If you’re in the planning stages for Easter Island, it almost certainly won’t be because you’ve just stumbled upon this mystical island by chance. Likelihood is Easter Island is hovering at the top of your travel bucket list, and has been for some time. Here we detail the top things to know for the ultimate itinerary of Easter Island, Chile.
Known as Rapa Nui, or Isla de Pascua in Spanish, this remote island is notoriously expensive. Consequently travellers will often skip the easy flight out from Santiago due to budget restraints. BIG mistake. Of course Rapa Nui will be one of the most costly parts of your trip, but it should certainly not deter you.
Travel update: as of 2022, it’s mandatory to hire and be accompanied by an accredited guide for the majority of sites on Easter Island. Please check Rapa Nui National Park’s official website for more information.
Table of Contents
Easter Island | 4 Day Cycling Guide
Easter Island is not big. Its total size is just short of 25km long by 12 km at its widest point. As a result, the whole island is easily accessible. Here we’ll detail how to explore this fantastic island on 2 wheels. Furthermore, it’s unbelievably rewarding. From ancient Moai and hidden caves to pristine beaches and scenic roads- it’s time to really experience the magic of Rapa Nui
- DAY ONE- Crater & Ceremonial Village | 26.3km | 1.5 hours
- DAY TWO- Moai Quarry & Main Ahu Site | 43km | 4 hours
- DAY THREE- The Caves Circuit | 15.4km | 1 hour 7 min
- DAY FOUR- The 7 Explorers & Terevaka Hike | 12km | 1 hours
Getting Around the Island
Cycle, cycle, cycle!!: Perhaps the most popular way to explore Easter Island is by car, as you can drive top to bottom in less than 30 minutes. However, this is not particularly cheap and car insurance is not possible; although given the little amount of traffic this isn’t really an issue. Just watch for potholes!
Our itinerary of Easter Island is based around cycling, our chosen method of transportation. Furthermore it is perhaps the method the island would most like to promote. Renting bikes and cycling Easter Island is easy, with the majority of car rental stores offering bike rentals, with helmets and locks included. We rented from Insular Rent A Car for $10.000CLP/day (around $12USD); a fraction on hiring a car. Not only was this rental company the cheapest place to hire on the island, but they were very professional, honest and helpful during our dealings with them.
Do note, saddle sore is real for the less well known to cycling- like us. Each new day of getting on the bike really did ache. However all we can say is that it does seem to wear off as you find your stride out on the road. So don’t be put off and stick with it.
DAY ONE- Ranu Kau, Orongo, Ahu Vinapu & Ahu Huri a Urenga
Having arrived mid morning, excitement took the better of us and we decided to get our bikes and hit the ground running. If you follow this guide to Easter Island, you could easily begin the day after your arrival from mainland Chile.
Ranu Kau is a huge volcanic crater on the southern headland of the island. It is about a mile wide, contains a fresh water lagoon and even has its own micro climate. We cycled here from Hanga Roa and, with being a steady incline, took us around 40 minutes with a distance of around 8 km. It is open 24 hrs.
Orongo Ceremonial Village
For Orongo Ceremonial Village, follow the road beyond the crater a little further to reach this historical site. The village ruins are open from 9am-5.30pm. They are 1 of 2 sites on the island which can be visited just once with your pass.
From Orongo we cycled back toward town before heading out east. The road follows behind the airport runway and onto the archaeological site of Ahu Vinapu. At about 9km it took us only 10 minutes to cycle because the route was predominantly downhill. It is open 9am-5.30pm.
Ahu Huri a Urenga
Ahu Huri a Urenga is the only Moai with 2 pairs of hands on the island. Online research suggests when the best time of day is to visit each site, such as morning for this one. However, our experience of the island taught us that if the weather is good, just go with it! This Moai can be visited any time of day as is open 24 hrs. The cycle from Ahu Vinapu was 5.3 km and 25 minutes. The cycle back to our accommodation was then a further 4 km and 15 minutes.
