Located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean lies a small landmass called Easter Island. Many myths surround this island, littered with hundreds of giant stone-carved faces. How they came to be is a mystery to this very day! This comprehensive Easter Island itinerary and travel guide uncover the mystery of visiting the island on a budget and what to do & see.
Visiting Easter Island, or Rapa Nui to give it its native name, had never really crossed my mind until a friend I met while backpacking across Chile mentioned she was going. A few hours with lady Google later and my travel plans had been altered to make a pitstop on the island.
Easter Island is not a budget destination, the cost of flying alone (between $250 and $1000) is enough to deter many a traveler. But, with a bit of careful planning visiting Easter Island can be done on a moderate budget – but more on that later.
For my two pennies’ worth, I would happily suggest that setting yourself a 3 day Easter Island itinerary is the best way to get the most out of your Easter Island vacation. Three days should give you ample time to cover all of the must-see and fascinating things to do on Easter Island. So come along with me on an adventure and spend 3 days on Easter Island…
Easter Island Itinerary: Quick Guide
Rapa Nui National Park: 44% of Easter Island is covered by the Rapa Nui National Park for which you need to purchase an entrance ticket. Nearly all of the main Easter Island attractions are located in the park. Purchase at the CONAF desk upon arrival at the Mataveri airport (US$80, payment in cash only). The ticket is valid for 10 days after purchase.
Nr 1 Budget Tip: Bring your food from Chile. Yep you read that right, food on the island is very expensive (everything needs to be flown or shipped in). Hit up the market in Santiago de Chile before you go and stock up on all the fruit and vegetables you need for your trip to cook your own meals. As you are flying nationally (Easter Island is part of Chile) you will not need to declare food items. LATAM allows each passenger one additional bag on board, free of charge (2 bags/passenger).
Sustainable Travel Tip: Drink tap water! Like everywhere in Chile, the tap water is perfectly drinkable on Easter Island. It does have a very high mineral content so might taste a little funny at first.
Where is Easter Island & how to get there
Easter Island is a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is in fact the most remote inhabited island in the world! Politically the island is part of Chile, though culturally it is much closer to French Polynesia a fact which becomes abundantly clear the instant we step off the place and are greeted with a fragrant flower garland.
FLY TO EASTER ISLAND
The majority of tourists visiting Easter Island choose to fly to the island’s main airport (Aeropuerto Mataveri). LATAM – Airlines has a monopoly on flights to Easter Island flying from Santiago (Arturo Merino Benetiz Airport) to the island 3 times a week. Flight time is 5.5 hours.
Ticket prices vary between $250 and $1000 and tend to book out soon in high season (January to March). I went beginning of April and ended up paying $250 in return for last-minute tickets. Check cheapest dates via Skyscanner.
How to get around Easter Island
Easter Island has but one main road, which runs in a circle around the island: Hanga Roa (southern part of the island) to Anakena (northern part of the island) is a mere 18 kilometers (11 miles) apart.
Walk or Bike
To get around the island one can rely on walking or renting a bike ($15/day, to be rented in Hanga Roa) as the island is relatively small. It is highly advisable to bring a water bottle and a hat to protect you from the heat in the warmer months of the year.
Tip: Use the maps.me app, download the Easter Island map before you get to the island. That way you have an offline map of the island in case you get lost.
Public Transportation on Easter Island
A shuttle runs between Hanga Roa and Anakena Beach. The Te Ao tour bus (as the shuttle is called) leaves from the main street at Hanga Roa multiple times a day and stops at the Handicraft Market, Hanga Vare Vare, and Camping Mihinoa before going to Anakena. The price per person for a round trip is 7.000 CLP ($8.60).
Have your hotel book a taxi in advance to get you from Hanga Roa to Anakena Beach. Ask your accommodation about the price in advance.
Car Rental on Easter Island
Most Easter Island guides mention that renting a car is not necessary to get around the island. However, what they fail to mention is how dark the island tends to get (it gives new meaning to pitch black). When we wanted to see the sunrise over Ahu Tonjariki, we decided to rent a car as it simply felt safer than walking/biking in the pitch black.
