March 16-21. 2018
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.
First impression of Hanga Roa
This laid back town, the only one on the island, is tidy compared to many Chilean villages and along with accommodations and restaurants has all the essential services – ATM, gas station, drug store and grocery store (more of a large convenience store than a real grocery store, see below).
Roads are rough, so having a 4X4 is an advantage. For the first part of our stay the main road through town was closed in one section and we had to wind our way around to get to the Cabañas Tokerau.
Located on the north side of town, a two minute walk from Hanga Kio’e and seven minutes from Tahai, the sunset gathering spot, I first though this place was a little out of town. That was until it took us just ten minutes to drive back to the airport on the other side of town. Although you could walk to town, in the heat of the day it’s more comfortable to drive. Generally parking was not a problem.
The cabañas are rustic and generally clean if you are not too fussy. We were in the larger one with two upstairs bedrooms that shared a common area below. We were alone for the first four nights and shared the common area with another American couple the last two.
The bedroom was big but filled with beds, a queen and two singles, and not a great set up for a couple unless you like laying your things out on an extra bed. The mattress was firm and reasonably comfortable. The room had shelving, a place for hanging clothes and a table for luggage and so forth. The bathroom was average and worked fine except the hot water was a fussy matter. Turning the hot water tap on didn’t always ignite the on-demand water heater. Once we learned the peculiarities we got regular hot water in the bathroom but I never did figure out the kitchen sink.
The kitchen worked reasonably well. Most of the pots and pans were of decent quality. The cutting utensils were the ubiquitous bad knives found at just about every vacation rental. Appliances included a full six-burner stove, Euro-sized fridge, microwave and a blender. No dish towels or paper towels were provided, just napkins.
While there was a fan downstairs there was not one upstairs and it got quite warm during the day. Generally sleeping was not a problem.
Upon our arrival, Eduardo, the owner, gave us a map of the island and chatted with us about his place and what to do on the island. The best tip was how to get a second visit at Rono Raraku Crater. See post for details. We also used some of his restaurant recommendations (see below).
Breakfast is generally served in the cabaña at 9:00 or 9:30, much too late for me who wanted to be out at first light around 8:30. So they brought us fruit, bread, butter, cheese and meat, and instant coffee or tea the night before and we prepared our own breakfast with the addition of eggs that we purchased at the market.
Renting a car from Cabañas Tokerau
Eduardo, the owner, also rents cars and prefers you to rent a car from him instead of other agencies in town. He says there have been problems with some of the agencies and he will charge you an extra fee if you bring in an outside car. He made an exception for us because he had not told us this previously and he considered Oceanic a more reputable rental agency.
In making our initial reservation I was hesitant to rent a car from Cabañas Tokerau, even though this a common practice on the island, because of lack of formality in the reservation process. Although they were responsive they never sent me a confirmation for the cabaña reservation or charged my credit card for the deposit like they said they would, leaving me to wonder if I really had a reservation. When I sent him an inquiry about the matter he promptly replied telling me not to worry, everything was fine and in the end it was.
I think it would have been fine to rent the car from Eduardo although I don’t know if the credit card car insurance would also extend to renting from the hotel as opposed to an actual car rental agency. There is no direct car insurance on the island. Oceanic charged us 50.000 CLP/day (about $77USD) and Eduardo charges $70 day.
An agent from Oceanic was waiting for us when we exited the airport and took us to their office in town to complete the paperwork and get the car. The big difference on Easter Island is that they don’t offer car insurance. You should therefore make sure it is included with your credit card. This is a good practice that will save you money no matter where you travel.
We had no problems with our little Suzuki Jimny which is the rental car of choice on the island. It handles the roads perfectly fine. Make sure that you check the car with them when you pick it up as they do go over it quite carefully upon the return.
Eating in Hanga Roa
With a full kitchen in the cabaña we ate lunch out and cooked a light dinner at home after sunset. The supermercado on the main drag, really a mini market, has friendly staff. Ask if you don’t see what you are looking for. They do not have a huge selection and prices are high, but the wine is surprisingly cheap compared to the mainland. Also note that shipments come in in batches and sell out. If you see something you like, buy all that you think you will need during your stay because it may not be there the next day.
For bottles of wine Eduardo recommended the Distribuidora Rarama located on a side street just up from the Latam office at the airport end of town. They have a better selection of wine than the supermercado and sell a selection of frozen meat as well.
I love ceviche and ate it every day on the island. The fish is super fresh and everyone does a great job with it.
One of Eduardo’s recommendations. We ordered the Rapa Nui ceviche and a ground fish burger with fries.
Both were well done. The ceviche portion was huge and would have easily satisfied the both of us for a late light lunch.
Pizza at Miro Restobar
Located opposite the cemetery. There may be other pizza places in town, but this one was convenient with an open terrace dining room and a breeze off the sea. The terrace was less than half full when we arrived at 1:30 but there was only one server and it took over 45 minutes to get our food.
We ordered the ceviche tropical and a vegetarian pizza. The pizza crust was a tad cardboardy and otherwise fine but nothing great.
The ceviche, cheaper than at other places, was also a smaller portion, so not the best value. It was, however, just as fresh as we’ve had elsewhere. Beware they charge 3000CLP ($5USD) for a small bottle of water.
Despite the great open air terrace overlooking where they surf, there was no one here on a Saturday at just after 1PM. Very pleasant watching the surfers with nice breeze off the sea.
I ordered another ceviche, this time the Ha’ari with the fish of the day, kana kana. Prepared with coconut milk it was like the others I’ve had on the island, super fresh and outstanding. The sweet potato chips, however, were not made to order and stale. The rice was rice.
Don’s tuna sandwich, ordered seared, was nicely done, although it came with cheese, an odd choice, which he easily scraped off. The French fries were served fresh hot. Pricing is similar to other restaurants in the area with similar settings.
This seaside eatery at the far end of town near the airport was another Eduardo pick. It’s out of the way location has great views with waves crashing on the rocky shore. The service is friendly and it wasn’t too busy on a Saturday just after 1:00. We easily got a seaside table. The food is good and priced about the same as at the restaurants in town.
Don’s daily fish special, however, was a bargain at 5,500CLP ($8USD) and included tuna sautéed with vegetables, served with a choice of salad, rice or potatoes.
I ordered the Rapa Nui ceviche, tuna with tomatoes and sweet red onion, a generous portion of good quality fish served with a small salad and rice.
Flight to Easter Island
Latam’s flight to Hanga Roa is on a 787 wide body with an international configuration. Sitting in the bulkhead row of economy we had plenty of leg room. I don’t think coach would be too bad in any case and is certainly a big improvement over their flight between Santiago and Lima.
Check in was easy and went quickly. Domestic security at the Santiago airport goes very quickly as well. I don’t think they check for anything. You don’t have to take anything out of your bag and the metal detector rarely goes off.
The Isla de Pasqua airport is a tiny island airport with only one baggage claim belt.