Easter Island is an incredible place. Even more so during the yearly Tapati cultural festival. During this week-long festival, this island is alive with competitions, concerts, sporting events, artistic displays, feasts and many other events. We were fortunate enough to be able to visit the island during the festival, which occurs every year at the end of January/beginning of February.
The Polynesian culture of the island is alive during the festival and many ancient traditions are celebrated. Competitors come from all over to compete in wood carving, fishing, dance, and traditional body decoration. Sporting events include haka pei competition (sliding down a cliff on a banana tree), spearfishing, swimming and oaring across the lake at Rano Raraku.
Traditional costumes and body paint are worn throughout the festival which includes loincloths and Tahitian influenced costumes made with shells, banana bark, feathers and paperbark. Many other elements are borrowed from other Polynesian cultures such as ukurere; a type of ukulele used in many of the music events. Dance is a big part of the festival and there are events for all ages with parades, floats and nightly concerts.
Being able to see the Tapati Festival is a real treat and I would encourage anyone planning a trip to Easter Island to time their trip for this time. Hotels and other accommodations fill up during this time, so make sure to book ahead. It’s well worth it to see the island so alive and full of color. Plan to spend about a week on the island to see the major sites as well as several festival events.