Help Me Plan My Trip to Easter Island

by on March 11, 2013 · 47 comments

in Trip Reports

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Last year my Dad and I went on a father/son trip to Rome, Istanbul and Amsterdam on a semi-mileage run-worthy $576 fare. What better way to bond with your parent than requalifying for both of your Medallion statuses!

Understandably, my Mom was pretty jealous- especially since we ended up having an incredible time and packing a lot in during the quick 5 day trip. I told her that we’d do our own special trip, so when discounted $900 fares to Santiago popped up last month, it dawned on me that I should finally make our trip happen. She was flying at the time the deal came up, so I just purchased two tickets JFK-Miami (AA first), Miami- Santiago (LAN Business) for $901 and surprised her when she landed. Some people were able to tack on routing to Easter Island (airport code IPC), but none were available on my dates. However, there was plenty of award availability on LAN in business class to fly from Santiago to IPC for 50,000 Avios and ~$50 roundtrip, so my Mom and I redeemed some of our many Avios to cover that flight.

Should be an epic trip

Should be an epic trip

However, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t begun to plan my trip. We’ve got 2 days in Santiago and 3 days in Easter Island. It will be my Mom’s first time to South America and I have a feeling it’s going to be an incredible trip. As always, I appreciate any TPG reader tips. I know there aren’t many hotel options on Easter Island and one of my friends recommended Explora, but it looks super high-end/ all-inclusive at over $1,000 per person per night.

Mother/Son bonding with Easter Island Moai

Mother/Son bonding with Easter Island Moai

Anyone else have any recommendations on where to stay and what to do? Santiago tips welcome too, but I think we will check out the W there since it gets pretty solid reviews and I’m SPG Platinum.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Steven Kekich

    I stayed here with my Mom and brother on a trip to Easter Island last year and really enjoyed ourselves.

  • Mrlittell

    When these fares were out, I too booked JFK-IPC ($1070) to take my dad on a father/son trip. We are heading there in mid/late April and also have not found a place to stay yet.

    Although I am only a Silver on DL, AA matched me to gold and I will easily earn the 10,000 points to challenge Platinum.

    If only the PPT-IPC operated more than once weekly….

  • David

    Have fun in Rapa Nui! One of my favorite trips ever, though you are right that accomodation and tourist infrastructure can be a little rustic. We rented a two bedroom cabana not far from the town and just hired a taxi driver to take us around to the various Moai. The best site is the place where the islanders built the statues, and there are a lot of them there in various states of disrepair.

    There is some decent, if expensive food options. Try the French restaurant down by the harbor. For more inexpensive eats, try the huts/kiosks with fresh tuna sandwiches and pitchers of juice.

  • Ryan Kingsbury

    My girlfriend and I went to Rapa Nui as a part of a year-long RTW trip. We were on a tight budget for that trip…you can read more about it here if you want:

  • thepointsguy

    Awesome trip reports! Good to know it can be done on a budget

  • Gow

    I stayed in a great hostel that was right in town, walking distance to everything. Vaianny. Less than $40 per night per person. Super friendly staff and there are private rooms if two wish. Has a kitchen to cook if you want, as food is pretty expensive there. Wake up early and watch the sun rise at Tongariki. Gonna need a car or a ride to get there though.

  • Devon

    I stayed at Explora about 5 years ago just after it opened. Really lovely setting, spacious rooms, good service, nice tours, but worth $1000 a night? Don’t think so. Have heard good things about, but have not seen it myself. Find a great guide to lead you on a few outings and pick one of the many small hotels near town. We did a fantastic and gorgeous hike along the north coast ending at Anakena beach. The quarry is a do-not-miss.

    The Grand Hyatt is big and comfy in SCL. Ritz Carlton is exactly what you’d expect. Location of Ritz is better. W wasn’t open last time I was there. Enjoyed walking the galleries of Vitacura. Seafood market has lots of restaurants and spots to eat. Quite a feast for the eyes and stomach.

