Planning a trip to Easter Island to see the great Moai statues and looking for things to do on Easter Island? Read our guide to plan the best trip ever to Easter Island.
Located in the Polynesian triangle, thousands of miles away from the nearest continental landmass lies Easter Island. This tiny island is the most remote inhabited place on earth.
Given the extreme isolation and limited resources available on the island, it is hard to imagine a flourishing civilization on the island. And yet, the Rapa Nui not only flourished but made enormous strides in stone carving.
The Rapa Nui Civilization carved and raised the giant Moai or famous Easter Island stone heads. The Moai statues have fascinated archaeologists, explorers, and travelers for centuries; everyone who visits Easter Island wants to see the mysterious statues.
However, Easter Island offers plenty of great things to do besides seeing the Moai. Here you will find our list of the Best things to do on Easter Island including activities and places we enjoyed the most.
It includes a host of popular and adventurous things to do like diving off the rocky coastline of Easter Island and hiking Mount Terevaka, the tallest point on the island.
That there are so many activities on this small remote island takes most tourists by surprise and that’s why we recommend keeping aside anywhere from 5 days to a week for seeing Easter Island and to explore everything it offers.
After all, this is Easter Island and the trip of a lifetime for most people – and we can guarantee you don’t want to regret spending less time here.
Easter Island is divided into the small, touristy village of Hanga Roa and the vast Rapa Nui National Park. For the purposes of this list, we have broken everything down into these two areas:
Best Archeological Things to do on Easter Island
Visit The Ticketed Archeological Sites Inside Rapa Nui National Park
Rapa Nui National Park has hundreds of archaeological sites of great importance and I can’t say this enough – the whole island is like an unprotected museum.
However, the most important two sights on Easter Island, namely the quarry where the Moai were carved and Orongo Village where the Birdman competition was held are ticketed and require entry tickets for Rapa Nui National Park.
Visitors can visit the rest of the archeological sites for free. The best way to purchase entry tickets is to get one immediately after you arrive at Mataveri Airport on Easter Island.
You will also receive free park map with your tickets. Visitors should also note that they can enter both the ticketed sites only once using a ticket – so when you visit the below sites, ensure that you have lots of time and weather conditions are optimal.
Marvel At The Mysterious Moai At Rano Raraku Volcano Crater And Quarry
For many visitors, Rano Raraku is Easter Island and Easter Island is Rano Raraku. Rano Raraku is where one can find the many formidable stone heads or the Moai with thin lips and sloping foreheads, lying half-carved in stone or half-buried underground, mysteriously gazing down upon visitors.
As the numerous Moai eerily surround visitors, one can barely begin to understand the many conflicting theories and mysteries that spawned around the Moai, Rapa Nui people, and Easter Island.
It was here that a majority of the Moai were created and then moved to different Ahus or ceremonial platforms around the island. 397 Moai in various stages of completion can be found in the quarry and it is easy to see why visiting Rano Raraku is the most popular among things to do on Easter Island.
The quarry at Rano Raraku
Understand The Cult Of Bird Man At The Ceremonial Village Of Orongo
Near Rano Kau is the ceremonial village of Orongo with its amazing stone houses and petroglyphs.
Wedged between the crater of Rano Kau and the Pacific Ocean, Orongo offers some of the most spectacular views on Easter Island and ranks as one of the top things to do on Easter Island.
Orongo is the best place on Easter Island to understand the ritual of Tangata Manu or Birdman competition and how it shaped the Rapa Nui society towards the end of the 17th century after the decline of the Moais or statue building practice.
Entry to Orongo is ticketed and limited to one visit per person per ticket. The Visitor Center at Orongo does a great job of describing the Birdman ritual and Orongo houses in great detail.
Besides the ticketed archeological sites, there are many free things to do inside Rapa Nui National Park.
Contrary to what most visitors think, not all are related to exploring archeological sites and gazing at the Moai. The island also offers a host of adventure travel activities including surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, spelunking, and hiking.
Admire The Ancient Rapa Nui Civilization And Admire The Sunrise At Ahu Tongariki
Ahu Tongariki is an archeological site located on the south-east coast of Easter Island. It is the most spectacular site on the island with a 220 m long ceremonial platform and 15 majestic Moai towering over the blue backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.
