Classic Destinations

Not to be missed in Easter Island

Friday, July 31, 2009  
Surf en Isla de Pascua Surf; Isla de Pascua (Photo: Sernatur)

- Best places of Easter Island
- Easter Island

Visit the National Park:
Almost half of the island’s total surface area, 7,130 hectares,  is protected by CONAF, concentrating the island’s archeological heritage. The Park was declared a space of natural and cultural preservation in 1935 and among its attractions are the Moais and various species of birds that are typical to the island.

Nature and Wildlife:  In spite of a certain degree of decline in recent years, populations of seabirds that inhabit or come to nest at certain times of the year can be sighted on the cliffs or islets (Motu) surrounding the island. Among them are makohe (Fregata minor), tavake (Phaenton rubricauda), kena (Sula dactylatra), and kuma (Puffinus nativitatis). Fish species are another very attractive group in the island’s wildlife population, whereas the land animals found on the island today are few and were mostly introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the birds are quail, sparrows, doves and tiuques (Chimango Caracara). 

Archeology, “The Moai Route”: Throughout the island you can visit the almost 900 Moais in existence, and diverse archeological sites that were used for holding religious rituals, for planting, feeding or shelter.

Rano Raraku: On Rano Raraku there are 1,000-meter long hiking trails that lead to the Moai factory. In this rock quarry around 400 statues can be observed in various stages of construction and transport. This activity seems to have been abandoned abruptly and no complete explanation for why this happened has been formulated up to this day.

Ahus: There are approximately 300 platforms or altars called Ahus throughout the island, most of them already destroyed. The most important are Vaihu, Akahanga, Heki'i, Raai, Te Peu and Vinapu, where you can observe statues, traces of human settlements that include houses, caverns, cooking stoves and henhouses, aside from planting and ceremonial sites.

Tahai-Ko Te Riku Complex: This archeological site is located in the town of Hanga Roa and is known as a complete restoration where you can view stone houses, henhouses, ceremonial sites, three platforms with Moais (Tahai, Vai Uri, Ko Te Riku), aside from a jetty built entirely of stone.

Ahu Huri A Urenga: This is a restoration located near the town of Hanga Roa, where there is a single statue that looks toward the spot where the sun rises on the day of the winter solstice. This astronomical event marks not just the beginning of winter, or Tonga in Rapa Nui language, but also various prohibitions, tapu, regarding fishing and other activities.

Ahu Akivi: An archeological complex restored in 1960 by the archeologist William Mulloy. Seven statues are observed here gazing toward the sunset over the sea. Tradition tells that these 7 Moais represent the first seven explorers who arrived in Rapa Nui, sent by King Hotu Matu’a.

Ahu Ature Huki: Located on Anakena Beach, this is the first restoration carried out during the Norwegian expedition of 1956. It consists of an anthropomorphic statue and is apparently older than the nearby platforms.

Ahu Nau Nau: A restoration carried out by Rapa Nui archeologist Sergio Rapu towards the late 1970s, found on Anakena Beach. These are 7 very well-preserved statues featuring details that are impossible to make out on other moais, such as tattoos, finishings and vestments. During the restoration a Moai was found here, that is currently showcased in the Easter Island Museum.

The journey through these archeological sites is an opportunity to come into marvelous contact with the magic and energy that emanate from Easter Island. Even today these are places of real significance for the local community and therefore it is recommended that visitors pay the greatest respect to the rules in each of the areas. We recommend that visitors refrain from climbing the ahus and  moais and from touching or leaving marks on the petroglyphs and other cultural testimonies.

Surfing: In Hanga Roa, Vaihu and Tahai there are waves for beginners and experts. The first beach has ideal waves for beginners, and since time immemorial the overmastering of the waves was practiced there. The natives used a kind of bodyboard that they called haka nini. Vaihu has beautiful tubes, while Tahai has the biggest waves on the island.

Taking Part in Tapati:  More than a traditional festival, the Tapati is a cultural expression that the Easter Island community holds each summer, already three decades running. For almost two weeks the inhabitants and visitors to the island become cohorts in an event dedicated to revitalizing the ancient local games. The community divides up into “alliances” to crown an annual Queen of Easter Island, while the Rapa Nui put on body paint to represent ancestral symbols. This is a delightful celebration of traditions during which the locals show their great talents and respect for their own culture. There are several games held, described below.

Vaka Tuai: Each team has to build a replica of a traditional Polynesian sea vessel, which the candidate to the Queen’s crown and a group that represents their alliance navigate, attired in the ancient manner.
Takona: This is a body paint contest. As in the rest of Polynesia, the Rapa Nui painted their faces and bodies for their traditional ceremonies, showing their rank within society. The present-day contestants continue the technique of mixing natural pigments and  describing the meaning of their body paint to the community.

Riu: In this competition-game, the most experienced members of each Alliance perform ritual chants that narrate epic tales and legends of the Rapa Nui people.

Hoko Haka Opo: This is a tournament between musical groups, each representing their Alliance, in which the participants’ skill as a choir is showcased through songs sung in an alternating way  by the competing groups, without repeating the lyrics or making mistakes in singing them.

Haka Pei: Daring young men slide down a 45º mountain slope on plantain tree trunks, down the 120 meters of Mount Pu’i, reaching speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour.

Pora: A swimming contest in which the contestants, wearing typical costumes over body paint, use floaters of Totora reeds. Their endurance and skill are put to the test as they swim a total distance of 1,500 meters.

Tau'a Rapa Nui: This is held in Rano Raraku and is a kind of triathlon. There are three alternating modes of traditional races. Vaka Ama is kayaking in small Totora reed canoes; there is a swimming race using a Pora or Totora reed floater, and in Aka Venga participants run a race while carrying a stick on their shoulders that bears two bunches of plantains.

Tau'a Rapa Nui: This is held in Rano Raraku and is a kind of triathlon. There are three alternating modes of traditional races. Vaka Ama is kayaking in small Totora reed canoes; there is a swimming race using a Pora or Totora reed floater, and in Aka Venga the participants to run a race while carrying a stick on their shoulders that bears two bunches of plantains.

Titingi Mahute: This is a contest in which participants work with the mahute plant, which was introduced by the first Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island. They process the raw material and then create typical costumes.

Trekking along Volcanoes and Caves:  The volcanic landscape of Easter Island offers interesting geographic landmarks that trekking enthusiasts can get to know. A series of caves and extinct volcanoes arouse powerful sensations, for example, as you crawl in the dark until reaching a panoramic view of the island's emerald plateaus against the backdrop of the eternal azure of the Pacific.

Ana o Keke and Ana Te Pahu are the most popular caverns among visitors. The latter is the Cave of the Virgins, where in ancient times Rapa Nui brides were locked up so that they could bleach themselves before marriage. You must enter the cavern crawling on your belly and it is located on the north face of Poike Mountain. Ana Te Pahu is in the eastern part of the island and has a huge cavity, which consists of four chambers that were used as rooms and ossuaries.

The hike to Rano Kao Volcano is the most popular among visitors. This is a full-day excursion in which you walk through eucaliptus forests until ascending to the crater, which  you climb down and visit. What used to be the crater mouth is today filled with a profusion of native flora, besides other species introduced to the island, and petroglyphs that stand out for their uniqueness. There is another route that is less traveled between the cliffs of the north side, with Moais that have collapsed along the trail.