We rented the car for 24 hours, watching the sunset and exploring the Easter Island attractions furthest from Hanga Roa. To rent a car you will need a valid driver’s license (with picture) and be over 18 years old.
The main car rental agencies on the island are located in Hanga Roa (Insular Rental Cars and Oceanic Rental Cars). Book your car in advance, especially during the peak season months from January to February. Prices vary around $55 and $100/ day for a car. To keep the budget down, we ended up sharing with people we met on the campsite and drove around Easter Island together for a day.
Good to know: Rental cars on Easter Island are not insured. All costs incurred for damages are to be paid out in full by the rentee of the car.
How to get from the airport to your accommodation
The Aeropuerto Mataveri is on the southeastern side of Easter Island and within walking distance from Hanga Roa, the only town on the island. Most hotels will offer a free pick-up at the airport and transfer to the hotel.
Easter Island Tours and Activities
For those not keen on renting a car or simply looking to delve deeper into the fascinating heritage of Easter Island there are a few different options to take a tour. Budgets for half-day tours start at 50,000 CLP ($60) while whole-day tours start at 983,000 CLP ($120)
VALUE FOR MONEY: Full day Easter Island Tour
Highly rated tour on Viator and the best value for money for travelers looking to see the Easter Island highlights in one day with a knowledgeable local guide. Check availability.
COOLEST EXPERIENCE: Ride to the top of Mount Terevaka
Saddle up and ride all the way to the top of Mount Terevaka with a local guide. Get the best views over the island, and once you are there plant a tree to help with a local initiative to reforest the island, one tree at a time. Check availability.
RECOMMENDED: 2-day Easter Island highlights tour
Enjoy Easter Island with a local Rapa Nui family. Explore the most iconic Moai statues, pretties beaches, and volcanic landmarks. Learn what island life is about and hear the traditional stories passed on by generations between locals.
Easter Island travel guide for 3 days
When visiting Easter Island, or Rapa Nui to give it its native name, the jury is pretty much out on the perfect length of time to spend on the Island and whether there are enough things to do on Easter Island to fill your time. Personally, I was happy with a chilled out 3-days to explore all the island had to offer.
3-day Easter Island itinerary overview
|Itinerary||Part of the Island||Main Attractions|
|Day 1||South||Hanga Roa, Orongo, Tahai|
|Day 2||North||Anakena Beach, Ahu Nau Nau, Pu o Hiro, Terevaka|
|Day 3||Full||Ahu Tongariki, Rano Raraku, Puna Pao, Ahu Akivi, Ana Kakenga|
Day 1 – Southern Easter Island
Sites to explore: Hanga Roa, Orongo, Tahai
If you’re like me and consider yourself a sustainable traveler then Takarua Lodge is the ideal place to base yourself for your 3-day Easter Island itinerary. It offers up the perfect mix of environmentally friendly and sustainable travel and is a great mid-range option. Perfect if you are doing Easter Island on a budget. It is also conveniently close to Easter Island airport.
From the lodge, you are well placed to head toward the Orongo crater and the ceremonial village of the Orongo on foot. So, I highly recommend starting your first day with the very scenic walk to the crater, which should take you about an hour. It is a gentle walk and will give you the opportunity to take in the fresh air and get a feel for this remote island.
Getting to the crater is helped by the fact that it is reasonably well signposted so if logistics are not your thing you are unlikely to get lost. However, I would still bring along your Easter Island Map for peace of mind. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy flying solo then one of the many organized Easter Islands guides available will be able to offer you a half-day tour to the crater with transport.
Once at the top of the crater you can take in this glorious Easter Island sightseeing spot and soak up some of the most stunning views from the Ranu Kao lookout. You are treated to an unspoiled Panoramic view from one of the highest points of Rapa Nui. You will also bear witness to the island’s native flora and natural marshy lagoon sitting deep in the crater.
After taking in the sights you can commence the beautiful trail walk to the ancient village, which is home to around 50 stone houses. These small stone huts are nestled in the hills along the edge of the crater’s peaks and offer up a real insight into life thousands of years ago. Personally, the ancient ruins are not really my thing but there is some incredible history behind this historical village so I would still add it to your Easter Island Itinerary.
