If there was one place I always I wanted to visit in South America, it was Easter Island.
Four years ago, when I saw a picture of my friend jumping in front of Ahu Tongariki, I knew I wanted to go. There was something about Easter Island from that picture that was so appealing and made me dream about visiting there for years.
Three weeks ago, I returned from Easter Island and absolutely enjoyed my trip. Easter Island was a wonderful place to travel to, but that also involved lots of planning, preparation, and spontaneity to make the trip easier. So, here are my tips on visiting Easter Island to make your trip a breeze.
Book your airline tickets at least five weeks in advance
LATAM Airline is the only air carrier transporting passengers to Easter Island and, hence, involves lots of monopoly. LATAM Airline can charge as much as they want, and a round-trip flight to Easter Island from Santiago can easily cost USD $1000 and up. The skyrocketed airfare can be a problem to budget travelers.
It would be better to book your airline tickets to Easter Island as early as possible and be flexible. I booked mine in mid-September and paid USD $720 for a return trip to Easter Island in the end of Oct, and the plane was full on that day. My friend searched for the tickets two weeks later and the price had already gone up above $1000.
$720 is an expensive price to pay for a five-hour domestic flight, but Chile is the furthest country from my homeland and taking this trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I really did not want to wait for another few years conducting another round of research and ending up paying a higher price.
When looking for flight deals to Easter Island, turn to LATAM Airlines’ official website. Skyscanner’s cheapest months is helpful but there is no point in comparing prices when LATAM Airlines is the only carrier.
Bring your own food to Easter Island
Easter Island is a southeastern Pacific island that has 6,600 inhabitants living five hours away from mainland Chile. Apart from the locally grown vegetables and seafood, all you get in the grocery store are items shipped into the island and perishable foods, especially fruit and bread, have huge mark-ups. If you take a walk into the grocery shops, you will notice the food scarcity and a lack of diversity.
To save budget on expensive food items, you can bring your own food items from Santiago. LATAM Airlines does not care about the fruits and vegetables in your checked in luggage. I brought broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, and oranges. There are people who filled their suitcases with fruit and bread. You can bring two checked-in luggage at no additional cost.
It is possible to find cheap accommodations on Easter Island
There are people camping on the island, but most of us prefer the concrete-wall accommodation. Hotels have wonderful service and locations, but are expensive unless you share with a group of people. So here are two ways I recommend booking cheap places on the island:
There are inexpensive private rooms in local houses for rent, and the price can get as low as $30 a night. It allows you to connect with locals and help you learn about the culture and history of Easter Island. People on the island are welcoming. They will offer their ideas and recommend places for you to visit, and even take you out on a trip.
Take advantage of hotel promotion
Don’t overpay for a hotel room. There are sites offering hotel promotion and you just have to take advantage of it. I stayed in Ana O Tai for five nights because booking.com had a promotion for this property in the total amount of $157. It was a private cabana with a room, fully-equipped kitchen, and a private bathroom. The bed was large and comfortable, and it was close to grocery shops, restaurants, and cafes.
Ana O Tai is also 10 minutes walk from Tahai, the place I went to watch the sunset every night, which is dreamlike. There is also a cemetery and ocean next to the Ahu if you need more quiet time and space.
You need to pay an entrance fee to visit Napa Nui National Park
Many important sites on the island have been declared as Rapa Nui National Park, a UNESCO heritage site that was protected by the Chilean government. To visit the sites in Rapa Nui National Park, you need to get the park entrance ticket. There is a booth at the airport and the office on Atamu Tekena Street next to the Cruz Verde Pharmacy for you to purchase a ticket. The ticket is valid for ten days and only US dollars and Chilean pesos are acceptable, and the cost is $54.000 CLP or $80USD for non-Chileans.
Easter Island does not have sufficient resources to conserve these sites, so the fee will help to finally support and preserve the park.
Start your island trip with a local tour
Despite that renting a vehicle is cheaper and will offer you flexibility, it is an excellent way to start your journey with a local tour and learn more about the island’s history and background information. I took a day tour with Easter Island Travel and my guide Merahi was Rapa Nui. She had excellent insights of Moai that shaped the history of Easter Island and she explained the historical backgrounds and traditions really well, especially the 700 Moai in the Rano Raraku. I thoroughly enjoyed my day trip through the south coast with her and appreciated the island more with all the historical information I learned.
If you want to take a picture of Ahu Tongariki with the ocean, photograph it before you get there
Ahu Tongariki is an iconic structure on Easter Island, with a row of 15-headed statues with the backdrop of the pristine ocean with the waves crashing against the jagged sea cliffs. These statues were restored after they were destroyed by civil war and tsunami, and were the biggest in Polynesia. Because of the unique formation, history, and the beauty, everyone wants to take pictures of Ahu Tongariki.
It is impossible to take Ahu Tongariki with the oceans once you arrive at the platform. I took some pictures of Ahu Tongariki in Rano Raraku and on the road towards it.
From afar, you will see 15 Moai statues standing next to each other with mountains around them and ocean behind them, as if the ocean is their backyard. Interestingly enough, when I got in front of Ahu Tongariki, I could not see the ocean behind and I had to walk way back and had to zoom out my camera to fit 15 Moai in one picture.
Visiting the beach on Easter Island is tricky
It is not easy to get into the water on many beaches. I went to the main beach at Anakena, which has perfect waves and water to swim and surf, and some parts for scuba diving. There are small beaches on the way from Tahai to Anakena where the local fishermen frequent. It is not ideal to get into the water on other beaches owing to the jagged coastline and the lack of the sand.
At the main beach in Anakena, there were tour operators to take you out on a boat trip for snorkeling and scuba diving. If you book them in advance, be sure confirm the trip on the same day a few hours before. The day I decided to do snorkeling, the tour company told me that the waves were too rough for setting out the trip. I spent that morning laying on the beach and watching the turtles play with the water.
You can use credit cards on the island, but bring enough cash
Most grocery shops and tour operators accept credit card payments and hotels take payments in Chilean pesos (not sure about US dollars). I brought some Chilean pesos and when I ran out of it, I took them out through the ATM that charges me 6000 pesos extra for each withdrawal. If your bank has branches in Santiago, just take out as much cash as you can before the trip. There is a currency exchange place in town that accepts US dollars and Euros, and it opens till 1 pm.
Length of your stay
Unless you have family and friends to visit, staying or a week is not necessary, and you can visit most significant sites in two days. If you prefer snorkeling and hiking, you may want to stay longer.
I stayed in Easter Island for five days, and from what I experienced is that the weather is not always perfect. The first two days, I experienced long hours pouring rain. I was bored in my hotel and uncomfortable to go out, so I sat on the front porch and looked at the rain dropping from the sky. For an ideal trip, I would recommend that you stay for four to five days, in case there is bad weather.
If you travel to Chile, be sure to visit Easter Island
Chile is the furthest country from my homeland and Easter Island is the most remote inhabited island in the world, which rendered the experience unique and beautiful. It took me a while to book the flight tickets considering how expensive this was, but I am grateful that I had this opportunity to visit this island and realize my dream.
A trip to Easter Island is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it is something you will never forget. If you travel thus far to Chile, you need to reward yourself with a trip to this beautiful and remote place, and the rewards will come once you get there.
Have you visited Easter Island? Share your tips and experience below!
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