Finding the Real Moana

Moana means "ocean" in most Polynesian language. I found it in Easter Island or Isla de Pascua, a 5-hour flight west of Santiago, Chile. Discovering the mystery of this island is reserved exclusively to those who can get a flight on the only airline, LAN Airlines, that flies to this isolated location.

easter island
Admiring the Moai statues at Rano Raraku, Moai quarry.
Moana in Easter Island
In the center of Rapa Nui, my travel buddy and I passed by a quiet restaurant named Te Moana. Luckily, I was at the end of my altitude sickness, which I picked up in Bolivia, and regained my appetite. Te Moana is the only restaurant in the island that impressed me with its food quality, location, and service.  Its outdoor patio area is the best spot for watching surfers do their thing in the Pacific Ocean. I appreciate that they didn't skimp on ingredients for my seafood pasta, which was perfect for replenishing my empty tummy that needed some carbohydrates.
Te Moana means by the sea.

Always make it a point to try the local beer. Made in Rapa Nui.

seafood in easter island
A generous portion of tuna for lunch.

Another generous portion of seafood pasta. 
Spot the surfer!
An image of a Polynesian man. 
What's in the Moana? 
Being an isolated place, this island's daily necessities are very expensive. We were on the hunt for a liter of still bottled water one afternoon (you can drink the tap, which has a funny taste, but because I was sick, I had to get bottled water to be on the safe side), and it turned out that multiple convenience stores were out of stock because there was no delivery yet from the mainland, Valparaiso.

Tip: Buy necessary goods, such as water and wine, from Santiago instead and put it inside your check-in luggage.

What the Moana has to offer is local fresh seafood. I tried a simple rice meal with fried fresh white fish, and it turned out to be surprisingly good. Expect restaurant food on the island to be more expensive though since it caters to many tourists from South America as well as Europe.

Simple but flavorful. Local white fish. 
You can't leave the island without trying a local delicacy called Po'e. My buddy and I were so intrigued when we saw it in the cafeteria at the Rapa Nui National Park after devouring our packed lunch. I curiously asked the server what it was made of since it looked like a native Filipino snack made out of sticky rice, but I was told (and later confirmed by googling) that it is made of sweetened banana and is a common Polynesian snack or dessert.

Half of a po'e. Perfect for a pre or post-hiking snack.
Indulge in History 
Everywhere you go, you're bound to find moai statues, unique monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people, that can only be found on this island. I learned that these statues face the villages that they've conquered and wear a pukao or topknot on their heads, symbolizing hair worn as a bun. It is not glued on to the statue itself so there are some pukaos that have rolled off, most likely during an earthquake.

The Moias in Anakena beach.
Can you spot the ship from Valparaiso? 
The famous photo of 15 Moais at Tongariki.

Up, up away.
Outdoor Pursuits
What I love about Easter Island, which has only a few thousand in population, is that there is zero traffic. In 2 days, we were able to drive around the entire island and see varied terrain from the famous Anakena beach to the Rano Kau volcano crater. Did I say that the island, during a clear day, has amazing sunsets? We watched the sun setting one day at Te Hai, but the most striking one turned out to be right outside our cabana the next day.

The amazing crater at Rano Kau. Now inactive, our tour guide told us that he used to take a boat and paddle around the crater when he was a boy!
Sunset at Te Hai.

The Downside of Being Isolated
Note: If LAN is delayed coming out of the island, just like what happened during our flight back to Santiago with a connecting flight to Punta Arenas (PUQ) via a budget airline, Sky Airline, you're basically screwed and won't have any option but to go in as a chance passenger for the next available flight the next day on Sky or pay for a higher fare at LAN, which has more daily flights to PUQ. This is exactly what happened to my travel buddy and I. Both airlines provided the worst customer service in getting our flights sorted out! After speaking to both supervisors at the Santiago airport, each of us paid $400+ for a one-way ticket from Santiago to PUQ via LAN just so we can get to our destination without any further delay.   

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