EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW - THE ULTIMATE EASTER ISLAND ITINERARY
Easter Island is a mysterious and enigmatic island hidden in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that captivates most travellers. It is a place we had dreamed of travelling for years. However, Easter Island is a place that is known to be incredibly expensive to travellers on a shoestring budget. Luckily, this isn’t true. In this article we provide a detailed Easter Island Itinerary. We will show just how easy it is to explore Rapa Nui on a budget!
We ventured to Easter Island in September 2019, and learned there are many ways to discover this small pacific island without blowing thousands of your hard-earned dollars.
Table of Contents
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: EASTER ISLAND ITINERARY
WHERE IS EASTER ISLAND?
Easter Island is a small volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean. The closest landmass is the Pitcairn Islands which are 1,931 km west. However, Easter island is owned by the South American Country of Chile. Even though Chile is 3,746 kms east of Easter Island!
WHY IS IT CALLED EASTER ISLAND?
Easter Islands traditional name is Rapa Nui, named by the Polynesian settlers that arrived here somewhere around 1,200AD. However, the name Easter Island was named by the first recorded European visitor, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who discovered Easter Island on Easter Sunday in 1722. However, it is also called Isla de Pascua by Spanish speakers, which is a literal translation of Easter Island. Keep an eye out “Isla de Pascua” that while waiting for your flight!
DO PEOPLE REALLY LIVE ON EASTER ISLAND?
Yes they sure do! Rapa Nui may be small and known famously as the worlds most remote island but there is a tight knit, thriving community living here. At the moment, population levels are estimated to be around 7,000. The Chilean government has imposed tough laws to limit population growth on the island due to concerns mostly about environmental sustainability.
Top Easter Island travel tip: Spanish goes a long way in Easter Island! Although the island is geared toward tourism and most guides and restaurant staff speak very good english, some locals do not. Being able to speak a little Spanish really helped us to communicate better with them and delve deeper into the Rapa Nui culture.
HOW TO GET TO EASTER ISLAND - RAPA NUI ON A BUDGET
The most practical and cheapest way to get to Easter Island is by plane. However, be aware that sometimes flights are often delayed as weather conditions can change unexpectedly out in the middle of the Pacific. So be sure to keep some time spare in your Easter Island Itinerary before you decide to fly from Santiago to Easter Island or vice-versa.
HOW TO FLY THERE - EASTER ISLAND ITINERARY
LATAM airlines are the only company to operate flights to Easter Island. All flights will leave from Santiago. When we flew with LATAM we were surprised to be aboard a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It made the 6 hour flight there a little more comfortable. Getting back will take a little less due to the regular westerly winds that blow.
Flights from Santiago are fairly easy to arrange as they leave up to three times daily in the peak season (October through April). In the low season (May to September) LATAM fly up to twice daily (Wednesdays and Sundays).
There is also a flight from Tahiti to Rapa Nui. This usually leaves once a week on Tuesdays (returning the next Monday). This flight can be on the more expensive side, so expect to pay $700,000 CLP ($1,050 USD) return.
Easter Island plane tickets are notoriously expensive, particularly during high season. During January and February, the prices can be astromical as these are the school holiday and vacation months for most Chileans.
However, it is possible to find a cheap ticket to Easter Island from Santiago! Especially if you are able to be flexible with your dates. Most flights to Easter Island will see you be paying upwards of $800,000 CLP ($1,600 AUD). As we visited at the end of our South American trip, we thought we would not be able to afford it. However, looking at flights on Skyscanner around early September, we scored flights for $221,000 CLP ($450 AUD), a basically unheard-of price.
HOW TO GET CHEAP FLIGHTS - EASTER ISLAND ITINERARY
As with most flights, booking well in advance is a sure-fire method to bag a cheap flight. However, if you remain flexible or your not 100% sure when to go, Skyscanner is a great way to find a cheap flight! I love Skyscanner as it’s helped us to get incredibly cheap flights many times.
On Skyscanner you are able to search for flights by the month you are planning to fly and it will show flights for every day of the month. This is a great way to find a cheap flight!
