Easter Island is one of the most fascinating places to be found anywhere on earth. It’s an island of towering, megalithic stone heads. A place where statues were seemingly carved by giants, but more impressively were built by pure manpower alone.
It’s a place of legend, demise and wonder, where history is always rewritten as new facts come to life and new discoveries are made. It’s an incredible place to visit, but it’s not an easy place to travel to.
Easter Island is about as remote as it gets. It’s far out in the middle of nowhere. But it’s an island that has for centuries intrigued and enthralled scientists and travelers alike, as they wonder how the people that lived here survived and eventually thrived, before almost completely disappearing again.
It’s a wild and windswept place, a place that seems almost inhospitable, but that has its own distinct natural charm that can’t be found anywhere else. Easter Island is an island that will remain firmly transfixed in your memory long after you leave its shores.
Although it’s not a cheap or easy destination to reach, it’s a place that you can guarantee a few other people will be able to say they’ve set foot upon. Here’s our guide on how to get to Easter Island, to help make your journey just a little bit easier.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island (Travel Guide)
How to Visit Easter Island: Essential Planning Guide
Table of Contents
Where is Easter Island?
Easter Island is a small, remote and isolated place that’s found far out in the southern Pacific Ocean. The island measures just 15 miles in length and 7 miles in width, making it a small spec in an otherwise vast and empty ocean.
It’s this isolation that draws many visitors to the shores, and it’s an incredible feat of early seafaring that brought early Polynesian settlers here centuries ago in the face of insurmountable odds.
This is one of the most remote islands in the world. The nearest inhabited land is Pitcairn Island, 1200 miles away and equally remote with a population of just 50 permanent residents.
Easter Island is halfway between New Zealand and Chile, and it’s Chile that lays claim to the island, governing it as a territory, despite the fact that its thousands of miles away across the wild Pacific Ocean.
All this means that Easter Island can be difficult to reach.
Don’t forget: Easter Island & Santiago Travel Reference Map
How to Get to Easter Island
Easter Island has one airstrip, at the capital Hanga Roa, and it’s possible to fly here daily from Santiago in Chile. There’s also a weekly international air connection to Tahiti.
From Santiago, flight time is a minimum of five hours, and in the wide-open Pacific flying in can seem like finding a needle in a haystack, a rather strange experience.
There’s only one airline flying this route and so consequently, fares can be quite high regardless of when you book.
Surprisingly though, Easter Island is getting better connected, and Santiago in Chile is becoming a hub of air travel, meaning it’s possible to travel here from around the world before booking an onward flight to Easter Island.
You can book flights through ordinary means, such as a travel agency or online. A travel agent can provide you with more accurate information on how to get to Easter Island but flights are readily available to book online.
We booked our flights online through Skyscanner, roundtrip from Santiago, Chile. The flight is approximately 6 hours and is nonstop. It’s an open ocean but incredibly cool when you start to descend on Easter Island.
Sit by the window and stare out at the ocean periodically while you are en route, it really helps you to understand just how remote this place is.
The really adventurous, and those with a lot of time on their hands, may want to arrive on Easter Island in the more traditional manner, by crossing the Pacific Ocean by ship.
Very infrequent cargo ships and occasionally an organized cruise will cross from New Zealand to Chile, calling in at remote destinations like Easter Island, and if you are lucky you could get yourself a spot on one.
It’s a long journey, but it will help you to truly appreciate the remote nature of this destination.
How To Travel Around Easter Island
As you would imagine, this is a small, sparsely populated place, with a population of just a few thousand people. There’s no public transport, but the island is small and well connected enough to make journeys around it fairly simple still.
The hard part is getting there. Once you are there, it’s easy to arrange taxis and drivers to transport you around, as you will find that despite its remoteness, Easter Island is very much reliant on tourism these days.
The main settlement is found at Hanga Roa, and this is where you will most likely be based throughout your trip. In the town, you can easily walk around from restaurants to hotels and anything else in between.
Circumnavigating the island in one go would only take a few hours. Many people will even choose to hire bicycles to sightsee.
There are also many tour companies organizing small group tours, which are easy to tag along with, allowing you to save on costs and still see all the major sights with local guides. You can arrange these in Hanga Roa with one of the travel agencies based there.
For us, we went with renting a 4×4 for the entire duration of our stay. We still took several tours that involved small van travel and did a bike trip up the coast, but our main wheels were an ATV.
This worked amazing, as we could ride together and could fit anywhere, unlike if you rent a car.
The only downside is we didn’t feel comfortable driving around the island at night with the 4×4 because the headlights are not very strong and there are lots of horses roaming the island.
Renting a car I think is your next best option and small SUV’s are available in both manual and automatic. I would recommend that if you are staying for a shorter trip, around 4 days, renting a car is fine.
For longer stays though, I would definitely break it up by renting a car for 3-4 days and then an ATV for the rest of the trip. You’ll save a lot on rental fees and gas this way.
