Easter Island: The famed moai statues, a varied landscape and horses-lots of horses-give this gorgeous, remote outpost an abundance of character

Hotel Explora Rapa Nui

That the scenery on Easter Island is striking is abundantly clear. But just how and why the 887 monolithic humanoid figures called moai that dominate the island, which lies 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile, came into being is less clear. The moai-which were constructed as tributes to deceased ancestors -- are thought to have been produced between the 12th and 17th centuries, but no one is certain how the mammoth statues, which were carved in the island's quarry, were moved around.

There's no better place to ponder that mystery than Explora Rapa Nui. (Rapa Nui is the name the locals have for the island.) The lodge, which opened in 2007, features 30 rooms, all with ocean views. It's an excellent base from which to explore the island, either on foot or on horseback. (Horses aren't hard to come by: There are 7,000 of them on Easter Island, compared to 5,000 people.)

The island was once covered with palm trees, but the construction and transportation of the statues placed such a strain on resources that it eventually was deforested. So conservation is a buzzword at Explora Rapa Nui. The resort is built in a 23-acre area that doesn't disturb the moai or the fauna.

The most remote inhabited island in the world is just 63 square miles, but its terrain is, while uniformly breathtaking, remarkably varied. Red rock landscapes reminiscent of the southwestern U.S. dominate one part of the island, not far from a black lava beach. Crater lakes neighbor sandy white beaches that wouldn't look out of place on a Caribbean postcard. The effect of that diversity is that no matter where you are on the island, there's a vague feeling of familiarity. Then you take a look around and see a 20-foot, 15-ton sculpture staring back at you, and you realize that Easter Island is, without doubt, one of a kind.