Many travelers dream of knowing Easter Island, one of the most fascinating and remote territories in the world, and when planning a long-awaited trip they want to know what is the best time to visit it.
Although the visit to Rapa Nui is always magical at any time, without a doubt the best date of the year to do so is during the celebration of the Tapati Rapa Nui. This festival, which is the most important cultural event on the island and one of the most outstanding in Polynesia, begins on the last weekend of January and ends on the second weekend of February.
Read more about the Tapati Rapa Nui
The visit to Easter Island during these holidays is very special, because you have the opportunity to relive the ancient ancestral traditions and share with the islanders the pride of the Rapanui ethnic group.
Below we offer a series of tips and suggestions to make your trip to Easter Island during Tapati perfect.
1. Buy the airline tickets several months before
The only airline that flies to Easter Island is Latam, and usually only one plane arrives a day. During the high season from November to March, the frequency rises to two planes daily. Due to the limited number of places available, the prices to travel during the Tapati rise considerably.
We advise you to book your flight to Easter Island well in advance, since the demand for these dates is very high and the cost of the tickets can triple. The ideal is to buy the tickets at least six months before to avoid problems although the most cautious do so up to one year in advance.
2. Book your accommodation in advance
Similarly, we suggest you book your accommodation as soon as possible. The offer of rooms on the island is not very large and the availability of them during the Tapati celebration is even lower and at very high prices. Save money and gain peace of mind by booking with time.
If you also book through our website through Booking.com you will get the best prices and you will be collaborating with the Toki NGO School of Music and Arts whose purpose is to protect and spread the Rapanui culture among the youngest.
3. Spend at least one week to visit the island during the Tapati Rapa Nui
Although there are people who say that with three days is enough, we always advise a minimum stay of one week to get to know Easter Island properly. There is much to see apart from the famous moai statues. Incredible volcanoes, mysterious caves, paradisiacal beaches and unforgettable sunset await the visitor. If we also add the great attraction of contemplating the ancestral skills and artistic presentations of the Tapati festival, that period of time may be somewhat short.
The ideal would be to be able to stay from the beginning to the end of the festival, in order to experience the different events of the festival, but we understand that many travelers do not have two weeks off or cannot afford it. In that case, we advise you to carefully study the program of activities so that the trip coincides with the competitions and shows you want to attend.
In this way, an agenda that includes visiting the must-see attractions, carrying out some of the various activities and contemplating the events of the Tapati that have been chosen to enjoy an intense and unforgettable vacation can be prepared.
4. Choose your transport in time
During the Tapati festivities, more than 3000 tourists arrive on the island, which means a considerable increase in people, if we take into account that only about 6000 inhabitants usually live in Rapa Nui.
Although the island is not very large, this extra number of visits does not entail a special feeling of overwhelm, as in other festive events where you can not take a step. Except in the most relevant competitions, the day of the curanto in Anakena, the nightly performances of Hanga Vare Vare and the great final parade, there are hardly any crowds of people.
In fact, you can admire some of the ahu or ceremonial platforms without any company, to the point of wondering where are the people? However, although sometimes they are not seen, tourists are there, and a not very pleasant way to realize it is when looking for a vehicle to move around.
Although you can walk to most of the events of the Tapati as they are held in Hanga Roa and nearby, it is convenient to reserve in advance the transport that will be used to see the farthest competitions.
Read about getting around Easter Island
To watch the horse races in Vaihu, the community curanto on Anakena beach, and the Haka Pei on the Pu’i hill, it is necessary to reserve a car, motorcycle, quad or bicycle in advance because in those days it is difficult to find one free. You can also coordinate with a taxi to take you and pick you up from these places.
5. Get ready for unpredictable weather
The celebration of the Tapati Rapa Nui takes place in the middle of the southern summer that goes from December 21st to March 21st. During this time temperatures are usually high with maximums that can reach 30ºC. But due to the high relative humidity the warmth sensation increases.
However, due to the typical variable weather of the subtropical climate of the island, it is not uncommon for short but intense storms and downpours. These rains help to cool the atmosphere although sometimes spoil the festival celebrations, dazzling the shows and forcing to cancel or delay some tests.
We advise to be prepared for both scenarios. Cap or hat, light clothing and sunscreen are highly recommended, especially during competitions that take place over several hours outdoors or if you are going to enjoy the beach. On the other hand, it is convenient to carry a light raincoat or a small umbrella by hand to be prevented from possible showers, as well as a protective case for the backpack and camera.
