Easter Island is a fascinating and special place for me. While on average, a typical visitor spends two nights on Easter Island, I stayed for eight. I don’t think I’ve had a better time in my life. While developing a post on Highlights of Easter Island, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the other unusual things to do on Easter Island.
Here are some of them.
Unofficial Easter Island passport stamp
Since you’ll most likely enter Easter Island from Santiago, Chile, you’ll clear passport and immigration control prior to your Easter Island flight. Other people fly from Tahiti and get the official Chilean passport stamp on Easter Island.
Don’t expect a unique stamp from Chilean immigration though. It is the same design as the regular Chilean stamp in your passport. It simply includes the words “Isla de Pascua”.
If you are looking for the unofficial passport stamp from Easter Island, you can get it from two different sources – the post office and the Rano Raraku site office.
The Post Office on Easter Island
Yes, this is the Easter Island Post Office – the only one on the island. While buying stamps or sending postcards, you’ll see a passport stamp station at the counter. It is donation-based, so you can put the moai stamp on anything you want.
After doing that, consider leaving a donation for the upkeep of the station.
Rano Raraku Quarry Office
Rano Raraku quarry is the birth place of all of the moai. When landing at Easter Island airport, you have to purchase a separate ticket to enter Rapa Nui National Park.
At the entrance to Rano Raraku, they’ll stamp your ticket. Many visitors also opt to stamp their passports with this official stamp, which has a cool design.
Collect the Souvenir Easter Island Stamp
Hey stamp collectors! While you are sending your postcards from the post office on Easter Island, you can also buy the official Easter Island souvenir sheet. Chilean Post issues this stamp back in 1984 to honor the Centenary of the island’s discovery.
But hurry! They told me that these souvenir sheets are limited and they won’t replenish them.
Once they’re gone, they’re gone. I’ll update this post if I hear of them running out.
I like to keep a travel journal to document my experiences. This souvenir sheet is now part of my Easter Island travel journal.
Read my post – Travel Journals – 11 Unique Ways to Make Them More Memorable
Adopt a Letter to the Easter Bunny
Every year, thousands of letters addressed to the Easter Bunny arrive at the Easter Island post office. (Because, you know, a rabbit who passes out chocolate to kids around the world OBVIOUSLY lives on one of the most remote islands on the planet!!)
You can read more about this in Letters to the Easter Bunny. You can actually adopt one of these letter and respond to a child. Adopting a letter to the Easter Bunny is definitely one of the more unusual things to do on Easter Island.
Stargazing on Easter Island
Rapa Nui is a very isolated island. So there is not much light pollution here. Where would it come from? No matter where you are on the island at night, you can always look up and be amazed at how many bright stars and planets you can spot!
If you’re an amateur astronomer, it’s worth learning a bit about the stars in the southern sky before you visit Easter Island. You can easily spot the Southern Cross, which is one of the most recognizable star formations you can see on Easter Island.
Scuba Diving on Easter Island
If you’re a scuba diver, you’re in for a treat! Although there’s not really an extensive coral system, and not much life to see here, I’d still highly recommend getting a couple of dives in here.
It might be hard to believe, but Easter Island Scuba Diving is definitely one of my favorite scuba diving experiences. The water there is some of the clearest and the bluest I’ve ever seen. This is because of the lack of pollution and development. The volcanic activity that shapes the island also affects the landscape beyond the surface, with many lava tubes, caves, and unique rock formations.
Jacques Cousteau dove here when his expedition decided to explore the island back in late 1970s.
Even better, you’ll come face-to-face with one of the hidden moais of Easter Island! Touching this moai is one of the most unusual things to do on Easter Island.
Read more about Scuba Diving on Easter Island
Participate in an Easter Island Sports Event
There are a few international sporting events that happen on Easter Island. They include the Easter Island Triathlon, a mountain biking competition, and the exclusive Easter Island Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10k.
As a part of my life goal to run seven marathons on seven continents, I chose to run my South American marathon here on Easter Island. It amazed me to see the enormous Moai statues scattered about the island.
While I wouldn’t say this is one of the most unusual things to do on Easter Island, it is definitely one of the most unique and will give you a whole new perspective on this historic place.
