Easter Island is one of those destinations that is on most people’s bucket list and for a very good reason. The photography possibilities are almost endless and this is my definitive Easter Island Photography Guide. From the hundreds of Moai scattered across the island to rugged coast and awe inspiring Volcanoes, Easter Island has something for everyone.
There is only one way to get to Easter Island and that’s to fly. The easiest and most popular route is from Santiago with LATAM. Flights get booked up in advance as there are discounted rates available for islanders. So it’s important to book your flight well in advance. I went once with no return ticket and very nearly got stranded for what could have been weeks. Fortunately the amazing LATAM cabin crew found room for me on a jump seat but only after a few days of trying to get off the Island.
The best time to visit for Easter Island Photography
The most popular time to visit for Easter Island photography is during the first two weeks of February. This is when the annual Tapati Rapa Nui festival takes place. This is a great event but the island can get a little overcrowded. So for those who like it a little quieter the best times to visit are April to June followed by October to December. Easter Island has a year round tropical climate but given its remote location it can get a little breezy.
By far the best way to get around is to hire a 4×4 or motorbike. We have always had a good experience with Oceanic Rapa Nui. There are only limited vehicles on the island so again make sure to book as soon as you have flights confirmed. There are taxis around Hanga Roa but as soon as you leave the town the prices rise sharply. This makes taxis not a worth while option.
Where to stay
The majority of accommodation on Easter Island is in Hanga Roa. There is something for every budget. I like to stay in the little guest houses as you get to mix with the locals and find out some insider knowledge.
Parque Nacional Rapa Nui
Entry fee – $80 for ten daysEntry fee: $80 for ten days
Opening hours: April to November: 09:00 to 18:00. December to March 09:00 to 19:00 (Orongo and Rano Raraku close their barriers)
Easter Island Photography Guide – Top photo locations
Located on the north of the Island, Rano Raraku is the highlight of Easter Island for photography. The quarry has almost 400 Moai heads scatter all over the hillside. Because of its popularity, you can only visit this sight once unless you buy a second entry to the national park. So it’s important to pick a good day and plan for a morning and afternoon here.
Best time to visit – It is also one of the spots where they close the gate. So you can’t gain access until after sunrise and have to leave before sunset. The first hour of the day and the last hour are quietest and provide the photographer with the best possible light.
Photo tip – Walk back and get the view of all the Moai on the hillside.
Ahu Tongariki is one of the most iconic Moai locations. A 720 foot long line of 15 Moai make up the single the largest collection of statues on the island. Each statue is unique with the largest standing at 46 feet high. It is easily recognisable as it wears a red headdress.
The unusual thing you notice about the Moai is that the statues face inland. The story goes that the inhabitants of Easter Island thought they were the only people in the world. So they feared all threats would come from inland. They built the Moai facing inland to protect them.
Best time to visit – Sunrise. The sun rises behind the Moai meaning on the right day you can get some amazing fiery skies behind the Moai. The gate keeper at Ahu Tongariki gets up every morning before dawn to open the gates. He is not required to do this so if you see him make sure to thank him.
Photo tip – Make sure to go back in the afternoon. It is almost always empty.
Anakena is one of the most picture perfect spots on Easter Island. The Seven Moai are adorned with the red topknots and are surrounded by palm tress. There are white sands, backed by the deep blue and turquoise waters that surround the island. Anakena is never shut so you can photograph as early or as late as you wish. You can get some wonderful star shots here as well as capture sunrise and sunset.
Best Time to visit – Anakena is never shut so it can be shot as early or as late as you wish. You can get some lovely star trail shots here as well as capturing sunrise and sunset.
Photo tip – Step pack and shoot the Moai through the palm trees for a unique perspective.
Ahu Tahai can be reached from Hanga Roa via a short walk north along the coastal path. The site consists of a two singular Moai (Ahu Ko Te Riku & Ahu Tahai) and a row of five (Ahu Vai Uri). There were more but they were damaged beyond repair. The site’s location backs on to a rugged coast that whilst is beautiful didn’t help preserve the Moai.
Best Time to visit – With sunsets behind the Moai, making a lovely shot of the Moai backed by the Pacific ocean. This spot is very popular for sunset so you may have to wait for your turn or be prepared. Or to clone people out of your shots in post-production.
Photo tip – Ahu Ko Te Riku is the best-preserved Moai and can make a great stand-alone shot at sunset. Try slowing down your shutter to capture some movement in the water and clouds.
Hanga Roa is the only town on Easter Island. Whilst it’s quite it also has a nice vibe. Plenty is going on in the town’s main street. Head to the coast for a nice walk along the rocky headland heading out to the harbour. You will often find locals surfing the breaks.
Best Time to visit – Personally I like Hanga Roa in the Morning when it is at its most peaceful.
Photo tip – Head to the harbour to capture the colourful boats and if you are lucky a sea turtle or two.
Ahu Akivi is a particularly scared place on Easter Island. Located inland the site consist of seven Moai all equal size. It is the only location where the Moai face out to sea. During the Spring Equinox the Moai face the sunset. Whilst during the Autumn Equinox, their backs face the sunrise. This is one of the reasons the site is also know as the celestial observatory.
Best time to visit – Ahu Akivi is pretty quite all the time and you can gain access for both sunrise and sunset.
Photo tip – The Moai look particularly stunning in the late afternoon glow.
More Easter Island photography guide locations
Easter Island has a host of other possible photo locations. They may not be quite as impressive as those listed here but are worth checking out if you have the time. These include:
- Ahu Akahanga
- Ahu Vinapu
- Orongo stone village
- Petroglifos of Papa Vaka.
I hope you found my Easter Island Photography Guide useful and please feel free to share any images with me that my photo guide may have helped you capture either via email or one of my social networks. We would love to see them.