When it comes to helping others with their trips to Easter Island, we seem to get one question over and over again. It is simply this: how many nights do I need?
Considering Easter Island is only about 60 square miles and you can drive around it in a few hours, you may think you only need two or three night there. But in order to truly see it all, we have determined that the magic number is five nights to visit Easter Island, and we have a very good reason for it.
The Minimum Number of Nights on Easter Island
When it comes down to it, the bare minimum number of nights anyone would need on Easter Island is not five, but is in fact just two. It is theoretically possible to see every moai on Easter Island with two days of renting a car, beginning your exploration as soon as you arrive and not stopping until the next evening. (For photos of the Moai, click the previous link.)
You would even have the opportunity to see two sunsets at the Ahu just outside of Hanga Roa and one sunrise at Ahu Tongariki. Apart from this, you’ll have roughly thirty minutes to an hour at each major attraction and will spend the entire second day on the move from an hour before sunrise all the way until sunset.
What is the problem with this one? First off, if you’re flying that far for only 30 to 60 minutes at each Ahu, you’ll have spent more time on a plane than you will be enjoying the island. But something even more important is that it rains on Easter Island just about every other day for a significant portion of the year. So chances are good that at some point during your rushed visit you’re going to be getting wet.
I’ll tell you right now that if my one opportunity to visit Ahu Tongariki, the gorgeous quarry, or the volcanic crater was in the rain, I would be very, very angry.
To enjoy Easter Island, you’ll need more time.
Playing the Weather Odds
So lets say you want to have enough time on Easter Island to see it all without the rain. Taking the probability of rain being about once every other day, you’ll want to multiply your visit duration by two. So that brings us to four nights which will give you three full days and a half day on the day you get there.
Since driving in Easter Island is tricky to plan as most rental companies charge a daily rate as a calendar day and not a 24-hour period, renting a car on your first day may not make a lot of sense. Those who are active and ready to go can easily walk around Hanga Roa, do some shopping, possibly visit the local museum, and see the sunset on the first day pending the rain.
This option will give you three full days where you can rent a car and hope that the rain will behave itself during that time. If the odds are with you, you may have only one day lost to rain. You will likely have enough time to drive around the entire island a few times (you’ll want to, trust me), ample time at your favorite spots, the ability to hike to the highest point on the island, and the opportunity to go see sunrise at Ahu Tongariki twice.
If we had to pick out one of our favorite moments on the island, it would be the 20-30 minutes we had completely alone at Ahu Tongariki because we waited for the tour groups to pass us by. Words cannot describe how amazing it is to be next to the moai there, on a sunny day, completely and utterly alone.
You’ll want that opportunity too.
Why One Extra Night on Easter Island Then?
Now you may be asking yourself “If I can see all the moai comfortably with four nights, why book one more?” This is a valid question and we have several instances that you may want to consider in regards to booking more nights past the minimum required:
- The rain prediction is based on historical averages, it could rain more.
- There are a few activities you can do near Hanga Roa without a car, such as exploring a few nearby caves, scuba diving to an underwater moai, or hiking along the coast. All of these would also be weather dependent activities.
- You want a full day to be able to shop at your leisure or relax.
- You want to take a guided tour one day anyway to learn more from a local expert.
- You will be visiting on a day when a cruise ship is docking and the island is overrun with visitors (it is seriously bad).
- You’re visiting the most remote island in the world (by airport access), of course you need more time!
There are several situations which would justify having more nights on Easter Island. Planning for a minimum of one additional night past the basic requirement is only logical considering the amount of money and energy you are spending to reach this unique destination.
We ended up spending six nights on Easter Island and do not regret having that extra time even though we only rented a car for three days. We spent a lot of time shopping, hiked around the coast, and explored other options outside Hanga Roa the two days we were without a vehicle. The weather cooperated with us pretty well, so we also had some leisurely downtime during the heat of the day.
Would I have liked to have the car or taken a guided tour during those extra days? Of course! I would not have complained being able to go around the island one more time, but it was not in our budget so we stuck around Hanga Roa and did not run out of things to do.
My only regret from our trip was that the waters were too rough for anyone to go diving to the underwater moai during our stay.
I guess I’ll just have to go back!