It is at Ahu Tongariki that visitors can fully perceive the artistic and engineering advances made by the ancient Rapa Nui civilization that settled on Easter Island. Each of the 15 Moai is different from the other in shape, size, and features, and is said to resemble Rapa Nui ancestors.
Watching the sunrise at Ahu Tongariki is one of the most popular things to do on Easter Island.
Experience A Beautiful Sunset Behind The Moai At Tahai Ceremonial Complex
The Tahai Ceremonial Complex is one of the oldest archeological sites in Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island. This site has 3 Ahus or ceremonial platforms with 5, 1 and 1 Moai.
Watching the sunset at Tahai is a must and easily one of the best things to do on Easter Island. Tourists and locals alike start assembling at the complex well before sunset to watch the beautiful spectacle.
The best time to photograph the Moai with the setting sun is 15-30 mins after the sunset when the sky is illuminated with twilight colors.
Explore Puna Pau Or The Quarry Of The Pukaos
Puna Pau is the quarry where Rapa Nui people sourced and sculpted the red Pukaos that adorn the head of some Moais.
The Pukaos are also known as top knots or Moai headdresses and were carved from red volcanic scoria that was abundant inside the quarry.
There a more than a dozen Pukao in the quarry of various sizes and weights; some of these have impressive petroglyphs carved on them.
From the top of the quarry, visitors can see breathtaking views of the town of Hanga Roa making Puna Pau one of the best things to see on Easter Island.
Make Out The Double Canoe And Other Petroglyphs At Papa Vaka
Papa Vaka is an archeological site located on the North Coast near Anakena beach. The Rapa Nui people carved a large number of petroglyphs on the basalt slabs that protrude from the ground.
The carvings include images of canoes, tuna, shark, turtles, crabs, and octopus along with fish hooks and other fishing motifs. This site is said to best demonstrate the complex and significant relation the Rapa Nui had with the sea. It is best to visit this site early morning or late afternoon as the petroglyphs are not easily visible in bright overhead sunlight.
Marvel At The Toppled Moai While Driving Along The East Coast
So you won’t find this one among other recommendations, kind of making this drive a secret best thing to do.
The East Coast of Easter Island is liberally dotted with many crumbled and deteriorated Ahus and toppled Moai. While it is possible to bike to these sites, they are far-flung from Hanga Roa and from each other and are best seen by renting a 4WD car.
The best of these sites include Ahu Akahanga and Vinapu. Ahu Akahanga has not been restored and allows visitors to experience Easter Island in a manner similar to the earliest European explorers.
Vinapu showcases a finesse and excellence in masonry, reminiscent of the Inca civilization, in the construction of the ceremonial platforms. Both sites have several fallen Moai that were toppled by the Rapa Nui during the period of civil unrest that followed the statue building era.
These archeological sites along the East Coast were my favorite way of capturing the untamed essence of Easter Island and contemplating the ruins of a lost civilization.
Admire The Inca-Style Precise Stonework At Ahu Vinapu
Ahu Vinapu is an unrestored archeological site in Rapa Nui National Park. It is one of the larger Ahus found on the island and has Inca-style precise stonework in its platform.
The large slabs of rectangular basalt stone are precisely cut and accurately fitted edge to edge with extreme precision. The stonework at Ahu Vinapu is more advanced than at any other ahu on the island.
Understand The History Of Easter Island At Ahu Akivi
Ahu Akivi is the only ahu where the Moai are erected facing the ocean.
While the village settlement here was between the Moai and the ocean which might be the reason for the position of the Moai, another theory suggests that the 7 Moai here are the 7 explorers sent out to discover Easter Island and they are looking towards the ocean as they wait for their King to arrive.
This ahu is also known as the celestial observatory. The position of the Moai are astronomically precise and they face sunset at Spring Equinox and have backs to sunrise at Autumn Equinox.
See The Navel Of Light At Te Pito Kura
An oval rock possessing magnetic properties can be found at this archeological site. Legends state that the heavy stone was bought by King Hotu Matu’a in his boat when he came to Easter Island.
Te Pito Kura means the ‘Navel of light’ and the Rapa Nui believe that the rock possesses concentrated energy called ‘Mana’ which gives Easter island it special properties.