Upon your return to camp, I would suggest a bit more walking to visit the local village of Hanga Roa. As Easter Island is part of Chile you will not get your passport stamped when you board flights from Santiago to Easter Island. If however like me, you like a memento of your travels firmly etched in your passport the local post office in Hanga Roa will happily oblige. They will stamp your passport with a Moai stamp (of course) for around 100 CLP (12 cents).
While in Hanga Roa spend a little time mooching about the local town, spot turtles in the bay, visit the colorful churches and refuel on some of the Easter Island traditional food on offer at the local restaurants. Then, once adequately rested and restocked take a short 15-minute stroll to the edge of Hanga Roa where you will find yourself at Tahai to catch the sunset.
At Tahai you will see five proud Moai standing on an Ahu to the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. The evening sky is alight with an illuminating orange sun that gradually fades into the still waters of the ocean and day becomes night. It is a picture-perfect setting that is an Easter Island must-see.
Once the sun has set don’t be afraid to hang around for a little stargazing whilst lying on the grassy bank. One of the great things about Easter Island is that there is virtually no pollution there – thank you environmentally friendly tourism. The clear skies will give you a rare opportunity to see the limitless sky emblazoned by glittering stars in all its glory, aside from the Atacama desert I have never seen more stars than on Easter island.
Day 2 – Northern Easter Island attractions
Sites to explore: Anakena Beach, Ahu Nau Nau, Pu o Hiro, Terevaka
Start your day by going back toward Hanga Roa to catch public transport to take you to the peaceful and beautiful Anakena beach. The return trip should cost you just over 7000 CLP ($8.00) in Easter Island currency.
Anakena is a white coral sand beach lined by small trees and grassy edges in Rapa Nui National Park and is, in my humble opinion, the best beach on the island. As such it deserves a spot on any Easter Island to-do list. It is quiet, easily accessible, and more tranquil than the beaches in the south making it the ideal place to chill out, read a book, or even take a dip in the calm crystalline waters, perfect after all the walks from day one.
If beach days are not your thing then fear not. Anakena beach is also one of the more fun places to go on Easter Island as here you have the opportunity to partake in a little shore fishing, scuba diving, or even kayaking.
Spending 1 of your 3 days on Easter Island sunbathing may not find favor with the die-hard explorers among you. So, given that this part of the 3-day Easter Island itinerary has not involved an infamous Moai as yet, it is high time you get off the beach and get back to hunting Moais.
You never have to go far to find your next Moai on Easter Island and just a 6-minute wander from the beach along the grassland you will find Ahu Nau Nau. Ahu Nau Nau is home to 4 very well preserved Moai, wearing their typical red ‘hats’. Scientists, historians, and tourists (yes myself included) all marvel at how the island’s inhabitants managed to get the giant red volcanic rock atop the stone Moai, and it remains one of the mysteries of Easter Islands to this day. Sorry to disappoint.
Many other Easter Island points of interest lurk around this northern tip of the island, all within walking distance of Anakena beach. You can walk along the grassy tracks to find various smaller Moai sights and a singular Maio placed on the northern coastal path. If nothing else the undulating coastal path is worth your time as you stare out to the endless waters on the one side and inland to stretches of natural flora and fauna on the other.
When you have had enough Moai hunting, head back to Hanga Roa to pick up your rental car for day 3. Renting a car the night before will give you the best start on day 3 as you will need to be up bright and early to get the most out of it.
Good to know: This part of the island is also home to Mount Terevaka from where a majestic 360° view can be witnessed over the island. Take a horse ride up or hike up through this easy route starting at Ahu Akivi (length of hike 3.5 hours).
Day 3 – Rent a car and drive all over Easter Island
Sites to explore: Ahu Tongariki, Rano Raraku, Puna Pao, Ahu Akivi, Ana Kakenga
Start day 3 by taking the 30-minute dusky drive from the campsite to catch the famous sunrise at Ahu Tongariki. If you have seen pictures of the sun rising on Easter Island then chances are it is from Ahu Tongariki.
The sunrise on Easter Island can take place between 8 and 8.30 am depending on the time of year, so, you will not have to actually pull yourself out of your sleeping bag too early. While it felt earlier than I might have liked, it was certainly worth getting up for.