  • Amiller

    My husband and I just went to Easter Island over Thanksgiving and stayed at Cabanas Rapa Nui Orito (http://www.cabañ The cabins are clean, spacious and include a kitchen. They’re nothing overly luxurious, but they’re surely suitable and affordable! More over, the staff were incredibly friendly and made you feel very welcome on this incredible island. They also have on-site car rental which made getting around easy. We had a great time! Hope you do too!

  • Tyler

    We thought about the Explora but balked because it was way too expensive and it seemed out of the way. Sure they might have cars to take you into town, but we enjoyed being in town much better, because it was nice to walk around and see the various things close to town. When we were there 2 years ago we found the ceviche at Te Moana to be the best, but the portion was huge. Order one to start!

    Santiago reminded me more of a European city than other South American cities. The Hyatt was beautiful (and a steal on points!), but we found it to be in an awkward location (unless you wanted to be close to the mall). We found the location of the W (and surrounding hotels) to be fantastic and the staff there were wonderful. I’d recommend taking a day to drive out to Valparaiso/Vina del Mar and stop at some wineries in Casablanca along the way. The tollways are in better condition than most roads I’ve seen in North America.

  • MichaelJapan

    What month are you going? I was there just over a year ago and absolutely loved it. Stayed at Puku Vai and paid about $170 a night. The hotel was alright but nothing mind blowing. Arranged rental Jeep through reception – don’t remember how much was it, but relatively cheap – keep in mind the cars are not brand new.
    Restaurants around Hanga Roa serve some delicious food especially, if you’re a seafood aficionado.
    Apart from Moai (statues) I found their cemetery to be a true work of art through its simplicity and surrounding landscape.
    Enjoy your trip!

  • Lance Hathaway

    I took my mom on a trip last May as well. It was amazing! I was fortunate enough to find a superb tour. Take this advise… Paul must be your guide :) He was very patient with my mom, even though she had a bad knee and trouble on some of the sites. He knew the right spots at the right times, and made the trip magical.

    He also runs a hotel:

    Generally good reviews on the hotel. It was not fancy, but was comfortable and had everything needed. Near a little museum, but a bit further from the main strip than I would have liked. Some of it was under construction that may have been going on for a long time… There are better options for hotels, but no better options exist for guides ;)

    If you choose a different hotel, do book at least a full day tour with Paul…I would recommend a day and a half on a 3 day trip, then spend the other half day at the one nice beach, and a day to explore on your own. You will not find a more knowledgeable, interesting guide on the island. Paul has a unique connection with the Easter Island, and gives an amazing tour.

  • srdshelly

    Stay at the Kaimana Inn. It’s well located, very reasonably priced, nice free breakfast in the morning cooked to order, fascinating and friendly staff, and happy to make arrangements for your tours and shows. Airport transportation is included with the room reservation. No it’s not a 5-star place, but you aren’t going to Easter Island in search of a 5-star hotel.

  • Lowrie Glasgow
    the best guide or maybe Edmundo can recommend someone. Private guide is best.

  • Liz Chile

    The W Santiago is a solid hotel. Their Nikkei restaurant, Osaka, from Lima is one of the best in the capital and has sublime Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine. Santiago has a lot happening these days so be sure to dedicate some time to scope out the city, particularly the downtown. You’ll be in the newish financial center which is very slick but not the heart of what makes the Chilean capital tick. The metro here is great (avoid rush hour) and is only 1.5 blocks from the W. As for dining out, I could give you days worth of recommendations (that’s our biz here!), but you should hit a wine bar like Baco or Bocanariz to sip your way through 12+ of Chile’s wine valleys. The diversity here is staggering of varietals and microterroirs from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from the coast to Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Carignan and excellent mineral-laden Chardonnay from the Limari (little oak too!). If I can be of further help with recs, let me know. Have lived here now 13+ years and love this town. Saludos!

  • Chris S.

