When I was planning the Easter Island trip I found that the resources online were, shall I say, less than completely useful. Before I left I shared tips about how to plan a trip there using miles. Today I thought I’d pass along some additional logistical odds and ends.
The only flight gateways to Easter Island are Tahiti (which I didn’t fly through) and Santiago (which I did). Santiago – Easter Island is a domestic flight, so you will clear customs after landing in Santiago. The bad news for business class passengers is that the lounge in Santiago is accessible for passengers departing on international flights. What’s that mean? It means that you won’t be getting a shower when you land in Santiago.
The Santiago airport has an international and domestic wing. The Easter Island flights are boarded at a gate that straddles both the international and domestic terminals.
There is no lounge at Easter Island either, but we did see wild horses playing in the parking lot.
The big question (other than whether you should bother going) is for how many days you should go. Let’s start with that one. If you’re a huge history buff, you could spend 5-7 days on the island (if not more, frankly). There are hundreds of Moai (the statues) all over the island, and, again, if you are into the history (which, admittedly, is fascinating) you will have ample opportunity to view many of the important sites strewn about the island.
If you have a mild interest in history, you will be able to accomplish what you’d like in a 3-night trip. This will present you with plenty of time to see key sites and allow for some important hanging around time. 3 nights would probably have sufficed for us (Susan may say that 0 nights would have sufficed and that 5 nights in St. Bart’s would have been better. Neither answer is wrong).
What you give up in 3 nights (rather than a 5-7 night trip) is getting into the rhythm of the place. It’s a Polynesian island and offers a laidback, friendly attitude that can be experienced with a beer watching the waves roll in in town. It is not, however, Hawaii. Or Tahiti. There are two sandy beaches. Only two. And they are not exactly Waikiki. Which was fine for me – no one else was there, and we were surrounded by the ubiquitous wild horses, and I found it to be relaxing and different. My wife didn’t really see it that way. You (or your spouse) may feel similarly.
The big question is really whether you would be happy going at all: There seem to be three camps:
1) It’s just a bunch of statues. Please don’t make me fly that far for a bunch of statues.
2) It’s a bunch of statues, but I’d like to see them because they are part of the world’s most interesting history. 3-nights will suffice.
3) It’s one of the world’s great archeological discoveries and when you combine that with an off-the-beaten path locale, you could get lost there easily for a week.
None of those, obviously, is correct (or incorrect). To be frank, I was able to appreciate the place and the speed of it more than my wife. I was moved by the idea that this civilization spent an unspeakable amount of time and effort to carve these statues using only the most primitive of means. That’s fine (well, not exactly fine as this was supposed to be a trip for her birthday), but I’m guessing that is a common reaction – one of the two of you may feel much differently about it than the other person. That can be, as my wife says, a chafe, as you’ve flown way the hell out there. Which is why I make this recommendation: Combine it either with a trip to Patagonia or a trip to Tahiti. Most of the people at the hotel had combined it with a trip to one of those places (we were more jealous of the folks going to Tahiti). LAN flights from Santiago continue on to Tahiti several days a week, making the stopover quite easy.
Our trip was sidelined a bit by absolutely miserable weather. Biblical rains washed us out the first few days and we felt a bit trapped. Guidebooks generally suggest that October is among the best times to visit. This was probably true several years ago. Because of changing weather patterns October, which used to be warm and dry, is now part of the rainy season. That’s a bummer. Going from site to site would be wonderful in the 80-degree climes found in December – February. The chilly, rainy weather we found (and which locals told us has now become normal during that time of year) is not conducive to sightseeting (to be fair, no vacation benefits from several days of rain).
The Explora (which is where we stayed thanks to the TweetYourTrip.com contest we won) is insanely expensive ($1500/night) but the only very nice option on the island. The Hotel Tauraa and Hotel Otai are apparently OK 2-3 star choices, but if “somewhat rustic” is not your thing, the Explora is your only option. And you’ll be shelling out decent bucks for it.
As Susan said to me on the last day, when (like us) you are trying to go to some more interesting vacation spots, not every one is going to be a winner. I felt Easter Island was a risk worth taking. In the end, I’m not 100% sure. But before you go, think about what’s important to you in a vacation – it’s a very long trip to find yourself disappointed.