Time for a little hotel porn, Easter Island style.
Traditionally, the island’s accommodations have never been ideal, consisting primarily of guesthouses and small hotels in Hanga Roa, Easter Island’s only city. While most of these small hotels provide the basics, they are generally overpriced for the quality that you are getting, with few of the luxe amenities that the more upscale traveler wants.
Not anymore. In 2007, the Explora chain – well known for their eco-luxe hotels in Chile’s Atacama Desert and Patagonia - opened Explora Rapa Nui eight miles outside of Hanga Roa, with native islander Mike Rapu (businesses on Easter Island have to have a local partner). Now visitors taking that trip of a lifetime can see the moai in the morning, swim in the infinity pool in the afternoon, eat a gourmet dinner served with Chilean wines and retire to their LEED certified hotel room at night (built by architect José Cruz Ovalle partially from volcanic rock, the hotel is the first to win the green label in South America).
And then there’s the view. Explora Rapa Nui sits on a ridge with an unbroken vista toward the Pacific Ocean. The hotel’s open architecture does take advantage of the setting to the fullest.
The rooms were designed as lodge chic, with views to the water, plush robes and slippers and water bottles that you could take on your excursions.
The meals (which are included in the stay) took local ingredients and gave them a healthy twist. This is tuna ceviche, with purple potatoes and a local hominy. I don’t even need to tell you how delicious it was, right?
I couldn’t help but think that the hotel has a natural customer in honeymooners, who may be enticed to stop over on Rapa Nui for a few days before continuing on to Tahiti or other South Pacific romantic spots. Then again, maybe there’s a market for girlfriend getaways too….those Rapanui men are awfully attractive! (The guy in the picture above maintains the ceremonial steam room, which was very different than the temazcals I’ve experienced in Mexico. Less hardcore, more spa – and you could leave at any time). The hotel also has a special massage building that opens up toward the Pacific Ocean. I had a treatment there, and it was worth the steep $140.
Alas, that’s the thing about a hotel like this – you’re going to pay for it. Explora is an all-inclusive, with guided tours, hikes, meals and alcohol all built into the price tag. That pays for some breath-taking experiences – I was truly blown away by the lavish tented barbecue that the hotel throws for its guests several times a week down by one of the island’s major beaches.
I mean, really. It’s enough to be wandering along a white sand beach in the South Pacific, just a few yards from a group of moai. Add in a fine Chilean white and a gourmet lunch?
And you really are looking at a once-in-a lifetime luxury expereience. So maybe it’s worth Explora’s $1,120 per night price tag (based on a three-night minimum package of $3,360, single). Doubles start at $2,385 per person, again a three-night miniumu.
But I can’t get over the fact that one of the things that makes Explora great – in addition to their Rapanui partner, they employ Rapanui guides to lead most of their tours, which has helped them avoid the PR problems that the occupied Hotel Hanga Roa has suffered - is one of the things that’s holding them back.
My one quibble with the resort was the delivery of the historical and archaeological information imparted by our Rapanui guides. While they would answer our many questions when we asked, I found that in general they weren’t proactive about explaining and sharing their culture. Which would be fine if they were supplemental guides for a staff archaeologist or lecturer. But there wasn’t anyone serving that position, whcih I found to be a detriment. After all, if you’ve come thousands of miles to Easter Island to visit the moai and are paying thousnads for the privilege, you want a top notch educational program. And Explora Rapa Nui could do more to improve that. (It took us two days to find someone on staff who would show us the Southern Cross constellation, for example).
That one issue aside, I found my stay at Explora Rapa Nui to be a truly luxurious and special way to explore the island. It’s a great option for honeymooners, families and couples who don’t mind the splurge for a once in a lifetime trip. And it’s one of the best places I’ve ever stayed, period.
Thanks to LAN Airlines for sponsoring this trip.