Easter Island is known for the strange statues that dot the landscape and the vast mystery surrounding how they were made and moved and why they were toppled over.
But for the uninitiated, that’s literally the extent of the layperson’s knowledge of the land known as Rapa Nui by the residents of the most remote island in the world.
What makes this mystical island even more special is discovering it through the eyes of Rapa Nui Travel, a local tour company which was arranged by Ecotours Chile Private Tours. We hit the ground running our first day when a rep came to our hostel to give us a schedule of events for our two half day tours and one full day tour that we had booked.
Each tour was made special by the two guides that had an obvious affection for their work. We were picked up from our hostel on time every day and never ran behind schedule. Our complete and absolute comfort took precedence and their thorough knowledge of the island’s history was evident.
Both of our guides (Frieder, a German native and Tongariki (sp) a 6th generation Rapa Nui) were kind, affable, intelligent and took the greatest pleasure in sharing their vast knowledge with us. There was no question too silly to ask because you always felt that they eagerly anticipated each one of them. With few exceptions, we pretty much covered the entire Island. Just driving through the various sectors was an exercise in tranquility.
I have been on enough guided tours to know how it feels to be shuttled around and treated like cattle. I was able to enjoy this experience more because I never felt rushed or hurried. I was allowed to take in all of the beauty surrounding me and created lifelong memories as a result.
We stayed at the Vaianni Guesthouse, one of the local hostels on the island. To be perfectly honest, it was somewhat disappointing. We weren’t expecting to be in the lap of luxury but there were several issues that we found while staying there:
1. Poor in-room internet connection, great dining room reception but we had to go outside to the patio to plug our laptops into the extension cord. I think some investment needs to be made there in the future.
2. The in-room electrical receptacle kept crackling, so we had to be careful that we didn’t start a fire.
3. The beds were stiff and uncomfortable.
4. Water kept dripping in the shared shower.
5. The toilet seat wasn’t properly attached, which can be a nightmare when shared.
6. The time allotted for kitchen usage was very limited during the day.
7. One couple came by to check in but was ignored by the housekeeper when they knocked on the now locked door. She had locked the door just 10 minutes earlier, so someone was there, after 10 minutes or so, they gave up and left. Naturally, she deserved to have some alone time and had obviously settled in for the night. But less than an hour later, she was back in the kitchen entertaining other guests (friends?).
8. We noticed that no one answered the phone after 6 pm either. My concern would be for guests arriving late like the other couple and not being able to check into their rooms. There would be no one to answer the door, nor the phone, so you would essentially be out of luck.
9. If you are looking for a little peace and quiet, Vaianni is the wrong place. It is a hostel after all and is busy during all hours of the day and night. It can be quite loud at times due to rowdy and inconsiderate guests or even loud neighbors.
10. They have a rooster who has no sense of timing because he crows every hour on the hour. After a while you eventually become immune to it.
1. Overall, the rest of the staff is very cordial.
2. They are very willing to give you tour info and general info about the island and how to get around it.
3. The breakfast was exceptional. We were served unlimited coffee, papaya or guava juice, bread, cheese, lunch meat slices jam, butter, crepes, orange slices, cream cheese, apple, pear, tomato, banana and kiwi slices and half grapefruits on any given day.
4. They provided ground transportation to and from the airport for free.
5. Their room rates are exceptional when compared to other hotels or hostels. You do get value for your money.
6. The grounds are kept very clean and the gardens are a tropical delight.
7. The dining room is set up to encourage conversation between the guests, which is a really nice thing when you are traveling alone.
1. While it is easy to rent a car or dirt bike, use a tour company to get the best overview of what the island has to offer.
2. The Island survives on tourist dollars. Some vendors will accept USD in addition to Chilean pesos, but be careful some vendors may be a little fast and loose with the conversion rate.
3. Be aware that horses and cows are allowed to freely roam the land, they are usually left to their own devices.
4. Most of the roads are unpaved.
5. Main Street consists of 5-6 city blocks. Everything is very centrally located and compact.
6. The cost of living is very expensive here due to the remoteness of the island and the logistics involved in getting supplies there.
7. If you plan to cook while you are here (and I would advise you to since restaurants are not cheap) be sure to visit the meat market since the meats are fresh and very reasonable considering where you are.
8. Be sure to stop by the post office (there is only one) to have your passport stamped with the Easter Island stamp before you leave. Mail postcards back home with Easter Island postage stamps too.
9. Effective 2012, The National Forestry Corporation of Chile (CONAF) has announced an increase to the entry fee for the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island to US$63 for adults and US$13 for children under 12 years of age. You can buy a discounted pass at the Arrivals section of the IPC airport.