Anytime you head to a far-flung, bucket-list destination like Easter Island, you want to do your research to make sure that you have a smooth and enjoyable experience.
In the case of Easter Island, there are quite a few things you will want to know before you visit.
Below, I’ll highlight everything that you need to know about this amazing place so that you’ll be fully prepared on your first visit to make the most of your time!
For information on the documents needed and getting through the airport, check out this guide right here.
It feels very safe
One thing about this little island in the middle of the Pacific is that if you commit a crime, there’s nowhere for you to run. I mean, you could always live the rest of your life inside a lava tube I guess but that doesn’t necessarily sound ideal.
As far as humans went, the island felt very safe. We didn’t feel the need to constantly watch our back or anything of the sort.
Obviously, you don’t want to let your guard completely down but the experience is very different from visiting some islands in other places of the world such as the Caribbean where you still have to remain vigilant.
Seat belts are entirely optional
Wearing seatbelts is not really “a thing” in Easter Island. And we never even heard a seatbelt alarm/reminder during our entire time, so I’m not even sure the vehicles have those built-in.
Because it’s rare for anybody to drive with any real speed they’re probably not really needed in most cases. But this is something that takes getting used to.
You can always strap in if it makes you feel better, but I enjoyed going without a seatbelt just because it felt so different (and a little liberating).
Animals roam free
Animals, including dogs, cats, chickens, horses, and cattle have free reign on the island. You’ll find dogs hanging out at seemingly every corner and majestic horses trotting along the coast.
If you’re a dog lover (or just animal lover in general) you’ll really enjoy seeing so many of them. According to locals, most of these animals do have owners but they are just allowed to roam where they wish.
This means you need to be extra careful when you’re driving. Lots of the dogs like to sleep in the street and other times the animals just sort of come out of nowhere, especially at night.
On a couple of occasions we did encounter a couple of dogs that made us a little bit nervous but they were mostly just aggressive watch dogs being territorial.
I don’t think they would do non-intruders any harm but when a large dog jumps up on top of a fence post and lets you know that you are not welcome, it makes you a little uneasy.
You have to have a guide for most sites
To see the vast majority of the sites on Easter Island, you will have to accompanied by a guide or local host. This can get expensive over the spans of a few days and really limit your exploring abilities.
A private guide for two people for a full day will run you about $200 USD. If you want to see all of the sites, you will need at least two days so be prepared to spend some cash on guides.
Related: Complete Guide to Exploring Easter Island’s Rapa Nui National Park
Related to the above point, Easter Island can be pretty expensive.
Just getting there can be pricey because of all of the connecting flights and the hotel prices aren’t exactly the cheapest.
But when you throw your park pass and guides on top of everything, you’ll quickly be spending a nice chunk of change.
Related: How to get to Easter Island: Everything You Need to Know
You can easily find markets
On Easter Island, it’s not very difficult to find markets and mini markets where you can buy produce, snacks, essentials, etc.
To help ease the cost mentioned above, we made our way to the markets quite often. For about half the time we spent there, we just ate sandwiches and soups which helped us get by.
If you need anything medical related, such as sunscreen, you can get that at the pharmacy.
Internet is iffy but can be quite good
Starlink recently made its way to Easter island and some lodging places and businesses now have high speed internet. It’s been a game changer according to many locals.
We tested out Starlink for a few days and it was awesome out there. I was even able to conduct video conference calls without any type of issues.
However, a lot of places still do NOT have Starlink. For those places that don’t, the internet connection is seriously lacking. It makes it very difficult to be productive. Don’t even think about streaming anything.
So my suggestion would be to be prepared to embrace being largely off the grid or if you need to get some work done doing your trip, find a place with Starlink.
Cell phone service or data is really hard/impossible to get
Depending on your provider, you might be able to get cell phone service but if you’re hoping to use your data on your phone to help you get around just know that there’s a good chance you won’t have access to it. We have Verizon and were never able to access our data.
To make it easier to navigate around the island just download the Google Maps offline version for Easter Island. You probably won’t be able to pull up directions but you can still pretty easily navigate by following your little blue dot on the map.
Just be aware that Google Maps is not fully updated with the latest business locations on Easter Island. On a number of occasions, we ventured to a location shown on Google Maps that was no longer there!
As things kick back up after the closure from the pandemic, I imagine the maps will get cleaned up.
Power and AC limitations
If you are accustomed to keeping your house ice cold like us, you might want to start turning up the temperature in your house in the weeks leading up to your trip.
That’s because some hotels and lodges don’t have AC and some don’t even have the power capacity to run fans all the time. This means that you could be running very warm and humid during your stay.
