Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile
At the center of it all, this is Easter Island's most talked–about luxury resort, appealing to multiple ages and backgrounds.
With buildings that appear to have been shaped by the wind, eco–friendly Hangaroa Resort is expansive, but easily walkable. It is positioned just across from the beach with a road dividing the hotel from the ocean. Unlike the more expensive Explora, Hangaroa appeals to a younger clientele that prefer to be closer to town. With an all–inclusive option with all meals and drinks or an easier–to–digest bed and breakfast option, there is something for everyone here.
The Easter Island setting is serene, with swaying trees, buildings crafted from local wood, and a calming atmosphere that just oozes remote island luxury. There is no mistaking it — you are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean here. While you can walk to the nearby town to stock up on snacks and drinks, the Premium (all–inclusive) package is a deal since it covers three multi–course meals a day including alcoholic beverages, plus daily excursions. The bed and breakfast package does not have excursions although both have free airport transfers and sunset cocktails daily.
The fresh flower lei given upon arrival at Hangaroa is still sweet smelling as you sip your fruit cocktail and complete the brief paperwork in the gorgeous lobby. Curvaceous wooden roof overhead, the eco–friendly theme runs parallel to everywhere you look. Even the front desk is crafted from a huge half–trunk from southern Chile forming the reception desk.
Local island wood and volcanic rock are part of the décor in guest rooms and the dining areas. While the moai statues are the island's hottest attractions, the property has one of its own moai statues hidden in one corner.
Back in the reception lobby, views of the water and freeform–shaped swimming pool are all you can see. If you have booked the all–inclusive package, your daytime activity is filled with planned excursions, which can also be booked a la carte. The hotel works with a trusted local travel agency that offers a full–day tour including the famous quarry where most of the moai statue are and numerous platforms where they are lined up in photogenic form.
While Hangaroa places an emphasis on rustic elegance, you will find the cuisine to be simply divine; the kind of service and presentation you would expect from a big city restaurant (not an Easter Island resort). It all begins with a cooked–to–order breakfast and buffet spread in the oceanfront dining room. Expect things like fresh raspberry and pineapple juice or fresh banana cake to be the norm as a daily kick start.
Lunch and dinner are served in the nearby eatery by the pool and in the Poerava restaurant. The chef prepares your meals in multiple courses and in meticulous presentation, delivering dishes that seem to be plucked from a magazine rather than a hotel kitchen.
Local ingredients form the basis of all dishes at Hangaroa. A particular favorite is the island salad packed with fresh lettuce, pineapple, red peppers, and root veggies topped with a yogurt–based, ginger dressing. The desserts are heavenly, and the ice cream is homemade with flavors like mint, tiramisu, and passion fruit nightly. Fresh fish from the island include tuna, and surprisingly, beef is local and plentiful. This becomes obvious after days of touring and the plethora of cow that seem to always proceed their march across the road just as you approach.
The Hangaroa wine list is impressive boasting mostly Chilean labels, which are proudly described and poured by the staff. Remember that all–inclusive charge; servers are more than happy to let you have your money's worth.
In the center of it all, you will find Manavai Spa housed in its own structure surrounded by the accommodation buildings. The spa provides massage and beauty treatments with an emphasis on island–based ingredients. Access to the sauna exacts a charge, but it can be hard to resist the salt–based body scrubs or seaweed wraps available after a day of hiking the island's hills and volcano paths.
The swimming pool is surrounded by padded lounge chairs, but is separated by a fenced road limiting immediate access to the waves. Still, the Easter Island currents can be quite rough so it is best to stick to the hotel's own freshwater pool.
Walking along the stone paths to your guest rooms affords you views of just how the Hangaroa architecture was designed to keep in taste with a more earthen structure. The rooms have a cave–like appearance, and they are crafted from cypress logs, clay, and volcanic rock in clever fashion. They are housed in separate buildings with several units adjacent to each other.
Rooms 1–44 have oceanfront vistas while the others are set further back into the garden setting. A few even have glass windows on the ceiling permitting natural light.
Be warned that there are no TVs here, but that is the way most guests like it. If it is an absolute must, guests can connect with the free wireless Internet signal anywhere on the resort grounds although the signal is admittedly spotty at times especially when the weather is rough.
Huge king beds are wrapped in duvets with soft pillows and stone–carved night stands. The numerous light switches activate the various lighting options that include ones directly above the bed, directly below the bed, and recessed lighting. All options combine in various fashions to create a romantic appeal.
The spacious bathrooms open to the guest rooms, reducing privacy, but the deep soaking tubs are positioned to take in exterior views from each room's furnished terrace, and there are even small carved out windows in the mosaic stone–tiled showers. The excellent water pressure can literally wash the stress away. The spacious vanity areas have above–counter sinks with eco–friendly toiletries including the European–style method of a small box with four tissues rather than a full tissue box. The garbage cans have two sections for organic and non–organic waste.
Ceiling fans whirl above the beds while air conditioning works double duty to keep guests cool. Handmade clay desks are built into the wall providing ample opportunity to spread out maps or work on a laptop while conveniently charging your camera.
Amenities extend even further to the closets (there are plenty of them to store your gear), and include safes, robes, slippers, and complimentary minibars with sodas and bottled water. A charge comes to replenish them, however. A large bottle of water and espresso pods are restocked daily by housekeeping.
North Americans and Europeans seem to share the resort most of the time, and all of the reception staff are pros at English. Hangaroa provides an excellent location near the center of town and Easter Island's only airport. Leaving is a disappointment that is only made happier with the heartfelt shell necklace delivered upon departure. Hangaroa not only takes part in educating guests about both the island and the environment (did we mention they have a cinema screening free documentaries?), but it also fits the mold of what any high–standard resort should be. This place is a dream come true just like the island destination is for many worldly travelers.
Web Address: www.hangaroa.cl
Total Number of Rooms: 75
Published rates: $1,500 to $1,695 per person during high season for 3 nights double all–inclusive. Bed and breakfast rates 1,104 to $1,215 double for three nights. Rates are tax–exempt for non–Chilean residents.
Review and photos by Ramsey Qubein