If you’ve ever heard of Easter Island, this destination has surely intrigued you with its giant Moai statues! The place is a real open-air museum.
Planning a trip to Easter Island
Easter Island is 164 km², while Montreal is 432 km². In addition to being a tiny territory in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the island is also remote from everything. To put it in perspective, the South American continent is about 3,700 km east of the coast, while Tahiti is about 4,200 km west.
Depending on your preferences, I suggest a minimum stay of three or four full days in order to get a good feel for the island. Although its main tourist attraction is the Moai statues, it is also possible to go diving, horseback riding, hiking, etc.
The high tourist season is concentrated between December and March, with temperatures reaching 25-28 degrees, but a very humid climate. The southern winter offers the opportunity to visit the island, despite the rain. Winter temperatures are around 18-20 degrees.
Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
Upon arrival, we had to purchase a ticket for Rapa Nui National Park since the entire island is considered a park. In fact, the island is officially a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is possible to pay for this ticket in US currency or in Chilean pesos, the local currency. However, the price in pesos is much cheaper. Please note that credit cards are not accepted.
We had previously booked a cabaña – a small apartment with kitchen – on Booking.com. In high season, it is imperative to plan ahead to find a place to stay at a reasonable price. The owner of the house greeted us at the airport with flower necklaces as a welcome. It is possible to visit the island by renting a car, by hiring a driver, or by bicycle.
This small village is the only one on the island. Despite its size, it contains some very good restaurants with sea views. The menus varied from day to day, depending on the daily catch and the arrivals from Santiago.
So everything was very fresh and delicious, but expensive. For travelers on a tighter budget, empanada restaurants are scattered throughout the village. It is also possible to bring food in your luggage from Santiago.
During our stay, we alternated between the grocery store for lunches, empañadas for dinners, and spoiling ourselves at the restaurant for dinners.
As Easter Island belongs to Chile, the flight from Santiago is domestic, without passing through customs. For passport stamp collectors, I recommend a visit to the post office as an alternative. You can show your passport and get a stamp as a souvenir.
There is also a small museum for those who wish to learn more about the history of the island. Originally, the Polynesians lived there. They are also the makers of its famous Moai statues. Following the arrival of the Europeans in the 18th century, the population of Rapa Nui was almost entirely decimated by foreign diseases, slavery and emigration to other Polynesian islands. Chile subsequently annexed the island to its territory.
Today, the name Rapa Nui is still used by the inhabitants to identify the territory. The common name Easter Island refers to its discovery on Easter Sunday by a European explorer.
Archaeological sites are scattered all over the island. Their statues were carved more than five centuries ago from the volcanic rock of the Rano Raraku volcano, located in the center of the island. According to historians, they were erected in effigy of ancestors so that they would continue to watch over their community.
All the Moai have their backs to the ocean, except for those that rise from the site of Ahu Akivi.
These seven statues are the only ones facing the Pacific Ocean. According to one legend, they were positioned this way to keep an eye on the horizon.
This is the most impressive site, with a total of fifteen statues. However, these were restored after a huge tsunami displaced them in 1960. If you visit between December 21 and March 21 (which was not my case), you will have the chance to see the sun rise directly behind the Moai and enhance the mystical atmosphere of the landscape.
In the center of the island, we find the Rano Raraku volcano, as well as a set of unfinished Moai. The setting gave me the illusion of a Moai factory.
It was easy to see that some Moai were in the process of being made. For a place with so few resources, I am still intrigued to know how they managed to transport these statues weighing several tons to the four corners of the island!
In my opinion, these Moai heads were the most beautiful because they were by far the best preserved.
That’s a lot of words to remember in Maori! Rano Kau is one of the other volcanoes on the island, consisting of a crater filled with water.
That’s where archaeological remains of the stone village of Orongo are found.
We saved the white sandy beach of Anakena for last and that’s how we spent our last afternoon on the island. Most of the island’s coastline is made up of cliffs and rocks; Anakena is one of only two sandy beaches. It was a nice way to end the trip in a relaxing way.
It should be noted that there are over 800 Moai statues still standing on Easter Island. The sites mentioned in this article are the most important ones. It’s up to you to discover all the others!
Finally, a ten-minute walk from the village of Hanga Roa, this is the most popular site for watching the sunset.
For scuba diving enthusiasts, you will be happy to know that one of the Moai lies underwater!
When we left, the owner of our accommodation took us back to the airport and gave us shell necklaces. According to tradition, they symbolize an invitation for a future visit.
Points and miles
At the time of writing, there is only LATAM that serves Easter Island with a daily flight from Santiago. Air Tahiti Nui used to offer a weekly flight to Tahiti, but they seem to have stopped the service due to lack of traffic.
The SCL-IPC route is a 6 hour flight to get there, and a 4.5 hour return flight. The cash prices are extremely variable; I have seen prices ranging from 500 CAD to 2,500 CAD for a round trip in economy class. It used to be possible to book to South America via Easter Island with points on LATAM, but this is no longer the case. LATAM left Oneworld on May 1, 2020 for a partnership with Delta Air Lines.
Their flights will likely be offered with the Delta SkyMiles program, but this is to be confirmed. Next, it remains to be seen whether or not LATAM will join the SkyTeam network. In Canada, the best way to get these points is to transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points.
From Montreal, a round-trip economy class flight to Santiago can be booked using Aeroplan points with Star Alliance.
Since Easter Island is quite far from Montreal, I recommend that you combine this destination with another trip to South America, unless you don’t mind going so far away for only a few days.
In Chile, I recommend spending some time in Santiago and Valparaiso, as well as exploring the San Pedro de Atacama region. Alternatively, you could go further south and venture into Patagonia. For our part, we had annexed this small detour to the Moai as part of a trip to Peru and northern Chile.
For accommodation in Hanga Roa, the majority of options are in the form of cabañas operated by families. Otherwise, there are places to camp, youth hostels and modest hotels like everywhere else in the world.
Here is an idea of our costs for this trip (we were 2 adults) – 3 nights in cabañas: $265 US
- groceries: $40 US
- restaurants: $150 US
- driver and taxi for 2 days: $100 US
- SCL-IPC flight on LATAM: $636 CAD return economy per person
I used my rewards points to cover the entire cost of the cabañas and flights.
- Canadians do not need a visa for Chile
- Make sure you have enough cash; ATMs are sometimes out of order or empty
- It was possible to access the internet, but the speed was not the fastest
Want to save on foreign currency conversion fees? The Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card charges no conversion fees (while most other institutions charge 2.5% per transaction)!