Biking around the Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is a great idea. If you like to ride a bike, it is maybe the second best idea after the one you had when you decided to actually visit Easter Island.
I biked around the Island during winter, which seems to be a great season for biking if you are lucky enough not to see rain (I was lucky enough not to see rain at all during 5 days). I have not been to the Island in summer but I think it is probably not such a good idea to bike around the Island during summer (around 30°C and a lot of humidity).
In total, I biked around 120 km (75 mi) in 4 days. I was on the road (biking/walking/taking pictures) around 3-5 hours per day depending on the route I chose and the places I visited.
What to bring?
Some people bring their own bike, but you can easily rent one if you cannot take yours to the Island. I rented one that was not particularly good, so I am not going to recommend the store I visited. However, if you walk around Hanga Roa’s downtown, you will find a lot of places to rent bikes (mostly mountain bikes; this store had some nice looking bikes). It may cost around than 20-25 US dollars per day. You might be able to negotiate the rate if you rent it for a couple of days. I got almost a day for free because I rented it for 5 days.
I do not know exactly what are the things you should or have to bring, but I am going to list those that I brought to the Island and carried while biking.
- Camelbak (3 liters water bag).
- A spare tube and a couple of tools to change it if needed.
- Small air pump.
- Headlight (a strong one! Hanga Roa is very dark at night) and tail light.
- Rear mudgard (I bought this one before getting to the Island).
- A bike lock. I would not recommend a U-lock since you sometimes might need to use a tree.
- Rain poncho and a rain cover for the Camelbak.
- Lightweight fleece and a spare t-shirt.
- Something to eat!
You will not need to drink as much water as in a dryer weather. I used less than half a liter per hour.
I biked using what I describe as 4 routes. All of them starting from Hanga Roa. In all of them but route 3 I returned using the same main road. You can see a map of the routes in the next section.
This is mainly a coastal road. The main places you can visit following this route are Rano Raraku and Ahu Tongariki. The total length (round trip) is 43 km. Most of the route is flat, although expect a lot of short uphill and downhill parts (see the picture below). At the beginning (thus also at the end) of the route, you climb around 100 meters.
This is an inland road to Anakena, which is a beach that has an Ahu. It is a 38 km total-length road that has a lot of small uphill and downhill parts. On the way back, in the first 5 km you are going to find an uphill slope (very steep!). That part might take around 30 min if you are going up on the lightest gear.
This is a coastal and inland road to Ahu Akivi and Puna Pau. It is a 24 km total-length road. If you start from Hanga Roa to the North, the first half of the route goes right next to the ocean. That part is a dirt road in a very bad shape, but that makes it fun. Although you are a couple of meters from the shore, you are not biking right at sea level. You are going up slowly to 100 meters. I spent a lot of time at Ana Kakenga (“Two Windows” cave). I did not go into the cave but walking around the outside of the cave you can have a great view of the cliffs. There is also another cave on this route: Ana Te Pahu. Locals call this cave the “banana trees cave” because, yes, there are banana trees inside the cave.
Next to the Puna Pau there is a hill that is commonly known as the “Three Crosses Hill” because, yes, it has three crosses at the top. That is a really nice hike of less than 150 meters (at the top of the hill you are around 250 meters above the sea level). From the top of it, you have a great view of Hanga Roa and the west coast of the Island. And if you have a cell phone, you get the best signal there!
This is an uphill road to Rano Kau and the Orongo Village. It is a 16 km total-length road. It may take around 40 min to get to the viewpoint of the Rano Kau’s crater. This route is great for the afternoon/evening. You can have really nice views of the ocean and Hanga Roa when the sun is going down.
Below you can see a map with the four routes and some of the main places on the Island. You may want to enlarge the map clicking on the upper right corner.
- Cars and bikes: Don’t expect local people to be very bike-friendly. Not many cars leave you a lot of space when they are passing you. From what I observed, most of the rented cars will leave you a lot of room when passing you. Locals car will not.
- Wildlife: Expect to see some small rats crossing in front of you. I counted around 3 per route. Expect to bike through cattle and wild horses everywhere, even next to Hanga Roa. The upside of riding a crappy bike is that its annoying noise would make cows and horses to clear my way. Make sure to identify the bull and stay away from him!
- Street dogs: Expect to see a lot of street dogs. Being from a country with a lot of dogs walking around the street, I was surprised by the number of street dogs on the island. I guess that that says that they are a lot. Fortunately, not many of them would bark at bikes or follow them in not a friendly manner. It is like they are lazy enough not to follow anyone. When I was starting route 3 I ran into a dog, a friendly one, that followed me for around an hour (I got a lot of pictures of myself with the dog standing right next to me). Then the dog chose to follow a girl who was doing the same route. I cannot blame the dog for choosing her over me.
- People: I would not be able to tell who is going to say hi to you when you run into somebody. In my case, people riding rented motorbikes (quads) and horses said hi to me.