Are you thinking about visiting Easter Island?
It’s one of the most remote destinations in the globe so you probably have wondered whether or not it would be worth it to make it all the way out there, perhaps jumping on a handfull of flights.
Below, I’ll break down some of the key considerations you’ll want to think about when deciding if Easter Island is worth it.
Getting there is not always easy
If you’re coming from the US, you most likely are going to have to deal with a lot of flying time. You’ll need to make your way to Santiago, Chile, which is a pretty far trip, even from southern cities in the US. (Cruise lines also go to Easter island but that’s a much different ballgame.)
Once you arrive in Santiago, you will need to take about a five hour flight from mainland Chile to Easter Island.
There’s a good chance you may find prices more expensive when using the US website versus the Chile website for LATAM. And we’re not talking about minor price differences here. I was able to capture the Chile rate which cut our flight cost almost in half!
So be prepared to spend a nice chunk of change if you can’t snag the lower rates.
While the flying time and the expense make accessing Easter Island a hurdle for many, you also have to deal with additional paperwork to get into the island. Luckily, this is not that difficult of a process.
The history is unreal and unlike anything else
If you are drawn to ancient structures like Stonehenge and other ruins, you will absolutely love what Easter Island has to offer.
It’s a place where you really “feel” the history as there is nothing quite like staring up at a massive moai as the sun sets in the background or viewing them under the celestial masterpiece of the Milky Way.
The rich history surrounds you at every turn and it’s truly one of the most unforgettable places to visit for that reason alone.
Seeing the mysterious Moai up close — which are largely scattered about the island — is what made the visit worth it to me above all other things. It also helps that there are many to see and that they come in all different types of shapes and sizes, so it’s not like you’re just looking at the same thing over and over again.
Extra restrictions are a pain
Probably the biggest drawback of Easter Island is the amount of restrictions you have to deal with when visiting now.
After the island opened up after the pandemic, they decided to require (not just recommend) guides at all of the major archaeological sites. This means that when you do your exploring, you always have to be tethered to a guide.
Since you can’t see everything on Easter Island in one day this also means that if you want to experience all of the major sites (in a relaxing fashion) you will need a guide to accompany you at least two days and some people may need even more time than that.
Not only can this get expensive, but it gets a little tiring after a while, especially if you are like us and enjoy exploring on your own.
While I understand the need to preserve historical sites, at a certain point, it starts to feel like overkill and just takes some of the fun out of exploring.
There’s a lack of clarity
One thing that did drive me a bit crazy during my time on Easter Island was the lack of clarity when it came to visiting the sites.
Each archaeological site is part of the national park system and they set up checkpoints that require you to show your park pass which is simple enough.
But then there is the guide requirement. Initially, we received a lot of conflicting information about whether these guides were “recommended” or “required” at different locations.
One pamphlet we had said a guide is “recommended” when in reality it was required.
That’s a big difference because one option hits your wallet and requires a lot more planning. It’s not always easy to find a guide, especially one that speaks English or knows what they are talking about.
So in the beginning we’d show up only to be told that we can’t access the site because we don’t have a guide. (Only later did we find out that the “recommended” language was completely outdated.)
Then there is the passport issue. Some of the checkpoints require passports, others don’t. And some of the stations that do require a passport, don’t always ask for them.
I personally don’t like traveling with my passport on me because of the risk of something happening to it. Having to constantly pull it out is just a bit unnecessary and asking for potential trouble in my opinion.
Then there are the hours. The main sites are only open from 9 AM to about 5:30 PM. However, some open early. Just how early? Well, that could just depend on the day….
That might not seem like a big deal to you but if you’re traveling across the globe for astrophotography shots and only have a few days available, the lack of clarity can get frustrating as it makes planning a once in a lifetime shot a guessing game….
Eventually, we figured everything out but only after we had already spent quite a lot on guided tours and wasted some time trying to access places that did not allow us to get through.
I’m hoping that eventually Easter Island publishes a central hub with all of this information to clear up the confusion.
They do provide you with more details in your email confirmation after you purchase your park pass but all of the links in the email were broken!
So this lack of clarity was one of the major headaches we encountered on the island.
Another challenging aspect of putting together an itinerary on Easter island is the lack of communication. Some of our lodging like the Kona Koa Lodge excelled at communicating with us. Seriously, they were amazing.
