Since everyone boards from the rear, business class is at the back of the plane.
Since everyone boards from the rear, business class is at the back of the plane.
Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Apina Tupuna Guesthouse

Easter Island has a reputation for being a very expensive travel destination and in some ways this is well-deserved.  With round-trip ticket prices from the mainland reaching towards $1000, getting there is certainly expensive.  If you can get past the transportation costs (book with miles!) then, with a little effort, the island can be surprisingly affordable.  About the same as mainland Chile.

Guesthouse kitchen
Guesthouse kitchen

Accommodation options on Rapa Nui range from high-end resorts all the way down to camping.  Though guesthouse prices are much higher than they were a few years back (when a friend of mine visited) we were still able to find a double room with shared bath at a conveniently located guesthouse for 22,000 CLP per night (about 44 USD).  This included breakfast and access to a shared kitchen.

Peanut butter sandwiches, green apples and crackers.  Our first meal on Easter Island.
Peanut butter sandwiches, green apples and crackers. Our first meal on Easter Island.

Prepared food is perhaps the biggest budget killer.  At the cheap take-away places in Hanga Roa you are looking at $10 or more for a meal and at the proper restaurants upwards of $20 or more.  A far more economical option is to prepare your own food.  The grocery store prices are certainly higher than the mainland but it is still much cheaper than eating out.

Locals shop for their produce early at the market and the truck vendors
Locals shop for their produce early at the market and the truck vendors

Before we left the mainland we stocked up on some staples (rice, lentils, split peas).  During our first afternoon on the island we scoured the minimarkets and found nothing but extremely expensive and bad-looking produce.  We learned later that the produce sold in the minimarkets all comes from the mainland on Wednesday’s LAN flight and we were shopping on a Tuesday.  Week-old vegetables aren’t that appetizing!  A far better option was found the next morning at the town feria were locally-grown produce is sold.  Lower prices and higher quality but you have to get there early to get the best veggies.

Rice with mango-avocado salsa served with a lentil and green bean salad.  Made with local produce.
Rice with mango-avocado salsa served with a lentil and green bean salad. Made with local produce.

Using what was at hand, Amy came up with some delicious meals for us to enjoy and I did my best as sous chef and dishwasher.  We had everything from pasta salad to mango-avocado salsa served over rice to curried split peas and rice with chard.  We cooked once a day and stretched each dish into two meals.  Our total spend on food for our six-night stay for two people was under $45!

Empanada dog.  Always in front of the empada shop next to the harbour.  He enjoys the shade of the nearby moai.
Empanada dog. Always in front of the empada shop next to the harbour. He enjoys the shade of the nearby moai.

The other costs that visitors face on the island are entry fees and transportation.  The good news is that most of the ahu scattered around the island are completely free to visit.  There is a rather steep entry fee to the island’s two park sites (Orongo and Rano Raraku) but you only pay the 30,000 CLP (60 USD) fee once to enter both sites.  On arrival at the airport we were happy to find that the park rangers were pre-selling tickets for 25,000 CLP.  If visiting Easter, keep an eye out for the desk just before the baggage claim area.

The main drag in Hanga Roa
The main drag in Hanga Roa

As for transportation, there are a number of options.  Of course you can walk to many of the sights that surround Hanga Roa without much problem.  The farther flung sights at the east end of the island are best reached by guided tour or vehicle rental.  With two people, renting a car for the day was a much better deal and we could dodge the tour groups.  Hitching might also be an option (numerous locals offered us rides) to drive down costs even further.

Easter Island is a destination that can be made affordable with a little effort.  Getting to the island can be accomplished with a strategic credit card sign-up bonus or two.  Sightseeing on foot and cooking helps the traveler realize even more savings.  Of course food shopping, cooking, and walking around take some time so I would highly recommend a 5+ day visit.  It is an island paradise, so what’s the rush?

Hanga Roa seen from Puna Pau
Hanga Roa seen from Puna Pau

Budget Summary:

  • Accommodations: $273.68 (six nights)
  • Entrance Fees: $105.26
  • Food: $44.74
  • Car Rental (with fuel): $58.95
  • Internet access: $5.05
  • Total spent for six days on Easter Island: $487.69 ($40.64 per person, per day)

Another travel blogger has posted his budget for a recent trip to Rapa Nui.  Check it out here.

