Easter Island is a small, hilly, now treeless island of volcanic origin. Located in the Pacific Ocean at 27 degrees south of the equator and some 2200 miles (3600 kilometers) off the coast of Chile, of which territory it forms part of, it is considered to be the world’s most remote inhabited island. Sixty-three square miles in size and with three extinct volcanoes (the tallest rising to 1674 feet), the island is, technically speaking, a single massive volcano rising over ten thousand feet from the Pacific Ocean floor.
The large stone statues, or moai, for which Easter Island is world-famous, were carved from 1100–1680 CE. 888 of these statues have been found on the island, of which at least 288 once stood upon massive stone platforms called ahu. The remaining 600 moai statues are in various stages of completion and scattered around the island, either in quarries or along ancient roads between the quarries and the coastal areas where the statues were most often erected.
Nearly all the moai are carved from the tough stone of the Rano Raraku volcano. The average statue is 14 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 14 tons, although some moai were as large as 33 feet and weighed more than 80 tons. Today Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.
Due to its extreme geographic isolation, many people assume that only the highly resolute traveler can get to Easter Island. In fact, the island is accessible by regular commercial air service, and tourism is the main industry of the island. The only regular flights are once a week from Tahiti and daily to Santiago de Chile.
Easter Island is extremely small, so it is possible to get around fairly easily. With a car, it's possible to see most of the sites on the island in a few hours. Most hosts will rent out their jeep to you (at a very competitive rate) if you simply ask but there are also rental cars available from a few agencies. Be aware, you will not get insurance with your car hire. Bicycles can be hired on a daily basis.
Two exceptional sites are the volcanic craters of Rano Kau and Rano Raraku. The slightly inland quarry at "Rano Raraku" is where the moai carvings were born, out of the hillside of the volcanic rock where hundreds of laborers must have carved full-time. This 300 foot volcano remnant provided the stones for the great figures and is where a visitor can see various stages of the carving, as well as scattered partially-finished figures.
There are a few tour companies that do guided tours to Easter Island, a wonderful way to explore the best of the island and its culture without having to worry about breaking any local rules. A well-respected tour guide can show you aspects of the location and culture that you might otherwise never see or understand.