Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Exploring the Explora at Rapa Nui

Having read many tripadvisor reviews, I was somewhat intimidated about staying at this Explora.  This will actually be the first Explora hotel I have ever stayed at.  The only other Explora hotel I've been to in the past was Explora Patagonia.  I did not stay there but I would say the impression I have is it's a well run place but not particularly luxurious. Since this is probably the best reviewed place and looked like the most luxurious accommodation one can have on the island, I made the reservation and hope for the best.  Turned out my trepidation was unfounded.  Sure there is no in room service or all the activities were done in a group than individuals room, but those are the only none five star aspect of the whole experience.  There is much to be liked about this resort.

Once you get out of the chaotic Mataveri airport with your luggage, Explora is there to pick you up.  The resort is not in town but maybe only 20 minutes car drive from it.  It's a plus or a minus depending on your traveling style and preference.  I didn't care either way.  The check in process was smooth and I was in my room Raa Suite in no time.  There are basically two options.  One is Raa suite which is close to 500 sqft whereas the regular rooms are 350 sqft.  I would highly recommend the Raa suite as it gives you a bit more space to layout and chill.  I'm not a big fan of cramped rooms and 350 sqft size room to me is cramped.  The vanity is open to bedroom area.  There is a separate toilet room and a separate shower/tub room.  I kinda wish they would enclose the whole bathroom to give it even more privacy but exposing the vanity area makes the room feel roomier so I understand where the architect thought process was.

I do appreciate the architecture of the hotel.  It's a series of circles (ovals) stacked on top of each other.  Circular architecture is more expensive to build but feels more special and interesting imo.  In addition, ocean is on one side of the property and circular architecture gives more viewing opportunities for more guests to have ocean views compare to square or rectangular buildings.

Because how late I arrived, Explora took the liberty to assign me an activity for the following day which I was fine with.  The way how they structure the activities is you leave in your activity group around 9AM and you come back around 1PM.  Then you leave again around 3PM and come back around 7PM.  Of course this depends on the activity you are on.  You may leave a little bit later or come back a little bit earlier.  But in general, this is the schedule.  Everyday after your exploration, your guide will ask you what you want to do the following day.  So depending on what you choose, you may see the same people in your group. This forces you to meet people that you see in the dining room whether you like it or not.  I typically would prefer not to interact with other resort guests but I have to say I really enjoy meeting all the guests at Explora Rapa Nui.  One thing I find almost all the guests here have in common is everyone is very well traveled.  It makes sense as typically people start from big cities like NYC, London, Paris, etc. and then you branch out to more "exotic destinations" such as Rapa Nui island.  It was fun to trade experiences at various destinations/hotels as well as finding out more information on places that I will be going to in the future.  I have to say meeting other guests at Explora Rapa Nui was one of the highlights for me on the island.

Food at the hotel was surprisingly good.  Selection isn't extensive by any means but what they had was always fresh and well seasoned.  Nothing was bib gourmand level but everything was tasty.  However, I would say if you stay a week (which most people probably aren't), you will likely get tired of the food especially breakfast as they pretty much serve same breakfast over and over again.  If memory serves me correctly, they change their dinner menu every two days.

Internet is only available in the dining/ lobby area.  It was a bit annoying but I knew this in advance so I was prepared.  Other things that is worth mentioning is that they do have a nice pool area.  I didn't swim in the pool so I'm unsure temperature of the water but it was nicely designed.  The spa area is basically few rooms off to the side.  It felt kinda basic and I wish they would make it look better (ie staffed it with a reception desk, steam room, sauna room, etc).  None of those were present.  Masseuse is farmed out to local people and you have to call in advance.  There is no dedicated spa staff at the hotel.  The massage I had was good.  The treatment room was fine.  It didn't feel particularly luxurious (but wasn't shabby) and yet it was nice.  I definitely feel they could have taken it up a notch in terms of finishes.  But then again, the finishes of the hotel didn't exude luxury so I guess spa was on par with rest of the hotel.   

I was happy with all the guides I had.  They were knowledgeable.  Few of them were locals and you can feel the passion they had for the island.  I really enjoyed them retelling their forefather's history.  They were lovely... although one of them was particularly long winded...

Service was surprisingly good.  I thought the hotel management did a very good job of accommodating my requests big and small.  I felt they tried very hard and it showed.  I appreciate them going out of their way to do stuff for me.  I know some of the comments on Tripadvisor complained about the activities were very rigid.  But in reality is that if you want to see the sites on your own without a guide, the hotel is more than happy to call a car service for you and pay for it.  I wanted to go to lunch in downtown area.  No problem.  I want to see a dance show in town.  No problem.  They dispatched a car to take me there and back.  I want to do some shopping.  No problem. They took me to various shops and I even get to meet a local well known artist who does art shows all over the world.

I wasn't quite sure if I will like this hotel and being the first time staying at an Explora hotel, I was full of hesitations due to some of the negative reviews I read on Tripadvisor.  I'm glad to say I would be very happy to return to this resort.  In fact, I would be very happy to recommend this resort to friends and family.  Is this resort at an Aman level?  No. But with right expectations, this hotel is thoroughly enjoyable. 


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