Destination guide: Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
Discover Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
Fly to Easter Island and lose yourself in its spectacular geography, enigmatic sites and exquisite cuisine. Feel the magic of Rapa Nui and marvel at the moai statues and archeological remains of this cultural legacy.
"Ahu" means platform in Rapa Nui, and there are several such stages on the island that showcase moais of different sizes and distribution. Located on the southeastern side, Ahu Akahanga is a prominent site namely because the first king or ariki, Hotu Matu'a, is thought to have been buried here in the 4th century. Measuring 18 meters (59 feet) long by 3.25 meters (10.5 feet) wide, this ahu displays 13 moais that were previously toppled.
Ahu Te Pito Kura
Situated on the northern coast, this moai represents the largest statue erected on an ahu, standing 10 meters (33 feet) high and weighing 85 tons. This moai is thought to be the last statue that fell, circa 1840. Nearby, a large spherical rock can be seen which is identified as the navel of the world. According to legend, it was brought by king Hotu Matu'a.
Ahu Uri a Urenga
Located near Hanga Roa, this platform boasts the only moai that faces east to the very spot where the sun rises on the winter solstice. This astronomical event marks the beginning of winter and of several tapus or seasonal bans across the island, such as fishing.
The island's largest ceremonial site is 200 meters (656 feet) long and was built between 900 and 1000 CE. The area showcases 15 moais, the largest of which are some 14 meters (46 feet) high. It is located 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Hanga Roa.
Perched on the slopes of the Maunga Tereveka Volcano, this platform consisted of seven moais, all of which were sent by king Hotu Matu'a. The peculiarity of this ahu is that the statues look out to sea which is unique given that all of the other moais gaze inward to protect the people.
Bahía de la Perousse o Hanga Hoonu
In the native language, the name of this fishing cove means "home of sea turtles". Located 27 kilometers (17 miles) from Hanga Roa, the cove's surroundings feature two stone towers that the island's ancient settlers used for watching the arrival of the turtles. They are still used as a lookout to this day.
In the native language, the name of this ceremonial center means "messenger place" because of the migratory birds. Orongo was the center of the Tangata-Manu or birdman cult. The village was the site of competitions where a member of each family would swim to the small island of Motu Nui to retrieve an egg from the nest of the Manutara bird, scale the cliffs of Rapa Nui, and upon returning to Orongo, present the egg to the king. The winner and his family were awarded a magical power for the coming year.
Anakena is Rapa Nui's loveliest beach. Situated 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) to the northeast of Hanga Roa and stretching 100 meters (328 feet) along the coast, the turquoise waters and white sands are hemmed in by palm trees, resulting in an idyllic paradise.
Legend says that the island kings inhabited this place, watched over by seven moais that - as opposed to the other statues on the island - wear headdresses. The ahu where they are located is called Nau Nau and was restored in the late 1970's. Another ahu that overlooks the beach is Ature Huki, whose singular moai was the first to be raised back into place in 1955 using the ancient method.
The clear and tranquil waters of Anakena are ideal for snorkeling. With plenty of fish, algae and coral on display, visitors can admire the island's marine life in all its splendor.
Ovahe is a small beach with fine pink sands located one kilometer from Anakena. Its horseshoe shape provides a natural barrier as does the outlying reef. The clear waters are excellent for diving and snorkeling for an invigorating experience observing the marine flora and fauna, coral reef and lava rocks.
Museo Antropológico Padre Sebastián Englert
Located on Tahai Street, this museum offers a broad selection of artifacts demonstrating Rapa Nui's cultural legacy. It also boasts an important collection of photographs and music and a library with over 3,000 publications and the only female moai ever found on the island.
Located on the northern coast, this moai stands nearly 10 meters (33 feet) tall and weighs approximately 82 tons, making this the tallest finished moai among the nearly 1,000 in existence.
Rapa Nui National Park
The beautiful landscape alone is a good reason to travel to Easter Island. In addition to being a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rapa Nui National Park covers more than 40% of the surface and is home to most of the 270 altars and nearly 1,000 moai statues on the island.
There are two dive centers on the island which can be found in the Hanga Roa cove, and a tour yacht which sets off from the same point. Visitors can travel 230 miles toward the Salas y Gomez Islands to continue their diving adventures.