At Ahu Tongariki you will see a display of 15 Moai, all of which have different expressions and are different sizes. These statues stand with their back to the ocean and create a shadowy silhouette as the sun rises behind them flooding the morning sky with a medley of bright reds and oranges.
My top tip is to stay until after the sun rises and everyone leaves as you will have the whole site to yourself. Spend time exploring the Moai, getting some irreplaceable pictures, and immersing yourself in the serene and luscious habitat of the island’s East coast.
After you have had your fill and the coffee has truly kicked in, head back to the car for the short drive to Rano Raraku – the quarry of the Majestic Moai.
Here you will see the monolithic human statues from all stages of production with varying expressions. Rano Raraku is an incredible sight that houses around half of the island’s Moai sprawled across a hill in various unfinished states and positions. The towering figurines all purposefully face inland toward the clan to represent a means of protection.
You cannot help but marvel at the engineering feat of people with such limited means. What is more, the red hats worn by the Moai were not crafted in the same quarry but were transported from the smaller (and less impressive) quarry of Puna Pao. All without modern technology, mind-blowing.
After walking among the Moai take a steady drive back from the quarry allowing you to drink in the picturesque sights the island has to offer. It is no ordinary drive, it will take you past wild horses, luscious green fields, and brilliant blue skies. It is a far cry from the bustling busy Western streets I am used to.
You could even stop off at Ahu Akivi to see another 7 standing Moai if you haven’t quite seen enough yet. These Moai are actually different from all the others around the island as they are the only ones to face the Ocean.
Finally, once back in Hanga Roa celebrate your final few hours on this isolated island by experiencing one of the most traditional things to do on Easter Island, a local evening dance show. The dance shows are typically held several times a week and are a great way to revel in the Easter Island culture.
The dances are a mix of Tahitian and Rapanui dances performed by locals in native dress powered by beating drums and an accompanying ukulele. The local Hanga Roa restaurant of Tera’ai puts on these fabulous traditional dances and serves you dinner which is cooked in the traditional Uma Pae way.
Truth be told, I did not partake in watching a traditional show as it seemed like a bit of a tourist trap. However, the revues on Tripadvisor are all glowing and I can imagine there is an element of pride for locals being able to share their Polynesian culture with the handful of tourists that do make it to Easter Island.
Good to know: Pre-booking for the show is required. Book tickets online.
Additional things to do on Easter Island if you have more time
These are plenty of activities this Easter Island travel guide does not cover. As I had a mere 3 days sadly choices had to be made but that does not mean you can’t enjoy some additional activities on the island!
Go snorkeling or diving around Easter Island
A fun thing to do on Easter Island is to go and explore the beautiful underwater world filled with exotic fish and a submerged Moai or two. Thanks to the remote nature of the island, the water is spectacularly clear with visibility as far as 60 meters (200 feet). Waters around the island have an average temperature of 18°C (64°F).
Two main dive shops are located on the harbor of Hanga Roa Mike Rapu and Orca Diving Center.
As previously touched upon in this Easter Island travel guide, when it gets dark on the island it gets very very dark. Far removed from light pollution and busy cities, Easter Island is one of the very best places in the world to see the stars and locals have been doing this for many, many years.
Both Tahai and Ahu Tongariki are great spots to spread out a picnic blanket and simply watch the stars. If you are interested in learning about how the ancient Polynesians told stories about the stars, consider signing up for a Rapa Nui stargazing tour.
Where to stay on your Easter Island Itinerary
To make things easy, stay around the only town on Easter Island Hanga Roa. Staying here ensures you are close to the island’s airport (Aeropuerto Mataveri), the beach, and plenty of bars & restaurants if you fancy a night on the town.
VALUE FOR MONEY:
Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana
Great location and the best value for money on the island. Choose to bunk up in the hostel or a comfortable tent in the garden of the hotel. The property has a large garden and barbeque facilities available for guests.
MID RANGE BUDGET: Takarua Lodge
Located a mere 6-minutes walk from the beach, Takarua Lodge is the perfect mid-range hotel. Services include free onsite parking, room service concierge service, and a team happy to help out with the organization of any tour of your choice.
