. Easter Island travel guide for budget travelers : Budget Travel Adventures

Easter Island travel guide for budget travelers

easter island travel guide rano raraku

If you’ve ever seen those strange tall statues and wanted to check it out, this Easter Island travel guide by Cassie Kifer will help you learn more about the history, people, and culture surrounding these statues.  If you enjoy these tips, check out more travel guides in the Budget Travel Guides series.

When I was a kid, I remember seeing black-and-white textbook photos and grainy nature documentaries about Easter Island. The most remote inhabited island in the world, Easter Island has a barren, volcanic landscape and is dotted with gigantic stone heads (or moai).

Researchers still do not know how the native people were able to move these giant figures, some weighing more than 80 tons. It seemed as mysterious as any place in the world, and I never thought it would be a place I’d get to visit.

Easter Island travel guide for budget travelers

When it came up as a possibility to include on a recent trip to South America, we started to do some research. We read it was a very expensive place to visit, but we knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience so we decided to take the plunge. We found a variety of ways to save money, and decided to write this Easter Island travel guide to help you travel there on a budget.

Transportation

Flights/Fees:

The only airline that flies to Easter Island is LAN Chile. If you are departing from North America for your Easter Island travel, you can transfer to a direct flight from either Santiago, Chile or Lima, Peru. Flights to Easter Island from North America can be very expensive, so look for periodic sale prices. We got our ticket by opening travel-credit cards and redeeming the sign-up bonus points for our flight, saving us over a thousand dollars.

Many travelers include Easter Island as a stop on a Round-the-World (RTW) ticket so they don’t have to pay the high cost as an individual expense.

If you are a US citizen, Chile charges a reciprocity fee of $160 to enter the country. Australians, Canadians and Mexicans also have to pay a lower fee. The reciprocity fee is not charged if you enter Chile at the Easter Island airport, so if you fly through Lima (rather than Santiago) you can avoid the fee even if you continue on to Santiago afterward.

Hiking:

Easter Island travel guide Petroglyphs at the Orongo Ruins

Petroglyphs at the Orongo Ruins

Easter Island is very small (63 square miles), so it’s a great place to explore on foot. If you’re able to hike 5-8 miles round trip, you can do day hikes to see many of the moai, lava tubes, and one of the top sites, the Orongo ruins. Bring plenty of water and snacks, because once you leave the main town of Hanga Roa, there are almost no places to buy water or food.

Wild guava trees line both sides of many trails and roads around the island, so take advantage of the delicious (and free!) fruit and as you hike.

Jeep Rental:

Because of the rocky, volcanic roads outside of the main town of Hanga Roa, most vehicles on the island are 4-wheel drive jeeps. Many accommodations will rent out jeeps on a daily basis at a lower rate than local car rental companies, about $60.

To save even more, find other travelers willing to split the cost of the jeep rental with you. We joined with two British girls we met while hiking to rent a jeep for one day, touring the island for under $15 per person.

easter island travel guide ahu tongariki

Sunrise at Ahu Tongariki

Because you can hike to so many places, we only chose to rent a vehicle for one day. Our recommended itinerary for a one-day car rental would start with photos at sunrise of Ahu Tongariki, an early morning viewing of Rano Raraku (getting there when the park opens to beat the crowds) and then relaxing at Anakena Beach in the afternoon. The distances between these sites are short so you can take your time at each stop and still see everything.

Lodging:

easter island travel guide camping mihinoa

Sunset at Camping Mihinoa

Camping: The cheapest paid option for lodging is to camp at Camping Mihinoa. At only $14 per person, these ocean-front camp sites are the best value on the island. A double room at the luxury hotel right next door costs over $1,000 per night!

For this ridiculously low rate, Camping Mihinoa provides all of your equipment (tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bags, and dishes/cutlery) and gives you access to a bathroom and shower facility. This is an easy option, even if you’re not a very experienced camper–they even pitch the tent for you before you arrive! The main office building has wi-fi access, available for $5 for the duration of your stay.

Hostels/Guest Houses: There are a handful of hostels and budget guest houses on the island. Vainny Guest House and Hosteling International–Kona Tau were two recommended to us by other travelers we met.

Couchsurfing: Though it is a small island, we met one traveler who found a place to stay via the Couchsurfing community. She stayed as guest of a Chilean (wave) surfer on an inflatable mattress in his studio apartment.

Food:

Since nearly all of the food comes from off the island, restaurant dining could be a major Easter Island travel expense! While trying to get our bearings after just arriving on the island, we had our first meal on a cafe overlooking the harbor. Two grilled cheese sandwiches and two cups of coffee cost us $30!

