Previous Next

Photo above: donrenexito, Feature photo: felixion

Skinny Chile is practically all coast, but here are 6 of the best cities and towns that put you right next to the Pacific.
Valparaiso

Photo: Vitriskel

Valpo, as it’s affectionately known to locals, is a place of details.

Every corner, every nook offers something different and new: a clothing flea market, a gigantic mural, a purple house, a rustic restaurant with unobstructed views of the ocean, a coffeeshop that serves black coffee and refuses to offer Nescafe (instant coffee is ubiquitous in Chile).

It’s a city that must be walked. Take the ascensor accessed from Esmeralda Street and wander Cerro Concepcion, where you’ll find Café Concepcion on Papudo. The restaurant — and the hill for that matter — has a spectacular view of the bay.

Near the main plaza, order buttery Mil Hojas ice cream at La Vitamin on Avenida Pedro Montt 1746.

Viña del Mar

Since the 1800s, Santiaguinos have flocked to Viña’s beaches to escape the city’s summer heat.

If you don’t mind a crowd (and the towering condominiums), the beach and accompanying boardwalk offer a variety of treats: sunning yourself on a stretch of sand, a seaside artesanía (handmade crafts) market, and smaller stands with refreshments and ice cream.

Vendors wander the beaches selling cuchuflis and dulces. You can watch sand sculptors turn tiny grains into octopi, buffalo…even the Simpsons.

Since the roads can be congested, a bus from Santiago is most convenient. The ride from the University of Santiago station takes an a hour and a half, and you arrive in Viña, a twenty-minute walk from the beach.

Isla Negra

Photo: Author

Isla Negra is the site of Pablo Neruda’s favorite beach house. The famous Chilean poet referred to himself as a “cosista,” one who collects “things.”

His retreat is filled with glass paperweights, masks from around the world, colorful dishes — anything that caught his eye.

Outside, you can admire the view that inspired Neruda’s many poems and walk the beach.

The bus from Santiago drops you five minutes from the main highway, with nearby restaurants serving up quality fish like corvina and congrio.

Algarrobo

Photo: Author

Located to the south of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, Algarrobo’s tall waves and expansive sand provide a peaceful respite from the crowds, especially the farther you wander from downtown.

Rent kayaks, swim in calm waters, and take a ride on a raft, all within a protective alcove that makes the ocean look like a lake. Near the private condominium resort San Alfonso del Mar, walk for miles on the beach and lay out in relative isolation — a delightful alternative to normally crowded Chilean beaches.

While you’re there, take a peek at the resort, which claims the Guinness Book of World Records title for largest swimming pool in the world.

La Serena

La Serena is a beachtown, plain and simple. Its broad sidewalks and grid layout are easy to navigate, its people chill.

Visit Mercado La Recova for handmade jewelry, musical instruments, clothing, and plenty of food. Be sure to purchase a jar of homemade manjar, a sweet cream made from condensed milk popular in Chile.

Looking for the beach? Avenida del Mar, the coastal road, provides access to at least 10 of them.

La Caleta (Pan de Azucar National Park)

Pan de Azucar is a beachside national park located in the Atacama Desert. Though technically too small to be considered a town, it’s too pretty not to be on this list.

Photo: aaronbflickr

Bring your tent and for 3,500 pesos a night you can sleep under a cabana at Piqueros with a view of the beach to the west and the stark beauty of the Atacama to the east.

Or for even less, camp in the more crowded, party-friendly sites at Piqueros Norte and La Caleta. La Caleta is the “town” in Pan de Azucar, with two restaurants and a mini-market for stocking up on essentials.

Once you’ve had your fill of beach fun, take a boat tour for 5,000 pesos (about $9) to the island where 5,000 penguins have taken up residence. The boat gets close enough to see rows and rows of them, the juveniles still puffy with feathers and the couples standing together in the shade.

You can also hike up to the mirador for a killer view of the desert plain as it spreads out against the coastline.