Want to know more? Here is my experience running the Easter Island Marathon.
Worship at a Catholic Polynesian Mass
Like almost everything else here, there is only one church on Easter Island. Not surprisingly, it’s Catholic. That said, everyone can join in. It is definitely worth your time to attend a weekly Sunday Mass where almost everybody on the island congregates.
Although the priest conducts the 9am Sunday mass in Spanish, they sing all of the songs in the beautiful, traditional Rapanui language. But don’t worry! They have a slide with the lyrics projected onto the wall. It’s kind of strange that you can almost sing along immediately.
Simple music is accompanied by guitar and percussion. Attending this Mass will likely be the only time you’ll hear the spoken Rapanui language.
The priest wears the traditional Rapanui feather headdress, and is happy to take pictures with visitors after mass. Inside the church, you can find a blend of modern Catholic art and traditional Rapanui beliefs. The statues and architectural details are great example of this.
Bigger Catholic celebrations, such as Christmas, Palm Sunday, or Easter also involve traditional dances and parades.
Hike the Lava Tube and Windows
The northern part of the capital, Hanga Roa, is an area many visitors decide to skip. There are hundreds of ahus and moais scattered on the ground, all waiting to be restored. The woman at the visitor’s center warned me to be careful on the hike to the lava tube, as there is not much signage.
It’s also a strenuous hike!
The jewel of this area is the Ana Kakenga. This lava tube was inhabited by the people of Rapa Nui, and is famous for having two big windows facing the ocean. It reminded me of the Flintstone’s house on a cliff.
Don’t forget to bring lights with you! In order to get into the cave, you must find the hole in the ground that only fits a person (without a backpack). It’s a tight squeeze that probably won’t appeal to you if you’re claustrophobic.
The experience though is truly rewarding!
See the Full-bodied Moai
If you haven’t heard, some of the hundreds of moai here actually have bodies underneath those massive heads.
In Rano Raraku quarry, where all of the moais originated, a recent discovery shows an excavation beyond a moai’s head. This moai has a full body underneath his exposed head. You can see pictures of this iconic discovery on the Internet, or at the visitor’s booth at the entrance of the quarry.
To preserve the rest of his body, they made the decision to re-bury it. For that reason, you can’t see any of moais with body on Easter Island.
Well, except one.
At the edge of Rano Raraku, overlooking the famous Ahu Tongariki, one of the more unusual things you can do on Easter Island – meet the only moai you can see with a fully intact body. His name is Tukuturi. And without a doubt, he is the most unique moai on Easter Island. Tukuturi was sculpted from a different material from a different quarry than the others. The entire figure came from the quarry responsible for the pukao – the red “hats” you sometimes see on moai.
Tukuturi is a smaller moai with more realistic human features – a round face and a small beard. Most importantly, you can see his full body. He is in a kneeling position with his hands on his legs.
You can meet him in person. Tukuturi is open to the public.
Visit the Easter Island female Moai
In case you haven’t noticed, nearly all of the Easter Island big stone statues are male.
Pay homage to the only female moai on the Island. She lives inside the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum. You’ll find it on the edge of Hanga Roa.
This tiny (but mind-blowing) museum has one of the most impressive collections I’ve seen in a single building. The museum has many cool exhibits, including the eyeballs of a Moai, an inscription featuring the untranslated language of ancient Rapa Nui, and many other important artifacts related to Easter Island history.
Check out Easter Island’s Cave paintings
Not far from capital, Ana Kai Tangata is a volcanic cave that contains a series of ancient Rapa Nui cave paintings. It is a wonderful seafront cave that tourists often overlook.
Here, you can see paintings of a canoe, boats, and the Manutara. The Manutara is a sacred and iconic seagull. It’s featured in the famous Tangata Manu (bird-man) competition. The birds and other rock art are painted in red, white, and black.
