well drink the pisco sour, a cocktail made of spirits grape, lemon juice, egg white and powdered sugar (or pisco alone for that matter).
On Easter Island there is interesting native music that is deeply rooted in ancient traditions and legends.
The islanders are also good dancers, and seems as though their great passion is to sing and dance. The current dances and songs are stylization of Polynesian folklore and the more recent dances are the Tahitian waltz and the Rapa Nui tango.
Sau-Sau – A popular song and dance of Samoan origin that has become a characteristics dance of the island. Moreover, there are other popular songs as well as dances devoted to the gods, warrior spirits, to rain and love. This is the most important dance in every party. The women show all their grace and elegance through rhythmic movements.
Ula-Ula – This dance is from Tahiti and according to a doctor named Ramon Campbell, is a reminiscence of the original. Generally, couples dance separated from each other to the rhythm of the lively corrido, waving their hips softly from side to side, and resting their feet alternatively on the heel and the tip of the toes. The women make graceful arm movements, waving them from one side to the other in a very harmonious manner, and imitating the act of combing their hair with one hand and looking themselves in an invisible mirror with the other.
All of this is executed with a suggestive and captivating feminine grace. In this type of dance, there usually aren’t any provocative or indecent movements. The dancing is usually alternated with figures where the dancers bend their legs until the heels almost touch their backside in a crouching position, and then rises again, constantly undulating in a rhythmical manner.
Tamure – A graceful Tahitian dance composed of two main aspects. On the one hand, the dancers perform real acrobatics with their legs, as well as extraordinary rapid movements and fairly violent pelvic swings. The men who have travelled to Tahiti are the ones who perform this dance well. In counted occasions, the women dare to execute the steps and figures of the Tahitian tamuré.
Everyone like a little music and you won’t be disappointed while listening to the local music of Easter Island. Traditional music from the island consists of choral singing and chanting, similar to Tahitian music. Families often performed as choirs, competing in an annual concert.
Maea – These are hard and round loud stones that were beaten rhythmically and accompanied the singing groups. These stones were extracted from the seabed because they were resistant. The dances include rhymed sounds made with the throat, and the rhythm is marked with a wooden stick used to hit the ground, a long mallet shaped like a thin paddle called Ua.
Keho – A primitive drum made again of stone. A wide hole is dug in the ground, and then another circular smaller one in the middle, where an empty pumpkin covered with a slab stone was placed. On this stone, a singer or dancer bangs loudly with his naked feet following the rhythm of the music. The sound is obtained from the boom of the air contained in the hole, and the pumpkin served as a sounding box.
Hio (aerophone) – It is a sort of bamboo flute with holes. According to existent references, it must have had a pitiful sound. The Tahitian word “hio” means “to whistle” or “to blow”.
Kauaha (idiophone) – A naturally dissected equine jaw. The inferior maxillary bones preserve all the loose pieces in the dental alveolus, which do not fall out because of their shape. Two sounds are produced when the jaw (which is held by the front) is banged against the ground or the palm of the hand.
Ukalele (chordophone) – This instrument comes from Polynesia and also receives the name of Hawaiian guitar. The box is similar to the guitar, though a lot smaller, and it has four strings.
Guitar (chordophone) – Manufactured in the island, it was used a lot in the past. Today, most guitars are manufactured in the continent.
Upa-Upa (aerophone) – Button or keyword accordion.
Ahu Tongariki is the largest Ahu or stone platforms on the Island. Make sure that this beautiful spot is on your list. Although part of the Ahu was swept off the island in the 20th century, it has been rebuild since then and features15 large Moai. This gorgeous spot sits close to the island’s two volcanoes, the Rano Raraku and Poike. From where the Moai sit, they are perfectly aligned and face the sunset during the summer solstice.
The Ballet Kari Kari is extremely popular for tourists on the island and features local folk music. Guests can also join in the dancing and get a feel for the culture.
A must see destinations is the volcanic crater, the Rano Raraku. Located 1.9 miles from the city center, Rano Raraku was once the quarry that supplied material for 95% of Easter Island’s monolithic sculptures. About 400 moai remains in the area and show a visual record of how the sculptures changed over the years. The sides of Rano Raraku are steep on all but one side and surround a beautiful freshwater lake. The reeds that border the lake were once used by the residents of Easter Island for home construction.
You should also check out Rano Kau. This extinct volcano was formed by basaltic lava flows that date back to over 150.000 years ago. Within Rano Kau is a crater lake that features its own micro climate. The inner slope was the location of the last known toromiro tree in the wild until this unfortunate specimen was chopped down for firewood.
At the southwestern point of the island is the stone village of Orongo. The 53 houses that make up the village were discovered by archaeologists in the 1970s and were eventually restored to their former state. This village was once the center of the birdman culture. The birdman was devoted to bringing the first egg across the rest at Orongo. Orongo eventually became a ghost town until its renewal as a popular tourist site. For visitors to the area, this dramatic location offers a glimpse into the past glory days of Easter Island.
Don’t miss Anakena Beach, it is lined by Moai. The beach is very ideal spot for a swim. The road that leads to the beach passes an ancient ceremonial site that is worth a stop. The site features the Orongo or what the locals call “Navel of the Earth”.
1. Private Site
4. Research on Statues
5. National Geographic Article