Fantasy Islands in the South Pacific

The South Pacific has long beckoned romance-seeking travelers with its pristine beaches, unspoiled waters, and laid-back living.

Easter Island: Cultural Expeditions

Polynesia meets South America on this mysterious island, known across the globe for its giant stone heads and mysterious history. Most of the 5,000 islanders are of Polynesian ancestry, but they speak Spanish because the island has long been part of Chile. The only way to reach Easter (or Rapa Nui, its ancient name) is to fly from either Santiago or Papeete, which means a multiple-leg honeymoon that includes Chile or Tahiti.

More than 800 moai (stone heads) are scattered around the volcanic isle. Symbolic of both the Polynesian culture and the incredible heights that prehistoric civilizations were able to reach without the aid of modern technology, these structures are the hallmark attraction of the island. However, not even the most gifted archeologist can say for certain how the giant statues were erected, what their exact purpose was or why bygone islanders just decided one day to stop making them.

stone heads easter island
Photo courtesy of Explora Rapa Nui

Rapa Nui is small enough that you can rent a car and explore the archeological sites on your own via the two-lane paved road that circles the island. Most are located inside a national park with trails that lead to the major moai sites as well as black and white sand beaches, volcanic lakes and stupendous cliffs overlooking the sea.

With more than 90 percent of Rapa Nui set aside as a national park, almost everyone lives in laid-back Hanga Roa, the island’s tiny capital. The town centers around a busy fishing harbor and a daily farmer’s market along Avenida Atamu Tekena. Almost all of the island’s hotels, restaurants and craft shops are located in Hanga Roa.

easter island
Photo courtesy of Explora Rapa Nui

The best place to stay is Explora Lodge, the only hotel inside the national park. The resort offers a variety of half and full day adventure excursions lead by local guides. The sleek, modern design is straight out of Architectural Digest, and the guest rooms are rustic-chic with large picture windows looking out onto the romantic island landscape. There’s also a swimming pool and small spa (room rates start at $1,458 a night and are all inclusive;

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