From watching the sunrise over the iconic moai to diving in crystal clear water, here are the 30 best things to do in Easter Island.
Located at the far eastern point of Polynesia in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Rapa Nui is a place that has long been shrouded in mystery.
For decades the allure of this volcanic island, the most isolated inhabited place on earth, has been attracting visitors who are curious to discover the stunning scenery and fascinating statues.
Most famous for the iconic heads, officially known as moai (pronounced mo-eye), Rapa Nui also goes by the English name, Easter Island and the Spanish title Isla de Pascua.
Politically Easter Island belongs to Chile, but geographically the island is over 4000km away from the South American continent. While everyone does speak Spanish here, the local tongue, also called Rapa Nui, is just as prevalent.
We visited here in May 2017 and spent a week trying to discover all the things to do on Easter Island. What we didn’t expect was to fall completely in love with Rapa Nui!
Things To Do In Easter Island
Most people visit Easter Island on a short trip from Santiago, or from the other alternative at Tahiti. While it’s possible to see the major sites in a few days, we personally believe a week isn’t even enough.
There are dozens of things to do in Easter Island, and even though we were out all day, every day (and sometimes at night) we still didn’t get to do them all.
That being said we tried our best, and here’s our list of what to do in Easter Island on your next vacation!
Watch The Sunrise At Ahu Tongariki
Perhaps the most popular thing to do in Easter Island is to watch the sunrise over the 15 moai in at Ahu Tongariki. This particular location is so unique because it holds the best restored moais on the entire island.
Re-erected to their traditional positions after a huge tsunami knocked them down in 1960, the 15 moai stand tall with spectacular mountains and ocean views behind them.
While visiting Ahu Tongariki is beautiful at any time of day, being there for sunrise is especially captivating as the sun peaks up between the statues, throwing long shadows across the field.
Our Tip – Stay as long as you can after the sun rises to capture some amazing shots once everyone has left.
Rent A Car To Explore The Island
While we personally recommend getting a tour for at least one day in order to best learn about the island’s culture and history (we recommend Mahinatur), there’s nothing better than having the freedom to go at your own pace and go back to the spots you love.
Wake up early and make your way out to Ahu Tongariki for sunrise, then head to the beach for an hour of relaxation if you want. Take random roads and see where you end up.
Especially if you’re interested in taking photos having a car can be the most important tool you have in order to stop at any of the marvellous lookouts scattered around the island.
If you’re not into driving cars you can also rent bicycles, ATVs or dirt bikes.
Average cost for a car rental in Easter Island is about US$80 for 24 hours. You do not need much fuel to get around, as the island is quite small.
Our Tip – Go on tours first to get the history then rent a car when you have a spare day to go back to those favourite, and less-visited, locations.
Swim at Anakena Beach
While most of the coastline of Rapa Nui is rocky due to the volcanic composition of the island, there are two places where you can enjoy white sand and turquoise waters as beautiful as anywhere in the Pacific Ocean!
Ovahe Beach is a great place to enjoy on a sunny day, but the real crown jewel is Anakena Beach!
Your first glimpse of Anakena Beach will really make you believe you have landed in a tropical, movie paradise. And let’s face it; you pretty much have.
Lush green grass peppered with soaring palm trees stretch out to bay of glistening soft sand. Rock headlands on either side give dramatic views while also creating a protective shelter for the shimmering waves that gently lap onto the shore.
To top it all off 8 moais stand tall in this dramatic location – The 7 moais of Ahu Nau Nau and the lone moai on Ahu Ature. This really makes it one of the absolute best things to do in Easter Island.
Our Tip – Walk around to the far end of the beach (opposite the car park) and the sand and water will be a less busy.
Scuba Dive With The Underwater Moai
This is something that we wanted to do ever since we first saw a photo of a moai laying on the ocean floor. We didn’t know how accessible or easy it would be, but as it turns out it’s quite simple to dive there!
Sitting about 20m below the surface this moai makes for some incredible underwater photos. The ocean is stunningly clear and when we went diving in Easter Island visibility was around 40m!
