Inside Easter Island’s Lava Tube Caves

“Is there a road?”

“Yes, but it’s… not good.”

“Sweet! Could we take bikes on that road?”


“Perfect! That’s our plan!”

We don’t even always listen that well. If we had, we probably wouldn’t have chosen to ride bikes on the loop that would take us to the only inland Moai statues on Easter Island.


The bikes we rented were initially confusing to us. The shocks on those bikes were insane. Pedalling on the paved street of Hanga Roa was far too easy… until we veered onto the trail… which was really more like just a general way you can go. So many rocks. It was impossible to cycle in the traditional sense. I guess this was extreme off-road cycling or something. We needed those shocks on those bikes. There were many moments in which I actually felt terror as I faced down a steep rocky hill with my bike. I didn’t really pedal… mostly I just precariously perched on my bike and rode the brakes whilst striving to somehow steer to avoid driving over the larger boulders. I’m glad we biked though… as I probably would’ve rolled my ankle on those rocks anyway.

So! The trail we were following first brought us to Ahu Akivi. The statues here are among the most diminutive of the island, and they are not on the shoreline.


However, from behind, you can see that they do face the ocean. And that is unique, all other platforms with Moai face inland.


We didn’t have far to go to encounter the first cave, Ana Te Pahu, the banana cave. Bananas had been grown in this cave because they were sheltered from the elements and in the cave there is a unique atmosphere that allowed bananas to thrive.

I felt a little like Indiana Jones, descending the steep stone “steps” into the mouth of the cave.


When we were preparing for this trip, we hadn’t realized we would be exploring caves. But I brought along one headlamp anyway, because it doesn’t take up very much room, and you never know when you’ll end up in the dark. So glad I brought it! It would’ve really sucked to navigate these caves without it.


When you’re in a dark cave, it becomes a very glorious experience to see a crack in the ceiling, letting in daylight to highlight greenery. Doesn’t this look just magical?


Andrew and I thought it’d be neat if he stayed behind and I went outside to try to find him from above. We probably spent about half an hour trying to locate each other in this manner. I was essentially wandering the wilderness alone, calling out Andrew’s name. Could not find this giant hole in the ground, where he was standing, calling my name. And then suddenly I nearly fell in. Ha!


My beloved, and my shadow.

And then we continued with our cycling adventure. The next cave was Ana Kakenga. We found this hole:


We stood there, considering.

“I think we just go in this hole!” I declared.

“A person can’t even fit in there,” Andrew responded. “Let’s find the other end of the cave and enter there.”

“Nah. Check it out — I can fit!”

And in I went.


I was scooting on my butt for the first little while, being careful not to bump my head. It was a little tight. But then eventually the cave opened up a bit and I had more room to move. I beckoned Andrew. He joined me. We carefully ventured further in the dark, eventually we were able to stand and walk forward. And then… two spots of light appeared.


It was the most magnificent view!


This is how we prefer to visit the beach. By sitting in a cave.

These caves are basically “lava tubes” created by escaping air when the volcanoes erupted so long ago and created Easter Island.

Andrew stood at the end and took my picture in the cave:

IMG_4568 (1)

Then he turned around and took a photo looking down:


Yes. This cave opened up on the face of a cliff, with waves crashing on the sharp rocks below. The only way in was through that tiny hole. And it was so worth it! We were in awe. Loved our time exploring that cave!

When we finally allowed ourselves to leave, we walked along the shore and looked back to see if we could find the cave opening we’d just been perching in.

Well… it’s there somewhere. If you’re lucky you can see the red shirt of another tourist in the cave… near the top left…ish… I think.


This was my favourite experience on Easter Island because I was so surprised and delighted! What an adventure! Best.


4 responses to “Inside Easter Island’s Lava Tube Caves

  1. Would there have been different groups making the Moai? Or how did the Moai all look so similar and yet spread across the island? It’s not like they could take a picture and copy it–or even run back and forth to match it up. Curious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Different clans made the Moai. But they seem to have all been made at the same quarry… and the people making the statues were enlisted by the heads of the clans to make the Moai. These statue-makers probably lived at the quarry and their main interaction was with each other, regardless of which clan they were each individually making a Moai for. And then somehow from the quarry, they transported the Moai across the entire island. :O


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