Ask us which Pacific island has the most to offer hikers and we'll probably answer Easter Island. Here on an island 11 km wide and 23 km long you'll find nearly a thousand ancient Polynesian statues strewn along a powerfully beautiful coastline or littering the slopes of an extinct volcano.
The legends of Easter Island have been recounted many times. What's less known is that the island's assorted wonders are easily accessible on foot from the comfort of the only settlement, Hanga Roa. Before setting out see the sights, however, visit the excellent archaeological museum next to Ahu Tahai on the north side of town (the term "ahu" refers to an ancient stone platform). Aside from the exhibits, the museum has maps which can help you plan your trip.
The first morning after arrival, I suggest you climb Easter Island's most spectacular volcano, Rano Kau, where Orongo, a major archaeological site, sits on the crater's rim. But rather than marching straight up the main road to the crater, look for the unmarked shortcut trail off a driveway to the right just past the forestry station south of town. It takes under two hours to cover the six km from Hanga Roa to Orongo, but bring along a picnic lunch and make a day of it. (If climbing a 316-meter hill sounds daunting, you can take a taxi to the summit and easily walk back later in the day.) Once on top, you'll find hiking down into the colourful crater presents no difficulty. It may also look easy to go right around the crater rim, but only do so if you're a very experienced hiker and have a companion along as shear 250-meter cliffs drop into the sea from the ridge.
Another day, rise early and take a taxi 20 km to lovely Anakena Beach at the end of the paved road on the north side of the island. A few of the famous Easter Island statues have been restored at Anakena and you could go for a swim, although the main reason you've come is the chance to trek back to Hanga Roa around the road-free northwest corner of the island. You'll pass numerous abandoned statues lying facedown where they fell, and the only living creatures you're unlikely to encounter are the small brown hawks which will watch you intently from perches on nearby rocks. If you keep moving, you'll arrive back in town in five or six hours (but take adequate food, water, and sunscreen). This is probably the finest coastal walk in the South Pacific.
Continue to: Hiking Guide Part Two »