- American Airlines Admirals Club New York JFK
- LAN Business Class: New York to Lima
- LAN Economy Class: Lima to Cusco
- Machu Picchu
- LAN Economy Class: Cusco to Lima
- Radisson Decapolis Miraflores
- SUMAQ Lounge Lima
- LAN Business Class Lima to Easter Island
- Easter Island
- LAN Business Class: Easter Island to Santiago
- LAN Neruda Lounge Santiago
- LAN Business Class: Santiago to Lima
- LAN Business Class: Lima to New York
- Yotel New York City
- American Airlines Transcontinental Business Class: New York to Los Angeles
I arrived at my hotel early Sunday morning, early enough to eat breakfast with guests who had just woken up. The island is rather dead on Sunday, and given that my friend was not arriving from Santiago until the later afternoon, I decided to catch up on sleep and look at photos of my trip up until then. There was no Internet access at my hotel, as one had to walk a short bit down the street to a Wi-Fi store to communicate with the outside world. Even then, the store is open only a few hours a day and few hours at night. Neither cell provider had good service for outsiders. If one really wanted to get away from the world, Easter Island would be the place.
The main town on Easter Island is Hanga Roa, just a hop from the airport. One can actually walk from IPC airport to the main square in a doable amount of time, though most hotels will provide a car transfer or taxi. Before my friend’s flight arrived, I walked to the airport from my hotel, which took about 15-20 minutes. Between the hotel and the town, there is a LAN office that is open until about 4:30pm, and is useful for reconfirming and checking in for flights, given the lack of communication/internet options on the island. On the same road as the airport is a gas station that has fairly good exchange rates for USD to Chilean Pesos. Most places on the island will take USD, and might even have better prices in USD.
My hotel was the Hotel Orongo, a selection based entirely on price after looking on sites like Hostels.com and HostelWorld.com. There are no branded properties on Easter Island, so no luck using points. It turned out to be a decent hotel, with a plentiful number of rooms for 2-3 people, some with A/C, some with mini-fridges, some with both, some with neither. All guests got a continental breakfast, though after a few days, bread/instant coffee/fruit/cheese/ham got a bit old. However, the location was brilliant, as it was on the main road that goes through town, with easy access to restaurants, the tourist office, and general stores. To walk to the main bay took only between 5-10 minutes, and walking around at night is rather safe on a small island. The hotel’s owner is a bit eccentric, but it didn’t get in the way of anything.
If selecting a hotel, I would try to get one either on the main street where mine was (Atamu Tekena), or on the two other streets that make up the main town plaza square (I don’t recall their names).
Although the island is small, motor vehicles are quite necessary to get to different parts. The town is in the southwest corner of the island, while main attractions such as the Rono Raraku, Tongariki, and Anakena Beach are on the East and North sides, respectively. There are an abundance of rental cars, costing anywhere from $50-125 per 24 hours, depending on quality and transmission. Our hotel owners were more than happy to call us taxis in the event we needed one.
My friend’s flight from SCL arrived around 4pm, and we were back at the hotel before 5pm. I used the daylight to take pictures of the unique airport.
Given that we were there during the festival, an exciting competition was about to start in the middle of the island: the Haka Pei. Competitors race down a very steep hill on banana-leaf sleds, reaching speeds of 80-100kmph. The one who goes the farthest down the hill wins. We got a taxi for the 2 of us, round-trip at about CL$14,000, or $30 USD. The trip took about 20 minutes each way from the hotel, given that there are only a few roads on the island, and renting a car was not an option at the time.
Dinner that night was had at Au Bout du Monde, a Belgian-run place close to the main bay, with a 2nd-story patio that gives amazing views of the sunset. It will set you back about CL$15,000-20,000 per person ($33-$45 USD), so not cheap, but the prawns with mango sauce are out of this world. For other nights, we ate at other eateries, most of which have set prices for meals, ranging from more agreeable prices like CL$6,000-10,000 per person ($14-$18 USD).