Easter Island – Island Life
Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Our room at Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Our room at Apina Tupuna Guesthouse
Guesthouse kitchen
Guesthouse kitchen
Guesthouse common room
Guesthouse common room
Front lawn of our guest house.  A large visitor offshore that day!
Front lawn of our guest house. A large visitor offshore that day!
Locals shop for their produce early at the market and the truck vendors
Locals shop for their produce early at the market and the truck vendors
Breakfast was included
Breakfast was included
Peanut butter sandwiches, green apples and crackers.  Our first meal on Easter Island.
Peanut butter sandwiches, green apples and crackers. Our first meal on Easter Island.
Tomato and avocado sandwiches ad guava juice.
Tomato and avocado sandwiches ad guava juice.
Curried split peas and green beans with rice and wine from the mainland (alcohol is expensive)
Curried split peas and green beans with rice and wine from the mainland (alcohol is expensive)
Rice with mango-avocado salsa served with a lentil and green bean salad.  Made with local produce.
Rice with mango-avocado salsa served with a lentil and green bean salad. Made with local produce.
Pasta salad at the beach along with Amy's favorite snack: Cabritas (caramel corn)
Pasta salad at the beach along with Amy’s favorite snack: Cabritas (caramel corn)
Two important forms of transportation on Rapa Nui
Two important forms of transportation on Rapa Nui
Strange flowers!
Strange flowers!
The daily flight from Santiago
The daily flight from Santiago
The weekly cargo ship from Chile
The weekly cargo ship from Chile
Occasionally cruise ships visit the island.  This is Royal Princess headed for Australia.
Occasionally cruise ships visit the island. This is Royal Princess headed for Australia.
Empanada dog.  Always in front of the empada shop next to the harbour.  He enjoys the shade of the nearby moai.
Empanada dog. Always in front of the empada shop next to the harbour. He enjoys the shade of the nearby moai.
Local game of fútbal
Local game of fútbal
Hanga Roa seen from Puna Pau
Hanga Roa seen from Puna Pau
The bay at Hanga Roa
The bay at Hanga Roa
The main drag in Hanga Roa
The main drag in Hanga Roa
Setting of the full moon.
Setting of the full moon.


The bay at Hanga Roa
The bay at Hanga Roa

Relaxed.  From what I saw, that sums up life in Rapa Nui.  Almost all of the people on Rapa Nui live in or around Hanga Roa.  The town has a couple of major streets, a small shallow-water harbour, two banks, a post office and plenty of stray dogs.  The stray dogs enjoy chasing cars and sleeping in front of their favorite restaurant or moai.  The island lacks “chain” stores and restaurants because there is a law that allows only people of Rapa Nui descent to own businesses and property.  The only notable exceptions I noticed were the airline, the gas station and the phone company.  This quality of Rapa Nui sets it apart from any other place that I have visited.

The daily flight from Santiago
The daily flight from Santiago

One aspect of Rapa Nui that I found very interesting was how they are connected to the rest of the world.  The island has few resources and most necessities must be imported.  LAN Chile flies into Rapa Nui daily in the high-season and brings perishable foods, the mail, and lots of tourists.  Larger cargo comes by way of a once-weekly ship from Chile.  Since the island lacks a deepwater port, the entire contents of this ship have to be offloaded to smaller boats for landing.  A local told me that this is a one to two day process provided the sea is calm.

The weekly cargo ship from Chile
The weekly cargo ship from Chile

Fuels (gas, diesel and Jet-A) all arrive by tanker ship which anchors near the Vinapu terminal east of Hanga Roa.  They use a big hose to pump the fuels from the ship to shore.  As for communciations, the island is way too far off the beaten track to make an undersea cable financially viable.  Instead, they rely on satellite communications.  Upload and download speeds were impressive (comparable to a cable modem back at home though which much higher delay) and I suspect that the government must subsidize this normally very expensive commodity.  Most internet cafes on the island cost about $2/hour though our guesthouse offered free access (after I fixed it, that is!).

Another strange aspect of being on the island is that fact that new visitors to our guesthouse could only arrive once a day.  I don’t think I have been to any other place where people aren’t free to arrive and depart as they please.  Actually, there was one exception to this.  On our first day we met a small group of writers and scientists who were waiting on a ship to come and pick them up.  They were setting off on a science expedition to study plastic accumulation in the South Pacific Gyre.  They had a multi-week sail to Tahiti ahead of them and they were certainly piling on the fresh fruit and veggies at breakfast time.  Someday I would love to give that a try.  A picture of their boat is below.

