There are many things to do in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) besides visiting the famous Moai. Best of all, most of the activities are free!
A place that shouldn’t even exist. Easter Island or Rapa Nui is a 63 SQ km island smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It sits more than 2000 km from its nearest neighbor. Yet, around 1200 years ago, a small group of Polynesians made their way across the vast ocean expanse and landed here in a small double-hulled canoe.
The story of Easter Island is long and dramatic, but I will leave that one for another article. For now, I want to focus on what there is to do in this magical place beyond visiting the world-renowned Moai.
When you arrive in Easter Island, the Polynesian origins are immediately apparent. You are often greeted with leis and flowers and the traditional warmth of the native people. Over 60% of the island’s 6,000 inhabitants are descended from the native population and all but a few hundred live in the capital city of Hanga Roa.
We traveled to this Pacific island as an off-shoot to our visit to Chile. Christina was six months pregnant at the time and we were anxious for some tropical exploration after touring the incredible Atacama desert. Easter Island is small, a few days is all you need to experience the island in its entirety. Almost everyone knows about Easter Island from its signature Moai, the large stone sculptures that are spread throughout the island, but there is a lot more to this island than just the Moai, here are a few of our favorites.
Grab a coffee at Mikafe
After getting settled in, we recommend heading to the marina and grabbing a delicious specialty coffee at Mikafe. This small cafe offers great people watching where you can see the local fishermen bringing in their catch and the locals going about their day.
Catch a show at Ballet Kari Kari
Ballet Kari Kari shares the history of Rapa Nui through dance and theater. As with everything on Easter Island, the venue is small and intimate, yet the team squeezes in a great deal of production value. You’ll get an opportunity for your face to be painted in the traditional native style and the local dancers put on a very energetic performance that will be sure to capture your attention. Stay to the end for some interactive dancing and entertainment!
Check out the beautiful artwork at the Church of Rapa Nui
The Church of Rapa Nui is the central focus of the modern local populace, many of whom identify as Roman Catholic. The church has spectacular locally made wood carvings depicting biblical stories and icons. Whether religion is your thing or not, it is worth taking a look just for the relaxing ambiance and beautiful woodwork, as well as checking out the unique statue of a black Mary.
Outside of Hanga Roa
Hike the crater at Rano Kau to Orongo
Rona Kau is an extinct volcano that rises 324 m above Honga Roa. It houses one of the only three areas of natural freshwater on the island in its crater lake. As you make your way to the crater you will come across Orongo, a small stone village which was the center of the Birdman cult. During the 18th and 19th centuries, political leaders were decided by a race where warriors scaled the island cliffs and swam to the nearby island to capture a sooty tern egg and return it unharmed to Orongo.
Feel the magic at the Navel of the World
When you first see what the Rapa Nui call the Navel of the World, it’s underwhelming. At first glance, it seems to be little more than a big round boulder surrounded but a circle of piled up smaller rocks. The Rapa Nui, however, believed that it was brought to the island specifically by the Island’s first king, Hotu Matua. The stone was given its name based on the legend that it is from where all life sprang from. No matter the origin, this rock is known to have a few intricacies, such as when a compass is placed on the rock it loses its direction.
Take a dip at Anakena Beach
It was a long and hard day of hiking the many amazing trails of Easter Island. The thought of spreading your toes into the white sand of Anakena beach and wading slowly in to the warm pacific water seemed like paradise. Beyond the small group of Moai that sit silently watching over the beach, Anakena is also believed to be the location where Hotu Matua first landed to populate the island.
Hire Alexander Huerta to discover some of the cool caves of Rapa Nui
We got lucky when our flight out of Easter Island was cancelled. Not only were we re-booked on the next flight 6 hours later, but they upgraded us to First Class for the leg into Santiago! We wondered what to do with our added few hours. Christina suggested we try to check out some of the caves. We had heard of several, but hadn’t had an opportunity to visit. We stepped out of the airport and hailed a cab, and that is how we met Alexander. He was more than happy to give us a tour and show us some of his favorite nooks and crannies within Easter Island. He even stopped and picked up some of his family to join us for some exploration making our last day on Rapa Nui very special!
Easter Island is magical and it makes for an incredible experience and learning opportunity. Given the chance, I would return here in a heartbeat! We traveled to Easter Island before kids. With Christina being six months pregnant, the thought of children wasn’t far. Easter Island struck us as a near-perfect destination for little ones. Yes, the flight is long, but the country is easy to maneuver. The hikes are entertaining without being too difficult and the people are warm and inviting.
If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path location for your next family adventure, don’t overlook Rapa Nui!
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Wednesday 27th of April 2016
Easter Island has always fascinated me, particularly the moai sculptures. The Ballet Kari Kari seemed like such a fun experience! Dance and theatre are such wonderful mediums to learn about history and culture :-)
Thursday 21st of April 2016
Sweet - I love going to interactive shows; watching people dance and have fun is nice... but I'd rather be participating. That's so cool they painted your faces too!
Saturday 16th of April 2016
Easter Island sounds so intriguing and Navel of the world, Rapa Nui also. Would love to visit these exotic places, seem so out of this world.
Patricia - Ze Wandering Frogs
Monday 4th of April 2016
Totally a bucket destination for us! This is a great read, very interesting and useful! Can't wait to go!
Sunday 3rd of April 2016
Looks like an absolute cracking destination to visit. The art work and such reminds me of the Maori people of New Zealand i somehow think they are descendants of each other.