This archeological complex also contains an Ahu with a single Moai called Paro – this was the largest Moai that was transported from the Rano Raraku quarry and erected on an Ahu.
Today it lies toppled and broken in the same position it fell centuries ago. A magnetic compass is said to rotate weirdly when brought near due to the high iron content of this rock.
Learn About The Legend Of Hiro’s Trumpet At Pu O Hiro
The archeological site of Pu O Hiro contains a cylindrical stone 1.25 m tall with 1 main hole and 2 secondary holes.
When blown through the main hole it produces a clear trumpet-like sound and hence it is named as Hiro’s Trumpet.
Hiro was the ancient Rapa Nui god of rain. Rapa Nui legends say that the trumpet was blown to call the fish to the coast before fishing.
Adventure Travel Things To Do On Easter Island
Hike The Vast Crater Rim Of Rano Kau Volcano
Rano Kau is one of the three major volcanic eruptions that led to the formation of Easter Island about 2.5 million years ago.
The extinct volcano and its spectacular crater, which is the largest one on the island, provided the only source of freshwater to the ancient Rapa Nui civilization on Easter Island and allowed the ancient Rapa Nui civilization with its statue making skills to flourish.
The hike along the rim is spectacular and provides beautiful views of the crater lake, its vegetation, Kari Kari or the fracture in the crater rim, and the Pacific ocean.
Crater rim of Rano Kau volcano
Rent A Car And Drive Around The Beautiful Island
Easter Island is one road trip that no one talks about. Very few people think that a rental car would do justice to the small island or that driving on the island would be fun.
However, if you have the budget – a rental car is the most efficient way to explore Easter Island and its many archeological sites. There is almost no public transport on the island and a 4WD car is perfect for driving off unpaved roads and visiting less popular archeological sites on the island.
As for the views, the Easter Island road trip has some of the best views in the world. The road along the island’s south coast is parallel to the rocky coastline and offers beautiful panoramic views of the blue Pacific Ocean and a spectacularly rocky coastline.
Explore The Island On Horseback
Another fun way to explore the remote island is on horseback. Horses are found in abundance on Easter Island; some of the free-roaming ones are wild and unreliable however the ones used by tour operators are well-trained and calm.
Visitors can charter horse rides to visit most areas however we recommend a guide and horse ride along the remote, inaccessible Northern coast from Tahai Complex to Anakena Beach. Often multi-day horse tours with food and lodging are also available.
Bike Across The Island For Both Environment Friendly And Budget Friendly Alternative
Biking is a great alternative to walking on Easter Island. Bikes are both plentiful and cheap and can be rented on the main street in Hanga Roa.
The roads on the island are a pleasure to bike as they go parallel to the coastline and a pleasant wind blows from the water. Most of the hikes on the island can also be completed by bike.
Bike rentals cost between $15 to $25 USD for half to a full day. Multi-day rental options are the cheapest.
Have A 360 Degree View Of Easter Island From The Top Of Mount Terevaka
The hike from Ahu Akivi to Mount Terevaka or Maunga Terevaka is an 8 km roundtrip and of medium difficulty level. It takes hikers in good physical condition at least 3-4 hrs to complete this hike but the rewarding views are worth it.
Mount Terevaka is the highest point on Easter Island at >500 meters. From the top of Terevaka, hikers get a panoramic 360 degree view of the island. This hike can also be completed on horseback. The peak summit is marked by stones and horse bones.
Photograph The Pristine Island And Its Archeological Treasures
Easter Island is a photographer’s paradise. The many Moai, in various stages of demolition and restoration, form excellent photography subjects.
Most of the Moai platforms are built with stunning backdrops of the Pacific Ocean. Rano Raraku and Orongo are dream come true; I easily took more than a hundred photos at these two sites.
Wild horses, rocky volcanic coastlines, crater lakes, people dressed in Polynesian costumes provide a great contrast to the historic sites of Easter Island. Easter Island is also one of the best places to shoot the Milky Way.
Experience The Unique Star Gazing Opportunities On Easter Island
Easter Island due to its remote location provides exceptional star gazing opportunities. The night sky over the island is pitch dark and often cloudless.
The ancient Rapa Nui built some of their ceremonial sites as astronomical observatories and these provide a great place to stargaze.
Some of the stars, galaxies, and constellations cab be uniquely seen from the Southern hemisphere.
