The Story of Easter Island
We’re going to have a history class for a hot second because Easter Island’s past is straight up crazy. The below outline is only a theory, so take it however you wish. Let the class commence!
Also called Rapa Nui and Isla de Pascua, the land of Easter Island was once rich in wildlife and a lush, tropical forest. Polynesians arrived 1600 years ago and began to feast on the abundance of plants and animals. The population reached 20,000 and eventually depleted all materials on the island. Everything was wiped out – birds, trees, fertile soil, shellfish. EVERYTHING. Call it deforestation, starvation, fighting. It’s basically a story of too many people and not enough resources.
And yet, puzzlingly, these same people had managed to carve enormous statues – almost 1,000 of them, with giant, hollow-eyed, gaunt faces, some weighing 75 tons. I’m sorry, what? YEAH. So we’re left with two questions: 1) What the hell happened to the people of Easter Island that the entire society died off many years ago and 2) How did the people move 75 ton structures called moai?
No one will ever truly know.
Phew. Class dismissed!
Where to Stay
Anyone convinced to visit the island yet? You should be. The best hotel in Easter Island is Hotel Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa. Constructed with natural materials such as cypress trunks, clay and volcanic rock, I immediately felt immersed into the Rapa Nui habitat upon check in.
We made our way to our ocean facing room and were surprised to see it complete with grassy knoll on top. One of my favorite features about Hotel Hangaroa is that each aspect blends seamlessly into the landscape here. The interior decor pays homage to elements found on the island, such as supporting cypress pillars and a clay soaking tub.
Easter Island isn’t exactly a culinary destination, but Hotel Hangaroa is changing that one dish at a time. Fresh fish is highly recommended here!
Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa has an incredible location on the main coastal road with a sea-view, less than five minutes from the airport and just a few short minutes from the center of the town.
Our stay with the amazing Hotel Hangaroa totaled four nights, and I’d recommend this number to anyone looking to visit the island. It’s small in size but big in history and activities. The best advice I can give: Rent a four wheeler (we rented from Hotel Hangaroa who contacted a third party) and drive to the other side of the island for some exploration! You can easily see many of Easter Island’s landmarks in a couple days – but take your time. Slow-paced adventuring is best!
What to See
Ahu Tongariki – is the largest and most impressive ahu (shrine), located at the foot of the Rano Raraku Volcano. 15 statues stand on their platform facing away from the ocean behind them.
Ranu Raraku – the open quarry where the moai were sculpted is located in this volcano, and around 400 of these are found in diverse positions and phases of construction.
Anakena Beach (Ahu Nau Nau): a beautiful white sand beach stands out from the rest of the coastline, which is either sharp black lava rock or vertical cliff faces hundreds of feet tall. Palm trees dot the area, and a few moai (Nau Nau) can be seen steps from the ocean.
Playa Ovahe – a much smaller and far less crowded beach than Anakena, located below craggy rocks.
Orongo Village – stone village and ceremonial center that consists of a collection of low, windowless, round-walled buildings with even lower doors positioned on Rano Kau.
Volcan Rano Kau – largest volcano on the island with a crater of well over half a mile in diameter with over 50 houses.
Ahu Tahai – formed by three ahu or ceremonial altars, this is walking distance to Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa.
Ahu Akivi – ahu where seven moai stand, representing the first explorers sent by Easter Island King Hotu Matuia. This is on a hill in the center of the island.
Vinapu – this archaeological site comprising two ahu in ruins is found to the east of the airport. One of the two sites has stone walls with carvings similar to those of Machu Picchu are found.
Where to Eat
Kaloa Restaurant – Located at Hotel Hangaroa, this establishment serves up some of the best fish in town.
Haka Honu – We were on a mission for an ATM and came up on this gem. Located next to the Santander Bank, Haka Honu is so nice, we ate it twice (in a row!). They have an amazing fish dish with sweet chutney along with THE BEST BURGER I’ve ever put in my mouth.
- Small population of only 6,500 people (3000 of that being natives, 2500 being Chileans or foreigners)
- Has a subtropical climate with warm temps year-round, but August generally sees cooler temps. Wind and rain remain a constant.
- If you’re a foreigner looking to buy land, sorry to break it to you – but locals are only permitted to rent land to foreigners.
- Three schools on the island – two private and one public (where the native language is taught).
- The port receives food from mainland every day via air, and twice a month by ship.
- LATAM Airlines is the only carrier in and out of Easter Island. Flights to Tahiti are offered every Monday and Friday, while flights to/from Santiago are offered daily.
- Total number of moai on Easter Island: 887
- Biggest moai: Over 70 ft high and weighing appx 145-165 tons.
Image taken of a LAN plane coming into its final decent at Mataveri International Airport
Many thanks to Chile Travel and LAN Airlines for making this stay possible. The Road Les Traveled was welcomed as a guest to the island, however our opinions are as always our own.