While we are generally willing to spend any amount of money to experience the local food culture of a place, Easter Island was an exception. Food there is not terribly different from that of mainland Chile, so we decided to cook most of our own meals in Camping Mihinoa’s guest kitchen.

There are several small markets on the island, but no large supermarkets.   Some travelers (and most locals, when they visit) stock up on groceries on mainland Chile and bring them with them on the plane.

For cheap food on the go, look for empanada stands. We found one very cheap storefront stall near the intersection of Avenida Pont and Policarpo Toro. They offered freshly baked, locally-caught tuna and (for vegetarians) spinach and cheese empanadas.

Bottled water on the island is particularly expensive. Even though the island is so remote, water is safe to drink so you can save a lot by drinking tap water. If you don’t like the taste, you can purchase a powdered, sweetened drink mix to add to it.

Activities:

easter island travel guide rano kau crater

The Rano Kau Crater

Archaeological Sites: It’s free to visit all the moai and archaeological sites on the island except for Orongo (the site of the Bird Man Festival) and Rano Raraku (the rock quarry where nearly all the moai were carved). A pass to visit both sites costs about $60 per person. The pass allows you to visit each site only once, so make sure you allow yourself enough time to take them in. The two sites can be visited on separate days.

You can save $10 per ticket by buying this pass at the airport upon arrival, at a stand right before you pass through customs. They only take cash, so you need to bring enough Chilean currency with you when you land–there is no ATM on that side of the airport.

Museum: There is a very small anthropological museum, a short walk from downtown Hanga Roa. It’s a single room, but offers lots of information and artifacts on island history. All signs are in Spanish but they have a printed English language literature for you to use as a guide. Admission is $2.

Beaches: While no one goes to this South Pacific island just for the beaches, there are two beaches of merit on the East Side of the island. Anakena Beach may be one of the most impressive beaches in the world as it is flanked by Ahu Akivi, which features seven moai. Nearby Ovahe Beach doesn’t have any visible moai, but it’s an equally beautiful coastline, and is generally less crowded.

Connecting With Locals:

The island, the indigenous people, and the language they speak all share the Rapa Nui name. Many speak the Rapa Nui language, though the primary language (at least for the younger people) is Spanish. If you are there on a Sunday, visit the Catholic Church in Hanga Roa for mass, as the choir sings in the native Rapa Nui language.

If you speak even broken Spanish, don’t be afraid to talk with the locals and learn more about the island and the Rapa Nui culture. During one hike, we got lost (after trying to find a “shortcut” to the sea), and ran into a group of Rapa Nui guys who were taking a break after their day’s work.

They shared beers and snacks with us, as well as stories about their home. It was a great experience, and we wound up seeing our new friends several more times during our stay… the island is that small!

For more photos and our full Easter Island itinerary, click here. For more travel tips, check out the Easter Island travel guide from Lonely Planet and this one from the Easter Island Foundation.

If you enjoyed this Easter Island travel guide, check out more  Budget Travel Guides for destinations like Costa Rica, Germany, Australia, and more!


Ever In Transit profile photoCassie Kifer writes about travel, food, and photography at Ever in Transit. She and her husband Kevin live in the San Francisco Bay area, where they spend their days plotting their next journey and eating adventurously. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ for more on their adventures and tips for traveling well on a budget.

Have you visited Easter Island? What tips would you add to this Easter Island travel guide?

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Filed Under: Budget Travel GuidesCentral & South AmericaDestinationsFeaturedSouth America

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  1. Visiting Easter Island is definitely on my “bucket list.” Thanks for all of this information. I didn’t realize that there was more to do than just see the statues.

    • I am with you Michael. I didn’t realize there was so much to do on Easter Island. Granted, it’s in the middle of nowhere, so far from mainland South America. Glad there is a lot to do there and give people more than just the Moai statues.

  2. Hi Jeremy, thanks for letting me share this budget travel guide! We met a lot of travelers in South America who said they wanted to visit Easter Island but skipped it when they heard it was so expensive. I hope we can help to show them there are ways to make it more affordable.

    • Thanks for writing it Cassie. Nice to know that even in a place like Easter Island, there are opportunities to connect with locals. These are the stories I like to share. These are the tips people need to know. I love that there is so much more to do there than just the statues. That’s what people know Easter Island for but glad there is so much more to it than that. Thanks for sharing these great tips.

  3. Easter Island is a place I feel very drawn to. Those statues speak to me. Thanks for this info. I knew nothing about EI except the statues and location before reading it.

    • I was like you Billie. I thought Easter Island was just about the statues. However, there is so much more to it than that. Nice to know there are other things to do and a chance to connect with locals and other tourists when you are there.