Ahu Tahai is THE best spot on the island for sunset. If you see a clear night coming, head here. Popular without being overcrowded, it’ll result in some of the best photographs of your trip. Due to Ahu Tahai lying just over 1km north of Hanga Roa, it was an easy 20-30 minute walk back to our accommodation after sun down.
DAY TWO- Ahu Tongariki, Rano Raraku & the Beaches
On the second day of our Easter Island itinerary we headed to Ahu Tongariki- the most iconic attraction and one of the top things to do in Easter Island. It is the largest ceremonial structure built on Rapa Nui with a platform of 15 Moai. Stood at the entrance is the Traveller Moai. There are also great examples of petroglyphs. It is open from 7am- 5.30pm and hence very popular for sunrise. The cycle from Hanga Roa was a little difficult in sections but is very doable. It’s a 20km one way journey and did not take more than 1.5hrs.
This is the volcano and quarry from which the vast majority of the Easter Island Moai are carved. It’s open 9am-6pm and is the second of the 2 sites that can only be visited once with your pass. The quarry is positioned 1km from Ahu Tongariki. As this was our second stop of the day large groups of visitors were already there. Perhaps consider going there first if you want to beat the crowds and remember to walk all the way to the volcano crater. This is not a challenging walk at all, and inside you’ll find more Moai littering the slopes. A unique spot for lunch.
Our original plan was to visit Anakena and Ovahe Beaches on a different day. However the weather was so good, and with it being an additional 40km round trip another day, we decided to continue. They are the only 2 real beaches of the island, which lie on the northern shores. The beaches were a further 11km and took around 40 minutes to reach from Rano Raraku. We even stopped at another petroglph site en route. Our research indicated this section of road was unpaved, so we weren’t looking forward to the bumpy ride. We were pleasantly surprised by the smooth cycle on what must be a newly paved road.
The entrance to Ovahe- known as the Pink Beach due to its sand colour- was our first stop. It is reached down a short dirt road leading to a car park. From here there is a small hike down to the beach. Remember to check tidal times as there is a tiny rock scramble to reach the sand. Popular with the locals, this beach is much smaller and less touristy then Anakena.
Just short of 2km and 15 minutes later on the bikes, we arrived at Anakena. Home to the Ahu Nau Nau, its beach position means this ceremonial site is unlike others on the island. You’ll also get that great shot of the Moai framed between the palm trees. It’s widely believed the first king of the island arrived via this beach. Before heading back, stop for a tiny pineapple pop for only $1,000CLP ($1USD) and take in the surroundings.
The journey home we knew would start with a tough uphill section if taking the main road that crosses Rapa Nui. Although at 1.5hrs it is the quicker option, most information suggests returning the way we came. This would mean heading back on the coastal path, past Ahu Tongariki, making the journey time 2.5hrs. We decided we preferred the quicker option. The start of the journey back is hard work, but we actually surprised ourselves with how much we managed to complete on the bikes. Only a short section saw us having to dismount and push. More doable than we expected! The uphill climb lasts about a third of the journey. From there it’s a gentle downhill the rest of the way, and so for saving time we would say worth it.
DAY THREE- Te Ana Circuit
Te Ana, meaning ‘The Caves’, is a round circuit and a must for exploring Easter Island. It can be completed on foot or by bike. The circuit visits a number of lava tunnels and caves which were once areas of refuge. The area is open from 8am-6.30pm.
First stop was Ana Kakenga, ‘Cave of Two Windows’, and perhaps our favourite. The sign to the cave is obvious from the road, but the entrance is a hole in the ground. A head torch is highly recommended; failing that, get your phones out. Either way, you’ll need to light your way to start with. A few metres in and what was a tight and somewhat claustrophobic passageway soon opens to an inner cavern. From here you’ll find 2 off shoots leading to lookouts (windows) over the Pacific Ocean. Go early enough and you’ll have the whole place to yourselves.
Ana Te Pora
400m after Ana Kakenga is Ana Te Pora, ‘Cave of the Reed Canoe’. This cave is more inland than Ana Kakenga and has two different access routes. We chose the smaller opening with the fig tree growing outside and discovered we exited through a much larger opening. It would seem this may have been the ‘official’ entrance.
