Easter Island is expensive to reach, expensive to stay on, and a bit of a hassle to get to. If you don't speak any Spanish, you'll probably have a hard time getting around, since almost nobody there speaks any English. All that said, all of the expense and trouble is absolutely worth it. This was a trip of a lifetime. Standing in the shadow of the moai is truly awe-inspiring.
For two cabins for four nights each, the total was 400,000 Chilean pesos, which is roughly $800 American, or $50/night for the four of us. A representative picked us up at the airport, gave us leis made of local flowers, and drove us to the cabins. The drive lasted a little bit less than two minutes. We got there and settled in a bit and then decided to take a walk in to Hanga Roa.
Hanga Roa is a tiny town, full of mostly restaurants and tourist shops. There is a church and a school and a couple of ATMs, and a couple of small grocery stores if you want to eat on the go. Food is very expensive, though! For the materials to make simple sandwiches with some soda and potato chips, we had to shell out something like $20!
That first night, my friend and I attended a native dance show in Hanga Roa. These happen almost nightly, at several different places, and we went to another one a couple of nights later. If you go to Easter Island, don't miss these shows. They feature native dress, native dancing, and a bit of abstract storytelling about the native tradition at large.
On the second day, we rented a truck from our cabins. They didn't require a driver's license or a down payment or anything. Everything on the island is so laid back, and there's nowhere that we could go, so there's no reason for them to be too concerned about anything. Driving around the island was quite fun, though nervewracking, because even where the roads are paved, they're paved quite badly.
We drove up through the center of the island to Anakena Beach, on the island's north shore. It sports an impressive set of moai. From there, we drove east toward the Poike peninsula, stopping here and there to look at fallen moai. Right around sunset, we reached Ahu Tongariki, a huge platform with15 upright moai. As the sun set behind the Rano Raraku volcano, we stood and marveled. Sunset was a wonderful time to see this site, as the deep pinks and oranges and reds illuminated the moai beautifully. We liked Tongariki so much, in fact, that my friend and I traveled back there late that night to take some long-exposure pictures as the moon rose over the site. After that, we returned the following morning to capture the site as the sun rose behind the moai. All in all, it's a wonderful site to visit at various times of day, to examine the different ways that the moai can look in different types of light.
The next day we traveled to what I consider to be the crown jewel of Easter Island: Rano Raraku. This is the "factory" where all of the moai were made. It's a volcano with a lake in the middle, and you can actually hike up inside of the volcano if you wish. The outside of the volcano is the real draw, though, as it is dotted with hundreds of moai in various stages of completion. It's a really fascinating place that really makes visitors wonder. What was the point of carving so many moai and not taking them out to ahu along the coast?
On the last day we were there, we visited Orongo, the stone village on the southwestern peninsula of the island. It's from this location, perched on the edge of the Rano Kau volcano, that the Birdman cult held its annual rites. The village consists of several low stone dwellings, mostly reconstructions of the originals, where priests of the Birdman cult would come and live for a time and crown a Birdman every year. Natives would compete to swim out to the two tiny islets off the shore of Orongo, grab a bird's egg, and then swim back to the village, and the winner would be declared the year's Birdman. I didn't find Orongo to be quite as interesting as the rest of the island, but it's still absolutely fascinating in its own right. It's just that it's overshadowed by the much-more-famous moai.