At less than 20 miles (30 km) long, getting around the sights of Rapa Nui couldn’t be easier, but with so many sights and so much history to unravel, you’d regret rushing your visit. Three days in Easter Island is ideal, giving you ample opportunity to check out all the main attractions and time left over to explore off the beaten path.
Once you’ve settled into your accommodation in Hanga Roa, the island’s only substantial town, get your bearings with a wander around the town center and soak up the scenery around the fishing harbor before heading south to Ana Kai Tangata cave. The imposing black-rock cavern is best known for its colorful Manutara bird paintings, and this will be your first introduction to the bizarre Birdman ceremony once celebrated by the native Polynesian islanders. Next up is the coastal village of Orongo, the ceremonial home of the Cult of the Birdman, perched on the edge of the magnificent Ranu Kau volcano and offering spectacular views out to sea.
There are 887 gigantic statues, or moai, dotted around the island, some reaching up to 46 feet (14 meters) tall and weighing over 30 tons. Viewing the enigmatic artworks will likely be the highlight of your trip. Check out some of the most unique sites–the Tahai complex, where you’ll see the only statue on the island with painted eyes; the red stone quarry of Puna Pau, where the moai’s “pukao” headdresses were sculpted; and the seven moai of Ahu Akivi, the only moai that face the ocean—then spend the afternoon swimming and snorkeling on the idyllic beach of Anakena.
Make an early start and arrive at the famous Ahu Tongariki in time to watch the sunrise—a dramatic photo opportunity with its 15 gigantic moai silhouetted against the rising sun. This is the biggest and most renowned of all Easter Island’s moai sites, with the ceremonial platform stretching 650 feet (200 meters) along the seafront. Next pay a visit to the vast quarry of Rano Raraku, where the huge moai stones were carved and hundreds still remain, including the largest moai ever made. Then head to the nearby temple of Akahanga, the burial site of the island’s founder, King Hotu Matu’a.