A guided tour can blend star gazing with an understanding of Polynesian navigational principles and how they relied on the night sky in their voyages.
Go Spelunking At Ana Kakenga And Ana Te Pahu
The volcanic nature of Easter Island and the lava tubes that were formed centuries ago have created a beautiful and complex cave system on the island.
The ancient Rapa Nui knew about the caves and took advantage of them for various purposes such as housing, shelter, rainwater reservoirs, plant growing basins, and as fortifications during tribal wars.
Some of the caves have rock art while others yielded Rapa Nui fish hooks and carving tools. The caves at Ana Kakenga and Ana Te Pahu are in better condition than some other caves and a guided tour is useful in exploring them.
Water-based Activities and things To Do On Easter Island
Swim Under The Watchful Gazes Of The Moai At Anakena Beach
Anakena beach is the main beach on Easter Island with pristine white sand, swaying coconut palm trees, and turquoise blue water of the Pacific Ocean symbolic of the islands in the Polynesian triangle. Anakena, however, is much more than an idyllic beach paradise.
According to legends, the first Rapa Nui King landed and established the first Easter Island settlement at Anakena. Anakena has two Ahus, Ahu Nau Nau with 7 Moai and Ahu Ature Huki with 1 Moai.
Visitors enjoy sunbathing and swimming in the crystal waters at Anakena beach making this one of the top things to do on Easter Island.
Scuba Dive Off The Coast Of Easter Island And Take A Photograph With The Sunken Moai
The water off the coast of Easter Island is very clear and visibility is exceptional making it ideal for scuba diving.
The water temperature is also very pleasant and stays between 18 to 25 degrees making scuba diving fun throughout the year.
There are a few coral reefs around Hanga Roa bay that have great marine life. The main attraction of scuba diving near Easter Island is the fascinating volcanic landforms including caves and arches on the sea bed.
A recent attraction is an underwater Moai – however, it is not one of the original Moai and a film prop recently put there. There are many dive shops near Hanga Roa Harbor which can outfit you for the dives.
Other spectacular dive sites include areas around the islets of Motu Nui and Motu Iti.
See Easter Island And The Moai From The Ocean Via Boat Ride Or Kayak Tour
Visitors can book boat rides around the island at the Hanga Roa Harbor. Seeing the island and its Moai from the water is thrilling. It gives visitors a feel of what European explorers saw when they came across Easter Island during their voyages.
The boat ride to the 3 islets including Motu Nui is also popular as it allows a nearer look at the islets that were so popular during the Birdman competition.
Boat tours often combine snorkeling with rides, giving tourists the entire day on the ocean. A variety of Kayak tours are also available for adventure lovers.
Surf The Waves At Easter Island
The surf at the island is excellent for surfers of all abilities. The waves along most of the coastline crash into the rocky volcanic cliffs creating ideal surf conditions of up to 5 meters in height.
Surfing along the West Coast is best; Pea Beach in Hanga Roa is particularly good for those learning to surf. Experienced surfers enjoy the challenging waves near the Tahai complex. The high season for surfing conditions is from September to March.
Go Fishing Along With The Locals Of Easter Island
Fishing is an ancient activity for the Rapa Nui people. As seafarers and island inhabitants, the Polynesians have long relied on fishing for sustenance.
Archeological excavations on Easter Island have revealed a variety of fishing hooks, spears, and canoe-shaped petroglyphs.
The Rapa Nui people take fishing seriously even today. You can ask your local hosts to take you fishing, alternatively, there are fishing tours on the island as well.
The locals cook their fresh catches over a fire made over stones and eat it by the coast.
Snorkel With The Turtles At The Hanga Roa Harbor
Hanga Roa Harbor is tranquil and perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The main attraction of the harbor apart from its calm waves is the abundant sea turtles in the area.
The sea turtles can even be observed without entering the water. Snorkeling and swimming in this area gives a great chance to be close to the swimming sea turtles.
THINGS TO DO IN HANGA ROA, EASTER ISLAND
Visit The Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum On Easter Island
The anthropological museum named after a Catholic priest who spent his life understanding the Rapa Nui culture and traditions is small but full of unique exhibits.
