Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

A list of the top 10 things to do on Easter Island from Ahu Tongariki straight from the cover of National Geographic to diving stunning Pacific waters.

Top 10 things to do on Easter island

1. Ahu Tongariki: At Ahu Tongariki, 15 imposing statues stand to attention creating the postcard picture we’ve all seen on National Geographic covers and Discovery Channel documentaries. Set against a brilliant blue sky or crimson sunset, Tongariki is the most breathtaking site on the island – one you’ll definitely want to visit twice.

2. Rano Raraku: The quarry site at Rano Raraku is where the moai statues were carved and is arguably the most important site on Easter Island. There are dozens of incomplete and standing moai, as featured in some of the most famous images of Easter Island. Make sure you visit not only the main site (right-turn at the crossroads) but also the freshwater crater lake bordered by scattered moai across its slopes (left-turn at the crossroads).

3. Ahu Akivi: Ahu Akivi is regarded as a particularly sacred place, located inland rather than on the coast. The site has seven moai raised on a platform, all of equal shape and size, looking towards the Pacific Ocean.

The site is also known as a celestial observatory as the seven identical statues face towards the sunset during the Spring Equinox and have their backs to the sunrise during the Autumn Equinox – the only place on the island where such an astronomically precise trait is evident.

4. Rano Kao and Orongo Ceremonial VillageA winding road leading up from Mataveri International Airport takes you to the largest body of fresh water on the island, hidden within the volcano of Rano Kao.

On one side, the volcano slopes sharply down to the high sea cliffs that meet the crashing ocean below while inside the volcano is the calm crater lake measuring almost a mile across and boasting its own microclimate.

Further up the road at the top of the volcano is the Orongo Ceremonial Village, a beautiful collection of clifftop stone ruins comprising low, sod-covered, windowless, round-walled buildings with stunning views out to sea.

5. Anakena Beach: One of the most relaxing things to do on Easter Island is to spend an afternoon (or even a day) at the island’s best white coral sand beach. As ever, you’re not far from the moai with two sites within walking distance. 

Anakena has Ahu-Ature which has a single moai and Ahu Nao-Nao which has seven, two of which are unfortunately very deteriorated. There is some shade, a car park and several over-priced cafes and shops.

6. Hike Maunga Terevaka: The highest point on the island at 507m (1,664.73 ft) offers an excellent day hike from town, or a far less strenuous shorter walk from the car park at Ahu Akivi.

It is an easy sloping trail that begins next to the moai at Ahu Akivi and takes you along rolling green hills and one of the island’s three lakes. There are also horse rides available if you arrange them in town. Throughout the hike there are fantastic panoramic views of the island. Expect strong winds at the top.

7. Ahu Tahai and Ko Te Riku: Of all things to do on Easter Island, this will likely be your first – just after you’ve just unpacked your luggage and gulped down the welcome drink at your hotel.

Ahu Tahai is situated just a short walk along the coast from the centre of Hanga Roa. We were expecting a modest site but instead found several impressive statues with wild horses roaming the fields beneath them. Opposite Ahu Tahai is Ahu Ko Te Riku, a moai statue featuring restored eyes.

8. Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum: This museum is dedicated to the conservation of Rapa Nui culture. Founded in 1973, it is named after a German missionary and his pioneering work on the island from 1935 until his death in 1969.

It is the only museum on the island and hosts an excellent collection of wooden statuettes, an extensive photography exhibition, archives of traditional music, a 3,000-volume library and the only female moai on the island. The museum is just 100 meters from the sites of Ahu Tahai and Ko Te Riku.

9. Dive to the replica moai: A short boat ride out of the harbour of Hanga Roa is a submerged replica moai statue which makes for an excellent underwater photo.

The waters surrounding Easter Island are exceptionally clear as the island has no major rivers, little development and a small population meaning there’s not much polluting run-off water entering the sea.

10. Hanga Roa: The capital and only real town on the island is Hanga Roa and it’s worth spending some time exploring. The bars and restaurants dotted along the seafront are pleasant enough to while away a few hours and the fishing harbour is picturesque. On Saturdays there is a market featuring street entertainment along the main avenue, Avenida Atamu Tekena. There are also beautiful coastal walks heading out of the town in either direction as well as archaeological sites dotted throughout town.

Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island covers all the top things to do in Easter Island along with maps, images, suggested itineraries, insider tips and essential information.