Our first full day, we arranged a tour for myself, my friend, and two other guests at our hotel. Our guide’s name was Sebastian, and he was wonderful. The cost per person was CL$30,000 (Chilean Pesos), about $65 USD each, in addition to park tickets ($60USD, unless you buy them on arrival at IPC for $50USD, and $10USD for children). While the price seemed steep at first, I soon realized it was a great value, as our guide drove us around the island and took us on a tour that hit about 80% of the things to see. He was adamant that we leave before 9am, so as to beat large tour groups, and his suggestion was brilliant. At stops such as Hanga Te’e, Akahanga, Rano Raraku (the main quarry with the most famous moai statues), and Tongariki, we were all by ourselves, possibly maybe just one other small group alongside. This added to the magic of Easter Island, as we were able to enjoy the splendid beauty in almost total privacy. As we were leaving Rano Raraku, we saw how loads of tour busses had arrived to heavily populate the park. Damn tourists.
Our guide’s knowledge was also incredible, and I was able to learn a lot, certainly a lot more than just renting a car for $60 and driving aimlessly around the island. Hell, the amount of things we hit in one day would have probably taken us two days on our own, and washed away any price difference. I’d highly recommend using a guide to see these sights on the further coasts. Yes, the cost is high, but it’s worth it. Plus, it’s Easter Island, unless your diet is cheese and shrimp empanadas, you’re going to be paying out the wazoo for everything. Getting a guide for one day is a good use of your money.
For the second day, our hotel friends got the same guide to climb Poike, a volcanic hill on the Northeast shore. Given that it was a tremendously hot day, and that Poike has very little shade, my friend and I decided to use this day to relax and walk along the western coast, just outside the town. There are a few moai ahus (statue platforms) as well as the museum. The museum is a couple dollars and is a great way to learn about the island, though a lot of it was explained by our guide the previous day.
On our third day, we reunited with our fellow hotel guests to go to Orongo and Rano Kau on the southern side of the island, just on the opposite side of the airport from the town. My plan of attack was to take a taxi up the hill, so as to beat some of the crowds and to avoid walking up the hill, as we were all a bit tired from previous days’ activities. For 4 people, it was a very reasonable CL$10,000 ($21 USD) total for a one-way taxi from the town to the top of the Orongo mountain, some 1600 feet above sea level. A round-trip would have been 16,000 CLP, but we decided to hike down (and I’m glad we did, as we got some spectacular views). The park ticket allows one access to the Orongo as well as the main Rano Raraku Park.
We made it back to the town around 2pm, just in time for 48 hours before our flight. The LanChile office is on the way to town from Orongo/IPC airport, so we were able to check in for our flight and confirm our seats (luckily, I had memorized the two 6-letter confirmation codes, as they were practically branded into my brain from weeks of obsessively checking and re-checking itineraries at home).
Day 4 was the day I wish I had booked our return flight to SCL. While we still had a few things left, like souvenir shopping and a boat/snorkeling trip, they were things that easily could have been done on earlier days. There was a big parade for the festival that day and I spent time watching the floats, but as I heard the LAN flight depart from the airport just down the road, I longed to be on that plane. I had already done what I came to the island for – to see the moai and to experience its beauty. These could easily be done in 3 full days, by arriving Sunday evening and departing Thursday early afternoon. The overpriced island and the incredible sun were just getting to me this day.
Day 5 was our final day, and the night before, I had realized that I hadn’t yet visited the Ana Kakenga, or the “Cave of 2 Windows,” formed by an old lava tunnel. I woke up early to hike there, leaving around 7:30am and reaching in just over an hour from the main town square. It is an amazing piece of nature, and definitely something I’d recommend visiting if on the island.
After returning from my hike, I quickly packed and ran a quick errand of buying a postcard and sending it to my sister, an avid traveler like myself. In doing so, I got a quick unofficial stamp for my passport at the Post Office, just for posterity.