6. You will have no problems eating during the Tapati Rapa Nui
The weather is unpredictable on Easter Island, but if something can be guaranteed to the visitor to come to Tapati, is you will not be hungry. Some tourists, especially continental Chileans, usually bring their own food from Santiago to adjust their budget. And although we understand the reasons, we think that one of the most important reasons to travel is to know the culture and way of life of the destination. Gastronomy is part of that culture, and if there are foods as appetizing as ceviche, tuna patties or delicious local pineapples, it is almost a must to try them.
For this there is a good variety of restaurants and cafes that prepare both traditional and international dishes. During the celebration of the Tapati, the gastronomic offer is further expanded. In Haga Vare Vare, the Hare Mauku are installed, some kiosks that serve casual food, perfect to liven up the wait for the evening performances with the refreshing Mahina and Taina local beers.
More provisional positions are also installed in Vaihu, stage of horse racing and at the base of the Pu’i hill where the Haka Pei takes place, where you can find chicken or pork skewers, local pineapples or pieces of watermelon.
Every year a community gathering takes place during the Tapati in which the islanders invite all visitors to a huge curanto on Anakena beach. After several hours cooking underground, and after the blessing of the local parish priest, pieces of meat, local tubers such as sweet potatoes and watermelon slices are served. Diners are advised to bring plates and cutlery, although when this is not possible banana leafs can serve as natural dishes.
Also under the palm trees of Anakena there are several permanent food kiosks where you can taste the typical products while enjoying a relaxing day at the beach.
7. Arrive in time for competition venues and be patient with the pace of the tests
We advise arriving in advance to the places where the competitions are held. The two major sporting events that generate more expectation are the Tau’a or Triathlon Rapa Nui and the Haka Pei on the Pu’i hill. Due to the sudden increase in people in such a small space, traffic jams are sometimes created in the access roads and it is difficult to park the vehicle.
The artistic performances that take place every night at Hanga Vare Vare are highly anticipated, especially the vibrant ensemble performances, the Takona competitions and the candidates’ traditional costumes contest. For this reason the seats available next to the stage are never enough for so much public. So it is best to check the program and take place, at least half an hour before the show begins.
Many tourists and visitors who come to the island to see the Tapati are accustomed to the rush of big cities and sometimes get impatient with the organization or waiting times between each test. Do not forget that Tapati is a local cultural celebration, prepared and designed by and for the Rapanui people. It is not a commercial show or a Broadway production.
The resources to carry it out are limited and the islanders spend a lot of time and energy throughout the year to organize and share it with outsiders. So if there is any delay or small inconvenience, respect its rhythm, relax, observe, learn and enjoy a unique festival in one of the most isolated places on the planet.
8. Take a typical souvenir
The offer of Rapa Nui crafts and souvenirs that can be purchased on Easter Island, is very varied and ranges from cheap necklaces or key chains, to real works of art made of stone and wood whose value can reach several thousand dollars.
Most shops are in Atamu Tekena, the main street and in Te Pito or Te Henua, the street that goes from the Santa Cruz Church to the coast. In almost all of them you can find the typical Polynesian shirts and pareos, as well as reproductions of small moais and other pieces of crafts. The largest place that offers the greatest variety is the Artisan Market, on the left side of the church. They also sell handicrafts at the Agricultural and Craft Fair located on the main street of Hanga Roa.
During the two weeks that the festival lasts, the circulation of vehicles is cut in a section of Policarpo Toro street to install the Tapati fair. In this long row of stalls located in front of the Hanga Roa Otai cove, you can also find many interesting souvenirs and local products such as jams or the delicious po’e, a typical cake of the island.
9. Follow the Tapati on your phone
Download our app on your smartphone and you can easily consult the Tapati program, the schedules and the places where the tests and shows take place. We explain to you what the most important skills consist of so you don’t miss anything.
Also in the application for mobile phones you can find information about the history, culture, the main archaeological sites, natural attractions, and all the activities you can do on the island.
10. Participate in a unique festival in the world
If you have enough time, you can register more than one month in advance to participate in one of the two family clans of the Tapati. That way you can rehearse intensely to intervene in the colorful dance and singing ensembles that are presented on the main stage. It is a unique way of living and sharing with the families the island way of life.
For most who do not have the necessary time, there is a special occasion that cannot be missed. This is the grand parade that is celebrated on the penultimate day and to which everyone is invited.
And even if you only participate as a mere spectator, remember that the Tapati festival is a unique celebration in which all the tradition, effort, culture and music of the Rapanui people emerges to revive and preserve the history of this magical place.