The Caves of Rapa Nui
Rapa Nui, built on a volcanic island, is naturally riddled with lava tube caves used throughout history for different purposes. The most famous of these is Ana Kai Tangata, just west of Hanga Roa, where you can still see the remains of ancient paintings on the ceiling. The remaining paintings seem to be part of an elaborate frieze. On the floor nearby is another painting, more modern and less faded. Other caves include Ana Te Pahu, the Cave of Rooms, the largest of the caves that is really a connected series of smaller 'rooms'. Legend has it that islanders used to hide in Ana Te Pahu from slavers.
The only city on Rapa Nui, Hanga Roa, is both port and airport and the center of population, with most of the island's 3,000 people living here. About a dozen hotels and bed and breakfasts, a handful of restaurants, a grocery store, and many small shops, including Internet cafes.
Tahai Architectural Complex
The Tahai Architectural Complex is among the best-restored sites on the island. Its attractions include three ahu stone altars/pedestals that served as pedestals for the Moai.
Museo Antropológico Sebastián Englert3
The Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum is located just west of Hanga Roa. Named for a priest who spent most of his life on Rapa Nui, the museum features a rotating display of maps, artifacts, and information about the Moai and Easter Island.
Mercado Artesanal (Artisan's Market)
Located near the church on Tu'u Koihu street is the Artisan's Market. While there are many small tourist shops in Hanga Roa that sell souvenirs, t-shirts, and the like, the Mercado houses many of the native artists and artisans selling their sculptures and other handicrafts. Most sell items created specifically for the tourist trade, and the prices vary from merchant to merchant and with the complexity and artistry of the piece. Unlike the souvenirs found in hotel gift shops, however, you may be able to bargain down a price at the Mercado.
One of two sandy beaches on Rapa Nui, Anakena Beach is a Polynesian paradise, complete with palm trees, golden sand, and sparkling water. It is also the only place approved for camping on the island. The amenities at Anakena Beach include changing rooms, picnic facilities, and bathrooms. Nearby is a smaller beach, Ovahe, which offers both delightful swimming and excellent snorkeling. There are also three ahu at Anakena Beach, withstanding Moai in varying states of repair.
One of three extinct volcanoes on the island, Rano Kau is a spectacular sight. The mile-wide crater is packed with over 100 small lakes, and the spectacular view is worth the trek to the lip of the volcano's bowl.
The volcanic bowl of Ranu Raraku is the birthplace of the Moai. There are 394 Moai at Rano Raraku, many of them still half-carved and attached to the rock that birthed them. To reach those statues, though, you'll have to hike up the trail along the outside wall of the volcano bowl, and inside the bowl, the paths may be overgrown and difficult to navigate.
This is only a small sampling of the sites and activities that seduce travelers to Easter Island. According to the guidebook published by the Easter Island Foundation, there are over 15,000 archaeological sites, nearly 1,000 statues, thousands of petroglyphs, beautiful beaches with outstanding snorkeling, excellent swimming, and good surfing, caves to explore, horseback riding, over 100 hotels, and pensiones and four discos where the party animals among visitors can dance until the sun rises. The typical three-day tour offered by the travel agencies warns the guide, is never enough to see all that you'll want to see.