All in all, Rapa Nui is a quiet and sleepy place and is a perfect place to unwind.  It has a great mix of history, culture and, most importantly, the chilled-out island vibe.  Tomorrow’s post will be my last on Easter Island.  I will share our tips on how to see Rapa Nui on the cheap.

Two important forms of transportation on Rapa Nui
Two important forms of transportation on Rapa Nui

On the third day we decided that we had had enough walking and decided to rent a car.  In all honesty, we had seen most of the sights that are within walking distance of Hanga Roa.  The island’s other treasures are most easily seen by car.  After a quick car shopping trip along Hanga Roa’s main drag we scored ourselves a hansome 1976 Suzuki Samurai for a mere 20,000 pesos (approx. $40 US).  We actually picked up the car at 6PM on the second day, just in time to head out to some moai for sunset.  Ahu Akivi, our walking destination on day 1, was reached in a mere 20 minutes by car.

Sunset at Ahu Akivi
Sunset at Ahu Akivi

At 7am the next morning we woke up and loaded in the Samurai to catch the sun rising behind Ahu Tongariki, Rapa Nui’s largest restored ahu with 15 moais.  The drive from Hanga Roa was quite easy and we were able to find our way in the dark without any problem.

Sunrise over Ahu Tongariki
Sunrise over Ahu Tongariki
Morning twilight at Ahu Tongariki
Morning twilight at Ahu Tongariki

After sunrise we drove over to the nearby Rano Raraku which is the quarry where most of the moai were carved.  We rolled up at 9AM and found a locked gate.  After waiting for 15-20 minutes, one of the park rangers sauntered up in his truck.  The park opened at exactly 9AM, island time.

Amy with some pukao (moai hats), in the background Rano Raraku
Amy with some pukao (moai hats), in the background Rano Raraku

Being the first ones to arrive we had the added responsibility of dealing with all the cows that gravitate towards the lush grass at the visitor center.  One or two cows is not something that usually bothers me but dealing with an entire herd (complete with calves and their mommies) is a bit unnerving.  Amy was doubly-cautious as she selected her neon orange t-shirt for the day.  Cows love neon orange, I’m sure.

Once we navigated the bovine circus, we could enjoy the spectacle that is Rano Raraku.  A lush green mountainside absolutely littered with moai of all sizes.  Some upright, some face flat on the ground, others half-buried and many still attached to the rock face from which they were carved.  Add some soft amber lighting thanks to the rising sun and it was absolutely incredible.

Pasta salad at the beach along with Amy's favorite snack: Cabritas (caramel corn)
Pasta salad at the beach along with Amy’s favorite snack: Cabritas (caramel corn)

Towards midday we headed over to Anakena beach at the east end of the island.  It is the only large sandy beach on Rapa Nui and is absolutely stunning.  It is flanked on one side by an ahu with a few moai and at the other side with some coconut palms.  We grabbed a picnic table and dug into some tasty pasta salad with island-grown avocado and tomato.  Delicious!

Anakena Beach
Anakena Beach

An hour of lounging on the beach and swimming followed our late lunch and then we started to head towards Hanga Roa.  We dropped by Ahu Tongariki (where we watched the sunrise that morning) and snapped a few pictures in the afternoon light.  The remaining couple of hours of our rental car time were spent driving up the coast and enjoying the vistas.  All in all, a great 24 hours on Rapa Nui!

