Janeen Christoff at Rano Kau // © 2013 Janeen Christoff
Anywhere you hike on Easter Island is likely going to afford you breathtaking views of the sea. By hiking to Rano Kau — part of the Rapa Nui National Park and located next to the ruins of the ceremonial village of Orongo — I discovered an enormous crater lake that is nearly a mile wide.
Walking along the seaside cliffs up from the airport is challenging to say the least, but the sight of the caldera as you climb over the last peak is a dramatic climax to the steep ascent. At the very top, the extinct volcano is filled with water and marshy grasslands. Sheltered from the winds and rain that affect much of the rest of the island, the crater has its own microclimate and fruits such as figs grow on its steep, grassy slopes. While looking down into the crater is enough to give the casual hiker vertigo, the truly brave will take a peek over the ocean side where sheer, narrow cliffs jut into the raging sea below.