There’s also other excellent dive sites around Rapa Nui, including some cavern and wall dives.
Unfortunately we have to break some sad news – the underwater moai is a fake! It was installed on the reef for a movie and left as a dive site ever since. Still that doesn’t make it any less beautiful to see!
Diving in Easter Island isn’t cheap, and we paid 40’000 CLP for one tank (US$60). You can get discounts with more dives. Keep in mind that this isn’t Indonesia or the Philippines, and it’s not world class diving by any means. But where else can you get a photo like this?
Our Tip – Check out the two main dive companies in downtown Hanga Roa. They are Orca Diving Centre and Mike Rapu. Personally we went with Orca Diving Centre, and while their equipment was good, we felt like we were a pain in the ass to the staff and dive masters there. Quite unfriendly and abrupt. We had a much better feeling from Mike Rapu (and their gear was the same), but they were booked out on the day we wanted to go unfortunately.
Go Stargazing At Night
The remote location of Rapa Nui makes it one of the most phenomenal places to admire the night sky. When the sun sets the stars come out in all their glory!
If you’ve grown up in a city, or don’t have the chance to get out into nature all that often, you will be absolutely blown away by the clarity and clearness of the sky in Easter Island!
The best part is you don’t even have to leave your hotel to see the Milky Way. If you happen to be on the island during a new moon the lights from Hanga Roa only have a small effect on the sky, meaning you can see everything from right there in town.
Our Tip – When you rent a car you have it for 24 hours, so do what we did and go for a drive around midnight to get a much better view of the stars.
Rent A Board And Go Surfing
Whether you’re a seasoned expert of brand new to the waves, surfing in Easter Island will keep you amped! With no other landmass for thousands of kilometres around, Easter Island’s north shore gets hammered with some intense swell that has become the stuff of legend.
If paddling into a 12-foot monster doesn’t sound appealing to you then you’re in luck, because the harbour at Hanga Roa gets some gentle, rolling sets that are perfect to learn on.
You can rent a board from many of the shops in the village, and prices are around 15’000CLP (US$22) for half a day.
Our Tip – If you’re keen to find some more solid swell become friends with the locals to see if they’ll take you to some of their favourite spots.
Explore The Anthropological Museum
If you’re coming to Rapa Nui expecting a world class museum, we have some sad news for you – it’s not that amazing. Still it has some interesting artefacts, including the only original coral eye that used to adorn the moais, and is worth stopping by if you have a few hours spare.
You can find the Museo Antropologico Padre Sebastian Englert at the north end of Hanga Roa village. Best of all entrance is free!
Our Tip – Go during the middle of the day so you can escape the heat outside.
Visit The Quarry At Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku is quite possibly the most interesting and beautiful site on the entire island, and a place that is well worth spending as much time as possible. It’s also arguably the best place to visit in Easter Island.
Located on the edge of the Terevaka volcano on the north end of the island, Rano Raraku is where all the moai were hand carved to be transported to their final destinations.
As this was the quarry you can find moai in all stages of construction, from barely carved out to fully completed yet abandoned on the side of a hill. To see them scattered around is a sight that will never be forgotten!
Behind Rano Raraku it’s also possible to hike to the large volcanic crater for another spectacular view. It also gives epic vistas out to sea.
This was our absolute favourite spot on the entire island. There’s a lot of stories and history to be learned from this archaelogical site, but we will leave the details and stories to discover on your own adventure. Don’t miss it on your list of things to do in Easter Island.
Our Tip – You can only visit Rano Raraku once on your national park entrance ticket, so we suggest spending as much time there as possible. Once you see it for yourself you won’t want to leave.
Learn About The Birdman Competition At Orongo
High up on the side of Rano Kau, the largest volcano on Easter Island, is the historic Orongo village. Here you can find more than 50 stone dwellings looking out over the sea and towards a couple of rocky islands.
While Rano Kau in itself is breathtaking, and worth a visit at any time of day (or night), Orongo offers the most fascinating insight into the history of the Rapa Nui people.
