Driving to Ahu Vailhu, Akanga, Ahu Tonariki and Anakena Beach, Easter Island, Chile.

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Our first full day on Easter Island would have us renting a car to do a little self exploration. We drove the fifty kilometre loop around Easter Island, taking in Ahu Vailhu, Akahanga, Ahu Tonariki and Anakena Beach. The self guided tourism was perfectly based, although a little lacking on information without a formal guide.


This post is one chapter on our trip to Mexico City, Mexico and Easter Island, Chile. This trip was enhanced through Alaska Mileage Plan and through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Driving to Ahu Vailhu, Akahanga, Ahu Tonariki and Anakena Beach, Easter Island, Chile.


We had booked some guided tours to help us understand our time on the island. Unfortunately, the tours that we wanted did not completely align with our dates since they were off set from each other. As a result, our “Day One” on the island was self guided. I walked up from the Hotel Taura’a and rented a 4 X 4 light truck from Oceanic car rental for 35,000 CP ($56 USD). We ended up with a small Suzuki with only a mere 113,000 km on it. Checking with the rental agency the night before, there was no reservation needed and I just turned up at 9 AM and got the best available car.

There were a few dings and dents on the car based on the vehicle inspection on the right hand side of the form.

There were a few dings on this rental car
Today’s Route (Counter Clockwise)

We started off with some terrific rugged coastline. Wildlife was everywhere; scattered all round without much fear of being approached by humans.

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The South Coast line of Easter Island:

The surf line on the south side of the island was pretty unreal. It was similar to the ragged coast line of some parts of Hawaii and I would imagine parts of Iceland. Majestic.

Moving onwards on the tundra like landscape, after a short while, we came across our first sight; the pre-historic village of Ahu Vailhu.

The Pre-Historic Village of Ahu Vailhu:

We arrived to Ahu Vailhu, which was the site of a prehistoric village. The government runs official ticket checking sights, and we had purchased our tickets at the airport on arrival. Our entry passes were stamped, and we entered. As was the case with most of the sites, we were the only visitors here.

There were several moai that had been pushed down adjacent to the ocean. The surf crashing in behind them made for an impressive sight. There were several top knots (the hats) lying nearby

We departed Ahu Vailhu and headed onwards through ever changing weather. Throughout our visit to the island, we had periods of intense sun, but also periods of thundershowers and intense gloomy-ness. It was similar to changing weather patterns like living in the mountains, but instead we were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

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Felled Moai at the Akahanga Village:

Our next site visit was Akahanga. It is a archeological sea side city site with several toppled moai. We didn’t know this at the time, and there are few plaques around to explain all the features. We would revisit this site later in the trip so I’ll save the explanations for the second visit. For this visit, we again took a walk around and appreciated the area that was once a village and admired the falled moai. This time, they were scattered all around the village area in different states (singular and group). It still amazes me that the Rapa Nui used to live in these harsh and windy sea side conditions and managed to live for several generations.

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Ahu Tonariki:

Our next stop today was over to Ahu Tonariki. It’s the site that is the most well known out of the Easter Island sites. It is the largest ahu on Easter Island and has 15 moai that were restored into an upright condition under a cooperative agreement between the Tandano Limited (a crane company) and the University of Chile. Most of the moai were toppled during the earlier civil war, then swept inland by a tsunami. They’ve now been restored into a beautiful condition. All of the moai face the sunset for the summer solstice.

It was super neat to see these gorgeous moai all on your own without the pressure of being moved along with a tour group. We spent about 45 minutes here taking it all in through varying weather conditions. Again, the sites were deserted and we were all on our own.

Strangely, there was a sixteenth moai lying nearby. There was apparently room on the ahu platform for it but it never made it there.

The site allows you to walk pretty much around the entire ahu platform. I could have spent hours sitting here watching these moai; wondering about all the things they would have seen in their lifetime.

We wandered through the back to see the reconstructed ahu platform. You can see the reverse view from here towards the quarry, along with the awesome view towards the water.

We then left the spectacular sites of Ahu Tonjariki and headed counterclockwise around the island. We ended up on some rural road that seemed to be away from the few white tour vans. The road followed the coast line and contained super frothy white surf all along. We of course stopped for a few photographs along the way.

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The Coconut Grove at Anakena Beach:

We then made our final stop of the day at the picture postcard beach of Anakena. This has to be one of the most beautiful island beaches I’ve been to. It has all the features you’d find in a travel brochure magazine with implanted coconut trees (from French Polynesia) that make the place look like an island paradise. You had to pass through the coconut grove to get to the beach.

History has it that the islanders came ashore at this particular spot so it has some significance to the Rapa Nui. We sacked out here for about 90 minutes and took in the sun.

There are also several moai nearby on an ahu with a wind swept field of sand in front of them. Four out of the five had top knots which was an unusually high percentage

We stayed here until the weather turned. Evidencing the changing weather of Easter Island, we got assaulted by a major tropical thunderstorm. It turned the beach paradise into a soggy space. We had to run for cover. I ended up losing (or redistributing the wealth of) a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses here and their case as we scrambled for cover.

My First Impressions of Circumnavigating Easter Island:

We headed back to the rental truck and headed back to Hanga Roa; a full day of sightseeing accomplished. It was great to see the sights at your own pace but it was definitely lacking in full understanding since it’s an area that doesn’t offer a lot of explanatory plaques. We would get better understanding over the course of the next few days as we did our guided tours.


For those that have toured Easter Island, did you take a tour or try to self guide it ?

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