This archaeological site was restored between 1968 and 1970 by American archaeologist William Mulloy and recreates the original layout of the Rapanui villages. Mulloy’s ashes rest under a small carved stone under the hare paenga, at the southern end of the complex.
View of Ahi Vai Uri and Ahu Ko te Riku
The three ahu or ceremonial platforms found here are, from left to right, Ahu Vai Uri, which has five moais, Ahu Tahai; with a single and quite eroded moai; and finally, Ahu Ko Te Riku, on which a single moai stands equipped with eyes (a replica based on the eye found in Anakena in 1978) and a pukao (a red scoria headdress). This ahu displays the moais in their maximum splendor.
Moai with pukao and eyes of Ahu Ko Te Riku
Down the slope from the parking lot, the rock structure on the left is a hare moa, or chicken coop, where the Rapa Nui used to keep the hens during the tribal wars or in times of scarcity. The small hole in the front was the entrance, which was covered with a single rock when the chickens were inside. They spent the night within this closed elongated structure; and in the morning, when the rock that served as a door was removed, they wandered out attracted by the sunlight. The purpose of the hare moa was deciphered thanks to the remains of feathers and egg shells found during excavations in over 1,200 similar buildings.
Remains of hare paenga
At the southern end of the square (towards Hanga Roa), there is a hare paenga, also called “houseboat” due to the characteristic elliptical structure that these houses had, similar to canoes. These were made using stones to form the base, to which long branches and firm wood were attached for structure, and finally, they were topped with reeds, leaves and grass. These houses, or hare paenga, were usually arranged in a semicircle around the central square. These houses were used only by the highest ranking people in each village. The lower-ranking people lived in simple structures without stone bases, or in the caves located throughout the island.
Descending towards Ahu Vai Uri a moai can be seen lying face down. This was the sixth moai platform, but it was impossible to restore it, so it was left where it was. Further on there is a rustically carved stone head which was found in the sea behind the platform. It is thought to be one of the oldest and, according to certain registered dates, this part of the island was the first one to be populated.
Ramp for canoes
Between Ahu Vai Uri and Ahu Tahai a ramp for canoes can be seen, built out of stone. This was very common because the island has only two sandy beaches, so these ramps were needed to transport canoes to and from the sea.
Tahai is one of the best places on the island to enjoy the sunset, because the sun sets right behind the five moais, creating an idyllic image.
Sunset in Tahai
It can be reached by car on the road that leads to the museum and then turning left onto a dirt road leading to the parking lot. Walking, it’s just 15 minutes from the center of Hanga Roa. Going north along the coast, it’s just past the cemetery.
The best time to take photos is in the morning, when the sun lights up the statues, or in the evening, when it sets right behind them.