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hanga roa

Hanga Roa: the center of Rapa Nui

Hanga Roa is the center of urban life on Easter Island. It’s a place packed with years of history belonging to the Rapa Nui community, particularly as it was formed in such an unusual manner. What is interesting about this place’s past and what are its main attractions? Today, in our blog, we tell the story…


Hanga Roa is Easter Island’s sole urban center. At present, almost 90% of the island’s population resides in this one place, but it wasn’t always this way. Before the arrival of the Western colonizers, the islanders were spread out across almost 163 square kilometres of the island.

However, by the middle of the 19th Century, the settlements changed owing to the different colonizations that took place on the island. Up until 1950, the exploitation of Easter Island’s resources reduced the space reserved for residential occupancy on the island, which is why the island’s natives ended up living in Hanga Roa alone.


The Pascua Law

In 1964, a group of locals took on the Chilean Navy, demanding better living conditions for all islanders. It was this protest that gave birth to Law 16.441, known as The Pascua Law. With the passing of this legislation, the Rapa Nui community acquired Chilean citizenship and all the human rights that this implied.


The Hanga Roa Community

As a result of this process, Hanga Roa continues as the island’s only urban nucleus. Today, the group of inhabitants is a mix of Rapa Nui, Chileans, and other nationalities. Its name means “Long Bay”, and it’s located in the south east area of the island, between the Rano Kau and Maunga Terevaka volcanoes. It’s also where the Hanga Roa Otai and Hanga Piko ports, and the Mataveri aiport can be found.


hanga roa

Church in Hanga Roa.


The main attractions

The city is formed around two main streets. The first is called Atamu Tekena, home to restaurants, shops, the Chilean Navy, and the town hall. The second important street is called Te Pito, or Te Henua, meaning “the navel of the world” in the Rapa Nui language. It begins at the port and ends at the Santa Cruz Church, which was founded in 1937 by the priest, Sebastián Englert.


If you would like to visit Easter Island and the Hanga Roa community, you can make a reservation here.