The temperature will cool down in the evening and with a breeze, it can feel heavenly outside or an a patio but inside of your room, it can be a real challenge to remain comfortable.
Little tree cover
Although the island was once home to huge palm trees, it no longer boasts thick forest canopies. You’ll find some pockets of thick eucalyptus forest, but the vast majority of the island is barren.
It’s still a beautiful site with green volcanic slopes rising and falling along the horizon but you’ll be hard-pressed to find shade in most spots (unless you’re standing next to a giant moai!).
Don’t be surprised by insects or other critters
Lots of the lodging and other buildings are very open to the environment on Easter Island.
This means that you can expect to find bugs and other little creatures making their way into your hotel. We saw lizards, roaches, and other little bugs in our hotels.
We never had an issue with mosquitoes although the flies did come out pretty hard on a couple of occasions when dinner was served.
So just adjust your expectations accordingly and try not to be shocked if you wake up to find a roach in your bathtub!
You’ll want to rent a car
I strongly recommend renting a vehicle while in an Easter Island.
For us, this was vital to getting to sunset and sunrise locations and enjoying our early morning stargazing sessions. While you are still limited in what you could see due to the guide restrictions, it’s still a fun place to drive around in.
Another option could be to rent an ATV or scooter but we went with a four-door vehicle because we knew we would be riding around with a tour guide and we wanted to be comfortable.
A lot of the vehicles are manual but you might be able to find an automatic which is what we were given (even though we ordered manual).
Credit cards are widely excepted
Most of the places we went to accepted credit cards, including American Express. You’ll just need to let the place know that you are using a credit card and not a debit that requires a pin.
A couple of places did not accept cards but they made it clear that they only accepted cash from the beginning. If you need cash, there is an ATM machine in the middle of town.
The sun sets late
The sun sets really late in Easter Island.
In December, sunset will be around 9 PM, while in the winter it is still around 7 PM.
This gives you a lot of time to explore and then relax around sunset time.
But if you are coming from North America, the shift in daylight can be more dramatic than what you may have expected. You might even need an eye mask if you plan on getting to sleep at your usual time.
They have cool souvenirs
I really love the souvenirs at Easter Island!
It’s going be almost impossible for you to leave that island without some type of moai-inspired souvenir.
You’ll find them in all different types of shapes and sizes. Take your time and check out several different shops to see what you like the most.
The skies are ridiculously dark
If you’ve never experienced truly dark skies, Easter Island is the place to do it.
Even better, if you’re coming from the US or an equivalent latitude in the northern hemisphere, you’ll be able to see the Southern night sky!
My biggest regret was not doing a stargazing tour with a telescope but our plans just didn’t align with the open dates for that. But even if you don’t book a proper stargazing tour, you can just go out to any area on the island and appreciate the beautiful night sky.
Watching shooting stars blaze through the night sky over towering moai is a true bucket-list worthy experience.
Roads are not the best
The roads are not the best and mostly consist of what looked like set stone roads but they are still very doable and not as bad as I thought it would be.
Some of the dirt roads are pretty bumpy and quickly get filled with large puddles — the potholes can be a little treacherous so watch out for those!
But unless you are traveling around during or after heavy downpour, you won’t have issues getting around, even without having a 4×4.
There’s great seafood
If you like seafood, Easter Island will impress. We had some fantastic ceviche, tuna, lobster, and shrimp and there are plenty of other tasty food options out there.
Spanish is the way to go but you can get by with English
If you can speak Spanish, or just broken Spanish like me, that can get your pretty far on Easter island.
Some people do speak the “Chilean style” of Spanish which is pretty fast and that can be difficult to communicate with for people like myself.
But a lot of the locals also know a bit of broken English so you can generally work out transactions without much of a problem.
The only issue is that because you probably won’t have access to data on your phone, it can be hard to translate things whenever there is a problem.
Beaches are few but beautiful!
Easter Island does not have a lot of beaches.
It’s mostly jagged volcanic cliffs along the coastline, which are quite stunning. However, there are a couple of beaches that I thought were pretty beautiful and they are right next to each other. You want to check out: Ovahe and Anakena.
You might also find come across a couple of hidden cove with beautiful mini beaches, so be on the lookout for those!
The annual festival is in early February
Easter Island puts on an annual festival in early February called Tapati Rapa Nui that celebrates their history and culture.
It looks like an enjoyable time filled with nighttime festivities and daytime competitions, but it can be hard to find flights during this time so if you plan on visiting the island during the first couple of weeks of February you need to make operations well in advance!
As you would probably expect, Easter Island is a very different place. I’d suggest really thinking about all of the factors above and how you can best prepare for them.
If you do that, I can guarantee you that you will have a smoother stay as you’ll be much more prepared than the average tourist!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.