Community Connection:

To get beyond the coast, check out this list of Chile’s 8 Natural Wonders. Thinking about getting a closer look? Here are 10 Reasons to Base Your Study Abroad Experience in Chile.

About The Author

Cathy Dean

Cathy Dean currently lives in San Jose, California, after a year and a half in Santiago, Chile. She works hard to earn a living at writing and take better care of the world. You can see more of her writing on her blog, Cathy's Big Adventure.

  • http://collazoprojects.com Julie

    Woot! I’ve been to three of these…and loved them all. My only regret is that I didn’t have more time to explore them. I guess that means I’ll just have to go back!

  • Madison

    All these places sound gorgeous! I think a trip is in order.

  • Andrew

    These are great choices. I just returned from 8 months in Chile and loved every minute of it. I gotta say Pichilemu, a surf town south of Santiago is great and Niebla (just outside of my Valdivia) is definitely worth a visit, gorgeous cliffs.

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/vagabonderz Carlo Alcos

    Great piece, great pics! I love coast, beaches, everything about it. Put me near the ocean and I’m a happy man.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/tharp42 tharp42

    I’ve been dreaming of Chile and South America in general for years now. Soon. Soon…

  • http://wayworded.blogspot.com/ Hal Amen

    Great recommendations, Cathy. I’ll be making my way down the Chilean coast in t-minus 3 weeks, so these are definitely appreciated!

  • http://www.matinggamethefilm.com Kiersten

    Positively enchanting! Someday I’ll make it to South America. And how did Chili manage to get so much of the coast line!

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/halamen Hal Amen

      Good question, Kiersten! It’s a major point of contention where I’ve been hanging out for the past months. Bolivia and Peru both lost a fair chunk of coast to Chile in the War of the Pacific back in 1880s. Still a sore point today.

  • kiersten

    Chile* that is!

  • http://matadorabroad.com Tim Patterson

    I’d love to visit Chilean Patagonia someday – I hear great think about the Futalefu, or however you spell that beautiful river in the south.

  • http://grimov.wordpress.com Mauricio

    I partially agree with the list. I believe you forgot to mention Cachagua and Zapallar. Ok, I know they are upper-class only (the queen of England came to Zapallar once) but in spite of that they are an absolute must if you want to know Chilean coast towns. Besides, Los Vilos and Punta de Choros are the towns to go surfing- with all the surfing tribe culture included.

  • http://www.sailtour.cl Jorge A.

    Great choices!…although limited only to central Chile. There’s many other places that rival the ones mentioned.

    I happen to own a beach house in Algarrobo, which is my favorite place on Earth! Best time to visit is September-December and March-April, when it’s warm but not crowded.

    Feel free to send me an e-mail if you are planning to visit our country!

  • http://marisalavalette.com/ Marisa LaValette

    The author mentions the sand sculptors in Viña del Mar. I had the opportunity to interview one of the artists for my blog back in October near the Vergara Wharf on the Acapulco section of the beach. His name is Joao Villegas, a really cool nice guy. He was working on Alice in Wonderland’s white rabbit the day I was there: http://marisalavalette.com/2012/01/07/our-friend-the-artist-joao-villegas-his-art-and-his-philosophy/

If you’re looking to escape the scenesters, check out one of Europe’s least-touched...
I have been to exotic islands and beaches all over the world but the beauty of the Cook...
It's a hell of a story. And for the following reasons (and more) it's one worth hearing,...
Drivers were honking their horns angrily, but the excitement among the crowd was...
We get a fair number of travel writers down here in Chile.
The miles begin to wear on Peter as he heads into Costa Rica looking for a place to swing...
Peter crosses the bridge into Panama. He wanders the islands of Bocas Del Toro.
Marc Latham steps beyond Stonehenge to point out other stone circle sites that might be...
Thousands of people thronged the immediate surrounds of the church, haggling over...
Reflecting on the meaning of revolutionary tourism after a visit to a Zapatista community...