Exploring the world’s most remote inhabited island.
Think of Easter Island and visions of its iconic multi-ton statues immediately come to mind. The conundrums surrounding Easter Island, the world’s most remote inhabited island—smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean thousands of miles from any other landmass—have perplexed society for nearly three centuries. The 63.2-square-mile craggy island, also known as Rapa Nui, was “discovered” by European explorers on Easter Sunday in 1722, teeming with larger-than-life (they weigh two to 14 tons and measure 15 feet high) chess-like sculptures called moai. The back story of the moai has kept archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians immersed in trying to unravel the mysteries of Rapa Nui life circa 300 to 1200 AD. Nearly 90 percent of Easter Island’s 4,000 inhabitants live in Hanga Roa, the principal town, near Mataveri International Airport. While Hanga Roa houses a few cute boutique shops, hostel-type accommodations, diving centers, and some local restaurants appealing to the backpacking crowd, luxury travelers often take full advantage of the gourmet all-inclusive offerings of Explora Rapa Nui, 20 minutes outside of Hanga Roa. (All meals and excursions are part of the Explora Rapa Nui package.)
An arial view of Explora Rapa Nui, which is built largely from volcanic rock.
Explora offers more than two dozen outings, including half-day tours by foot, boat, or bike. Hikes range from easy to rigorous, passing along the perimeters of the island’s extinct volcanoes and delving into mysterious caves, which played instrumental roles in protecting islanders during times of civil war. Bike paths dot the island, granting endless hours of serenity in what feels like Earth’s final frontier. Small boats stand at the ready for circumventing the island and snorkeling near its outer motus.
To be sure, the moai headline most tours and constitute the backbone of the Explora experience. One of the most exciting tours is that to Rano Raraku, the stone quarry, which served as the birthplace of those 10- to 270-ton works of genius; this is where the statues were carved before being transported to the far reaches of the island. Nowadays, hundreds of statues peer out from the ground, representing a moment frozen in time when the moai quarry was abandoned.
The photo safari reaches new heights on the tour to Ahu Tongariki, where 15 moai stand along the island’s southeast shoreline. Other tours include those to important locations in Easter Island’s more recent history, including Rano Kau crater, the sight of Easter Island’s famous Birdman competition and worship grounds of the 19th century. Getting There – LAN Airlines flies daily from Santiago International Airport (SCL) to Easter Island’s Mataveri Int’l Airport (IPC).
Easter Island’s coastline
Where to stay:
Explora Rapa Nui facilitates three- to eight-night expeditions through Easter Island and provides a chic, luxurious base for exploration. The lodge exemplifies green construction, as it is principally built from volcanic rock and local woods. It exudes both modernism and minimalism, with oversized panoramic windows, stylish day beds, and a design-driven swimming pool and spa area.
Where to eat:
In between and after twice-daily excursions at Explora Rapa Nui, you’ll return to the lodge’s restaurant, where you’ll feast on ocean-to-table dishes, as well as homemade gnocchi, rack of lamb, and fine Chilean wines. Days begin with sensational breakfast spreads with over two dozen plates, including housemade breads, croissants, exotic jams, and superb omelets. What to do:
Don’t expect your typical beachside fun-in-the-sun vacation on Easter Island; it has but two very small white sand beaches. The real attraction is discovering this sparsely populated island at your own pace and spending time up close and personal with the island’s myriad moai. Explora’s roster of excursions allows guests to explore every nook and cranny of the island, depending on the length of stay.