Known to locals as Rapa Nui, meaning "belly button of the world," Easter Island sits 2,182 miles away from Concepción, Chile, the nearest city. Though the giant stone human figures called moai are its best-known treasures, the ultimate getaway offers a perpetually increasing number of hiking and mountain-biking trails, diving opportunities, and newly discovered surf breaks. And daily flights from Santiago make the world's most remote vacation spot surprisingly accessible to anyone seeking new adventures.
Travelers can hire local guides in Hanga Roa, the island's main and only town, explore the island by bike, or work with one of the trained chaperones employed by high-end hotels like the plush Explora. If it isn't cost-prohibitive, we recommend booking through a concierge. Our favorite excursion was hiking along the rim of the Rana Kao volcano, a narrow ridge that drops 1,000 feet into the ocean on one side and straight down toward a crater lake on the other. Tribes once competed to bring back the first Sooty Tern egg laid each year on an islet just off this jagged coast; the winner, or Birdman, guaranteed his community special privileges until the next clutch arrived.
Along the island's more placid west coast, a road winds toward Anakena Bay, where a white sand beach and protected cove offer opportunities for swimmers and snorkelers. The 1,500-foot Terevaka Volcano nearby is a great day hike and the large waves near its base are thick with the beginner surfers who stay away from the island's myriad dangerous breaks.
And, yes, travelers should go see the moai. The largest measures 33 feet tall and weighs 82 tons, but each and every head is impressive. With 30 different Ahu sites, travelers can't really avoid spotting these icons. The best way to take in the mystery? The hike through the "Moai Nursery" at Rano Roraku, where all the carvings still lay in various stages of completion.
More information: If you opt not to stay at the exquisite but pricey Explora resort, we recommend staying at the Tea Nui guesthouse. Centrally located and a great value at $100 a night, the hotel is run by two of the most knowledgeable and connected people on the island.