How Long to Stay on Easter Island
This is a highly debated topic and I am going to go out on a limb to say that the average stay on Easter Island is about 3-4 days. There seems to be a misconception that all there is to do is stare at statues, which leads people towards that trend.
All said I am going to let you in on the secret that needs to be shared. We didn’t meet one person that wasn’t envious of our 9 days stay on the island. Every single person that had booked on that 3-4 day recommendation realized on their first day that they had made a mistake.
While Easter Island is small, there is a ton of stuff to do there and an overwhelming amount of sites to visit. You cannot really take on the island, apart from the major sites, in 3-4 days.
We need to be realistic that this place is incredibly remote, not the cheapest and a place you probably won’t visit again in your lifetime, so why would you sell yourself short? Just don’t do it!
While 9 days is probably a bit excessive for the average person, I will say you need a solid week for a proper visit. This will give you enough time to see the major sites and explore several of the smaller sites on the island.
It will give you time to relax on Anakena Beach, wander the streets of Hanga Roa and take a bike trip up the coast. It will also give you time to do some hiking, like climbing the three summits (a world’s Top 100 Travel Adventure), and to take in a couple of cultural shows.
For the photographers, you better just book those 9 days. I’m serious. The island offers some serious opportunities for sunrise, sunset and astrophotography shots but you need to leave some days in there to play roulette with the weather.
We had some stunning days but lots of clouds would roll in at night making star shots almost impossible. During our 9 days, it rained for 4 straight sunrises.
Now imagine if you had only booked 4 days on the island. You get my drift, give yourself time and you’ll get some epic stuff.
Useful Information for Visiting Easter Island
- Mandatory National Park Entry Fee: The entrance fee to the Rapa Nui National Park is $80USD or $54,000 pesos for all non-Chilean visitors. There is a wooden National Park booth before the Arrivals hall in the airport where you can buy your ticket. This ticket will get you into every site on the island, with unlimited entry except fro Rano Raraku and Orongo, and is valid for your entire stay. Do not miss the booth.
- Airport Transfers: Many hotels will offer pickup at the airport included in the price of your stay. If not, there will be several taxis waiting at the airport when you arrive. There is no negotiating on prices, they have fixed rates from the airport to any hotel in town and also charge for luggage, per piece. While this might be irritating at first, you’ll find the ride pleasant if you utilize the driver to get acquainted with the island. They are more than happy to talk about the island, places to visit and give recommendations.
- ATM & Money Exchange: In Hanga Roa, you will find ATMs accepting international cards, however, it is wise to take all the money you might need with you – especially if you are just on a short trip – as being an isolated island, there’s every chance the ATMs can malfunction or simply run out of cash. The local currency is the Chilean Peso, however, US Dollars are accepted absolutely everywhere and in many cases, preferred.
- Safety on Easter Island: Easter Island is as safe as it gets really. Being such a small community, crime is very infrequent, and you will find that in Hanga Roa there are a large number of police, specifically to help tourists too. Of course, though, being so remote has its own dangers, as if anything serious were to happen to you the nearest major hospitals are thousands of miles away in Chile, so play it safe on the roads and when hiking around.
- WIFI & Data: Surprisingly, there is internet on Easter Island and it is reliably good. Most hotels offer complimentary WIFI to their guests. It is also possible to use a Chile-based cell provider on the island to access the cellular phone and data networks.
- Gas Prices: If you are planning to rent a car or ATV during your visit, it is good to know that there are 2 gas stations in Hanga Roa and that the prices are not too high. We actually found them to be a bit cheaper than mainland Chile if that makes sense.
- Easter Island Passport Stamp: If you’re flying in from Chile you will not have your passport stamped on arrival to Easter Island (visitors arriving from Tahiti will get an official passport stamp on arrival). However, it is possible to get a stamp in your passport from the post office in Hanga Roa. The ladies working the counter are super sweet and happy to chat with you while stamping your passport with the classic Moai stamp, including a date stamp to commemorate your visit.
Where To Stay on Easter Island
The main location and only town of any size are where the majority of the island’s accommodation is found. Hanga Roa would be hard-pressed to really even be called a town, more a collection of a few streets, but it is the center of island life here.
The main street is where you will find much of the accommodation and there is a surprising range to be had here, from budget to luxury. Being so remote though, don’t expect full-on luxury, as getting anything out here is at the best of times difficult.
Accommodation isn’t spectacularly cheap, as even a budget room in a basic guesthouse will cost a minimum of $50 per night for a double, with mid-range hotels selling for $100-150 a night.
We stayed for 9 nights at the Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa and it was an amazing base for us while we explored Easter Island. The hotel offered large rooms, a big pool, spa, multiple bars and a couple of onsite restaurants.
They can put together some pretty sweet packages that include all of your meals and even daily excursions around the island. Easter Island is a once in a lifetime trip, so if you can swing it this is the only way to go.
Read reviews and check prices with our Hotel Search Engine, that gives you the best hotel deals found on the web. Our search engine pulls results from all of the major booking places, including Expedia, Hotels, Booking and more. All the options, all the deals, all in one place and just for you.
