One of the advantages of being a long, skinny country stretching down between the Pacific and the ribs of the Andes, is that Chile has a Pacific coastline of 4,270 km // 2,653 mi. That’s as long as driving from Vancouver to Ottawa! With a width of only 90 km in some places (and a maximum of 445 km), it means you are never far from the sea. We have done our best, yet have only just discovered a fraction of the inlets, coves, surf towns and fishing villages in Chile. Heading North to South, here are the ones we have enjoyed. (Note, we have never been to the beach in the summer! We tend to go in the winter or October to avoid the crowds.)
Punta de Choros // Isla Damas
About a 100 km north of La Serena lies Punta de Choros and Isla Damas. This area is popular to see the Humboldt penguins on the island, dolphins and visit a working fishing village. Two days after we got our car, it was a long weekend and the “Flowering Desert / Desierto Florido,” which only happens once every five to 10 years, was in bloom. So we hopped in the car and I made reservations for an Airbnb in Coquimbo on the way. We decided to stay in Coquimbo because it was central and seemed not as busy as La Serena. Both have nice white sand beaches and many accommodation choices and restaurants. We went in August and most of the penguins were in the middle of Isla Damas so we didn’t see many, but we did see dolphins. We ended up getting a last minute spot to stay in Punta de Choros as we wanted to drive further north to see the flowering desert, but the domes we booked had accidentally made a double booking. They were pretty neat looking! We ended up staying at the owner’s friend’s basic cabins right on the sea. We liked it, but we were definitely visiting in the off-season and the highlight for us of this beach stop was actually the desert. You can books boat tours out of La Serena, but you can just rock up to the wharf and book at the beach on first come/first served basis which is what we did. Punta de Choros is not recommended for swimming due to currents.
Just under two hours from Santiago, this is a perfect beach for a day trip or longer. We have been a couple of times for day trips to play on the sand and enjoy some seafood! Our friends who stay here love the waves for children and boogie boarding. The wharf and the restaurants are on one beach and then you have to drive up and around the point to get to the swimming sandy beach. There are bathrooms here and few pop-up stands selling sand toys and a basic cafe. There is a parking lot on both sides. The seafood is delicious and there are many places to choose from (we liked Miramar) and the El Templo pizza place gets rave reviews from the kids. You can also plan a stop on your way back to Santiago at Casa del Bosque for supper as it’s right on the way (if you aren’t too full from seafood!)
This beach is just 20 km north of popular Algarrobo. Tunquen is known for its massive dunes. It’s beach is half a km wide so it takes awhile to reach the sea! And it’s 2 km long with deserted beaches. The waves are enormous and the undertow is brutal. We didn’t let the children go in, but just splashed about and played on the sand. It is not recommended to swim here. But we rented a house close to the beach in a development with a pool and enjoyed running around in the dunes. You can eat out in Algarrobo as it’s nearby.
Our first long weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving and Chilean Dia de la Raza so we rented an apartment from a local mum on Discover Chile Facebook and stayed at Playa Canelillo. It is a secluded cove with a tree-covered hill for a small hike, yet close to Algarrobo for amenities. The water is absolutely freezing, even in the sunlit and sheltered cove! We were grateful for the swimming pool! We have also been to San Alfonso del Mar in Algarrobo which, when first built in 2006 broke the record for the biggest swimming pool in the world! You can’t swim in the pool but you can do all sorts of non-motor sports. If you have small children and can rent a spot here it’s like a mini resort. We enjoyed the food and view from A Toda Costa.
I won’t lie, Mantanzas is our favourite beach and we have been on three holidays there. It’s a gorgeous long beach perfect for kite surfing and surfing. Bring boogie boards and wetsuits for the kids. When booking just ensure you are actually on the beach as it’s surrounded by cliffs and hills, the first place we booked was up the hill overlooking the sea. Just check the maps carefully. There are many delicious restaurants in town and a wonderful fishmonger on the boardwalk, next to a lady who makes the best empanadas I’ve had. An ice cream shop and a mini grocery store with a great selection of wine and beer means you have everything you need in one spot. We enjoyed eating at Surazo, OMZ and in nearby Pupuya (which is also an amazing spot to stay with a wonderful beach) at La Lobera. If you book on Airbnb, houses located in Vista del Oceano Condos are close to the sea with a private walk down (800 m?) to the beach, woods for kids to explore and a playground. OMZ offers beachside accommodation and camping. Surazo is also right on the beach. You can easily stop off in Pomaire for some handmade pottery as well. We also did Mantanzas and skiing in one long weekend for a Ski 2 Sea!
Punta de Lobos // Pichilemu
A great spot for kite surfing and surfing is the town of Pichilemu, great surf schools for the kids and warm, black sand. Though the ocean is still freezing! We preferred staying in the quieter area of Punta de Lobos, but in the high season it can take an hour to drive between the two. There are small towns to explore, kilometres of coastlines and really great restaurants. We stayed at Loica cabins and enjoyed eating at Hotel Alia. This trip could easily be combined with a stop off in the pottery town of Pomaire. For more info check out my post dedicated to just this trip.
Raul Marin Balmaceda
Raul Marin Balmaceda, the oldest town in Aysen founded in 1889, is located on an island in a river delta. We had freak hot, sunny weather when we were here and loved it. A small, local vibe (pop. 311) with fjords on one side, snowcapped volcanoes on the other it is a quiet place to recharge. We took a boat tour and saw penguins, dolphins and seals. It is off the beaten track and totally worth it. For details you can read all about it during our trip south here .
Anakena is known as the best beach in Chile, but you have to get to Easter Island first! It is the only water that is tepid in Chile and of course the one trip where I forgot the swim suits! Everyone went in in their underpants or shorts and had a wonderful time on the white sandy, palm trees waving overhead and the Moai watching over us. It was all a little surreal. There are bathrooms and cafes on the beach. Our daughter even managed a horse ride from a local!
Comment below with your favourite beach! With over 900 of them, we have only scratched the surface!