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A guide to the best beaches in Chile

Chile has one of the longest coastlines, of over 6500kms! With so much rugged coast to choose from it can be tricky finding the most alluring sand. So, here’s a look at some of the best beaches in Chile for when the Southern Hemisphere summer rolls round again:

Viña del Mar

Arguably Chile’s premier beach resort, Viña is a hotspot for tourists with cash. Though the icy water makes for a teeth-chattering swim, it also allows for a coastline brimming with delicious seafood restaurants and a good amount of shoreline shopping.

Beach bag essential: Enough pesos to shop the boardwalk and come away with a Chilean treasure.

Zapallar

Mountainous backdrop at Zapallar

Where the more tasteful moneyed crowd go, Zapallar is a handsome and rather exclusive beach resort with large weekend houses and fancier apartments lining the small coves. The fishing port is perfectly picturesque though and you’ll find some of the freshest seafood delivered from the sea bed straight to your plate.

Beach bag essential: A credit card with no limit.

Reñaca

Beer and Reñaca beach

This 1.3km stretch of beach resort coastline can scarcely accommodate the evenly-tanned prepsters that perch in its sands. If ever a beach could be ‘hip,’ Renaca would be it. Though the waves are a bit too much to handle for actual swimming, beachgoers take quick dips in the chilly water before continuing their rotisserie sun-tanning regimen.

Beach bag essential: A shnazy pair of rip-off Raybans. Don’t have any? Lucky for you, every stall along the boardwalk will be happy to sell you a set – for gringo prices, unless your Spanish accent is up to par.

Concón

The coastal resort of Concón, just north of Viña del Mar is a leafy green escape from the urban vibe of Viña. The 10 Km route connecting the two cities not only makes for an interesting bike ride, it also is home to some of the best stetches of beach in all of Chile. The three main beaches in Concón are Playa Negra, Amarilla and Boca. Playa Amarilla, a favorite among families with small children, offers calm waters, fine sand and (mostly) free parking.

Beach bag essential: Food and libations, as there is not an ample selection of restaurants and stores nearby.

Valparaíso

The Ying to Viña’s yang, Valpo – Chile’s primary sea port – offers a colorful, historical, charismatic alternative to the sometimes tiresome pace of the beach resort towns. The coastline that inspired Neruda and the rolling hills crowded with brightly painted houses make the setting idyllic albeit a little dilapidated. Out of over 36 beaches, only 5 are ok for a swim: Las Torpederas, Caleta Abarca, Las Salinas, Los Lilenes and Playa Amarilla. However, these beaches have steep drop-offs, something to keep in mind if you’re venturing far from shore.

Beach bag essential:Umbrella or a brimmed hat, as shade will be hard to come by.

La Serena

Dusk at La Serena beach

As the popularity of Viña and Valpo beaches grow, some visitors are breaking away from the herd and heading north to La Serena (conveniently located the other side of a quieter border control at San Juan). Waves and rip currents make conditions dangerous for taking a plunge, however beach bars and loungers suit land lovers. Closer to Coquimbo and south of Cuatro Esquinas, you can swim the warmer waters and they are a hotspot for water sports.

Beach bag essential:Surf gear.

Bahia Inglesa

Bahia Inglesa beach in Chile

As you head up to the north of Chile, the waters get warmer, the sand gets whiter and the sea seems to get bluer! Bahia Inglesa is picture perfect. Warm weather year round and exquisite waters make it a beach heaven, however you’ll have to drive through hundreds of kilometers of the dustbowl Atacama region to get here. As soon as you dip your toes in that warm clear water though, you’ll forget all about the awkward journey.

Beach bag essential: An overnight bag, you won’t want to leave.

Playa Luna

Playa Luna, otherwise known as Horcon's nude beach

Regardless of how earnest their argument, no one comes to Playa Luna for the birdwatching. At least, it seems unlikely. This bird sanctuary is also the only official nudist beach in Chile. Tucked into a secluded nook of coastline just north of Valparaíso, Playa Luna is reachable by hiking the shoreline from the cove of Horcón. Nude, partially nude, or bundled up in a parka, the atmosphere is relaxed and the waves are welcoming.

Beach bag essential:Ditch the beach bag and swimming costume, just bring yourself and a strong SPF.

Pichilemu

Pichilemu, Chile's surf capital

This busy sea town as a family beach close to the center, but most people come here to head the 6kms south of the town to Punta de Lobos – a world class surfing beach. International surf championships are held here each year and even surf fan Jack Johnson found the right excuse to shoot one of his music videos here… Swells can reach up to 15 meters!

Beach bag essential: A board and a seriously good wetsuit, the water normally hovers around 10C even in Summer!

Isla Negra

Sweeping views at Isla Negra

If you are a Neruda fan and want to feel poetic about the ocean waves, Isla Negra might be your spot. The name ‘isla’ is misleading, as this isn’t an island at all, but a bustling little tourist town with rocky and sand beaches with beautiful sweeping views across the jagged bay.

Beach bag essential: Neruda’s love sonnets.

So, there you have it. The best beaches in Chile.

Amanda Barnes

Amanda Barnes

Amanda Barnes is a British journalist who has been living in the Southern Hemisphere for the last six years, has tried over 500 Malbecs, eaten over 600 Chilean oysters and still has a functioning liver and kidneys (as far as she knows).
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