When you picture accessible adventure spots, the middle of the Pacific Ocean doesn’t exactly come to mind. But thanks to twice-daily flights on a brand-new 787, Easter Island — 2,300 miles west of Chile — may not be as out of reach as you think.
That’s pretty unheard of for such a far-flung sandbar. The island can handle commercial flights because of an emergency runway NASA installed there as a landing backup for the space shuttle.
Five-hour flights take off from Santiago, Chile, on LATAM Airlines, part of the oneworld alliance, which is associated with American Airlines. While tickets to the middle of the ocean aren’t cheap — around $500 — there is one workaround: You can use AAdvantage miles to book the trip.
Now that you can get to Easter Island, a World Heritage Site, twice a day, what’s there to do? For a 64-square-mile atoll 2,500 miles east of Tahiti, surprisingly, a lot — or nothing at all, if you choose.
There are several lodging options to consider for base camp. The recently renovated Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa, dedicated to preserving Easter Island’s ancient Rapa Nui culture, is a favorite for eco-pampering.
“Every aspect of the hotel is inspired by and based in this archaeological place,” Hangaroa’s Paula Margulis Luchsinger told GrindTV. “Every matter in the design is based in respect for the environment, sustainability, water recycling and blending with the natural surroundings and culture of the island.”
For example, hotel ceilings are fashioned with long sticks like those in Rapa Nui boathouses. Tubs are handmade of clay, and sinks of volcanic stone.
Most visitors build their days outdoors, exploring the island’s mysterious Rapa Nui culture through its gigantic monolith human statues, called moai.
The legend goes that 1,000 years ago a small group of Polynesians paddled the Pacific Ocean in search of a new land, guided by the stars. They stopped at Easter Island, which they called “the navel of the world,” and built a civilization predicated on art — carving, raising and transporting hundreds of rock statues over 11 miles, using nothing but their own hands and the stone.
“Easter Island is an enigma. No one can say with absolute certainty when the first settlers arrived or how these people moved enormous stone statues into place,” travel blogger Michael Hess told GrindTV.
“There is something about this mystery that leaves both the local people and visitors to the island enamored by it. Holding a place on every adventure traveler’s bucket list, the amount of things to see and do has no limit. Because of the island’s small size, you can do a mountain hike and a beach trip all in the same day.”
There are more than 900 moai still on the island.
Taking an archeological tour to gawk at the moai will certainly take up some time. You can check out the biggest one from Google Earth, but you’ll have to get to Easter Island to scuba to statues now resting at the bottom of the ocean. Bring a waterproof camera, because this area has among the best underwater visibility in the world.
Because Easter Island is so small, you can get around easily by foot, bike, scooter or ATV. The island is made for both lazy days by the beach and more-adventurous guided activities or rentals to explore on your own.
Mahinatur is best for fishing, horseback riding and motorized rentals. Mike Rapu is the local diving, boat-tour and surfboard rental expert. Both are in cahoots with local lodging operators, which may be the easiest way to book your exploits.
Surfing lessons run through the Hahave Rapa Nui Surf School.
At night, stargazing is by far the most popular pastime. Just imagine what you can see 2,300 miles from nowhere …
Read about more far-flung travel on GrindTV