The remote and mysterious Easter Island is a tiny dot in the middle of the South Pacific, halfway between Chile and Tahiti. A dot with a lot of super cool statues.
Easter Island takes a bit of planning and a leap of faith to get to, but it is an astonishing destination for a family, complete with spectacular scenery and breathtaking beaches where youngsters can be free and safe to roam and explore. Seeing and learning about the island’s fascinating relics is an incredible educational experience for your kids and it will leave them with some amazing memories. The Isla de Pascua Airport is considered the most remote airport in the world, the island is technically part of Chile, being annexed in 1888, yet the closest continental point on Chile is over 2,000 miles away. Once you arrive, it can be magical, if not a bit overwhelming to know that you are so far away from the rest of the world. It’s hard to think of any safer place than Easter Island. Violent crime against tourists is unheard of here, and you can walk by yourself at night without worrying about your safety. Here are some ideas of what to do on Easter Island with kids:
It’s definitely a good idea to go on a guided tour for at least one day of your stay on Easter Island in order to best learn about the island’s culture and history. Knowledgeable guides will entertain you and your children by providing the background on each site and telling the story of the Moai and the Rapa Nui people who sculpted and moved them, as well as the overall island history. Be sure to include Orongo in your tour, a guide will provide a much deeper insight into the history and competition that was held in this fabled ceremonial village.
Your kids will love walking among the giants in the legendary moai statue quarry of Rano Raraku. This volcano that was turned into a factory invokes a sense of mystery in an almost surreal way, stronger than any other place on Easter Island. Almost all the moai statues were carved here, before being transported to all other corners of the island. Of the 397 statues left at Rano Raraku, around half are finished while the rest never reached a completed state. Many statues here are buried halfway or more into the ground, which gave rise to the mistaken belief that the moai statues were only heads when in fact they all have bodies, even though sometimes only a head is sticking out of the ground. You can only visit Rano Raraku once on your national park entrance ticket, so be sure to spend as much time as possible here. Once you see this place for yourselves, you won’t want to leave.
Driving is the best way to get around Easter Island, and there’s nothing better than having the freedom to go at your own pace and return to the spots you love the most. Caution is recommended after dark as horses and cows roam freely on the island. Easter Island is small, only 10 miles at its widest, and it takes only an hour to drive around in a loop.
Easter Island’s only town has a great island vibe – a lot of cafes and restaurants, a lot of low-key souvenir stores, some playgrounds with wooden apparatus and slides, and a school right in the middle of everything where you’ll see the kids playing soccer at all times of the day.
Anakena Beach is the most heavenly white sand beach. It can easily be accessed from the road by crossing a superb coconut grove where you will be welcomed by a line of Moais. Your kids will probably be excited by the sight of wild horses nearby and there are some kiosks at the beach selling snacks.
Pea beach is the tiny beach at Hanga Roa. The beach is divided into two parts separated by a small projection on which Pea Restobar is positioned. Next to the breakwater is a natural pool protected by stone walls. Its shallow depth and security make it an ideal place for your little ones to swim and splash. Pea beach is famous for the sea turtles that frolic here. You can see them from the shore, and sometimes they cross the stone wall of the natural pool, which allows you to swim near them and take pictures. Be sure to tell your kids not to touch or harass them.
There are only a very few snorkeling spots, but this is a fun activity to do with your children on Easter Island. Anakena Beach, with its coconut palms, white sand, and moai is the best snorkel spot on the island. Well sheltered, it generally offers good conditions for snorkeling. The island is home to some endemic marine species including the Easter Island butterflyfish, which are easy to spot everywhere, including through the surface in Hanga Roa’s harbor. In fact, every day at high tide, the harbor fills up with amazing sea life and creates a beautiful and safe environment for your kids to snorkel. And it’s not just the fish that are worth checking out – sea turtles also come out to play in the rolling current. You can rent snorkeling gear from any of the rental shops along the harbor.
All kids love a treasure hunt, right? Easter Island is covered with ancient petroglyphs left behind from the old Rapa Nui. While they’re not as prominent as the moai, they also tell an important part of history. You can find petroglyphs all over the island, but some of the best ones are found near Te Pito Kura. Go for a tour to see how many you can find. Having a guide for this exercise is very helpful for learning what all the petroglyphs are, as many of them are faded and of a unique style.
The Rapa Nui have great musical abilities and their dances are accompanied by ancestral instruments. Seeing a live show of the unique Rapa Nui music and dances is something you shouldn’t miss and audience participation is the norm. There are a few different options. The most popular show is staged at Te Ra’ai Restaurant. The full evening package includes having your faces painted, learning more about the Rapa Nui music and culture, participating in the opening of the ‘umu ta’o (food cooked in the earth), and having that same food served at dinner before viewing the show.
Several horse-riding tours are offered around the island. Many of these unfold in the interior, climbing to the top of Terevaka, the highest volcano, which can only be reached on foot or by horseback. From the peak, you can see the entire island and the vast blue ocean that lies beyond.
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