Rapa Nui National Park: Moai of Easter Island

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Easter Island is an island belonging to Chile, even though it is 3,000 km (1864 miles) away in the Pacific Ocean. It holds 887 giant stone statues, called Moai, which are part of the Rapa Nui National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The island is considered the most isolated inhabited territory in the world. Perhaps, this is what makes it so mysterious.

It has been a literal dream of mine, since I was 15 years old, maybe younger, to visit Easter Island. The fascination started by watching documentaries with my Dad.

We pondered the island together and I knew from a young age that I wanted to see it with my own eyes someday.

Someday came and I can tell you without hesitation that while I had some of my long formed questions answered, I left with more questions and an overwhelming sense of childhood giddiness.

The island exceeded my expectations, not something that is easy in today’s world.

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island (Travel Guide)


Ultimate Rapa Nui National Park Visitors Guide


History of the Easter Island

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Tongariki - Lina Stock

Easter Island is the last frontier of South America and it has Polynesian roots. Although the history of the island is not fully known, it is estimated that navigators from Western Pacific regions contributed around the year 1000.

The name of the island comes from the date of the arrival of the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Sunday in 1722.

Later it was annexed to the Chilean territory. It is speculated that the island would have originated from volcanic eruptions, giving rise to the natural rock formations of that environment.

Rapa Nui (meaning large island) is not only the traditional name of the island but also designates the people who live there, as well as the language spoken.

The distance to other territories causes the population to be extremely low on the island (around 5,000 people).

Today, few people remain with true ties to the original Rapa Nui people.

Check out this book: Mysteries of Easter Island

The Moai of Rapa Nui National Park

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Lina Stock

The famous Moais (Easter Island Heads) are gigantic rock statues scattered across Easter Island that make up the main focus of the Rapa Nui National Park. It is estimated that these figures of stone were built around the year 1300 AD.

The statues have an average height of 4.5 to 6 meters (14 to 19 ft), and they weigh tons. Among them, the largest is more than 20 meters (65 ft) high.

The effort to build these monuments and move them around the island must have been impressive, but no one knows exactly why someone would engage in such a task.

Most historians assume that the Easter Island Heads were created to honor ancestors, leaders and other important characters. However, due to the lack of written records and minimal oral history on the island, it is impossible to be sure.

We know that all the Easter Island Heads (with the exception of some Moais found buried standing in the Rano Raraku volcano) were knocked over for some unknown reason.

All of the Moais that are upright on the Island has been restored and erected by historians and restorers. The statues generate curiosities, mysteries and are the main tourist attractions of the island.

Check out this book: The Statues that Walked: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island


Volcano Hikes on Easter Island


In the wild landscape of Easter Island, there are three peaks worth visiting: the Rano Kau Summit, the Teravaka Summit and the Poike Summit.

If you look closely, you will notice that these three summits form a triangle, making up the shape of the island.

Near each end of this triangle, there is a great extinct volcano. Besides these, there are still some other smaller volcanoes on the island. Visiting them is free, with the exception of Rano Raraku.

Trekking and climbing the three volcanoes on Easter Island is a world’s top 100 travel adventure.

Rano Kau Volcano

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Rano Kau Volcano -Lina Stock

This is the nearest volcano in Hanga Roa (the “capital” of Easter Island). Getting there could not be easier; it can be done by car, bike or even on foot. Following the road, it is only 6 km (3.7 miles) uphill.

On the other hand, if you decide to go on foot it is only a 3 km (1.8 miles) hike. The most amazing thing to be seen there is not petroglyph (drawings made by Rapa Nui civilization on stones), but the breathtaking scenery.

The height of the crater measures an incredible 200 meters (656 ft) and you can see part of the crater that collapsed thanks to the uninterrupted impact of the waves of the sea, eroding its base.

Down below, inside the crater, the rain-drenched water forms one of the only three natural reservoirs on the entire Easter Island.

