Sights and Attractions in Hanga Roa, Easter Island, Chile

This post continues a series on a 6 day trip to Easter Island in March of 2018. For this series I’ve divided the posts by area of the island and archaeological site rather than chronologically as we visited the top sites more than once. See the Easter Island page for an outline of all the posts in this series and our complete day by day itinerary. 

To organize our independent tour of the island we used A Companion Guide to Easter Island which is a great resource for both archaeological information and photography tips including best time of day to visit the sites. We did find that they are tightening restrictions on visiting the sites, e.g., enforced visiting hours and strict limitations on where you are allowed to walk within the sites, making some routes suggested in the guidebook inaccessible.

Tahai - sunset

Hanga Roa, the only town on the island, has a great sunset view site nearby,  with three small restored platforms at Tahai.

Tahai - sunset

Although we didn’t have great sunsets during our stay Tahai has a lovely setting and is a fun place to people watch in the evening. Not so many tourists that it feels crowded but just enough to feel like an event.

Tahai - sunset

Pretty sky but not much of a sunset

Tehai - midday

Mid-afternoon

Tehai - midday

Mid-afternoon

Tehai - midday

Mid-afternoon

Tahai is also worth a visit in the morning or afternoon and is much quieter at these hours.

Tahai - morning

Morning

A five-minute walk north of the Tahai is the single moai Hanga Kio’e.

Hanga Kio'e - sunsetHanga Roa (19 of 48)Hanga Roa (20 of 48)

Museum

Hanga Roa Museum

The small museum, now free, is long on information and short on actual artifacts. The guidebook recommends starting your tour of the island here, but I would suggest visiting the museum in the middle of your stay on the island, especially if you have a guide or a good guidebook, as all the informative displays can be somewhat overwhelming without some context under your belt.

Hanga Roa Museum

Moai eye

Hanga Roa Museum

Rongo rongo tablet

Hanga Roa Museum

Female moai

They do have a couple of unusual moia, a moai eye (a rarity), and replicas of rongo rongo tablets that demonstrate the undeciphered writing system of the early Rapa Nui.

Hanga Roa Cemetery

Hanga Roa CemeteryHanga Roa Cemetery

Kari Kari Dance Show

Kari Kari Dance

The companion guide recommends one of the island dance shows, explaining that it is not your typical native costume dance tourist trap because the performers are enthusiastic and genuinely seem to be having a good time. While I do believe that this is an authentic means to preserve the Rapa Nui culture, in rereading the author’s recommendation I noticed that he did not really say that the performances were good.

The performance hall reminded me of a grade school cafeteria turned into a stage. The dancers, while very enthusiastic and athletically skilled, were not good singers. The music, more off-key yelling than singing, grated on my ears. The little French girl sitting next to me had her hands over her ears until her mother found her a pair of ear plugs.

While the performance starts at 9PM you can also include dinner before the show. The dinner guests get the first few rows while the show-only folks get the last rows on the floor and the seats in risers above. It’s a smallish space so there really isn’t a bad seat except for maybe the late comer seats off to the side.

At about 8:30 they start an infomercial about the Kari Kari foundation and their goal to promote the Rapa Nui culture. While a rather dull presentation it gets its point across. The video plays while the guests file in.

You can make your reservation ahead of time but you pay at the entrance.

Kari Kari Dance

The skimpy costumes and Polynesian twerking will keep most guests entertained. Certainty if you are interested in dance and generally like this type of performance you will like this one. If you are doubtful about native costume dances this one will probably not change your mind. I have to admit that I’m negatively biased towards this type of show and generally dislike most native costume dance performances.

Church Services

Church

Also recommended in the guidebook is the 9AM Sunday mass for the intermarriage of Rapa Nui customs and the Catholic Church. Not being Catholic or even Christian most of this is lost on me except for maybe the elaborate feather head dress worn by the priest. The music, especially the singers, is much better than at the Kari Kari performance. While again this is not really my thing it should appeal to most visitors.

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