When it comes to the iconic landmarks of the world, few are as famous or as instantly recognizable as the large carved heads on Easter Island. Although many people simply refer to the sculptures as “Easter Island heads,” the proper term for them is moai. As fascinating as the moai are, though, they aren’t the only reasons to visit Easter Island, or Rapa Nui. This extremely isolated island has a long and fascinating story; by paying it a visit, you can immerse yourself directly in its mysteries and legends.

Photo Credit: Tim Waters

A Mysterious Past

Easter Island flew off the radar of the Western world for many centuries. When Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen and his crew stumbled upon it on Easter Sunday in 1722, they were shocked to find the now-legendary moai. For many centuries thereafter, a lot of speculation flew around about just how these strange sculptures came to be. Years ago, there was no way for researchers to validate any of the theories about Easter Island’s past. Today, modern technology has unearthed evidence that the civilization that created the moai lived on the island for many years after arriving there by boat. When deforestation made the island uninhabitable, the moai were all that was left.

Get In and Get Around

As far-flung as Easter Island is, it’s natural to assume that getting there will be a major burden. However, tourism is essentially the only industry on the island. As a result, several flights go to and from the island each week; most of them originate out of Santiago, Chile. Ticket prices can vary considerably, so keep your eyes peeled for a deal. In terms of getting around, car rentals are available and recommended. With a vehicle at your disposal, you’ll be able to explore this remote and compelling island at your own leisure.

Photo Credit: Robin Atherton

Take in the Moai

If you think that your options are going to be limited in terms of enjoying the moai of Easter Island, think again. In actuality, there are more than 880 of them spread out over the island’s approximately 63 square miles. Ideally, though, you should introduce yourself to the statues at one of the two quarries where the volcanic rock that formed them is found. One site is called Rano Raraku; it boasts statues in various points in the carving stage, allowing you to get a feel for how the moai were made. The other one is called Rano Kau, and it boasts several other unique and fascinating examples.

Hit the Beach

What’s the point of being on a remote and mysterious island if you can’t kick back and enjoy it a little? There are two first-rate beaches to enjoy on Easter Island. The most popular of the two, Anakena, is located on the north side of the island. A more secluded beach, Ovane, is on the south side of Easter Island and features breathtaking cliffs. While Ovane is more peaceful, it’s also trickier to get there.

Go Caving or Snorkeling

Many people don’t realize it, but Easter Island boasts an extensive network of natural caves. They offer great opportunities for visitors to experience whole new sides of the island. Snorkeling and scuba diving are also popular activities on this bewitching island. The two most popular sites are Motu Nui and Motu Iti. These types of activities will help you enjoy a more well-rounded visit to Easter Island and might even help you understand just why the Rapa Nui people were so in love with the place. All the while, you’ll be watched over by the wise gazes of the moai.

Understand the Locals

Although the people who left the moai behind are long gone, a culture flourishes on Easter Island to this very day. By visiting the largest town on the island - its capital, Hanga Roa - you can see for yourself that the island is still brimming with life and new possibilities. One of the most enjoyable aspects of any travel experience is witnessing the cultures and lifestyles of various peoples; Easter Island is no different. When all is said and done, you’ll have experienced a lovely combination of past, present and future on this remarkable island.