Forget the Caribbean. Easter Island Is the Latest Hot-Spot for Luxury Travel.
New hotel openings, adventurous expeditions, convenient flights, and a thriving foodie scene are renewing interest into the mysterious, isolated isle.
Published on October 17, 2023
Photo by Harold Horta / Abercrombie & Kent Picture Library
Nearly 1,000 mysterious, monolithic moai statues have been drawing visitors to Easter Island—a 63-square-mile speck in the ocean, 2,100 miles from continental Chile—for more than a century. Whether you’re watching the rolling waves behind the Tongariki or standing on Rano Kau, a volcanic crater lined with greenery and gathering pools of clear water overlooking the Pacific, Easter Island has a lot to explore, even beyond the moai. The scenery, landscapes, history, and sense of community all play an important role. But getting and staying there was rarely a luxury experience.
Easter Island is generally a brief stop on a world cruise itinerary, covering many other destinations. LATAM Airlines has daily flights from Santiago to Easter Island during their busy season. But increasingly private jets are landing at the Mataveri Airport—and that means their passengers need swish spots to stay and fresh ways to play.
Last year, Nayara Hangaroa opened on the island. Each room at the new five-star property is unique. The Kainga room (also known as Earth) has a spacious, open layout with beautiful floor to ceiling windows, flooding the room with natural light. The Villas have special touches like a soaking tub made from clay by an artisan from Pichilemu. There’s Wi-Fi (which can be rare to find on the island), twice a day housekeeping, and terraces to take in the view. The restaurants and bars at Nayara Hangaroa (Poevara, Kaloa, and Vaikoa Bar) celebrate local, sustainable foods, supporting farmers in the community. Its Manavai Spa has treatments like bamboo therapy, hot stone massages, body scrubs, and more in addition to a Jacuzzi and a sauna. More importantly, the resort offers private excursions and entrance to the Rapa Nui National Park (which is why you’re here). Rates range from $1,040 to $2,370 per night, depending on the season.
“Easter Island is a perfect destination for luxury vacations,” said Riva Bacquet, managing director of SA Expeditions, which specializes in high-end Easter Island itineraries. “Not only does it have mysterious ruins, jaw-dropping landscapes, and fascinating culture, but it also boasts magnificently elegant all-inclusive lodges that provide top notch luxury service and unique architectural design that go hand in hand with the enigmatic nature of this breathtaking place.”
But Nayara Hangaroa isn’t the island’s first five-star affair. Explora Rapa Nui offers 30 rooms, in Isla de Pascua, a close distance to the town center with plenty of restaurants, shops, and bars. The lodge provides privacy and a peaceful setting surrounded by nature and views of the ocean. Explora offers guests a local dining experience, accompanied with quality Chilean wine pairings. The hotel also offers its guests 34 unique expeditions, including hiking, biking, overland explorations, and scuba diving. Rates range from $2,340 for three nights to $5,789 for two nights depending on the season.
“Easter Island offers much more than gigantic and mystic stone statues,” said Explora’s CEO, Gonzalo Undurraga. “It’s a must for history and archeology lovers, but the island boasts volcanoes, white sandy beaches, green prairies, and steep cliffs.”
After getting settled into the hotel, meet up with your local guide to explore some of the historical sites around the island. Set up your towel on the white coral sand of Anakena Beach, to take a dip in the ocean before walking over to the stretch of seven moai statues at Ahu Nao-Nao, some dating back to 1250. Stop at Ahu Akivi to see seven moai figures pointed toward the ocean, all the same size and similar shape.
The island’s vibrant local food scene is also a rarely sung highlight. While unpretentious, places like Rano Cafe, with fresh tuna ceviche, and Panaderia Y Pasteleria Hitu, might not look like much from the outside, but the scent of freshly fried empanadas stuffed with everything from chicken to octopus will suck you right in. If you’re looking for something more upscale outside your resort, dinner in town comes with a view at Te Moai Sunset. For traditional Polynesian cuisine—with an ocean view in the background, of course—Neptune’s Island is the go-to.
“Despite its remote location in the Pacific, Easter Island is a magical destination for a luxurious escape,” said Riva Bacquet, Managing Director of SA Expeditions. “It offers high-end accommodations with top-notch amenities, fine dining, spa services, and exclusive private tours with expert local guides to explore the island’s natural beauty and fascinating moai statues.”