Ahu Te Peu
Around 1Km after Ana Te Pora is Ahu Te Peu. It is the site of a village ruin and worth a stop on the circuit.
Ana Te Pahu
Our last stop was Ana Te Pahu, ‘Cave of the Bananas’, and by far the most popular cave to visit. It is the largest example of the lava tunnels on Rapa Nui. There is vegetation growing through its openings and even has its own interior reservoir. The entrance to the cave is a big opening in the ground where banana trees grow. However you will need to descend some old stone steps to gain access inside. From here you will again need the use of a head torch to navigate some areas of caves below.
The cycle back from Ana Te Pahu was a very straightforward 7km and 30 minutes.
DAY FOUR- The Seven Explorers & Terevaka
Ahu Akivi- ‘The Seven Explorers’, is the only monument on the island where the Moai face out to sea. All the rest look inland. Open 9am- 5.30pm, visiting at sunset lights up the Moai’s features. We visited first thing in the morning and had the place to ourselves. The cycle was 6km and around 30 minutes long.
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 8km
- Time: 2 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 506m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Ahu Akivi
From Ahu Akivi you can hike Terevaka- the highest mountain on Rapa Nui. It is one of 3 volcanoes that originally formed Easter Island, Chile. Rano Kau and Poike are the other 2.
We’d read the hike was 8km and a 4hr round trip, though you’ll probably walk it quicker than this. We did. You might also see guided tours up there- 100% unnecessary unless you want additional information on the island as you go. The hike is neither hard nor difficult to follow. The trail itself is a steady incline uphill and fairly uninspiring in all honesty. However, once at the top you have complete 360 views of the whole island. You get a real sense of just how small Rapa Nui really is. If you can fit this hike into your itinerary, then it’s definitely worth it.
Located in the same area as the cave circuit, these visits could easily be added onto the same day.
Easter Island Recap
Cycling around Easter Island has got to be one of the most rewarding ways to experience this island. From feeling fully part of nature, to the excitement building as you view the Moai appear in the distance, helping propel your tired legs to each end goal. The decision to cycle cannot be rivalled.
Whatever your preconceived ideas are on seeing the ancient sites , hidden caves and remote island life is, it’s nothing compared to seeing in person. As we’ve said, visiting Easter Island is not the cheapest. However, the experience, fulfillment and lasting memories from the island make it more then worth it.
Getting to & from Chile to Easter Island
You can only fly from Santiago: The 4.5hr flight departs from Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport twice a morning with LATAM Airlines. Research prior to booking our trip priced the average return flight at $450USD. We booked around 4 months in advance with BudgetAir.com using Skyscanner and consequently secured a return ticket price of $350USD.
From Easter Island you’ll of course fly back to Santiago, Chile. When planning your itinerary, be mindful it is not unusual for flights to be delayed or cancelled to and from mainland Chile due to poor weather on the island. We would recommend, especially when returning to Santiago, to give yourself a days grace or two before continuing with your travels. Our flight back to Santiago was delayed 7 hours! Consequently, we were glad we hadn’t packed out our next adventure to commence so soon after this one. The 2 flights back to Santiago per day leave mid morning and mid afternoon.
Accommodation on Easter Island
Hanga Roa has the best options: Most accommodation is found in Hanga Roa as it is the capital of Rapa Nui. It’s a small town with a typical main street containing amenities from cafes & restaurants, grocery stores, car rentals and the likes. We opted to stay in an Airbnb around a 10 minute walk from the centre which turned out to be a fantastic base. The accommodation did not have wifi, which is typical of the island. However there are 3 spots in the town where it is possible to access free wifi, plus numerous cafes you could drop into if you become desperate. Alternatively enjoy a few days off the grid! No judgement here though, we frequented the free wifi zones on a couple of occasions.
Guide to Rapa Nui National Park Admission
Purchase ticket upon arrival at the airport: There is a National Park admission fee to visit the historical sites of Rapa Nui. It’s easiest to pay this upon arrival from Chile to Mataveri International, the only airport on Easter Island. The cost is $54.000CLP or $80USD. At the time we visited it worked out much cheaper to pay in Chilean Peso (CLP), so always double check the conversion rate. The pass lasts for 10 days and must be carried with you as you explore the island. It is checked and stamped as you enter most sites, and can be requested by park rangers at any time, although we did not experience this.
