Anakena, a paradisiac beach
Anakena, a paradisiac beach
Anakena, which is the main beach on Easter Island, represents the typical picture that we all have when we think of a paradisiacal beach. Its white and fine coral sand, crystalline turquoise sea, calm waves and coconut palms (brought from Tahiti several decades ago) make it an ideal place for rest and leisure.
Anakena beach invites to bathe at any time of the year, as the water temperature is maintained at an average of a pleasant 20ºC, with small variations in summer and winter.
Anakena is still a pretty unspoiled beach, with few swimmers, especially during the morning (organized tours usually arrive in the afternoon) or in the low season, which allows, sometimes, to enjoy alone this small, remote and beautiful paradise.
Anakena, origin of Rapanui culture
Anakena is not just an idyllic beach. This place is considered the cradle of history and culture of Easter Island. It was here that the first king of the island, the Ariki Hotu Matu’a, landed with his men and established the first populated center that gave birth to the Rapa Nui culture.
>> Read more about Hotu Matu’a and the seven explorers
Actually the real name of the beach and the small bay is Hanga Mori o One, also called Hanga Rau Ariki or Kings Bay, in honor of the first founder. The name by which the beach is actually known comes from a nearby cave where it seems that Hotu Matu’a could have been installed while building a house for him. A possible meaning of Anakena could be cave (“ana” in rapanui language) of kena, an autochthonous name by which the masked booby (Sula dactylatra) is known, a sea bird that still nests in the island.
Over time, Anakena became an important nucleus of population throughout history, home of the royal Miru tribe and meeting place of the masters of the ancient Rongo Rongo writing.
The archaeological complex of Anakena
Nowadays important archaeological sites can be observed in Anakena, witnesses of the great cultural, social and religious development that there was here. The oldest remains date from about 1200 AD. And they are constituted by ceremonial centers on and under the surface, habitations sites and other vestiges of primordial relevance to understand the past of the island.
In Anakena, as in other important villages of the island, several ahus or ceremonial platforms were built. Today only two of them are distinguished.
Ahu Ature Huki
On the right side of the large square overlooking the sea, at the foot of Mount Maunga Hau Epa, is the Ahu Ature Huki. There is a single moai statue that was the first to be raised on the island in modern times. The idea came from the famous Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who related his stay on the island in 1956 in his book “Aku Aku”, encouraged several islanders to raise the statue to test their theories.
For this task a dozen men, wooden poles, stones and ropes were needed. They were gradually lifting the gigantic statue over a cluster of stones by levering the timbers until they could settle it in its place after eighteen days of effort.
Ahu Nau Nau
The most imposing platform and dominating the center of the landscape is the Ahu Nau Nau. His seven moais, again erected after the restoration made by the team of Sergio Rapu in 1978, stand out for the fineness of his features and details engraved on his back. It is one of the island’s best-preserved platforms because they remained hidden under the sand when they were felled, which protected them from weather conditions.
>> Read more about Ahu Nau Nau
Great discoveries in Anakena
Apart from the ahu and moai that can be seen in situ, Anakena gave two extraordinary objects to the research community. The first was found during the excavation work carried out during the Heyerdahl expedition. It is a female moai, one of the few that have been found on the island and whose elongated shape differs rather from the “typical” classic image of a moai.
The second object is a white coral eye with red scum pupil found under the sand in 1978. It was the first time an original moai eye was found. It is believed that the placement of the eyes on the statues returned the mana or spiritual power of the ancestors to the inert matter.
Currently these two important remains can be observed in the collection of the anthropological museum of Easter Island.
>> Read more about Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum
Things to do in Anakena
Sunbathing on the fine sand and taking a swim while watching the centuries-old stone giants, which seem to monitor our rest, is a unique and overwhelming sensation. How much history is breathed in this magical place!
The shore with hardly any waves is ideal for bathing children and adults. The transparency of the sea and incredible levels of luminosity allow you to distinguish colored fish with the naked eye and even touch them with your hand.