Best Sunrise and Sunset Spots on Easter Island
Some of the most sought after moments and photos include the sunrise or sunset and there are plenty of good views to be had at this time of day. That being said, there are a couple of optimum places that you should head to get the best photos and experience for each of them.
BEST SUNRISE SPOT
Hands down the best sunrise spots are at Ahu Tongariki. Not only does the sunrise perfectly behind this site but it’s also the most impressive lineup of Moai on the island.
You’ll have to get up very early and make the approximately 20-minute drive to the site, which sits on the opposite side of the island from Hanga Roa.
There is a booth at the entrance where you have to show your ticket to the guard.
BEST SUNSET SPOT
Right on the outskirts of town is Ahu Tahai, not only the only place on the island that has a Moai statue with restored eyes, but also the best sunset spot on Easter Island.
Set right on the edge of the coast, this site is impressive and very dramatic. You’ll get both the sun setting over the ocean behind the statue and the lights of Hanga Roa as they start to light up.
Popular Places to Visit on Easter Island
Much of the tourism on Easter Island revolves of course, around the spectacular giant, stone statues known as Moai, of which there are over 800 strewn across the island.
There are also many hiking opportunities as well as the chance to learn about the island’s unique Polynesian history and culture.
Much of Easter Island is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, under the name Rapa Nui National Park.
The Giant Stone Statues of Easter Island
The main reason you are probably traveling all this way into the Pacific Ocean is to see first hand the famous, giant stone statues of Easter Island.
These Moai stand on equally enormous stone platforms, although when the island began to fall into turmoil a few hundred years ago, it’s thought that many were toppled in anger.
The statues are spread across the island, with many in dramatic locations on the sides of the volcanoes or strewn along the cliffs.
The most well-known site to visit is at Tongariki, where 15 statues stand next to each other.
It’s thought the Islanders raised the statues themselves using manpower alone, and in fact, many of the standing statues you see today have been erected by scientists trying to prove their own theories as to how they were built.
Our top recommended tours:
- Easter Island Moai Archaeology Tour: Ahu Akivi, Ahu Tahai and Puna Pauâ Quarry.
- Ahu Akivi and Orongo plus Anakena Beach Day Trip
- Easter Islan d Full-Day Tour: Ahu Tongariki, Rano Raraku and Anakena Beach
Sunken Moai – Snorkeling and Diving
Surprisingly perhaps, Easter Island is becoming known for its diving and snorkeling. The water might not be too warm, but kit up and you can explore the unique coral and marine life that’s found around the island.
The best part is, you can even dive with sunken Moai statues that are found underwater.
Rano Kau Volcano
Rano Kau is a huge volcanic crater that’s found on Easter Island. It was the site of a large quarry that was used exclusively to mine material for the construction of the Moai.
On the slopes of the volcano, you will see the half-finished remnants of some statues which were never raised or even completed.
In the crater itself, you will see more, as well as the large lake that has formed in the middle. It’s a strange sight, but a weirdly beautiful one too.
Our top recommended tours:
- Easter Island Full-Day Tour: Ahu Tongariki, Rano Raraku and Anakena Beach
- Small-Group Full-Day Easter Island Highlights South and East
Terevaka is the largest volcano on the island – indeed, Rano Raraku is found on the slopes of Terevaka – and a hike to the summit is arduous but breathtaking.
The views from the top are stunning, and it’s possible to easily see across the entirety of this small island, giving you a sense of the vast remoteness that you are in.
Summiting this volcano, along with the other two prominent volcanoes on Easter island, is one of the Top 100 Travel Adventures in the world.
Anakena is a beautiful, white sand beach that like everywhere on Easter Island, is also home to some iconic Moai statues.
This is supposedly the point where the Polynesian settlers first landed here and it’s a truly stunning place to explore.
It is also the biggest beach and one of only two beaches on the entire island. This phenomenon is due to the intense volcanic activity that formed the island, causing a predominantly jagged coastline.
Our top recommended tours:
- Easter Island Full-Day Tour: Ahu Tongariki, Rano Raraku and Anakena Beach
- Ahu Akivi and Orongo plus Anakena Beach Day Trip
- Small-Group Full-Day Easter Island Highlights North and West
Recommended Tours to Easter Island
- G Adventures Easter Island Independent Adventure (Upgraded)– Unravel the mystery of Rapa Nui with a private guide. Explore mythical Easter Island, known around the world for its ancient monolithic stone statues. See the mysterious statues (or Moai) sprinkled throughout the island, tour the volcanoes, beaches and petroglyphs. Get to know the unique culture of one of the most remote islands on Earth on this Easter Island option with upgraded hotels and an added van for extra comfort.
- G Adventures Easter Island Independent Adventure– Unravel the mystery of Rapa Nui. Explore mythical Easter Island, known around the world for its ancient monolithic stone statues. See the mysterious statues, or Moai, sprinkled throughout the island, tour the volcanoes, beaches and petroglyphs, and get to know the unique culture of one of the most remote islands on earth.