Remote and Mysterious Rapa Nui, Easter Island

statues on rapa nui, easter island

Last fall I finally got a chance to visit Easter Island.  This destination seems to be on many people's ‘must see’ lists, due in large part to Thor Heyerdahl and his Kon Tiki Expedition.  For me, it was the opportunity to visit one of the most remote places on our planet, and it combined well with a visit to the Atacama Desert, also in Chile.

Because I have visited a number of Polynesian Islands, I really enjoyed seeing this version of Polynesian culture… while the islands have a mysterious and long history, comparing their food and artwork with what I’ve seen in Hawaii, Tahiti and other parts of Polynesian was very interesting, and a more prominent part of the trip than I expected.

And, of course, there are the Moai.  While we know these huge iconic heads with big noses and somewhat comical styling, seeing them in situ -- on their own islands and in windswept places, visiting the rock quarries where they were made and seeing many dozens of them all at once, some broken and toppled as well as those standing –- is quite amazing, very mystical, and not comical at all. Rather, it is inspiring, and one readily realizes how this small island has captivated explorers and scientists for centuries.

I stayed at the nicest and probably newest of the hotels on the Island,  The Explora Posada de Mike Rapu.  Mike lives on the Island, the resort is built on his land, and it was designed to take full advantage of the silence, privacy, and spaciousness of its surroundings, with the blue of the ocean, the green of the fields and the white of the clouds sailing across the Pacific.

Like all Explora lodges, fine architecture and innovative uses of design materials make a memorable impression.  The hotel is low and long and hugs the hill it is built on.  Black with volcanic rock, gray of concrete, it looks like a ray or some other flat sea creature fluidly swimming across the undersea world.

Explora prides itself on being an expedition company which has hotels… so the focus here is on the activities and the guides and hosts who take care of you and who showcase the Island and unlock its mysteries.  With only 30 rooms, guests are divided into small groups to enjoy a variety of activities with local guides… 20 different hikes, bike riding, fishing, snorkeling – all based around exploring the Island, the history and the culture.

About five miles from town, I think this is the best way to immerse yourself in the remote Pacific island experience. While not all guests will be as active as others, the hotel’s chef, massage rooms and pool, as well as very comfortable rooms and suites, will be the top choice here for most luxury travelers. However, if you are not interested in the hiking and outdoor activities, perhaps a stay in town would be more to your taste, so the Hotel Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa is the other hotel which approaches full service.

All Explora lodges are part of our Signature Hotels and Resorts Collection, so while these all-Inclusive expedition resorts are never inexpensive, by booking with us you will receive extra amenities and services.

You can fly to Rapa Nui from Chile or from Tahiti, so it can make for a unique circle trip.  On my flights from Santiago Chile, the plane was full of locals returning home, along with quite a few South American honeymooners who were visiting Rapa Nui. For those with more time and more funds, also a visit to Tahiti may be in order. 

The Island is beautiful in the way that any Pacific volcanic Island is beautiful with the sky, the calderas and volcanic cliffs. However, life here has been hard, it is not as tropical as farther north, so Hawaii and Tahiti are more lush and green and offer larger reefs and more colorful tropical life below the water.

The beauty of Rapa Nui is more subtle and must be understood from what we know of its history. Culturally Polynesian, but don’t expect South Pacific lush plant life or abundant seas. The stone carvings and Moai may be why most people visit, but I think they’ll find more to enjoy than they expect if they take the time to learn and appreciate the isolation.  Remote, mysterious, and definitely worth a visit.

Heidi Hoehn