Food is expensive, take your own: Self catering is the best way to save money on food. Luckily it is permitted to stock up on food supplies from Santiago and fly it over with you. And I mean everything! Visitors literally check in boxes of food and esky’s with their luggage. This obviously incurs extra costs. However we managed to divide 5 days worth of food into rucksacks between the two us and had no difficulty taking it over. Be mindful though, you cannot return to mainland Chile from Easter Island with any restricted food such as fruit and nuts. We spent around $40USD on food brought over for our entire stay.
If hauling food over isn’t for you, but you still want to self cater, then you will find a couple of small supermarket options in Hanga Roa. In addition to this there a numerous restaurants to choose from also.
Five Essential Travel Accessories for Easter Island
If you’re planning on cycling Easter Island, which we hope you are, then here are a few essentials we recommend and you may want to consider. For a more comprehensive packing list, please check out the Ultimate Packing Checklist. It’s a great general summary of everything you’d need for a trip. For even more information check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – a good rucksack that is comfortable to walk and cycle in is essential. This rucksack is deceptively spacious and also sits comfortably for all activity.
- Osprey Ultralight Waterproof Bag Cover – when it rains, it pours. Make sure you’re always prepared to wrap everything up at the drop of a hat.
- Ray-Ban Polarised Clubmaster Square Sunglasses – Amazon or eBay. Easter Island has all the weathers, pretty much everyday. You’ll be in need of a good pair of sunnies as much as a decent rain jacket!
- The North Face Venture 2 waterproof/windproof Jacket– speaking of waterproof/ windproof jacket, this one is perfect for packing down small for when Rapa Nui is basking in sunshine and dry weather, but quick to grab and chuck on when you see those heavy rain clouds approaching.
- Nikon D3400 Digital SLR Camera– don’t leave this fantastic island without having photographed it to within an inch of its life! No extra special equipment needed, just a good compact or entry level DSLR, like this one, will do the trick.
- ATM’s: There are only 2 ATM’s on Easter Island, so bring plenty of Chilean Peso- stock up in Santiago, Chile before you leave. Sometimes it works out cheaper to pay cash over card.
- Getting around: Maps.me is a very useful app for cycle and walking routes around the island. Also, cycling Easter Island is super rewarding and we would definitely recommend exploring this way. Sometimes be mindful to double check that paths are okay for bikes when you go a little more off the beaten track. We had one occasion where we ended up having to push our bicycles across grass land, following a track on maps.me that was all but invisible in reality. And of course it being Easter Island we got caught out in a downpour, got very wet and muddy (like REALLY muddy) and essentially fell out over who’s fault it was. I’m sure you’re much less petty than us though…
- Changeable weather: ALWAYS pack wet weather gear. Everyday we were met by torrential down pours which then cleared into beautiful blue skies. In fact, you can almost see the rain coming before it gets to you. Footpaths and unpaved roads become very muddy. If you’re on a bike there’ll be a lot of dirt and spray, so expect your clothes to get very dirty if unprotected.
- Flexible plans: Although planning to get the most out of your trip is important, the weather predictions for Rapa Nui are not always accurate. Heavy downpours happen frequently and as a result can cause some sites to close temporarily. Therefore we would recommend keeping some flexibility in your plans- we were glad we did.
A small human- made beach and sea water swimming pool has been created at Hanga Roa. Pea Beach is not only a popular spot to wind down after a busy morning site seeing, it also turned out to be a fantastic location to spot the local fauna of Rapa Nui. Joining you for a swim are resident turtles. Be sure to look out for them popping their heads up above water. There’ll be many people snorkelling to catch a glimpse, plus enjoying the small shoals of fish sharing the space too. We had so much fun with the underwater camera.
For more detailed information on our Easter Island, Chile: Ultimate 4 Day Itinerary, please visit imaginaisladepascua.com
If you decide to cycle Easter Island, then be sure to let us know how you got on in the comments below- we’d love to hear from you!