Top Easter Island Travel Tip: Skyscanner is not the only place to find really cheap flights. Try the Chilean LATAM website as it can sometimes be cheaper than searching for flights from LATAM Australia or USA for example!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT? - EASTER ISLAND ITINERARY
If you’d like to visit Easter Island when it is at its quietest but still with nice weather, I would recommend September – October and also April-May. Theses periods can see warm temperatures (around 21˚C-26˚C) and fairly few tourists. While the peak summer months are good for sun-baking, you will be sharing the beach with many others. Also if you plan to hike in the summer months it can be very exhausting.
We discovered Easter Island in September 2019 and found it to be very pleasant. Most days were sunny with light winds. A couple of days had showers but it was mostly in the late afternoons.
Tapati Rapa Nui Festival
However, most people will choose to visit Easter Island in early February when the popular Tapati Rapa Nui festival begins.
This festival is probably the most epic display of Rapa nui culture. You can expect to see many families competing in an array of challenges, from impressive displays of skill to craftwork and dancing.
On the last day, the competing participants, their families and even the brave tourist can join a parade through the streets of Hanga Roa. Everyone is dressed in traditional costume and will be dancing to the sound of cultural music.
Although this sounds amazing this may not be the best time to visit Easter Island.
Firstly, you can expect flights to be astronomical! And you will have to book months in advance for accommodation to make sure you are not left out at the last minute.
Secondly, most locals will be out celebrating. This means some services such as restaurants may be closed for days as the families will choose to focus on the celebrations.
Finally, when visiting the island’s most famous sights, you can expect to share them with many people. When we visited in September there were only a handful at most sites. However, in this period you can expect to see thousands of others.
WHAT DOES A RAPA NUI TRIP COST? - EASTER ISLAND ITINERARY
The price of a trip to Easter Island can vary greatly. I’ll start with some basics and then go into depth about what you can really expect to pay for most things on Easter Island.
BASICS ON HOW MUCH AN EASTER ISLAND TRIP WILL COST
Most travellers will spend 4 – 7 Days here. We think that this is a great time frame to really experience the best of what Easter Island has to offer.
Worth Noting, if you wish to visit any sites within the National Park (i.e. basically all of the moai) you will be required to pay an entrance fee of $54,000 CLP ($80 USD). As of September 2019, it was cash only. Don’t expect to not pay as they have rangers everywhere who will check your ticket!
For a 5 day stay for two people in budget accommodation, self-catering with a few meals at a restaurant and hiring a bicycle to get around the island, you can expect to pay:
Double room $35,000 CLP ($70 AUD) – $60,000 CLP ($120 AUD)*
$5,000 CLP-$8,000 CLP ($10 AUD – $16 AUD)
$24,000 CLP ($48 AUD)
$64,000 CLP ($128 AUD)
Total (Five Days)
$320,000 CLP ($640 AUD) + flights
*You can reduce this to $16,000 CLP (camping) or $30,000 CLP (dorm)
For a five -day stay for two people in mid-range accommodation, mostly eating out and hiring a car to get around the island, you can expect to pay:
$75,000 CLP ($150 AUD)-$95,000 CLP ($190 AUD)
$35,000 CLP ($70 AUD)
$50,000 CLP ($100 AUD)
$160,000 CLP ($320 AUD)
Total (Five Days)
$800,000 CLP ($1600 AUD) + flights
We will go into a little more depth with each of the categories below to give you a better idea of the costs involved to visit Easter Island
Top Easter Island Itinerary travel tip: Bring plenty of Chilean pesos in cash. Most places such as restaurants and tour agencies may give a discount for cash. Easter Island is completely safe so you don’t worry too much about bringing cash onto the island. There are a couple of ATM’s here, but don’t rely on them as they can run out in busy periods!
FOOD AND RESTAURANT COSTS ON EASTER ISLAND
Easter Island is very expensive in most respects. That is definitely the case for eating out. As most food on the island is sent in from Chile, it is easy to understand why the cost is at a premium.
Most restaurants on Easter Island charged around $15,000 CLP ($30 AUD) per meal. although a meal in a simple local restaurant can cost less than $10,000 CLP ($20 AUD). Chileans love Empanadas and there is no shortage of shops selling these deep-fried pastries. On Easter Island they are often filled with Tuna and cheese and will usually set you back around $2,000-$4,000 CLP ($4-$8 AUD).
