How to get to Easter Island (Rapa Nui): Top tips and tricks

How to get to Easter Island (Rapa Nui): Top tips and tricks

Polynesian culture, spectacular scenery and archaeological sites await in Easter Island, a territory of Chile best known for its remarkable Moai statues.

The volcanic island is the most isolated, inhabited area on the planet which means it takes some extra planning and effort to get to–and is absolutely worth it.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to get to Easter Island (Rapa Nui).

Globe Guide note: Since there have been some major changes in the past few years, there’s a lot of outdated information online about visiting Easter Island. I explored the island in November 2023, so everything you’ll read here is the most up to date info you’ll find.

The crater

Where is Rapa Nui (Easter Island) located?

Rapa Nui is in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, about 2,330 miles (3,700 km) from mainland Chile and about 4,000 km from French Polynesia.

It forms part of the so-called Polynesian Triangle, with Hawaii and New Zealand making up the other corners.

Hiking at Terevaka

The only way to travel to Easter Island is to fly into Mataveri International Airport/Isla de Pascua Airport (IPC) from Santiago, which takes just over five hours on the way there and about four and a half hours on the way back.

‘Isla de Pascua’ is the Spanish translation of Easter Island. Rapa Nui is the Indigenous name for the island, and efforts are underway to make this more mainstream which is why you’ll see the island referred to as both Easter Island and Rapa Nui in this article.

Welcome to Rapa Nui!

Entry requirements for Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

One of the most important things to note about travelling to Easter Island is that there’s a mandatory entry form that must be filled out before going through security at the airport in Santiago.

It will ask for your personal information, proof of accommodation and return flight details–I recommend filling out the form on a desktop computer ahead of time, since it’s a bit tedious.

You’ll then receive a QR code, which you’ll show to the customs officer at the airport before going through security, and they’ll hand you a stamped piece of paper to present at boarding.

Tongariki

While there’s still some erroneous information online regarding vaccination records, I was never asked to provide this. However, it’s always a good idea to travel with your certificate just in case.

American and Canadian citizens do not need a visa to visit Chile, and are issued a tourist card—valid for a maximum period of up to 90 days—upon arrival in the country. This is also good for Rapa Nui.

If you plan on visiting any of the sites in the national park (which you OBVIOUSLY will), note that it’s mandatory to buy a national parks pass. It costs $80 USD, and can be purchased online or in Hanga Roa.

You’ll need to bring a copy of it on all tours, as they’re stamped/scanned at the entrance to each site and visitors are not permitted through without it.

A national park pass in Rapa Nui

While most sites can be visited as often as you want, Rano Raraku and Orongo are permitted only once (unless you have a PDF version on your phone, since staff usually won’t bother scanning it).

Rano Raraku

How to get to Easter Island: The Santiago-Easter Island flight

There’s currently only one way to get to Rapa Nui: the Santiago to Easter Island flight operated by LATAM. The airline also used to fly between Rapa Nui and Tahiti, but ceased operations during the pandemic and there’s no word when that route might start up again.

The actual process of getting through the airport can be a tricky since it requires additional screening, so note these important details:

  • Flights depart from the domestic terminal; however, passengers don’t go through the regular domestic security line. Instead, there’s a special screening area located down one level, and the staircase is just across from the LATAM check-in counter beside the airport entrance doors.
  • At the proper screening area, agents confirm passengers have filled out the mandatory entry form, hand over an entry paper to present at boarding, then allow them to go through security.
  • Plan to arrive at least two to three hours early if checking bags, since the line can be quite long and security takes longer than usual.

I personally know multiple people who didn’t know about the separate area and went through the regular security line, only to find out during boarding that they had to go all the way back through the airport to go through the special security process–so don’t make this mistake!

Don’t go through the regular domestic security line at Santiago airport if you’re heading to Easter Island

There are now signs at the regular domestic security line in Santiago reminding passengers not to go through that gate if they’re heading to Rapa Nui so be sure to pay attention to them.

READ MORE: 10 weird things to know before traveling to Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

How to save big on a flight to Easter Island

Ready for the most ridiculous travel hack?

A flight to Easter Island from Santiago isn’t cheap, usually costing $500-$1000 and up. However, there’s a simple way to save hundreds of dollars: book through the Chilean version of LATAM’s site, not the international (USA or Canada) versions it will try to redirect you to.

A LATAM flight in Rapa Nui

This makes the booking process a bit tedious if you don’t speak Spanish and you’ll also have to pay in pesos, but it’s guaranteed to save you a ton of cash.

The easiest way to do this is by searching for your dates in Google Flights, and then scrolling to the different booking options at the bottom of the screen and clicking through to the cheapest fare which will be on the Chilean site.

Try to secure a seat in premium economy or business, since the basic fare doesn’t include a checked bag. The seats are obviously much more spacious as well, for not much more of a cost.

The price between booking on the Chilean version of LATAM vs an international one means hundreds of dollars in savings

Getting around on Easter Island (Rapa Nui)

One of the best ways to explore Easter Island is to hit the road by renting a Suzuki, ATV, motorbike or scooter which are the preferred mode of transport here.

There are a handful of rental car companies on the main street in Hanga Roa, and prices can vary a bit so be sure to shop around. Expect to pay around $70/day for a scooter or ATV, and up to $150/day for an automatic vehicle. I booked through Oceanic Rent a Car and they were fantastic, and Insular Rent a Car is another good option.

Insurance isn’t a thing around here, so be sure to pay with a credit card that includes rental car insurance. Some companies might also ask for an International Drivers License, or to see proof of a motorcycle (Class B) license to rent an ATV or scooter…although I don’t have either, and still managed to rent an ATV. Zooming around on that thing was the highlight of my whole trip!

Taxis are also an option, but are quite expensive: for example, it costs 55,000 pesos ($65 USD) to get from Hanga Roa to Anakena Beach, which is only a twenty minute drive each way.

My ATV rental

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