Easter Island, known locally as Rapa Nui, is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and is possibly more famous for the incredible Easter Island statues, the moais. Its long history and intricate culture have beckoned travellers for many years, seeking to find themselves a sense of mystery and awe.
So, while pondering these sublime mysteries, why not spend some time doing so in an eco-lodge with a long and detailed history of its own? We spoke with José Pakomio Torres, CEO and co-founder of Easter Island Eco Lodge ( Ecolodge Isla de Pascua), a lodge that has been welcoming travellers to the island since the 1960s.
DIFFERENT NAMES. SAME LEGACY
Easter Island Eco Lodge began its activities in February 1967, under the name Hotel Tahara’a and was the first residential establishment of Rapa Nui. Later, in 1984 it would change its name to Hotel Chez Joseph. Two generations later under the management of José, who is the founder’s grandson, a new corporate image was envisioned and applied on July 1st, 2014, which saw the hotel’s name change again to Hotel Rapa Nui.
“In 2017,” José says, “Based on the interests of visitors to Easter Island and the geo-cultural development of the area, a strategic change was made in the name of the brand and we became the definitive Easter Island Eco Lodge.”
With this name change they updated their goals to not only offer residence, but to position Rapa Nui as a cultural tourist destination. This gave them the opportunity to establish sustainable tourism and preservation techniques to protect the local flora and fauna and safeguard the cultural significance of the island.
José, together with his wife, have been lodging expeditionary groups of anthropologists and geologists travelling to Rapa Nui to study the origin of moais for many years.
When he took control of the then Hotel Rapa Nui in 2014, he wanted to maintain his grandfather’s legacy which was to warmly welcome those who decided to visit the island. This is a fulfilling experience, creating a comfortable environment and sharing the Rap Nui history and culture which includes the various gastronomy dishes, the dances and the many more charms that this island has to offer.
Easter Island Eco Lodge has thirty rooms and the capacity for sixty guests. The decoration of all the surroundings both inside the rooms and in the common areas is a mixture of rustic and minimalism. This mix is deliberate, and José reveals that the building is made with a varied mix of natural materials, the essentials being native wood and volcanic stone.
“There is a welcoming charm that rustic designs create,” he says, “That allows guests to relax and connect with nature and the mystery of this island. This is something that is very difficult to perceive when in large industrialized cities but is a good nourishment for the mind and the soul.”
All the rooms come with the general amenities the modern traveller has come to expect, including hairdryer, safe, telephone, fridge and bar, bath towels and robes. Comfortable beds, hot showers and thick pillows.
“Our focus is not to keep our guests in their rooms day and night,” José says, “After all, what makes us special is the central location in the town of Hanga Roa which allows guests easy access to the many various attractions there.”
The main harbour town, Hanga Roa is the capital of Easter Island. Located in the lowlands between the extinct volcanoes of Terevaka and Rano Kau, in the southern part of the island’s west coast. In 2002, it comprised of 87 percent of the total population and is the best example of Easter Island way of life.
A PIONEER IN THE LOCAL TOURISM INDUSTRY
José explains that while Rapa Nui has always attracted healthy tourism, the environmental impact of the hotel industry on the island is very high. This is in part due to Easter Islands’ remoteness and historical political uncertainty which has meant that hotel growth was often not framed by considerations for responsible and sustainable tourism. This is how Easter Island Eco Lodge is different.
“Through a number of actions such as changes to LED lighting, the complete elimination of stationery and paperwork, reforestation of native flora, garbage treatment, use of fair trade products and others we have made Easter Island Eco Lodge the only ecological hotel in Rapa Nui,” José says.
This is backed up by the international sustainability certifying authority Biosphere, Ecolider by Tripadvisor and S seal by SERNATUR.
Easter Island Eco Lodge also holds itself to the highest standards in quality, hygiene and cleaning, ensuring compliance with all the necessary authorities for the benefit of their guests. They are also part of ACHS (Chilean Association of Security) that supports them by training their staff on procedures of security and quality. They are also recipients of the seal Q which is the Seal of Tourist Quality.
“We focus our efforts on providing quality and safety services, taking care to minimize our operations that can affect the natural environment, as well as protecting the local history and culture,” José says, “All while offering the finest comfort and accommodation for our guests.”
WAYS TO SEE THE ISLAND
There are only two ways to get to Rapa Nui, the first is from Santiago de Chile via LATAM, the only airline that flies to the Island. The second way is from Papete, which has a stopover on the Island. José recommends that travellers should buy their tickets as early as possible for the best price since the air tickets to the island will be the most expensive part of the trip.
Having the opportunity to visit the island, is for many a dream come true, and with good reason as everything about the island seems magical. From its isolated location surrounded on all sides by miles of ocean to its mysterious giant stone statues (Moai) and its ancestral culture. All of these things make a trip to Rapa Nui an unforgettable experience.
“Touring the island via bike is one of the most rewarding ways to see the sites,” José says, “Allowing guests the freedom to take in everything from this remarkable island at their own pace.”
And, as far as hiring bikes is concerned, almost all of the businesses on the island receive payments via card, however visitors are recommended to bring in some local currency which is the Chilean peso.
RAPA NUI PLAY
During 2019, José explains that they incorporated an innovative application on the island, which is still in development but by October visitors will be able to make use of this service that will be free for the guests of the lodge.
“Connecting to ‘Rapa Nui Play’ will be easy for all guests,” he says, “They can connect to the internal Wi-Fi network for free and access can be gained through any mobile device. This will give them access to a collection of over 50 books, 250 movies in 3 languages, music and games for children.”
Be warned, it is easy to fall in love with the island and its irresistible charm and many of those who travel to Rapa Nui do not want to leave. If you want to take the chance, visit their website for a calendar booking.
PRICE: USD $369 per night
ADDRESS: Avareipua s/n – Hanga Roa
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 56 32 2703141