Unravel the mystery of Rapa Nui. Explore mythical Easter Island: Easter Island Independent Adventure 4 days, Hanga Roa to Hanga Roa Adventure

Poike Volcano

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Poike Volcano - America's Adventure Travel Couple -

The Poike Volcano is not as visited as the other two summits due to its more remote location and somewhat complicated access. However, some people go to Poike mainly to get to know a famous cavern, Ana Keke.

In addition, Poike holds other points of interest such as smaller eroded Easter Island Heads, remnants of old houses and inscriptions on some rocks. Its highest point is at 400 meters (1312 ft), approximately.

To get to the Poike, visitors go by bus to the base of the volcano and then walk up the ridge, through an open country trail.

Terevaka Volcano

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Terevaka Volcano - Lina Stock and David Stock

Terevaka Volcano is the youngest of the three volcanoes, as well as being the tallest and the one occupying most of the surface of the island.

There are about 800 caves formed by volcanic lava at the foot of the Terevaka, among them, the most famous and accessible are Ana Te Pahu, Ana Kakenga, and Ana Te Pora.

Terevaka Volcano can only be reached on foot or on horseback, on a walk that lasts about 4 hours (round trip).

Few tourists usually go there. It is one of the most isolated places of the island in which only the descendants of the Rapa Nui, that live near, usually cross.


Top Sights in Rapa Nui National Park


Ahu Akivi

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Akivi - Lina Stock

In the language of the natives, Ahu is the sacred place where the moai are (platforms) and Akivi is the only one that has seven figures looking at the sea, not at the center of the island.

Another singular characteristic from this ahu is that, unlike the great majority, it is located in the interior of the island.

Top Recommended Tour: Small-Group Full-Day Easter Island Highlights South and East

Rano Raraku Quarry

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Rano Raraku - Lina Stock

The Rano Raraku Quarry is a symbol of the Chilean region. Its dimensions justify its fame: it has more than 550 meters in diameter in the mouth of a dormant volcano that contemplates the landscape with calm and natural beauty.

It is a volcanic crater 324 meters (1062 ft) high located in the lower part of the Terevaka Summit, an extinct volcano in Rapa Nui National Park.

It was the main quarry of the island for 500 years and where most of the island’s famous moai were carved.

Thus, it is a controlled archeological site. Nowadays, within the crater and in the nearby regions, there are about 400 unfinished statues.

Recommended Tour: Private Easter Island Full-Day Tour

Orongo

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Orongo - Lina Stock

Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Rapa Nui people were organized into seven clans that were not always in peace.

It is not known exactly when they decided to replace the armed conflict they used to have a kind of “mystical triathlon” to decide which clan would rule the others.

This “triathlon” was the Ritual of the Bird Man and was celebrated in the ceremonial village of Orongo. Today it one of the most interesting archaeological sites of Easter Island and open to visitation.

Glued to the Rano Raraku crater, on the outer edge of the Rano Kau volcano, are the ruins of Orongo.

Top Recommended Tour:

Ahu Tongariki

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Tongariki - Lina Stock

Undoubtedly this is one of the most beautiful and important places on Easter Island. The Ahu Tongariki is the largest platform on the island (and Polynesia) at 220 meters in length and has 15 Easter Island Heads.

All of this is in harmony with the view of the sea and the sound of the waves crashing on the cliffs. It is the best place to watch the sunrise on Easter Island.

From December 21 (summer solstice) to March 21 (autumn equinox) the sun rises behind the lined-up Easter Island Heads which makes for fantastic photography opportunities.

In April the sun is born from behind the Poike volcano, which also generates unforgettable images.

It is 1 km (0.6 miles) from the Rano Raraku quarry and to get there just follow the town of Hanga Roa along the east coast, towards the north.

Recommended Tour: Private Full-Day Easter Island Moai Monuments Tour

Ahu Tahai

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Tahai - Lina Stock

Made up of three different Ahu’s, Tahai is the most popular place on Easter Island to watch the sunset.

Located right on the sea, you get the drama of the water with the contrast of Hanga Roa in the background. The colors rarely disappoint.