    Rent a small and shitty SUV from the car rental joint on the island (Oceania or something?), and spend a couple days driving around at your leisure pounding the hell out of it on the rough roads. If you want to be totally independent, this book is excellent: and is probably a suitable replacement for a guide. DO NOT arrive on a Sunday, as absolutely nothing is open and you’ll be unable to arrange tours, rent cars, dive, etc. And that reminds me, the diving is spectacular, not because the amount of vertebrate fauna is super impressive but because the water is among the clearest in the world. I was there in November, and the locals all thought the water was freezing and that I was crazy for wanting to go diving, but as a native Californian, the 70 degree water was more than comfortable.

    You’ll want to check out Ahu Tongariki at sunrise and Tahai at sunset. If you’ve got another free evening, consider catching a sunset at the clifftop cave (I forget the name) on the north/northeast coast.

    The Grand Hyatt Santiago is a steal at it’s low category (and is eligible for your annual free night with the Hyatt card), but it’s a bit far from downtown. Not terribly far, I suppose, a mile walk plus a 10-15 min subway trip. In downtown Santiago, there’s a great free walking tour where the guides — mostly out of work actors — lead tours of the barrios for tips.

  • NB

    The BEST guide is Josie Nahoe Mulloy. Her grandfather was the archaeologist for Thor Heyerdahl. She knows everything and everyone. I dont have her contact info, sorry. She also has a Seattle connection. I believe the Explora is a bit out of town (and $$$), since I was there I think a new hotel opened-Hotel Hangaroa. Good location. Other wise all the guest houses are about the same.
    W Santiago is a cool hotel with a nice location. The other Starwood (sheraton?) is in a odd location (if you need a local travel agent check with Santiago adventures). Have fun, the place is out of this world…

  • Briggs L

    Hangaroa Ecovillage and Spa is highly recommended,,
    we stumbled on this new property last year while walking along the coast in Hangaroa (downtown area). We walked in the lobby and the grounds and was amazed and wished we knew about this place before we booked our hotel. Modern amenities yet decor is very local and authentic use of local materials. Te Moana is a great place to eat, fresh seafood/ ceviche, cool polynesian vibe. For an awesome private tour ask for Alvaro Atan, a native with extensive knowledge of local culture and speaks english fluently([email protected]). He will take you to cool sites off the beaten path where not all the average tourist will go.
    You will have an awesome once in a lifetime trip.

  • Chris S.

    To follow up on what Briggs said below, Te Moana is by far the most delicious food on the island, but it has BY FAR the worst service. The reviews on tripadvisor complaining about shitty service aren’t hyperbole.

  • TG_Tulio

    I was there last year and it was an awesome trip. Rent an SUV it will give you tons of flexibility and you will see all the island in two days. You will need it if you want to explore out of the way places. I did not take a guide and speak Spanish, read a lot about the culture/history before going trip advisor/lonely planet/wiki travel and then some.

    There are a couple of sites in Hanga Roa that you can visit in the afternoon after you check in, Ahu Tahai is one of them. That night take your mom to the beach at night for a great look at the Milky Way, somewhere towards Ahu Te’e as far from the light pollution as you can.

    Day one go on the southern route from Hanga Roa to Tangariki stopping first in the Volcano Rano Raraku to see the main moai carvin site, make sure you do all the walks including seeing the caldera side. After your visit to Tangariki head to Anakena for empanadas lunch. There are a couple of sites on the way. Including one with the largest Moia built after luch head to Puna Pau to see where the pukaos were carved.

    Day two morning visit the site at Orongo / Volcan Rano Kau well worth the trip and you need the SUV…. Then head on the north side to Ahu Akivi. enjoy the time with mom.

    I stayed at pension Atavai you can read my review at trip advisor

  • Jamison

    I’ll be staying at 3 of the SPG properties in Santiago (including the W Santiago) as a SPG Platinum guest in mid April and will be reviewing them on my site after my stay

  • puck

    Went to Easter Island this past October and stayed at Taura’a Hotel. It was about 150 US /night and included a cooked breakfast every morning as well as pick up and return to the airport. It was on the main strip in town and walking distance to everything in town. They also have daily tours to a different part of the island each day that were reasonably priced. The owner and her family were super nice and helpful. I would advise going on one organized tour to get an idea of the island and then renting a jeep to explore on your own.