Here at Orongo the ancient ‘Birdman’ competition was held. This contest would pit representatives from each village on the island against each other in a dangerous climbing and swimming match to one of the offshore islands. The goal – to collect the first bird egg of the season.
The winning tribe would then be granted rulership over the entire island for the following year. A place of such importance meant a lot for the local people, which is why the dwellings are so fantastic.
Like Rano Raraku, you can only visit Orongo once on your ticket. However in our opinion once is enough.
Our Tip – If you can go with a local guide to Orongo. It will provide a much deeper insight into the history and competition that was held in this fabled location.
Check Out Ana Kakenga Cave
We’ve visited a lot of caves in our time, including the largest cave in the world, so it takes a lot for us to get excited about a twisting cavern. But when on Easter Island, everything is exciting!
Rapa Nui is covered in dozens of underground chambers, and trying to find every one in itself could take weeks. If you’re into amateur spelunking, you’re in the right place.
What makes Ana Kakenga so unique though is that this cave actually has two openings that expose themselves at the side of a cliff, offering sensational views over the Pacific Ocean!
This cave is not for the claustrophobic! You need to climb down a narrow entrance to get in, then crawl through a small chamber to reach the openings. But trust us, it’s worth it!
Our Tip – Bring a head torch or a light, and try to be out there for sunset, as the cave faces west!
Go To A Traditional Dance Show
One of the more cultural things to do in Easter Island is to attend a traditional dance show. Music and dancing is very important to the people of Polynesia, and Rapa Nui is no different.
These visually inspiring shows last for up to 90 minutes and often get the crowd involved with the dancing, so make sure you bring a fun and lively attitude!
The costs vary depending on the company and whether you want dinner included, but we paid 15’000 CLP (US$22) without dinner.
Our Tip – Go with Kari Kari as they have the best reputation amongst visitors and locals alike.
When you explore Easter Island you’ll be absolutely astounded by the huge number of horses that seem to just wander around freely. There really is a lot of them!
So it should come as no surprise that a popular activity on Rapa Nui is horseback riding.
Horse riding in Easter Island is a fun and energetic way to spend a few hours getting out to some of the sights, and will definitely be a highlight of your travels.
Our Tip – If you’re not a confident rider make sure you tell the guides beforehand so they can give you a quieter horse.
Explore The Rocky Coastline
The coastline of Rapa Nui is jagged, volcanic and exceptionally beautiful. Huge waves batter the rocks, giving the entire place a rugged atmosphere.
While the beaches at Anakena and Ovahe are perfect for chilling on the sand and going for a dip, the rest of the spots would be better suited for big-wave surfers and spear fishing. Or for what we do – photography!
While the moais are obviously the star attraction on Easter Island, make sure you at spend a bit of time admiring just how beautiful this coastline is.
Our Tip – This is where having your own car is perfect, but even if you don’t rent a vehicle still make a point to get down to a different spot for sunset on the coast at least once.
Create Your Own Photography Tour
Even if you’re not into photography, being on Easter Island is sure to fill up as many SD cards as you bring!
The combination of the archaeological sites, wide volcanoes, green pastures and gorgeous coastlines makes Rapa Nui one of the most picturesque places on earth.
It’s really a place that you’ll want to come away from with marvellous pictures, and the best way to do that is to give yourself enough time to take photos.
Try to have a day where you’re not rushed so you can wait for the best light, walk around to get different angles and maybe even try to find a spot that hasn’t been captured and thrown on Instagram a million times. Trust us, you’ll enjoy it.
Our Tip – Focus on the best times of day for photography, which are the blue and golden hours (first light in the morning, and last light in the evening). Read our article as well for more help.
Eat At The Best Restaurant On The Island
Being an isolated island it should come as no surprise that food options can be a little scarce on Easter Island. While fish is the obvious staple, you’ll also find tonnes of typical Chilean-style fast food like empanadas, burgers and pizza.
Some of it is amazing, and some of it leaves a lot to be desired. But no matter what your budget and diet is we highly recommend heading out to the Kaloa restaurant in Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa.
