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Immerse yourself in Easter Island’s Tapati Rapa Nui Festival​​​​​​​

Published April 30, 2018 by SA Explorer

With its mysterious giant stone statues, remote mid-ocean location and enigmatic culture, Easter Island is a mesmerizing year-round destination for anyone from Generation Curious. That said, there’s no better time to immerse yourself in Polynesian culture than the vibrant Tapati Rapa Nui Festival which takes place every February.

The history of Tapati Rapa Nui

Tapati Rapa Nui, otherwise known as the Easter Island festival, was started in the 1970s with the aim of preserving the local culture. The festival plays a role in building the Rapa Nui culture among the islanders and creating a sense of identity for the younger inhabitants but it’s also become a tourist spectacle. During the festival, the islanders are separated into two teams that are divided along ancient clan lines. The sporting events are predominated by men while women take center stage for the crafting and basket weaving. Both teams are led by a woman who is competing for the title of ‘Queen of Tapati’. Preparation for the following year’s event starts as soon as the closing ceremony has ended - this is serious business!

Practical information

The Tapati festival was held from the 2nd to the 17th February this year. While the dates for 2019 are unconfirmed, the festival is scheduled for the first half of February annually. The island’s capital, Hanga Roa, is the hub for most of the events during this period. All you need to do is step out on the streets to be part of the action. You can even rent outfits and get your body painted to take part in the festivities. The center of the festival is Hanga Vare Vare, a verdant field dotted with palm trees that overlooks the endless expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

Photo credit: Yves Picq

What to expect at Tapati Rapa Nui

Visitors to Tapati Rapa Nui can expect to see exuberant dancing competitions (see video above) and to hear the captivating singing of the local residents. The thrilling athletic competitions include swimming, canoeing and an island triathlon. Another highlight of this annual event is the entertaining haka pei (see video below), which involves using banana trunks to glide down a perilously steep slope. Head to Hanga Vare Vare in the evenings to continue with the celebrations. Take a look at the highlights of the 2018 Tapati Rapa Nui to get a better idea of what to expect

  • Triathlon competition
  • Haha Varua Te Ra'ai and Peti e Tahi Band performance
  • Body-painting competition
  • Carving and arts contests
  • Agricultural exhibition
  • Bodyboarding with reed boards
  • Traditional shell necklace, costume-making and culinary contests
  • Traditional canoeing and swimming contest
  • Theatrical and choir competitions
  • Float parade

Pros and cons of traveling during the festival

If you’re planning to attend the festival, you’ll need to book your flights and accommodation far in advance. Visitors from across the globe flock to the island during this period, which means that prices are bumped up and rooms get booked up quickly. Booking early is an absolute must.

Traveling during this period does mean dealing with lots of tourists, but the spirit and camaraderie more than make up for any hassle. The festival is a fantastic opportunity to experience the vibrant local culture and learn more about the region’s inhabitants. If you’re looking for an authentic cultural experience, the Tapati Rapa Nui festival can’t be beat.

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Photo credit: Yves Picq

Now that you know more about the Tapati Rapa Nui festival, contact one of our Destination Experts to plan your bespoke trip. With so much to see and experience on Easter Island, you are sure to enjoy the trip of a lifetime. Best start practicing those dance moves…

Credit to Vanessa Blasco for the title image of this blog.

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