I don’t care what people say Easter Island or as it’s originally called, “Rapa Nui” is not Chile and thus why I opted to not include it in my post about Chile. Easter Island definitely has a Polynesian feel which is to be expected given its location and the people here consider themselves more Polynesian and not Chilean. I too would have to agree with them.
They say roughly only 70,000 people visit the island each year (compared to 51 million a year in Chicago to help draw perspective) with a population of a little over 5,000 inhabitants you can imagine how small and uninhabited the island is. I do envision this changing on both fronts as are the indicators of increased building in Hanga Roa. Currently Rapa Nui as a whole is a secluded whimsical travel location. You can ride through it’s limited paved highways and hardly pass any vehicles or people. Amazing for enjoying the sights but not helpful when you’re ATV breaks down or you can’t take selfies because your screen cracked. Regardless, in my travels I’ve never explored a place where I felt as if I was the first person discovering the moai statues, or where I felt like an area was closed to the public for only me to enjoy like a VIP or A-list celebrity. It’s beautiful to roam the land and see the moai’s without being shoved souvenirs down your throat with every statue you pass or have tons of park staff watching you like hawks. Fellow travelers, places like this still DO exist!!!! I found a unicorn.
It shouldn’t come as a shock to hear that Easter Island is expensive. The island is in the middle of the Pacific ocean, its closest mainland, Santiago Chile is a five hour flight away and everything is imported into the island so of course everything is expensive from accommodations, food to activities but I can assure you that it is worth it. I managed to find ways to cut some of those costs mentioned above which I did have control over because I knew I couldn’t visit Chile and not visit the place that has been on the top my list for many years now. How so? Accommodation and Food was my sweet spot.
Hostels start at $25-$30 USD and their aren’t many available and/or book up quickly. Instead I opted to camp in Easter Island at Camping Mihinoa for $17 USD a night which included the tent, mattress and sleeping bag. The site of the campground is right in front of the ocean so you get an exceptional view which is a plus. The showers are clean but it is recommended to shower during the day as the hot water is powered by solar energy as this is an eco-campground. Another thing to note is that while the kitchen is very clean and big the cooking tools provided by the site are very basic like pots, pans, pasta drainers etc. but no wine or can opener, cooking oil or salt for example. I managed to borrow from the neighboring hostel when I made friends with management after I rented my ATV from them. Additionally their lounge area reminds me more of a basic lobby reception with nothing to really entertain you with as they don’t have board games, a TV and their WIFI is extremely slow but that is to be expected given the location and size of Easter Island.
In terms of saving on food costs, whenever you want to cut costs while traveling the easy way is to buy groceries and cook/eat meals where you are staying. From other blogs, Chilean locals and those who have traveled to Easter Island I heard that grocery shopping in Easter Island can be just as expensive as going to eat at a restaurant since all the food gets imported. For example, I purchased a small bottle of water and a 1/2 liter yogurt juice for about $5.000 pesos which translates to $8 US dollars and meals in Easter Island start at around $7.000 pesos or $11 USD not including drink. Instead, I advise you as I did to buy food in Chile and bring this with you on the island. Many people do this and while I ended up with a 20 Kilos (45 Lbs) #LifeinaBag, the heaviest to date, it was totally worth it when you realize I paid only $5 USD a day on my meals.
I stayed five nights in Easter Island but would personally recommend a three/four night stay arriving on the late flight that leaves from Santiago Chile at 6:50pm which gets into Easter Island at around 10:30 PM if you aren’t trying to do too many of the activities on the island. I ended up feeling like I lounged quite a bit but with no book or good wifi/cellular signal my lounge time went very slow. I shrugged this off as living the island life and went with the flow.
This is how I would suggest you fill these days. (See map below for reference on various moai area names)
– Rent either a car, ATV (Quatrimoto) or scooter if you have a license for motorcycles. They rent it by 24 hours so if you pick up at 11am you drop off at 11am the next day. (Tip: While the island is small, walking is only an option if you are use to walking 2 to 4+ hours each way to get to places. Some of the other fellow campers did walk and would ask for rides while walking to a location with more females having better luck.)