The location is excellent with ocean views, and the food in simply incredible. We couldn’t believe the huge variety of meals on offer, and we tried our best to eat something new every time.
Best of all it is actually reasonably priced compared to the rest of the island, so you can get quality without killing the bank account.
Our Tip – The fish of the day is divine, and the mango desserts are pretty epic.
Enjoy The Sunset At Tahai
This is probably the most popular place for sunset on Easter Island. Located right next to Hanga Roa village, the moai at Tahai have a beautiful seaside position, and you can find dozens of people relaxing as the sun goes down.
The fact that it’s right next to town makes it accessible for everyone, and the sheer beauty of it just adds to the appeal. It’s a stunning spot that you’ll probably find yourself at almost every night.
Our Tip: If the crowds are too large walk further north to get to the other moai. This is where you can find most of the locals too.
Get A Polynesian Tattoo
If you’re the kind of person that likes to collect souvenirs of your travels, then perhaps getting a tattoo is something to consider!
Polynesian art is stunning, and Easter Island in particular has an interesting mix from all the islands of the Pacific.
There are a number of tattoo artists on Easter Island, but arguably the best and most famous amongst locals is Andres ‘Panda’ Pakariti.
Panda has been tattooing Polynesian-style art for over 25 years, and is one of the most interesting (and talented) people you can meet on Rapa Nui. His prices are also extremely reasonable. I walked away with a huge, custom chest piece that only cost a few hundred dollars.
Check out his portfolio here.
Our Tip – Panda is very professional and hygienic. Having received quite a few tattoos before I know what to look for, and he was amazing. Also only reach out to tattoo artists if you are seriously considering getting one. No one likes to have their time wasted.
Search For Ancient Petroglyphs
Easter Island is covered with ancient petroglyphs left behind from the old Rapa Nui. While they’re not as prominent as the moai, they also tell an important part of their history.
You can find petroglyphs all over the island, but some of the best ones are found near Te Pito Kura. Go for a tour to see how many you can find.
Our Tip – Having a guide is very useful to help explain what all the petroglyphs are, as many of them are faded and of a unique style.
Stamp Your Passport With A Moai
Everybody loves getting their passport stamped, but if you’re flying from the Chilean mainland to Easter Island you won’t get a stamp as the island politically belongs to Chile.
However if you swing by the local post office in Hanga Roa you can leave with one of the most unique passport stamps ever!
All they want is a donation, and you can stamp your passport with the iconic moai (and yes it is 100% legal) Definitely something to raise eyebrows the next time a customs officer is flicking through your documents.
Our Tip – Put your stamp in a prominent spot if possible. For example we stamped the first page of our passport.
Swim With Turtles In Hanga Roa Harbour
Every day at the gorgeous Hanga Roa harbour fills up with amazing sea life and creates a beautiful and safe environment to go snorkelling in.
But it’s not just the fish that are worth checking out – sea turtles also come out to play in the rolling current!
Grab some snorkelling gear from your hotel or from any of the rental shops along the harbour and get out there for some fun! Just one of the many great things to do in Easter Island.
Our Tip – Go at high tide.
Admire The Volcanic Crater At Rano Kau
Easter Island actually has 3 volcanoes that formed this unique ecosystem. By far the most impressive one is Rano Kau.
Located at the southwest corner of the island on the edge of the coast, Rano Kau has an enormous crater that offers incredible views out to sea.
Rather than being a cultural experience, the best thing to do is just to walk around the crater and enjoy the vistas.
Our Tip – Go early in the morning or late afternoon for the best light.
Visit The Polynesian Style Catholic Church
Churches around the world can either be a bit same-same, or incredibly unique. The one in Hanga Roa village falls into the latter category.
Christianity came to Easter Island in 1864 and quickly spread, eradicating a lot of the ancient culture and tradition along the way.
A church was built in the main village, but luckily maintained a lot of the island’s fascinating art style. On the pillars you can see some beautiful carvings, and it gives the religious building a touch of authenticity.
