Hiking with the Moais

Dancing in Easter Island

Dancing in Easter Island

If anyone asked me which Pacific Island had the best hiking opportunities I would undoubtedly say Easter Island. This small 11 km wide, 23 km long island, call Rapa Nui by the locals, is crowded with thousands of massive Polynesian statues, each lovingly crafted and singularly unique, on the same scale as China’s Terracotta Army, only crafted out of massive stone. These statues are well known throughout the world, and have very much become iconic of the many wonders of the old world.

Surrounding these statues are many legends, which have also been recounted many times. What many don’t know is that Easter Island is freely available for exploration. I know many people have been under the impression that the island is completely inaccessible to tourists, which I suspect has prevented many people from visiting it. There’s one small settlement on the island, Hanga Roa, and from here all of the wonders of this small island are easily accessible on foot. There’s even a wonderful little archaeological museum on the north side of the village. This is also where you can pick up maps of the island.

Little Moais

Little Moais

If you’d like some plans for your itinerary while at Easter Island, here are some possible options that should be looked into. Firstly head to the great volcano Rano Kau, also the site of Orongo, a major digging site. Bring along a lunch and take your time picking your way through this region. If you climb to the top of the crater, you’ll find it’s also rather easy to trek right down into it (don’t worry, it’s dormant, so no unpleasant lava). If you’re experienced, you could also try skirting your way around the entire upper rim out over the sea, though this requires a great measure of skill, as well as a partner.

Another possibility is a trip to the serene Anakema Beach, situated on the north side of the island. You could swim in the pristine waters here, and some of the statues in this area have been restored to their former glory. Many other statues along this route have been left lying face down where they’ve fallen over time, just as magnificent in their present state as they would be restored. You won’t find much in the way of creatures on the island, save for some brown hawks, spying on you from their rocky perches.

Tongariki

Tongariki

Another trek can take you along the south coast, though this route is much more heavily travelled by tourists, due to the paved highway that snakes along the coastline. Out in this region is Rano Raraku, the stone quarry where the many statues scattered across the island first came from so long ago, as nothing more than mounds of rock. This is also the most stunning area of the island, with hundreds of statues lying around the immediate area in various states of completion. The site is extremely busy during the day once the bus out there from the town starts running, but if you show up early on your own, you can have the site mostly to yourself for a couple of hours.

From the museum begins a 13 km road travelling west, and then splitting off to the north, where it goes for another 5 km, finally ending at Ahu Tepeu. Banana trees scour this area, often jutting out from rocks which usually signify the existence of caves. Inland a ways from here is another area with 7 prominently restored statues, one of the most popular areas on the island.

An even shorter hike from the town can bring you to Puna Pau, a tiny crater also used as a stone quarry during the construction of the statues. This site was used for the manufacturing of the stone which crowned the heads of the statues before they deteriorated. You can also head towards the airport runway, just south of town, where Ahu Vinapu rests, it’s monolithic stonework very similar to some of the work done in Peru.

Scuba diving in Easter Island

Scuba diving in Easter Island

The moderate climate of Easter Island, as well as scant brush and undergrowth makes it ideal for hiking year round, with nary a fence or other blockade on the island to impede your progress. Biking is another possibility here, available for as little as $10 U.S per day. Whichever way you get out there, just be sure you do. Seeing these statues is truly a once in a lifetime experience that few people have had the pleasure of doing. There’s even surfing and scuba diving on the island in case you’ve seen every statue the isle has to offer and then some. Stay for a few days and have memories to last a lifetime at Easter Island.