    In Santiago, I stayed at both the W and at San Cristobal Tower. I am SPG platinum and while I enjoyed both, I got a better upgrade and found the staff much friendlier and helpful at San Cristobal. The W is very modern and in the center of the main business district while San Cristobal is very traditional and in a funkier section of town. As someone else mentioned, I would highly advise a day trip to Valpariso and Vino del Mar, stopping at some wineries either coming or going. I arranged a guide/driver from the concierge at the San Cristobal the day before and it was reasonably priced.

  • Ian648

    In Santiago don’t miss one of the worlds greatest bars, La Piojera, Make sure to try a “terremoto”, a classic Chilean drink ! It is just half a block from the central seafood market, but much more fun, your mother will love it !

  • Jay

    Double check the rates at the Explora. We stayed there a couple years ago and it’s an unbelievable place. Also your excursions are included so you don’t have to try to get around on your own. And you can’t go wrong with an all inclusive bar. Totally worth the price for a once in a lifetime destination.

  • Ellen

    The bakery on the main strip in Easter Island is delicious, highly recommend the cakes.

  • Iah_phx

    it would be an incredible trip if you went for a reasonable period of time. Why subject family members to a 5 day 15,000 mile trip? I mean, it’s nuts. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  • Iah_phx

    BTW, here’s a thread I started on flyertalk offering practical Easter Island travel information.

    Unless you have a burning desire to brag that you’ve been there, it doesn’t really make any sense to fly all that way just to see some moai. As noted in the thread, the trip combines well with several other extremely worthwhile South American travel experiences.

  • Evan W

    The hotel’s in Easter Island are all pretty shitty.

    I recommend eating at the Hotel Orongo at least once. Raoul, the owner, is considered the best cook on the Island. Fair varies based on what’s been caught, butchered, gathered, or flown in that day.

    Beware sticking around and drinking with Raoul after dinner. Once’s he drunk he may try to molest you with his crystal and his oils.

  • AC3

    And telling us your SPG status is neccessary why? Get a life

  • guest

    I stayed at Residencial Vaianny, probably WAY below your standards as it’s a simple guesthouse but it was ~$30/night with an amazing breakfast!! As far as budget options on the island, it couldn’t be beat. Sorry I don’t know about the hotel situation, I’m just a backpacker. I went for 7 days and it was about 3 days too long, but it was rainy season (May) so a few days got rained out… I recommend a full day island tour with a guide. It’s about $60/person and you get a great overview and to see all parts of the island. Then, hike up to the volcano/crater that you DIDN’T visit on the tour (it’s just an hour or two walking from the town). Those are the two most important things, I’d say. If you love beaches, rent a car and head over the the small beach on the north-west side of the island. There is scuba diving and horse riding if are into those kinds of things. Also don’t miss the sunset behind the maoi statues that are closest to the town. I went to a dance performance in town but I didn’t think much of it!! Whatever you do, you will love it. Very special place. Do an overview tour your first day, you won’t regret it.

  • Gene

    We just got back from Easter Island. We stayed at Hare Swiss, a small place owned by a Swiss-Rapa Nui couple and we recommend it highly. Peter, who runs it, is very knowledgable about the island, past and present and will tell you stories for hours.

  • Realdjko

    We are going to be staying at Hareswiss next week. Did you do the tour with Peter?

  • Gavinmac

    I agree with the advice to rent a car/suv. I have never rented a car in a foreign country, except Easter Island. I rented a car (Suzuki Grand Vitara I think) on the spot at Insular car rental on the main road. There are only a few roads on the island, hard to get lost. There is a beautiful coastal ring road, you can drive all the way around the island, stopping off the see moai from time to time in about a 1/2 day or a full day. You can also go inland to the quarry area and to the volcanic rim. I enjoyed it so much I went back the next day and rented the car again and did the loop again.