Easter Island Cave Paintings and Petroglyphs
By Ketki Sharangpani of Dotted Globe
While most visitors know about Easter Island due to the famous Moai, many other important archeological sites are also spread all over the island. The most unique of them are probably the sites depicting the Rapa Nui rock art. Searching for such sites and observing the petroglyphs is one of the unique things to do on Easter Island. These ancient sites include the petroglyphs at Orongo and Papa Vaka, petroglyphs carved on the Moai and the pukao (topknots) at the quarry, and the paintings inside the cave dwellings and houses at Orongo.
The rock art at Easter Island features many unusual motifs and large designs including birds, fishes, Birdman, canoes, fishing hooks, and Make Make god. While most of the roof paintings including the ones at Orongo are now closed to tourists to conserve them, the petroglyphs can be more easily viewed at many locations. One of the best places to observe the petroglyphs is the Papa Vaka site near the North Coast. The marine figures here reflect the strong connection that the ancient Rapa Nui people had with the sea.
Read more about the petroglyphs of Easter Island in this post.
Explore Easter Island’s Cannibal Cave
The most interesting thing about Ana Kai Tangata lays within its name. In the Rapanui language, the word Ana means “cave”, and the word Tangata means “man”. However, there was some confusion about what the word “Kai” means.
One version of the translation nailed down Kai as “to eat.” This gives a literal translation of the place as “cave to eat man”, or “the cave of the cannibals.
Although there is no physical evidence for this practice, it is still one of the darkest legends of the ancient Rapa Nui people.
Visit the Rapa Nui Parliament
The Easter Island government is under the jurisdiction of the Chilean Federal Government. More specifically, it falls under Region V of Valparaiso, thousands of miles away.
There is a political minority group here, called Rapa Nui Parliament, whose ultimate goal is independence from Chile. Rapa Nui Parliament has a couple hundred members who want to self-govern their island and control their own budget and tourism dollars.
Although they may never achieve their goal of independence, their headquarters on the main street of Hanga Roa sometimes opens for group or council meetings. One of the more unusual things to do on Easter Island is to attend one of their sessions. Ask locals for the exact time of the meeting.
Brush up your Rapanui language skills and be ready for a hot debate on Easter Island current events.
Easter Island Festivals
Easter Island has several annual events and celebrations. Two of the biggest are the Tapati Rapa Bui Festival and the Tangata Manu – or the birdman competition. Keep in mind that, while planning your trip to Easter Island, a visit during these peak seasons is different and more costly than the rest of the year.
Tapati Rapa Nui Festival
Contributed by Lisa, TheHotFlashPacker
Tapati Rapa Nui is an annual festival that takes place over a couple of weeks in February. Numerous activities occur during these weeks, culminating with the crowning of the queen on the last day.
I was lucky to catch the action on a short 2 day/3 night visit to the islands. The days of the festival are filled with various activities, but in 3 short days, I was able to attend a talent show, a parade, and a banana race.
The parade was my favorite – nearly every one of the 6,000 residents and tourists attends or participates in the parade. A local man painted my face with mud and I marched, too! Most women will especially enjoy the banana race – Polynesian men in loincloths in a foot race, carrying a large bunch of bananas.
Tangata Manu – Easter Island Birdman Ceremony
One of the more unusual things to do on Easter Island is to watch the Tangata Manu, or Easter Island Birdman Ceremony. It takes place on the Autumn Equinox, September 22, of each year. It is an ancient competition among the Rapanui tribes to elect their “leader tribe” for the year.
Each tribal representative gathers at the starting line along the edge of the Rano Kau crater. After scaling down the cliff to the water, they perform a 2 kilometer swim across the open water to Motu Nui, one of the inlets off Easter Island. There, they compete to find the egg of the migratory sooty tern.
The goal? Recover the egg and present it your respective chief at Orongo Ceremonial Village on the main island.
The winning chief becomes the Birdman and that year’s leader.
This ceremony dwindled due to the decline Rapanui population since the European arrival. In modern times, however, the people continue the tradition as a popular tourist must-see.
It’s not a huge tourist destination, but there are so many unusual things to do on Easter Island that you should go there and check some of them out.
More unusual things to do on Easter Island?
What about you?
Have you been here?
Perhaps you live here and know of other unusual things to do on Easter Island.
Let us know in the comments!
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