EXCLUSIVE 5-STAR HOTEL:
Nayara Hangaroa Eco-village
The number one luxury hotel on Easter Island for travelers looking to bathe in tranquility. With on-site spa and wellness facilities (hot tub, sauna, and massage room) as well as an ample pool it offers a welcome reprieve after a day of exploring the island.
Easter Island things to do itinerary map
Click the interactive Google Map to discover all the things to do on Easter Island plotted on a map. Or take a sneak peek at the below images. Red pins are the various highlights of the island, while yellow pins indicate the accommodations recommended in this Easter Island travel guide.
Cost for a 3-day trip to Easter Island
Transportation (includes car rental one day split 4 ways): $30
Rapa Nui National Park Ticket: $80
Accommodation 3 nights: $120
Traditional Dance Show: $20
Total Cost: $500
Tips to visit Easter Island on a budget
As promised this Easter Island travel guide includes some tips on how to keep your budget down on your trip.
1. STAY IN A HOSTEL/ CAMPSITE
Book one of the many campsites around Hanga Roa. I stayed in Mihinoa camping which was – at the time- the only campsite overlooking the sea. This camping has since then shut down but others have picked up where Mihinoa left off. Camping y Hostal Tipanie Moana is a great budget alternative at under $50 a night
2. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
Most food on Easter Island is imported, making it pretty expensive to go out for meals. Fruits and vegetables easily cost 3 to 4 times what they cost on mainland Chile (which is already an expensive country compared to other South-American countries). An average meal will cost around 15.000 CLP ($20).
LATAM airlines allow passengers to carry an additional bag to Easter Island. Purchase your food items (preferably non-squishy, perishable) on the market in Santiago and bring them along with you. Book an accommodation where you are sure you can cook your own meals.
Renting a car put a serious dent in your budget. The island is small enough to be able to walk/bike everywhere. Just make sure to bring a raincoat (island weather is volatile) as well as sunscreen and a sun hat.
Traveling to Easter Island: FAQ
Some additional pieces of information/advice before you set off on your Easter Island trip.
Best time to go to Easter Island?
The best time to go is between January to the middle of April. The weather is dry and relatively cool. January to the end of March are the busiest and most expensive months. I ended up going the first week of April which was perfect. Prices for flights were half of what I would have paid in March.
How many days on Easter Island?
Three days is more than enough to get a good feel of the main Easter Island attractions and to have some leisure time too. That being said, we had three days of very good weather and were able to explore from morning to evening.
If you want to be absolutely sure that you have taken any potential storms into account (the island does get a fair share of rain) then perhaps a 5-day Easter Island itinerary is a safer bet. Granted it will cost more in terms of budget, but remember Easter Island is not a destination you are likely to go back to any time soon.
Easter Island Currency?
Easter Island is part of Chile and thus uses the Chilean Peso as the local currency. There are ATMs in Hanga Roa and credit cards are accepted as a form of payment though it is advised to always have cash on hand.
Easter Island time zone
Traveling to Easter Island will mean having to set your time to GMT-6. The timezone in mainland Chile is GMT-4.
Internet connection on Easter Island
WIFI is available in most hotels though I have to say it is spotty at best. Hanga Roa has free WIFI in town but that signal comes and goes and is significantly weaker than the WIFI found in hotels.
Is the Rapa Nui National Park ticket worth it?
Yes, 100%. There are plenty of Moai’s that can be visited without the Rapa Nui National Park ticket (especially around Hanga Roa). That being said many of the Easter Island highlights do require a ticket (Ahu Tongariki, the Rano Kau Quarry, and the ceremonial villages at the Orongo crater).
Each time you have visited one of the places that require a ticket, a stamp will be placed on your ticket meaning you are not allowed to visit the location again (one visit per ticket allowed for the entirety of the 10-days the ticket is valid).
The fees paid for the ticket go towards the conservation and preservation of the Rapa Nui national park.
Final thoughts on your Easter Island itinerary
A trip to Easter Island is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Keep the cost down by bringing your own food, renting a bicycle instead of a car and opting for budget accommodations. Three days is a minimum to see all the highlights of this little island and to give you some time to relax at the beach (why not try your hand at snorkeling?).
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