  4. Great post! Easter Island is a very expensive destination, but well worth it. Cassie’s tip about skipping restaurant meals is spot on. It’s crazy expensive and nothing special to eat out, so don’t bother splurging and just cook for yourself. That’s also a neat trick about avoiding the reciprocity fee by entering via Peru.The beach at Anakena is gorgeous. I didn’t want to say so in front of my Brazilian tour director but I liked it even better than Copacabana!

    • Thanks Steph. Very good tips on the restaurants and entering via Peru. Now I am tempted to visit Brazil and go to the beach! However, I am not surprised about Copacabana. Seems too touristy. I think I would like Anakena better even without seeing it.

      So glad to see that Easter Island is so much more than just the statues. Good tips, saving money, and great ways to connect with people.

  5. Great tips, especially about food and accommodation – the other potentially large travel expenses.
    I worked with an author a few years ago who’s been going to Easter Island for approx. 20 years, actually wrote 2 books based on his research. When I told him how much I wanted to visit, he encouraged me go but to avoid it during the festival as everything doubles and triples in price.
    I’ll be bookmarking this post. Thanks!

    • Thanks Marcia. Sounds like you definitely have a connection with Easter Island. You definitely need to visit. I agree with the festivals and busy season. Go at a different time and save money but also avoid some of the crowds. There is so much more to Easter Island than I thought.

  6. Simon says:

    This is so on my to do list, although think i’ll need to save some more $$ before I head over that way. Thanks for the cost break down.

    • Hope you get a chance to visit. While some stuff may be expensive, there is a lot of free stuff to do as well. Often, connecting with the locals won’t cost you much at all :)

  7. Red Hunt says:

    Camping Mihinoa is a great little place, when I was on Eater Island everyone staying there was a ton of fun and the people running it were so helpful, even letting people rent their own car to get around the island! If you can time your visit to Easter Island when the Tapati Festival is on, it’s take your Rapa Nui experience to a whole new level.

    • Cassie says:

      Great, glad you stayed at Mihinoa! It really was a perfect place to meet people. I love being on their patio at sunset. I would have loved to go for the Tapati festival. One of the guys we met at Rano Raraku had trained for the running feats at the festival the past year and was telling us what it was like. I have a great photo of Kevin and him both wearing the weighted balls that they carry around their neck for training (to mimic several pounds of bananas, I believe?) Do you have any pics of the festival up on your site?

  8. I wonder if waiting to buy the SCL to Easter Island ticket until you actually are in Chile would yield a cheaper price. When I lived in Chile in 2010, tix bought locally (whether you were Chilean or not) were significantly cheaper than if bought with the same airline (LAN) on their website from outside the country. Now Easter Island may be equally pricey even if bought in Chile for all I know!

    • Cassie says:

      That’s a great question, Raul! We did book a few flights on LAN when we were in South American and I don’t recall whether there was a difference in price. I do know that in Ecuador, flights to the Galapagos are much cheaper for Ecuadorian residents than they are to foreigners, but I think that is a factor of residency rather than just booking location. But having a local mailing address may also work. I’ll have to do some research on that.

  9. Great tips and inside advice! I have always wanted to visit Easter Island and the option of being able to camp there is amazing, I live to camp!
    Cheers~Erin

    • Thanks Erin! Camping there would be a lot of fun. I hope you get a chance to visit and share your experience. What are your favorite places to camp in Chile? What other places do you recommend?

  10. Tammy says:

    I’d love to make this trip, but it’s been cost prohibitive so far. Great ideas for saving a little money. Not sure I’d go for camping though… I’m one of those who likes a bed!

    • I agree with you Tammy. Getting to one of the most remote places on earth isn’t going to be cheap. However, if people want to see Easter Island, there are ways to save money. That’s the good news. The most expensive part will be getting there. If you can get that far, hopefully these tips will help you save some money and enjoy the experience beyond the Moai statues.

      While camping isn’t for everyone, I am sure they can find a nice bed for you there. Now you just need to go :)

  11. Great post, this is a destination that is high up on my must see list. Some great tips here for making this difficult (cost wise) to access destination affordable for us flashpackers.

    • Not the easiest place to get to. So when you do get there, it’s great to have some tips to save money. I love connecting with the people too. Going beyond just the sites creates better experiences.

  12. British Airways Executive Club charges just 12,500 Avios for Santiago de Chile to Easter Island one-way in Economy (25,000 for the return trip).

    LAN also has a flight from PPT to IPC for the same price. So if you find yourself on vacation in PPT or South America and need some cultural exploration don’t miss the opportunity to go to Easter Island, it’s very worthwhile. I’m already looking forward to go back!

  13. SuzyMay says:

    Hi, just wanted to thank you for all the info you have on this page re Easter Island – you just saved me a small fortune with the camping tip – THANK YOU!

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