Our Tip – If you’re there on a Sunday you can join the mass.
Hop Around Ahu Akahanga
A sprawling site with a bunch of ruined platforms and moai, Ahu Akahanga is well worth visiting while driving around the island.
It might not be as impressive as Ahu Tongariki, but the sheer size of the place is outstanding. Give yourself a bit of time to walk the entire way around.
Our Tip – Head down behind the ahu and find the moai knocked down by the sea.
The Only Moais Facing The Ocean At Ahu Akivi
Contrary to popular belief, the moais of Easter Island don’t stare out to sea, but rather look inland. While there’s many different conspiracy theories about this, the truth is that they were built to look back at the villages they represented.
The only exception to this is Ahu Akivi, which does stare out at the ocean. This is because the village was built on the edge of the sea, and with no room to place the ahu (platform) in their standard place, the villagers placed it behind.
It’s a gorgeous spot as well, and as it is completely unique it’s well worth visiting.
Our Tip – Catch the moai as part of a trip on the northwest side of the island, as it is a bit out of the way.
Marvel At The Stonework Of Ahu Vinapu
The thing that captivates visitor’s attention the most is usually how the Rapa Nui people moved the statues from the quarry to their final resting places. But not a lot of thought goes into how they carved these huge pieces of stone.
One place that will make you think long and hard about that is Ahu Vinapu. Here you will find massive blocks of stone carved so intricately and pieced together so tightly that you can’t even insert a butter knife between them.
Rumours say that perhaps the Rapa Nui were trained by the Incas in how to create this spellbinding stonework, but there’s no proof of that. Still it’s a great site that really gives an insight into their immense skills.
Our Tip – Make sure you walk around the back of Ahu Vinapu to see the stonework.
Easter Island is known to locals as the ‘navel of the world’, perhaps because of the volcanic style of the island and its isolated position.
Another reason it is called that is because of the unique rocks found at Te Pito Kura.
Here you can find a large stone that is said to have been brought by Hotu Matu’a, the first chief and original cultural founder of Easter Island.
This particular rock is not native to Easter Island, meaning someone must have brought it a long way. And if someone brought it by boat specifically to be placed at Easter Island, it must been special.
This is also where you can find the tallest moai ever constructed at over 10m tall and 90 tonnes.
Our Tip – Don’t touch the rocks.
Spot The Pukaos At Puna Pau
Some of the moais found around the island have these large, red pieces on their heads. Despite what it looks like, these aren’t hats, but are rather the hair styles (top knots) of those particular people represented by the statues.
Called ‘pukaos’, these large rocks were carved at the Puna Pau quarry out of red scoria, and are different to the rest of the stone you can find around the island.
A trip to Puna Pau allows you to look into the quarry, as well as see a number of pukaos that never made it to their final destination.
Our Tip – See if you can figure out how the Rapa Nui people must have placed the pukao on top of the moai.
Wander Through Ana Te Pahu Cave
There are hundreds of caves all around Easter Island, but one of the most impressive is Ana Te Pahu.
The largest lava channel on the island, Ana Te Pahu has recently been discovered to stretch for 7km total around Rapa Nui.
Climbing down into the cave can be a bit precarious, but once inside you really enjoy this beautiful spot, covered with trees and shrubs inside the caverns.
Our Tip – Wear sturdy shoes and bring a headlamp if you want to go deep inside.
Check Out The Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking for something a bit different than bouncing around the moais and beaches, consider heading out to the botanical gardens.
Mostly filled with introduced plants, the botanical gardens offers a refreshing alternative on how to spend a few hours on Easter Island.
While it’s not a place that will blow your mind, if you’re into flora and have the time definitely check it out!
Our Tip – Call ahead and the family that runs the botanical gardens can pick you up.
Soak Up The Island Life
At the end of the day the most important thing to remember is that you are on a beautiful island in the middle of the Pacific filled with hospitable and relaxed people. Soak up the atmosphere yourself!
Things tend to move slower on islands, and that’s what makes them so enjoyable to visit. Easter Island is no different, and you’ll quickly fall in love with the chilled out pace.