Top Easter Island Itinerary Travel Tip:
Before visiting Easter Island, we were told by local friends to take a lot of food with us. In fact, once we got to the airport it was not uncommon to see the locals checking in eskies (coolers) full of food for their trip! This is a smart move, especially if self-catering.
Its worth noting that alcohol can be more expensive also, so why not take some lovely Chilean wine or whatever else you enjoy with you also!
TRANSPORTATION COSTS AND GETTING AROUND - EASTER ISLAND ITINERARY
Easter Island transportation is something else you will need to consider. However, getting around Hanga Roa; the only town on the island is easily done by foot or bicycle. To venture further to most of the spectacular sites will require a better mode of transport.
We took a range of tours on Easter Island and thoroughly enjoyed them all. We also hired a car for a couple of days to mix things up and discover some places on our own.
Most tours will take a full day and they move at a slow and relaxed pace. We really enjoyed this and it helped us get into the chilled way of life most locals live by.
We rented a Suzuki Jimny 4WD ($50,000 CLP ($100 AUD) for four people for 24 hours), which, even though it was a bit old and rusty, it was perfect for going around the town. Easter Island is very small (the island is only 22.5 kilometres long by 11 kilometres wide), So for a couple of days we only spent around $10,000 CLP ($20 AUD) on fuel. However, we pretty much saw the whole island at least once.
You are also able to rent out mountain bikes for $8,000 CLP ($16 AUD) per eight hours or $12,000 CLP ($24 AUD) per 24 hours. This can be a great option for a cool windless day, but given a hot or rainy day it can mean hell!
Please be aware that the roads are not in the best shape on Easter Island. You should stay at a speed of around 70 km/h to avoid any trouble. All companies do not provide insurance. So hiring is at your own risk. If you feel uncomfortable driving, a tour is a much more safe and relaxed option.
If you do hire a car, a great idea is to rent it in the evening and get up early the next morning to drive to the east for sunrise at Ahu Tongariki.
ACCOMMODATION COSTS AND WHERE TO STAY - EASTER ISLAND ITINERARY
Accommodation on Easter Island can be very expensive. However, you will be able to find a cheaper place if that suits your travelling style.
When we were boarding our flight to Easter Island, we were asked for proof of accommodation reservations. They had to be booked with lodgings registered with the island’s tourist board. If you don’t book, you won’t be allowed to board your flight to Easter Island.
Please note that all accommodations listed here are for the peak seasons of January and February. You can expect to pay much less in the low seasons.
Budget accommodation and hostels on Easter Island
One of the cheapest and best budget options on Easter Island for camping is Mihínoa Camping (double $35,000 CLP ($70 AUD), dorm $15,000 CLP ($30 AUD), rent camping equipment $10,000 CLP ($20 AUD), camping with your own equipment 8,000 CLP ($16 AUD)).
We personally stayed here for our time on Easter Island and were really impressed with their three large kitchens for self catering. They had many different accommodation options: there is lush grass for camping, dorm rooms and private rooms available. The campground also has a lovely view to the ocean for sunset and is close to town. Be aware that this place gets booked up very quickly, for good reason. In January til March, you should book well in advance.
La Casa del Kori (double private bath $59,000 CLP ($120 AUD), dorm $20,000 CLP ($40 AUD)) is another superb budget friendly place to stay on the island. Its relatively new and has great, modern facilities, from spacious double bedrooms to equally brilliant dorm rooms. There is also loads of communal space in the kitchen and living rooms. A simple, yet tasty Breakfast is included.
Mid-range accommodation and hostels on Easter Island
Little Aukara B&B (double $85,000 CLP ($170 AUD), single $53,000 CLP ($106 AUD) is owned at operated by Ana and Benedicto, both of whom are a wealth of knowledge about the island and its history. The facilities are also amazing, as there is ample space to enjoy their lovely garden. The bedrooms include terraces for enjoying sunny days. Ana speaks perfect English.
Another great mid-range option is Hareswiss (double cabin $92,000 CLP ($184 AUD), cabin for single person $65,000 CLP ($130 AUD)). They have three splendid cabins overlooking the sea. Its roughly a 25-minute walk (or $3,000 CLP ($6 AUD) taxi journey) from the main part of town.