    I really enjoyed that I had the freedom to go at my own pace, rather than being in a minivan on a tour. There’s an Easter Island map availble for $4.95 on amazon, it identifies where all the moai are.

    I stayed at Hotel Gomero. It was fine, not great, walking distance to everything in town.

  • SPG Diamond status

    Bragger!!!!! If you had a “no elite at all” status you would not post here. As AC3 said: Get a life!!!!

  • NB

    For us, a guide was the way to go. We were there for a short time (3 days) and a guide can get you where you need to go fast and tell you stories about what you’re seeing, including local stories not in guide books. Josie was great, lots of insight. if you had a lot of time, maybe split it between guides and self drive. There was a fantastic restaurant near the new Hangaroa hotel. Dont know the name but the BEST tuna poke I’ve ever had.

  • bTM

    Coming from the guy whose name is SPG Diamond Status??? Get outta here tool.

  • David Baron

    I too stayed at the Taura’a, and it was wonderful. It’s not fancy, but it’s clean and comfortable, and the breakfasts are terrific. Edith, the owner, took good care of us.

  • Justin

    I agree with this philosophy on travel. Europe is doable for a long weekend, but South America–and Easter Island at that–seems like doing it just because you can.

  • badah

    Lance is spot on in recommending Paul so highly — he has a long history with Easter Island and the people, and it comes through — also in suggesting Paul’s hotel as a good choice. We stayed there for two nights (after one misspent night in Chez Cecilia) and it was great — the 15 minute walk from the village being the only downside, and that not a huge one. I’d certainly stay there again, unless I won the lottery and tried Explora.

  • kdal

    We stayed at the W Santiago last year and thought it was a great choice. We loved the neighborhood and nearby access to the subway system.

  • Rhode

    I stayed at Hotel Altiplanico on Easter Island.It’s just outside Hanga Roa but if you plan to rent a car anyway, it’s not a problem and all the tour companies know where to pick you up from if you decide to use one. It has great little private cabanas with ocean views and nice beachy decor. In the off season, it is probably around $200 a night or so but way less than Explora. The food is the restaurant is really good so we had dinner there twice- once was an “umu” style dinner. In town, try Te Moana for dinner; beware, the serving sizes are huge!

    In Santiago, we stayed at the Hotel Orly, which was around $100 a night; it was small but well located. For upscale dining, Puerto Fuy was a real treat. Fuente Alemana was a fun local way to gorge yourself on a huge sandwich. At night Tapas Passion was a nice place to have dinner with the stylish set.

  • David Kelly


    After reading your blog for years, I think I have a grasp on the way that you like to travel, so I have to recommend the explora. The rooms are relatively simple but probably among the best on the island. The excursions that they organize and lead, however, are top notch and really without a comparison anywhere else. The guides they have are so interesting – mostly natives, others who came to Easter Island to work at explora there or their other resorts. The “head guide,” Joanna is amazing – she has worked at every explora and has great stories. The timing of the excursions is also great as you rarely encounter anyone else – party spooky, but pretty amazing when you think about it. My wife and I stayed there in February (we are in our late 20s) and we were among the youngest people there. Since there is no TV and slow internet, talking to fellow travelers proved entertaining in itself. There were many retirees on RTW trips and others who were headed to or from Antarctic cruises. Lots of stories of safaris and inspirations for great trips. I really think it’s right up your alley. I honestly forget whether there were Virtuoso benefits, but we booked through DavidO anyway. The food and wines are amazing – lots of great Chilean and Argentinean wineries showcased. Email me if you would like any more info – I have tons of pictures. If you’re still on the fence, we can chat at FTU DC in April.

    Dave Kelly (no relation as far as I know)

  • Suzanne

    Any suggestions on what to pack? I’m assuming everything is casual, but not sure about sneakers vs walking shoes and other items I may be forgetting. We are leaving next week and I’m very excited.

  • Keri

    I’m so glad to hear it! I’ll be staying there next month. How far a walk is it from the town?

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