However, there were other hotels (including very expensive ones) and certain businesses that simply never got back or just failed to respond in anything close to a timely manner.
We even had one rental car company erroneously cancel our 8-day prepaid reservation (not cheap) and not respond to any of our emails until we finally arrived on the island. Talk about stressful.
This lack of communication can make it frustrating and difficult to plan your trip, so if you are a big planner be prepared for this.
Are you into astronomy?
Easter Island is home to Bortle 1 skies, which are some of the the darkest skies you will find. Because the island is so compact, you can easily access these skies making this one of the best places for stargazing in the world.
Also, if you love astrophotography, you will have a field day out here (aside from the lack of access to sites). So for people seeking to connect to the cosmos, Easter Island can definitely be worth the trip.
The food is on point
One thing you don’t have to sacrifice when you come here is satisfying your appetite.
You can find some of the most tasteful and fresh seafood on Easter Island. You simply can’t go wrong with ceviche, lobster, or local fish like tuna.
There’s a decent selection of restaurants on the island, too.
It’s not a beach destination but there are beaches
One thing about Easter Island is that most of the coastline consists of rocky cliffs.
These are pretty stunning coast lines with otherworldly lava rocks seemingly frozen in time. You can relax to waves crashing into these porous rocks and explore some of their warped crevices and tide pools but you will not find many beaches here, aside from two main beaches: Anakena Beach and Ovahe.
There are some “fun size” beaches like Playa poko poko and a little snorkel area where you can get up close to sea turtles so if getting in the water is your thing then there still is something for you. Just don’t expect it to feel like Hawaii or many other iconic Polynesian destinations when it comes to beaches.
The scenery is barren but beautiful (to some)
Another thing that might catch your eye is how barren the island is. Lots of it is devoid of trees.
It still has beautiful rolling green hills that I found to be very scenic but some people might find the desolate nature of the landscape to be a little boring or maybe even depressing as it sort of leaves you constantly wondering, “what the hell happened here?” For those looking for a lush tropical island covered in palm trees, you won’t find that here.
Scuba diving is a little meh…
If it’s SCUBA that you are into, Easter Island does not have a bustling coral reef due to a shortage of plankton. You’ll encounter wildlife down there but it’s not on the same level as a vibrant coral reef system like in the Maldives or somewhere similar.
But this lack of plankton contributes to super clear water which means that you might get to scuba dive in some really clear water.
Personally, when I went diving at Easter Island the water clarity wasn’t the most amazing thing I’d ever seen (see below). It was good based on local reports but based on everything I had heard, I was expecting something more impressive. So don’t set your expectations too high.
Can you deal with some unpleasant locals?
Every destination is going to have its share of bad apples when it comes to people. Unfortunately, during the week long stay in Easter Island we encountered some of those.
They mostly came in the form of just inconsiderate people. For example, we were blatantly cut in line on multiple occasions by locals who seemed to just feel like it they did not have to wait behind a tourist.
One of these was a registered local tour guide who cut us with her large tour group so they could get the best seats which I found to be really unprofessional considering we’d been there 30 minutes before her (that was only one of many inconsiderate things she did).
There were many locals here that did treat us well but it’s hard to not feel like there was a certain lack of hospitality based on the handful of bad experiences that we had in such a short amount of time.
So overall, is it worth it?
The history of this place is undeniable and so unique that it makes it worth any minor to moderate trouble you’d experience visiting.
My biggest complaint was the lack of clarity which made it hard to plan out things and the restrictions on visiting the sites. I just really don’t care for having to be glued to a guide and the conflicting info we received about the need for guides drove me a little crazy in the beginning.
If you can get past those things and equip yourself with the knowledge you need (hopefully these articles help), you’ll enjoy the island as it still has a lot of things going for it, including nice weather, beautiful scenery, and some pretty good eats.
Here are some additional articles you may find helpful when preparing for your visit:
- The Best Places to See on Easter Island
- Guide for getting through Santiago de Chile Airport (SCL) to Rapa Nui/Easter Island
- Complete Guide to Exploring Easter Island’s Rapa Nui National Park
- Where to Stay on Easter Island: Options for All Budgets
- How to get to Easter Island: Everything You Need to Know
- 21 Things You Need to Know About Easter Island Before Visiting
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.