The site is also one of the most interesting, containing the Ahu Ko Te Riku with fully restored eyes, the only one to have this feature on the island.

The massive site has room to move and explore but be sure to get there early to nab a prime photo spot before the crowds arrive at sunset.

Unravel the mystery of Rapa Nui. Explore mythical Easter Island: Easter Island Independent Adventure 4 days, Hanga Roa to Hanga Roa Adventure

Ahu Akapu

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Hanga Roa - Lina Stock

And if you’re too lazy to go hunting for Easter Island Heads, do not worry. Two of them cannot get beaten.

Ahu Tautira and Ahu Akapu are right in the center of the city, on the seafront, next to each other. That said, they can’t be discounted as any less amazing than the others.

I will never forget this site as my very first Moai sighting after arriving on the island from Santiago. It was a moment of excitement and nostalgia for the years I dreamed of being able to see this place with my own eyes.

Top Recommended Tours:

Anakena

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Anakena - Lina Stock

Easter Island has its soil formed almost entirely by volcanic rocks, moreover, the strong waves make many beaches not suited to swimming. Anakena is an exception. This is the best option to enjoy the beach in Rapa Nui.

The beach is small, with a stretch of 300 meters (984 ft) of sand, and it is like a small bay. With very few waves it is the perfect spot to relax.

There you can find a large set of Easter Island Heads in the Ahu Nau Nau, one of the platforms where you can see the most details: ears, hands, noses and very well carved eyes.

Anakena Beach is a beautiful spot and the Easter Island Heads located there are some of the best-preserved on the island. Needless to say, the place yields good photos.

The best time to photograph the moai is in the morning, when the sun is shining, with the blue ocean behind.

Top Recommended Tours:

Other Notable Sites on Easter Island

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Kari Kari - Lina Stock

There are many other notable attractions and sites to visit and experience on Easter Island. The capital itself, Hanga Roa, holds great cultural importance and exhibitions.

Ballet Kari Kari, Playa Ohave, Ahu Akahanga, and Puna Pau are some of the most popular ones.

Other than that, if you are really into discovering the mysteries of the Easter Island Heads, Ahu Tahai and Ahu Nau Nau are worth the visit.

Tours You Cannot Miss on Easter Island

Tours you cannot miss on Easter Island

You may ask how did we get so many great photos? First off, we took every tour we could. This allowed us to visit every site possible on Easter Island, some sites we visited twice or more.

Below we have listed out the top 5 tours you should take when visiting Rapa Nui National Park.

Looking for a longer tour? Easter Island Independent Adventure

Where to Stay on Easter Island

Rapa Nui National Park Easter Island - Hotel Hanga Roa - Lina Stock

Another reason why we got such great photos is that we stayed 9 nights on Easter Island exploring the Rapa Nui National Park. A normal traveler only visits easter island for 3 nights at most.

This allowed us to truly explore every corner of the Island. Being based at Hotel Hangaroa allowed us to be minutes away from many of the popular sites while allowing us to have a little bit of privacy.

It was nice to be able to go off on an adventure and come back to luxury.

Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa is built to look like the Bird Man ruins of Orongo. This luxury resort is a fully functioning Ecovillage. Its bar and two restaurants allowed us to not to worry about breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

After hiking up to the three volcanoes on Easter Island it was nice to have a massage at the in-house spa. That’s the magic of staying at Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa.

The property is beautifully maintained and the staff is over the top friendly. The in-house tour company, Mahahina Tours, organized all of our excursions and transportation around the island during our stay.

Book your stay today at Hotel Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa (we highly recommend this property, it’s fantastic!)

Other accommodation options available on Easter Island:


Resources For Planning Your Trip To Easter Island


More on Easter Island:

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA



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6 thoughts on “Rapa Nui National Park: Moai of Easter Island”

  1. Very beautiful article with a very unique style of writing, I loved the way how you described everything. Hope to see more from you in future.

    Reply
  2. Reading your article is so amazing experience. Seems like you have had an epic time in South Pacific. Extremely incredible pictures you captured. I would love to visit this place in future.

    Reply

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