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Go on your own Easter Island adventure

Want to follow in Matt's footsteps around the globe? “Today” travel editor Peter gives practical advice on the attractions, what to do, when to go and deals on getting there.

The moai (pronounced moe-eye), or stone monoliths along the coastline, are the main reason to visit Easter Island. Tourists can view these on horseback for about $40 for a 2- to 3-hour tour, plus an extra fee if your horse’s owner comes along as a guide. A more efficient way to get around the island and see the moai is by renting a jeep. The average car rental is about $50 to $60 for 8 hours.  But tourists be warned — there are around 2,000 horses to an island of approximately 3,800 people, so horses are easy to rent on the island. The trick is to get a real saddle, not one that’s homemade, because it can be painful on the posterior.

Matt is scheduled to sign off from a traditional Polynesian outrigger canoe, which was a vital part of everyday life among early Polynesian people. For about $15, a tourist can go out and paddle with a local guide.

Easter Island is not the place to go for your South Pacific beach vacation. There are only two sandy beaches. Most beaches here are black and rocky. Traveling across the island feels like moving through a desert of grass. People have compared the island's grassy hills to Scotland or Wales, and because it is unforested and relatively flat, you can see for miles. There are no lush tropical forests.

Easter Island is definitely a place to get away from it all and experience life on one of the most remote islands in the world.  There are no golf courses, no theaters, bookshops or fashion boutiques, but it does have one tennis court.  The island offers surfing and scuba diving, but neither activity here is for amateurs.  Hiking is popular, and spelunking in the caves carved out by lava is another activity for tourists. 

A few practicalities

  • There is no safe drinking water outside the village, so tourists should never head out without taking bottled water.
  • The Chilean peso is the official currency, but American dollars are accepted without a problem.  Don't plan on using your credit card.  Credit cards are rarely accepted because it takes so long for merchants to recover the money.
  • There is no public transportation but taxis are readily available. There is also the option of renting a jeep, car or motorbike.

Best time to go
Being below the equator, seasons here are reversed.  Summer is December through February (average highs and lows are 82º and 59º). There are more flights to and from Easter Island during the high season. 

The quiet time is October through November and March through April. If you want the island all to yourself, go from July through August, but be prepared for rain and chilly weather.  The average temps during these months are between 72º and 57º, but it can seem much cooler when strong Antarctic winds lash the island. Alternately, summer temperatures may seem reasonable, but they underestimate what can be a strong sun and formidable heat.

Getting there
Easter Island is one of the most remote islands in the world, and it's a long trip no matter where you're coming from in the U.S. Most visitors from the U.S. would get to the island via Santiago, Chile. You can also go through Papeete, Tahiti.  Both are around 2,500 miles and a five-hour flight.  Airfare from New York to Santiago can be as low as $581, but then you have additional airfare to and from Easter Island, which usually ranges from $500 to $1,000 roundtrip — an expensive trip if you're just visiting this location. 

It’s recommended that you make Easter Island part of a larger travel itinerary, making it more affordable.

Easter Island adventure
If you want a package tour, Kontiki Tours and travel has three, four and five day tours of Easter Island.  It departs from Santiago, Chile, and prices start at $1,732 per person plus air from the U.S. This includes air transportation from Santiago, hotel accommodations including daily continental breakfast, all transfers between airports and hotels with assistance and baggage handling, and guided tours in English, including all entrance fees where applicable. Airport taxes are not included (add $200 if you travel into Chile with an airline other than Lan Chile).

Easter Island airfare
One way to get to Easter Island is to buy a South American Air Pass. To be eligible, passengers must fly to South America on Lan Chile airlines to and from the U.S. Air Pass requires passengers to purchase three flight coupons for routes within South America. The price of the coupon depends on the miles and distance between locations, and ranges from $85 to $257 each way.

If you don't travel with a tour group and want to stay on a budget, residenciales are usually an extension of a private home and are basic rooms with or without bathrooms.  Prices range from $25 to $30. It's a great way to meet the locals, and is an informal, less expensive alternative to hotels.

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