For us, the primary focus in Rapa Nui is to learn about the history of the moai and the local culture. A good visual map of the sites and their locations around the island, as well as a brochure, can be found at the National Park’s website:
Our itinerary in Easter Island was very relaxed, and we got to see the major sites and do one active excursion in 4 days. Here’s our itinerary per day, which covers the 15 most important sites in the island:
Arrival – Half day
- Cave trekking to Ana Kakenga and Ana Te Pahu
A 3-hour tour that takes you to these 2 small but magnificent caves. The caves are located close to the road, so not much hiking is needed. This was an expensive activity, but worth it in our opinion. See our full report here (coming soon):
Cave Trekking in Easter Island: Adventures in Ana Kakenga and Ana Te Pahu
Full day #1 – East and North coast
- Ahu Akahanga – remains of an old village with stone boat-houses, named after the shape of the structures.
You can also see the cave Ana Akahanga, where the old inhabitants sought temporary refuge when coming from the sea.
There is an unrestored platform with 12 overturned moais, giving you a glimpse of the state of the moais before the restoration efforts. The statues were pushed down during the wars between the clans.
Finally, tradition states that the burial site for King Hotu Matu’a is located here, after he was moved from the top of Rano Kau. His remains have never been found.
- Ahu Tongariki – platform with 15 moais, view of the ocean and mountain. The “traveling moai” is here. Also known for its sunrise views.
- Rano Raraku – site were moais were carved from the base of the volcano. You will spend some time walking around the trails to see the moais at different points in their construction. If you are not on a tour, this is the place where you would benefit from hiring a guide.
- Lunch – there is a very convenient restaurant at Rano Raraku with moderate prices and good food
- Ahu Te Pito Kura – the tallest transported moai can be found here
- Anakena beach – the moai Ahu Ature Huki and the platform Ahu Nau Nau are adjacent to the beach.
We are not beach people, so we went to one of the bars/restaurants and ordered some empanadas and pisco sours. There are some souvenir shops that carry beach stuff in case you forgot something.
Full day #2 (combined half-day tours) – South and West coast
- Ahu Vinapu – the Ahu Tahira wall is the only one of its kind in Rapa Nui. The wall was built with large stones with perfect edges and no gaps between them. These advanced building techniques are reminiscent of the Inca from Peru. There is no definitive theory as to who built this wall.
Across the Ahu Vinapu platform, a red column is present, which represents the remains of a female moai. It is said that the female moai had two heads, but these were destroyed.
- Rano Kao – largest volcano in Rapa Nui. The hike to the top is not very steep. You will be rewarded with magnificent views of the crater lake and the ocean.
- Orongo – ceremonial village adjacent to the Rano Kao. Visit the museum to learn about the history of the birdman (Hombre pájaro, Tangata Manu) competition.
During the last stage of the Rapa Nui civilization, there was conflict between the different tribes. Over this period of unrest, the moai were toppled over. The competition was created in order to restore the peace. A man from each tribe was chosen to swim to the island of Moto Nui and bring back an intact egg from a bird that only nests there. The winning tribe ruled the island for one year.
The chief of each tribe and his advisors would stay at the ceremonial village during the competition. The shape of the houses and construction in stone was devised to protect from the strong winds coming from the ocean. The small entrances only permitted one person to come in, crawling. This was devised to provide security for the chiefs.
- Ahu Tahai – these are 3 reconstructed moai platforms in Hanga Roa.
One of the moai has white coral eyes, which are not original and were placed for a documentary.
- Ahu Akivi – platform with 7 moais, which are unique as they are looking towards the sea and not inland
- Puna Pao – small volcano with a particular red stone that was used to make the red hats (pukao) of the moai. It is still unclear what the stones represent. The red stones were transported separately from the moai, and were placed after the moai was erected.
Departure – Half day
- Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum – the small but well-organized museum details the history of the island, including the possible origins of the first inhabitants. Many interesting artifacts are on display, including one of the few remaining original eyes and a female moai. A visit to the museum is highly recommended. (Tu-F 9:30-17:30, Sat-Sun-holidays 9:30-12:30, closed Mondays and some holidays, free entrance)
- Church – on Sundays they have a traditional mass at 9 am
What was your favorite moai site in Rapa Nui?
Ready to visit Easter Island? Need a planning guide?