Tucked away in a corner far from the village of Hanga Roa, this free museum deserves a visit. The museum collection consists of wooden figurines carved in ancient times, tools used to carve the Moai, fishing hooks, and ornaments.
The museum also has an assembled white coral Moai eye with red scoria pupil. The museum also has a female Moai statue.
Attend A Traditional Rapa Nui Dance Show
Attending traditional Easter Island dance shows is a great way to get acquainted with the unique Rapa Nui culture. The music and dance are authentic, include ancestral costumes and jewelry, and reflect the ancient culture and island heritage of prosperity and tribal wars.
Many groups in Hanga Roa perform traditional dance shows. Ballet Kari Kari has a studio on the main street in Hanga Roa and has shows thrice every week. Varua Ora is another popular dance group and so is Te Ra’ai. Most of the dance shows also have dance plus dinner ticket options for an evening of entertainment.
Sample Some Of Easter Island’s Delicious Cuisine
Easter Island’s cuisine draws from locally available produce, seafood and has Colonial / Chilean influences.
Seafood being abundant features prominently in most local dishes including shrimp pil pil, carpaccio, etc. Sweet potato gnocchi, Po’e (cake from plantains) are based on plants that grow easily on the island.
Also must try are the island’s empanadas. They are cheap, filling, and delicious. The ones at Anakena Beach, in particular, stood out in my memory – maybe because I was hungry after a hike and a swim!
Welcome snacks and drinks
Eat Ice Cream At Hanga Roa
Ice cream is always a great idea even if you are at the most remote place on earth. We make it a point to try some ice cream at every place we visit and Easter Island was no exception.
Hanga Roa has a couple of great ice cream parlors. Vaikava on Main Street has a nice selection of homemade ice cream flavors. Mikafe also has great ice cream and gelato with some unique flavors.
Enjoy The Free Wifi In Hanga Roa And Marvel How Technologically Advanced The World Has Become
Easter Island is the most remote island in the world. It is about 2000 miles and 6 hrs flight away from most other inhabited places. Yet if you stroll on the Main Street of Hanga Roa you would hardly feel it.
The atmosphere reminded me of Portugal or Goa, India – the street was vibrant and had a hip vibe. Of particular interest were large gardens with signs proclaiming free wifi zones.
I could see locals and tourists alike in those areas – some reading ebooks, some checking emails, and others chatting on their smartphones.
Drink Mahina Beer Brewed Locally On The Island
Mahina Beer on Easter Island has the epitaph of being produced in the world’s most remote brewery.
The brewery is launched by the original Rapa Nui inhabitant of the island, Mike Rapu. The brand’s slogan proclaims it to be “the secret taste of Easter Island”.
I tried and loved the Pale Ale variety and the bottle now proudly stands on the beer wall in my home.
Follow The Football Fever On Easter Island
When we visited Easter Island, World Cup football matches were taking place. Chile’s matches were eagerly watched by most islanders and live screens displaying matches were present in many restaurants.
The Municipal Stadium and Football school in Hanga Roa was also hub of football activity with local late night matches and practice taking place. The passion for football is evident in the local teens who dream of playing for Chile one day.
Walk Through The Quaint Rapa Nui Cemetery Near Tahai Complex
I discovered this cemetery on my way to see the sunset at Tahai. Located next to the shore, this picturesque cemetery with its colorful graves and dramatic tombstones immediately drew my eye.
A variety of colorful fresh and permanent flowers adorns most of the graves. The tombstones are an interesting mix of Christian beliefs and Rapa Nui icons including Moai replicas, large crosses with Moai on them, Birdman symbols, Make Make motifs, etc. Going through the cemetery and observing the tombstones is a pleasant walk.
Marvel At The Plant Life At The Easter Island Botanic Garden
The Tau Kiani Rapa Nui Botanic Garden is a beautiful place full of plants endemic to Polynesia and Easter Island. It also has other tropical species that have managed to survive and bloom in Easter Island’s climate.
The botanic garden contains over 1200 varieties of plants from all over the world planted in a beautifully landscaped design consisting of bridges and ponds. Replicas of Moai sculptures and other Rapa Nui symbols are present throughout the garden.
