Easter Island hiking is a great experience. The island is a fantastic place for hiking lovers, and certainly they will enjoy so much. Thanks to its special geography, with no much steep field, but with some ups and downs that make it more attractive, the island offers a number of trails that allow you to visit the main tourist attractions walking and, in many cases, enjoying wonderful views of the cliffs and the sound of the ocean.
Hiking on Easter Island is one of the most advisable experiences, because allowing for a moment, feel the island like felt the Rapanui people in ancient times, appreciating their enormous isolation. Some trails as the road up to the Poike volcano, allows access to places rarely visited and discover archaeological remains that few people know.
While many of the routes can be do safely independently, there are some for which it is advisable to go with a guide, because this may be the only way to find petroglyphs, caves, archaeological remains and cave paintings that are quite hidden. On the island there are several local companies and native guides who organize trips of different requirement levels and duration, although the vast majority are generally easy or medium difficulty (especially due to length). In any case, when choosing the route is important not only to consider what you want to see but also the physical condition itself and climatic conditions of the moment.
And of course, it is very important to remember that for a comfortable and safe hiking, it is necessary to have suitable footwear, many roads are dirt and stone and mud can be if has been rained. It is also very important to take the amount of water needed for the whole voyage, because once that is out of Hanga Roa there are no places to buy anything. Nor should we forget the sunscreen and a hat or cap to provide some shade and a raincoat or waterproof layer if there is a risk of rain. Given all these details, hiking on Easter Island is certainly a beautiful experience.
Suggested hiking routes
There are several hiking routes that you can do in Easter Island independently and safely. For them prior training is not required, although it is always important to be in good physical condition and be aware of our capabilities.
Here are some suggested hiking routes, indicating their degree of difficulty and length. In all cases we must not forget that it is best to wear suitable clothing and footwear for walking through dirt and stones trails and remember that in some cases we can find stretches of mud. Before starting any of these routes, it is essential to make sure to bring enough water and some energy food as chocolate or nuts and adequate sun protection.
Given these simple recommendations, the tour of any of these suggested hiking routes, will certainly be a rewarding experience.
Hanga Roa – Rano Kau (2 hours, 5 km, easy)
The path to Rano Kau viewpoint
The route starts on the coast at the Tourism Office in Hanga Roa. Heading south, you’ll pass by the Coast Guard headquarters. On its side wall you’ll see a compass rose indicating the distance between Easter Island and the major cities worldwide. Further on and always along the coast, you’ll pass Hanga Piko and reach the Ana Kai Tangata cave, characterized by its cave paintings.
View of Mataveri and Hanga Roa
A few meters ahead, once you pass the CONAF offices, the trail leaves the coast and starts climbing the slopes of the Rano Kau volcano. A sign marks the beginning of the ascending route. The trail offers spectacular views of Hanga Roa and the Mataveri airport. About an hour later it will reach the volcano’s viewpoint. Following the small path to the right is the ceremonial village of Orongo.
Rano Kau Viewpoint – Vai Atare (2 hours, 3,5 km, easy)
View of Rano Kau crater from the viewpoint
It can be an extension of the route that ascends to Rano Kau, or it can be hiked separately if you reach the viewpoint by car.
The hike will follow the small trail that borders the volcano on the left to the end of the peninsula, where you’ll find some markings in the stones that indicate it’s prohibited to continue. Erosion has made the terrain that follows very unstable, and it’s dangerous to continue on or try to descend.
View of the edge of the crater and the motus
This trail offers the chance to see the crater from different angles, spot the coastal motus through Kari Kari (the “bitten” part of the crater) and cliffs where the participants of the Birdman Competition would climb down, and appreciate head on the amazing site of Orongo.
Ahu Akivi – Terevaka (4 hours, 8 km, medium difficulty)
Beginning of the ascent to Terevaka
You can reach the starting point by car or bike. You can also take a taxi in Hanga Roa and arrange for the taxi driver to come pick you up at a certain time when you’ve finished. Once at the Ahu Akivi parking lot, you’ll have to go back 50 meters to a National Park sign that indicates the beginning of the trail.
The only two ways to hike this route are on foot or horseback. Trying to go up by bike is dangerous as the terrain can get very rocky in certain places. Though there are no signs, the route is easy to follow and the trails left behind by the horses are also good indicators. Either way, you must always go upwards and it’s difficult to get lost.
The summit of Terevaka
The highest part of Terevaka is marked by a mound of stones crowned by a horse jaw. From these small peaks, some unique views can be obtained.
Tahai-Anakena (6 a 7 hours, 18 km, medium difficulty)
Tahai, starting point of the route
The northern coast hike is a very recommended experience on Easter Island for those who want to enjoy the island in its purest state. There are no roads or infrastructure, so the area remains as it was centuries ago.
It’s an all-day outing and its duration will depend on the time you take enjoying and taking in the archeological remains scattered on this side of the coast. What you must keep in mind is that many of them are not easy to find, so hiking this trail accompanied by a local guide is a good idea. That way you’ll better enjoy and get the most out of this route.
The suggested route starts from Tahai and follows the coast to Ana Kakenga, or “the cave of two windows”. A little more than one kilometer ahead is Ahu Te Peu, where the trail that borders Terevakaby the northern coast begins. Following the trail for another 1.2 km, you’ll find the remains of the Ahu Maikati Te Moa, and Ahu Vai Mata another 3 kilometers away.
Approximately at the 13 kilometer mark is the Hanga Oteo bay; and from there, the route ends at the fantastic Anakena beach 5km ahead. Some archeological remains can also be seen on this stretch of the trip.
Though it’s true that in some parts of the route the trail is not easy to make out, you only need to continue forward keeping close to the coast.
You’ll only have access to food, drinks and services once you reach Anakena, so it’s important to take enough water with you and something to protect you from the sun as there is practically no shade.
It’s a good idea to make arrangements with a taxi before leaving Hanga Roa so that it’ll pick you up on the beach at the end of the outing. You can also do this route in the opposite direction, arriving by taxi at Anakena and ending up in the town.
Poike (5 hours, 11 km, medium difficulty)
Vehicular access to the Poike volcano area was banned in 2005, and since that time very few visitors visit this end of the island. However, while its archaeological remains are not abundant, it offers many interesting sites besides the majestic landscape and whimsical lava cliffs formed on this side of the sea.
Follow the coastal road and take a dirt road to the right until you reach a small cabin. Here you can leave your car without problems to start the tour (you may have to ask the cabin’s inhabitants for the key to the gate).
Vai a Heva
Among the major archaeological remains on this route is Vai a Heva, a rock carved into the shape of a human face used to collect rainwater; Ana o Keke, also known as “the Cave of the Virgins”, which it’s said that certain young women were detained to whiten their skin; and some ahu and moai remains. However, most of these sites are not easy to identify, so the company of a local guide who knows the area well is essential.