– Spend your first day visiting the main 2 stretches of Easter Island which covers Anakena beach and the more famous statues in the areas of Rano Raraku and Ahu Tongariki. With only 2 main roads that connect at the beach which is the farthest point from the city (35 minute via ATV ride) you can easily do the loop in one day with proper transportation. (Tip: pack a lunch, water, etc. as the island is limited with shops, restaurants etc. outside of Hanga Roa)
– Second day, explore the areas closer to the city which are more walkable such as Orongo, Rano Kau, Ana Kai Tangata and Hanga Piko followed by lunch then your afternoon can be spent visiting the northern side of Hanga Roa to see Ahu Tepeu, Ana Kakenga and watch the sunset from Tahai. (Tip: I opted to pay for a cab ride to the top of Orongo for $10.000 pesos which is $16 USD and walk down from there. A bit lazier but made my trek down more enjoyable and obviously less tiring.)
– If you fancy seeing a traditional Curanto show they have 3 in the city. All of them alternating on days and the only night they don’t operate is on Sunday. Cost for shows start at 15.000 pesos ($24 USD) for just the show or 30.000 pesos ($48 USD) with dinner.
– On your third day do an activity of your choice. Top ones are scuba diving, surfing, horseback riding, boat rides, massages or spend the day at the beach. Other options could also be checking out their Anthropology museum or their Botanical garden. (Tip: Obviously if more than 1 of these activities fancy you than adding more days would be suggested.)
Top tips to keep in mind on the island:
– Keep in mind that their is a price to enter the island which acts as your ticket to enter the various moai areas and which you should carry with you when visiting the moai’s as some areas will check and stamp you. (See picture below for foreigner and national costs in both USD and Chilean pesos.) Keep in mind that this may only be paid in cash so be sure to have this with you.
– While you can visit many of the moai sites as many times as you wish the only exception is Rano Kau and Rano Raraku so leverage your visit here to make it worth your visit.
– Places that accept cards will typically charge you a 5-6% additional charge to use your card.
– Cabs have a set fare for rides in the city with prices for locals and tourist and change based on the hours of usage.
– If you come with a mobile plan note that you will only have signal in the city and will be very limited as this was the case for me but given the size if something does happen like it did with me, if you see someone they will gladly help you.
– The people here are exceptionally nice. They will do what they can to aid you and expect nothing in return.
I make mention of how nice the people are here as my ATV adventure was one for the fellow travelers books. I accidentally dropped my mobile phone and credit cards out of my pockets due to the vibrations of the ATV. When I figured it out I ended up having to retrace my steps aimlessly hoping that by chance I would find my cell phone and credit cards. 2 locals saw me and called me to their field to return my cell phone and credit cards as they had picked it up and realized I must have been the owner of said items by how I was staring at the ground. Loosing your phone and credit cards back home is one thing, loosing your phone and credit cards in a big city while traveling is another thing but loosing your phone and credit cards in an island is a new level of nerve wracking.
After my cell phone and credit card ordeal I continued my journey with the rented ATV. Half way to the beach the ATV starts to break down. Of course I start freaking out as there is no one around and not surprisingly in a no service area but miraculously I figured out that if I drove on the reserve gas tank (mind you my regular tank did have gas) I could get it to turn on and make it back to the hostel I rented it from. Thanks be to God I was able to and managed to switch out the ATV to a different model with management even offering to extend my return time for the mishap. The ATV I was given gave me a lot of smiles and nods from the locals which I later discovered was because the new model I was given there is only 6 in the island.
Finally, because I couldn’t end my ATV adventure without another story, I ran out of gas 2 blocks away from the only gas station in the island. I was on my way to fill the tank before returning the ATV but I’ll admit this one was totally my fault as I honestly didn’t see how much gas I had left and the girl at the rental said I should have enough for 2 trips back and fourth to the beach. Regardless, the locals once again proved how nice they were as a man helped me move the ATV to a safer location while a woman called the girl I rented the ATV who came with a gas tank to get me to the gas station. I’m happy to say that while I loved riding on the ATV I was more than ready to return it at this point.
My motto is God, family, travel in that order with God coming first. I know that God was certainly looking over me and had my guardian angels working in my favor for everything to work itself out they way it did. I know things could have been worse but I’m blessed to say they didn’t.
I say this story because as travelers not everything is perfect. You do find yourself with those “Travel Problems” but as with life, you take a deep breath, you go through the motions, you overcome and you learn from it. Regardless of this mishap, which now makes for a great story, I’ll admit that as I peacefully and lonesomely overlooked toward the Pacific Ocean from the top of Orongo I got choked up with emotions. I couldn’t have felt more blessed to be in this island and may only hope that if this island interests you to visit the way it did me that you too may make it here.