Discover The Secluded, Pristine Ohave Beach
Few people know about Ohave Beach; it is rather kept as a local secret. Most visitors only visit Anakena Beach. Ohave Beach is just a mile away from Anakena Beach but completely different from the island’s touristy main beach. While Anakena always has tourists and locals coming for a swim, Ohave Beach is untouched and wild. The beach has pinkish red volcanic sand and clear turquoise waters resulting in spectacular beauty. Ohave is also great for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
Enjoy Island Life At Pea Beach
Hanga Roa’s only beach, Pea Beach, may not be as beautiful as Anakena Beach but it is the hub of activity in the small town. The beach is excellent for swimming for visitors of all ages. A small sandy area with umbrellas is perfect for relaxing on the beach.
Next to the beach is Ahu Tautira with 2 Moai. Sea turtles can be commonly observed at Pea beach. The conditions on the beach are also excellent for surfing. The beach also has many lively eateries with live music and delicious dining options.
Attend Mass At The Polynesian Church In The Village
Easter Island’s Catholic Church is a beautiful example of the way traditional Rapa Nui customs and colonization blended on the island. The Church front façade is completely covered with drawings and paintings of Polynesian motifs and symbols along with typically Christian motifs.
The interior of the church is also beautiful with carvings, symbols, and more. The Sunday Mass is also uniquely Polynesian with Rapa Nui songs and music. Attending the Sunday Mass is a great way of understanding the life of the current Rapa Nui people.
Roam Along The Main Street Of Hanga Roa
The Main Street of Hanga Roa is a busy and popular street. Most tourists and locals can be seen hanging out in the cafes and eateries on Main Street.
Bicycle, scooters, and car rental shops can be found here; also souvenir shops selling a variety of things are located on this street. (read below)
The street is at the same time laidback and a vibrant hub of activity and seems far removed from the remote archeological sites on the island.
Shop For Unique Handicrafts And Souvenirs
A variety of typical Polynesian and Rapa Nui souvenirs can be found on the Main Street of Hanga Roa. Ranging from a budget of few dollars to priceless sculptures and artwork, there are items to suit every wallet and taste.
Feathered jewelry, printed Polynesian style apparel, Moai replicas carved from stone and wood, traditional Rapa Nui handicrafts including wooden figurines and other souvenirs can be found on the island. There are also several art galleries of reputed Rapa Nui artists spread throughout the island.
Unique Things To Do On Easter Island
Stamp Your Passport With The Coveted Easter Island Stamp
Last but not the least; commemorate your trip to the mysterious and intimidating Easter Island with a special tourist passport stamp bearing the Moai statues.
The Post office is located in Hanga Roa; any local will be able to assist you with directions. The stamp is for free but a tip is always appreciated. While you are at the post office, buy the special Easter Island stamp and mail a letter or postcard back home.
Send A Postcard Back Home From The Most Remote Postal Office In The World
While you are at the post office, you can also send a postcard home from the most remote postal office in the world. We recommend this special souvenir for everyone; we have postcards from Petra in Jordan and now from Easter Island.
I bought the postcard at the Main Street in Hanga Roa, affixed it with a special stamp representing the triangular Easter Island, wrote myself a message, and sent it home! Seriously, it was one of the best souvenirs of our time on Easter Island.
Get A Polynesian Tattoo Representing Characteristic Rapa Nui Symbols
Tattoos and body painting have been popular in Polynesian and Rapa Nui culture since ancient times. Popular Rapa Nui tattoos include traditional birdman, Make Make, canoe symbols and designs that blend Polynesian forms into interesting patterns.
Enjoy The Annual Tapati Rapa Nui Festival
This is a two-week-long festival held at the start of February each year. The festival promotes the ancient Rapa Nui culture and various competitions take place just as they did ages ago between opposite clans on the island.
The races and competitions rely on artistic and physical skills and include canoe sailing, swimming, body painting, history narration through songs and dance, and music competitions.
Tapati is one of the most popular times to visit Easter Island. Advance hotel and flight reservations are highly recommended if you wish to attend the Tapati Festival.
Get Married Or Renew Your Vows Polynesian Style
Rapa Nui style wedding or vow renewal is a unique way to celebrate your relationship and commemorate your time spent on Easter Island.
The ceremonies include dressing up in traditional costumes include feathered headgears, jewelry, and body painting.
Couples can have photoshoot taken in traditional poses at popular Rapa Nui archeological sites.