Luxury accommodation and hotels on Rapa Nui
Although out of our budget, we loved the location of the beautiful Pikera Uri Eco Lodge (double $155,000 CLP ($310 AUD)), which is just a few minutes’ walk from Ahu Tahai. Ahu Tahai is one of the most popular places for people to watch a sunset. The stunning bungalows have elegant hardwood terraces and are tastefully decorated with artisania from around the island. The owners also operate Cabalgatas Pantu, a horse riding tour company.
Another luxury hotel on Rapa Nui is the splendid Hotel Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa ($678 AUD double standard, $872 AUD double suite). This is a five-star resort with swimming pools and spa facilities. It even has an on-site restaurant and massive bedrooms with designer stone bathtubs. Everything is designed to make this resort blend effortlessly into the natural environment.
TOURS OF EASTER ISLAND - RAPA NUI BUDGET TOURS
As we have indicated above, we personally loved taking a couple of days to do some tours and then renting a car to explore on our own. Going with a tour allowed us to really appreciate and understand much more about the island. We learned about its history and saw the epic sites. Its really nice to see that all the guides are from Rapanui and therefore very proud and aware of their culture.
South Island Tour
We enjoyed doing a tour in the south of the island. This small-group tour catered for up to 8 travelers which made it really personable. We were able to explore the most impressive remnants of the Rapa Nui Culture, from the towering moai on the island’s eastern edge to the fallen statues of the southwest. We learnt about the island from knowledgeable guides, exploring what is currently known, and what remains still a mystery about Rapa Nui.
Click here to learn more about this great tour.
Another tour worth taking is a day trip to Anakena Beach. This was a full day affair and not only did we visit the lovely beach and have plenty of time there, we also got to see many other places along the way. Be sure to book this tour on a warm and sunny day as it is a perfect place to sun-bake or relax with your favourite book.
Click here to learn more about this wonderful adventure.
For other parts of Rapa Nui, it’s necessary to take a day tour. Even though we were unable to get the chance to hike the north western coast of Easter Island, we were told by many of people that it is an extraordinary and largely untouched area. It’s an ideal location to see Rapa Nui’s beauty away from the tourist crowds. There are local people who still inhabit much of the area, so it’s necessary to go with a guide to avoid accidentally standing on important historic remains.
USEFUL GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT TRAVELLING TO EASTER ISLAND
Easter Island currency
Rapa Nui uses the Chilean peso. You can exchange dollars and euros at BancoEstado (8am-1pm Mon-Fri) and Santander (8am-11am Mon-Fri). However we reccomend bringing enough Chilean Pesos for your stay.
Easter Island Passport Stamp
South America is crazy about novelty passport stamps – if you get them all, you’re probably going to need a new passport! However, we think Easter Island’s stamp is definitely worth getting.
If you’re a stamp collector you can buy stamps here from the post office. Be aware however, that you can only use them on the island (even though you can get anywhere by car within an hour!). If you would like to send a post card to a loved one, you would need to buy a Chilean stamp.
Rapa Nui National Park
Most of the islands sights are found within the Rapa Nui National Park. It is certain that you will want to visit most of the moai or locations such as Orongo, Ahu Tongariki or Rano Raraku. Therefore, you will need to pay the entrance fee. This costs $54,000 CLP ($80 USD) and can be paid for either at the booth just inside the airport terminal or in Hanga Roa (a few doors south of the Santa Cruz pharmacy) before attempting to enter any sites. Worth noting that some sites only allow a single visit.
Easter Island food
Easter Island or Rapanui food is usually full of tuna – it’s one of the main fish to be found in the surrounding waters.You’ll also find Umu Rapa Nui or Easter Island curanto, a traditional dish of meat, chicken or fish that is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over hot coals. This dish is hard to find; Hotel Vai Moana has fire pits in the grounds of the hotel where you can try it out. They also run workshops where you can take part in making and eating a curanto with local cooks.
Rapa Nui airport logistics
Most places where you will stay offer free transportation from the airport and back. Just be sure to confirm this before you arrive as it can be a long walk to town or an expensive taxi fare.