Our wheels.  1976 Suzuki Samurai
Our wheels. 1976 Suzuki Samurai


Easter Island – Day 3 (Ahu Tongariki, Rano Raraku)
Sunset at Ahu Akivi
Sunset at Ahu Akivi
Morning twilight at Ahu Tongariki
Morning twilight at Ahu Tongariki
Sunrise over Ahu Tongariki
Sunrise over Ahu Tongariki
Wild horses are all over the island
Wild horses are all over the island
Amy with some pukao (moai hats), in the background Rano Raraku
Amy with some pukao (moai hats), in the background Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku, also known as “the nursery”
Rano Raraku, also known as “the nursery”
A large unfinished moai still attached to the mountain
A large unfinished moai still attached to the mountain
It is hard to make him out but I am standing in front of a huge 60+ ft moai that is partially complete.
It is hard to make him out but I am standing in front of a huge 60+ ft moai that is partially complete.
Anakena Beach
Anakena Beach
Pasta salad at the beach along with Amy's favorite snack: Cabritas (caramel corn)
Pasta salad at the beach along with Amy’s favorite snack: Cabritas (caramel corn)
Pink sand at Anakena
Pink sand at Anakena
Lots of wild horses means that there are also lots of wild horse skulls
Lots of wild horses means that there are also lots of wild horse skulls
Horse attack!
Horse attack!
Sooty tern
Sooty tern
One more (daytime) visit to Ahu Tongariki
One more (daytime) visit to Ahu Tongariki
All lined up
All lined up
Our wheels.  1976 Suzuki Samurai
Our wheels. 1976 Suzuki Samurai
Taking a break
Taking a break
Precise stone fitting at Vinapu
Precise stone fitting at Vinapu


The edge of the dormant volcano - our destination of the day.
The edge of the dormant volcano – our destination of the day.

The day after our lengthy walk around Rapa Nui we decided to take an “easy day” and visit one of the closest attractions to Hanga Roa: the ceremonial village of Orongo.  The village is located on the rim of Rano Kau, the dormant volcano at the far western end of Rapa Nui.  The surf was quite rough that morning so we had some good fun watching the waves crash into the rocky coastline on our way over to the volcano.

To get to the rim of the volcano’s crater you can either drive a winding road, or you can take a trail that takes a steeper and more direct route.  At sea level the trail weaves its way through some small farms that enjoy the wind protection afforded by the mountain before breaking out into a clearing covered mostly by guava bushes (they are all over the island).  Slightly further on is a small band of eucalyptus trees and, from there, it is grass all the way to the top.

The crater or Rano Kau
The crater or Rano Kau

Once we reached the rim of the crater we had a spectacular view of the freshwater marsh inside of the volcano.  Though we couldn’t see it up close, the vegetation inside of the crater was noticeably different.  Some signs along the way indicated that the cone of the volcano creates a completely different ecosystem by sheltering its contents from wind and by trapping rainwater.

At the far west end of the crater rim is the ceremonial village of Orongo.  The village, which was the center of the birdman cult, was inhabited until the mid 19th century.  The stone buildings as they stand today were restored in the mid 1970′s but much of the stone is original.  The roofs of the houses are stone but they are covered in a thick layer of grass.  It is not known whether these houses we occupied permanently or only during ceremonial times.

Awesome petroglyphs at Orongo
Awesome petroglyphs at Orongo

Speaking of ceremonies, one of the birdman cult’s more interesting annual competitions was to retrieve the first sooty tern egg laid on the nearby islet of Motu Nui.  The competitors had to depart the village, survive the 250m descent to the ocean, swim a few kilometers, fight off some seriously angry birds and then go all the way back to the village while carrying an egg.  I’m am sure that the village’s stunning location perched the cliff above the ocean made this competition quite fun to watch!

In addition to the stone houses and spectacular views of the volcano and the ocean, one can also find numerous stone petroglyphs at Orongo.  Some of them are pretty hard to discern (and to photograph!) but they are very interesting nonetheless.

The descent to Hanga Roa was much faster than the climb.  Part of this was due to the downhill slope and the other part was due to the fact that we had a rainstorm bearing down on us.  All in all, this little excursion ate up about half a day and was certainly worthwhile.  Given more time I think it would be fun to hike all the way around the rim of the crater, I read somewhere that this is doable in a day.  Maybe next time!

Easter Island – Day 2 (Rano Kau and Orongo)
Strong surf in the morning
Strong surf in the morning
The edge of the dormant volcano - our destination of the day.
The edge of the dormant volcano – our destination of the day.
Some locals out having fun
Some locals out having fun
Amy's favorite part of the day: a nice seasaw complete with turtle seats.  We rode it.
Amy’s favorite part of the day: a nice seasaw complete with turtle seats. We rode it.
Half way up the volcano we happened upon a rest station.  Much-needed as we are wimps.
Half way up the volcano we happened upon a rest station. Much-needed as we are wimps.
Made it to the top of Rano Kao
Made it to the top of Rano Kao
The crater or Rano Kau
The crater or Rano Kau
Looking back towards Hanga Roa
Looking back towards Hanga Roa
The restored ceremonial village of Orongo which is on the rim of the volcano.
The restored ceremonial village of Orongo which is on the rim of the volcano.
The nearby islets of Moto Nui, Moto Iti and Motu Kau Kau
The nearby islets of Moto Nui, Moto Iti and Motu Kau Kau
Awesome petroglyphs at Orongo
Awesome petroglyphs at Orongo
Another view of Orongo
Another view of Orongo


My apologies for the delay in posting.  Getting access to the Internet while on Rapa Nui was a bit harder than expected…at least until I repaired our guesthouse’s connection towards the end of our stay.  Our flight from the mainland with LAN Chile was uneventful and we had a great view of the Juan Fernandez archipelago along the way.