Book your flights, give yourself a few days to kick back without sightseeing, drink some delicious local beers or cocktails and soak up the island life!
Our Tip – Just relax, man!
That concludes our very comprehensive list of all the best things to do on Easter Island. Have we missed anything? What was your favourite thing to do on Easter Island? leave a comment below and let us know!
Where To Stay In Easter Island
For a relatively small island, Rapa Nui has a lot of accommodation options, and it can be quite daunting trying to figure out where to stay.
These range from very basic hostels and camping, right through to world class luxury resorts. That being said everything on the island is much more expensive than you may be used to, and the budget options don’t necessarily offer excellent value.
Best Luxury Hotel In Easter Island – Hangroa Eco Lodge
In our opinion a visit to Easter Island is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if you can afford it you should do it in style. That’s why we stayed at the best luxury hotel in Easter Island, Hangaroa Eco Lodge.
This exceptional resort is only a short walk from Hanga Roa village and has incredible views and grounds.
From the moment you are picked up from the airport (yes airport transfers are included) you know it’s going to be a special stay. Flowered leis are draped around your neck and your air-conditioned van is waiting outside.
The hotel is only a few minutes from the airport, and when you arrive you are greeted with a welcome drink in the large, airy lobby.
Naturally the staff take quality service to a new level, and you’ll start to feel like they’re your friends before you’ve even been shown to your room.
There are two room styles to choose from at Hangaroa Eco Lodge – the Kainga Suite and the Maunga Suite.
We stayed in the Kainga Suite, and it was large, comfortable, and filled with every kind of amenity you would ever want.
Every patio has ocean views with a few chairs to kick back and relax on. Stepping back inside is a long couch opposite the king-size bed.
The bathroom was sprawling, with one of the coolest showers we’ve seen in a long time. To top it all off the decor was divine.
We also had the opportunity to check out the Maunga Suite while we were at Hangaroa Eco Lodge, and all we can say is WOW!
If you’re the kind of person that likes a lot of space when you stay in a place, then you can’t beat the Maunga Suite. It’s quite literally enormous!
Separate bathrooms, wardrobes, sitting areas and patios give you more room than you could ever need. It’s beautiful.
If you’re on vacation in a hot place, then you want to have a pool, and Hangaroa Eco Lodge has a lovely one! Offering cool views out to the ocean and lots of spots to sit around, it’s a perfect place to return to in the middle of the day.
Qualified and experienced therapists, masseuses and beauticians are on hand all day to make sure you’re feeling 100%. If you feel like a reflexology massage, hot stones, manicures, deep tissue treatments or just want to relax this is the spot to come to.
There are a few restaurants on the Hangroa property, and they are all absolutely incredible! We ate almost every meal there and they were honestly some of the tastiest dishes we’ve had in all of South America!
Using only the freshest ingredients means everything is as delicious as possible, and the selection is incredible. You could have mahi mahi for lunch and lamb chops for dinner. And don’t forget the desserts!
To make this even better, the food is actually reasonably priced. Mains will set you back between US$10-20, which is ridiculously good for restaurants of these high quality on Easter Island.
If you would prefer to tackle Easter Island’s most amazing attractions with an experienced local guide accompanying you, then you should definitely consider some of Hangaroa Eco Lodge’s tours.
These can be booked right at the concierge desk inside the lobby
Sometimes you just don’t want to worry about anything, and that’s where the all-inclusive packages at Hangaroa Eco Lodge are so brilliant.
We signed up for their ‘Experience Hangaroa Program‘, which included all meals, tours, accommodation, transfers and beverages.
We’re quite new to these all-inclusive packages, but being able to check in, go on adventures, eat delicious meals and drink a lot of great Chilean wine and beer without worrying about the cost is amazing.
That being said if you would prefer to just have the accommodation and breakfast you can book that without the need for a whole program.
We were welcomed to Easter Island as guests of Hangaroa Eco Lodge. All thoughts, opinions and millions of photos of moai taken are, as always, our own.