The marine fauna is best seen even under the water with the help of glasses and tube that can be rented at the kiosk where the baths are, or better yet with a complete diving equipment like the one offered by the scuba diving agencies of the island.
Other options include shore fishing, deep sea fishing or kayaking. For lovers of photography it is convenient to know that the best light is obtained in the morning, although the lighting of the moai statues changes according to the months.
Where to eat in Anakena
Anakena Beach has a fantastic picnic area under the exotic palm trees, which makes it perfect for enjoying a relaxing day in an incomparable setting. There is another small picnic spot on the far right of the beach under the bushes.
There are also small kiosks attended by Rapanui families, with some tables and benches under the shade, where you can taste a cheese or tuna patty, different types of skewers and local fish dishes accompanied by the refreshing local Mahina beer.
Curanto in Anakena during the Tapati Festival
One of the most crowded and lively days of Anakena is the day that takes place during the annual Tapati Rapa Nui celebration in the first half of February.
>> Read more about the Tapati Festival
On that day the entire Rapanui community invites visitors to share an enormous curanto, which after buried for several hours to cook the meat and vegetables, is blessed by the local parish priest and distributed free of charge among the attendees.
There is a great festive atmosphere, enlivened by groups of traditional music, craft stalls and meetings of family and friends. After the agape, some choose the shade of a palm tree to rest and take a nap, and others go to the shore of the beach to sunbathe and cool under the waves.
Services, shopping and information
In Anakena there is a large parking lot where you can park your car, motorbike or bicycle, public toilets (access costs $ 500 or US $ 1) where beach toys for children, pareos and cigarettes are also sold, and some stalls selling handicrafts and souvenirs.
Recently a checkpoint with information of the Rapa Nui National Park has been placed at the entrance .
Where to sleep in Anakena
All Easter Island hotels and cabins are located in Hanga Roa, too far for those who want to see the sunrise here. On the other hand, free camping is forbidden on the island but travelers who want to spend the night and observe the stars in this little paradise are in luck.
In front of Anakena beach, the new Ana Tekena campsite has recently been set up, which is born with the aim of being sustainable and respectful of the environment, a basic and necessary aspect of the fragile ecosystem of the island. For guests who do not have a vehicle they offer a transfer service from Hanga Roa.
>> Read more about the Camping Ana Tekena
How to get to the beach Anakena
Getting to the beach is very simple. Anakena is located 18 kilometers northeast of Hanga Roa. By car it is approximately 20 minutes from Hanga Roa if you follow the only road that crosses the island. Another much slower option is to take the coast road, which is in worse condition, in exchange for enjoying the scenery and having the possibility of stopping at the archaeological landmarks of the road.
It is also possible to go by taxi for about 14,000 pesos (about US $ 30). In this case it is necessary to coordinate previously with the taxi driver at what time he should pick you up, since there is no mobile phone coverage in the area and it would be impossible to contact him after he has left.
Other transportation options
Another quite recommendable option is to go cycling. It is possible to rent bikes in Hanga Roa where they also provide clients with maps and everything necessary for their rides.
The one-way trip takes approximately one and a half hours and it is best to take the same road that crosses the island, since the last part is a fairly steep and pleasant descent.
Back, it is best to take the coast road because otherwise that descent becomes a very demanding climb. Although the coast road is longer (approximately 2 and a half hours) it offers the possibility of enjoying the sea breeze and the view of the cliffs during the whole trip. In addition it can be stopped in most of the archaeological sites of the Island found on this side of the coast.
The stretch between Anakena and Ahu Tongariki is not in very good condition, but from there the whole road is paved. There are very few vehicles on the island so traffic will not be a problem.
The new Ara Moai tour bus that runs through the main sites of interest on the island also offers a pick up service in Anakena in the afternoon.
>> Read more about Ara Moai Bus
The protection offered by the small bay of Anakena makes some sailboats and pleasure boats choose this place as anchorage. So it is also possible to arrive by sea.