Arrival at Rapa Nui’s Mataveri International Airport is a fun experience in and of itself.  Of course the airport doesn’t have a large terminal building with jetways and the like.  All passengers take the stairs and stroll across the tarmac into the open air terminal where a local band is playing and girls are handing out flowers.  Before we knew it we were packed into a late 90′s Nissan being whisked away to our guesthouse in Hanga Roa, the island’s only village.  I will post more about our accomodations, the village and our budget in later posts.  But first, some moai!

Ahu Tahai, just outside of Hanga Roa
Ahu Tahai, just outside of Hanga Roa

Before we flew to Rapa Nui we had read that while many tourists rent cars for their entire stay, it is possible to see many of the sights on foot.  On our first full day we decided to walk part of the northwestern coast check out the moais, lava tubes, and rolling green countryside.  The tourist office told us that the loop would take 4-5 hours and to bring lots of water as there is no safe drinking water outside of Hanga Roa.

Much  of the island's coastline is like this.
Much of the island’s coastline is like this.

Just outside of Hanga Roa is Tahai which is a restored ceremonial site where one can find three ahu (stone platforms) with six moais (stone heads).  Further up the coast, there are some nice lava tubes at Ana Kakenga which you can explore if you have a flashlight.  Two of them are frequently visited by tourists and lead out to the sea where there is a nice view of the ocean.  Heading into the caves was a nice repreive from sun.

Amy explores the cave with a headlamp
Amy explores the cave with a headlamp

After Ana Kakenga the road turns inland and climbs gradually to Ahu Akivi.  Ahu Akivi is a complex of seven moais that are unique in that they face the ocean.  All of the other ahu on Easter Island are located along the coast and their moais face inland.  Ahu Akivi was gorgeous and arriving on foot meant allowed us to wait until a tour group departed.  After that, we had the place to ourselves.

Ahu Akivi and its seven moais
Ahu Akivi and its seven moais

The walk back to Hanga Roa from Ahu Akivi was arduous.  When it was all said and done, our four-to-five hour walk had turned into a seven hour adventure.  Nevertheless, it was well worth it and best of all it was completely free.

Sunset at Hanga Roa
Sunset at Hanga Roa
Easter Island – Day 1 (Ahu Akivi)
Juan Fernández Islands
Juan Fernández Islands
On final into IPC.
On final into IPC.
Ahu Tahai, just outside of Hanga Roa
Ahu Tahai, just outside of Hanga Roa
Much  of the island's coastline is like this.
Much of the island’s coastline is like this.
Amy climbing into a lava tube
Amy climbing into a lava tube
Looking out to sea from the lava tube
Looking out to sea from the lava tube
Amy explores the cave with a headlamp
Amy explores the cave with a headlamp
Inside the lava tube
Inside the lava tube
The banana cave
The banana cave
Ahu Akivi and its seven moais
Ahu Akivi and its seven moais
The rolling green hills of Rapa Nui
The rolling green hills of Rapa Nui
Two important forms of transportation on Rapa Nui
Two important forms of transportation on Rapa Nui
Sunset at Hanga Roa
Sunset at Hanga Roa

It is 8:30am local time and we are sitting at gate 25 at Santiago’s airport.  At 9:30 we are scheduled to depart to Rapa Nui, one  of the world’s most remote islands.  We will be flying in a shiny LAN 767 complete with winglets modifications and have secured some nice exit row seats.

Amy has informed me that the distance from Santiago to Rapa Nui is equivalent to the distance between Punta Arenas and Arica which are Chile’s southernmost and northernmost cities – 3760 km or 2336 miles.  We departed Punta Arenas yesterday morning just after their first snow of the year and we are definitely looking forward to the warmer weather on Easter Island.

Stay tuned this week for posts and photos of our time down south which included a spectacular day at Torres del Paine National Park.

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