With its 4,000-mile Pacific coastline, Chile should have no shortage of beaches. However, the country’s extremes mean that realistically, the most popular beaches are grouped into a relatively small stretch of the coast.
The Central Region, particularly around Valparaiso, is where almost all of these beaches are. Even here, the cold Humboldt Current makes swimming a daunting thought outside the hot summer season.
However, that doesn’t stop anyone from heading to the beach to enjoy the amazing Chilean beach life. Whether it’s strolling with a loved one, working on your golden tan, or just enjoying a few drinks, there are beaches for every taste.
Here are 10 of the best beaches in Chile.
Las Cujas, Zapallar
Just over an hour north of Valparaiso is the island of Cachagua, a nature sanctuary popular with those wishing to see its Humboldt penguin colony. The small beach of Las Cujas, near the small resort town of Zapallar, is tucked into a tiny cove on the mainland nearby.
This is a beach to really remind you that Chile sits on the Pacific Ocean. Noted for its clear blue water, and good diving, it also has lovely golden sand.
Lifeguards and a few kiosks cater to those who find their way to this beautiful spot. Although it’s small, the popular beaches of Zapallar and Cachagua tend to draw the crowds, leaving Las Cujas relatively empty.
The shore has plenty of rock pools to study sea-life if you don’t want to dive or snorkel in the sea. Sport fishing is a popular option here, with sole and sea bass being common catches.
A short walk away is the tiny Piedras Preciosas beach, named for the precious stones found on it. A longer walking trail of about an hour will take you to or from the town of Las Cujas.
Behind this coast is a preserved stretch of native forest, notable for its biodiversity. A number of unusual trees show interesting adaptation to the high salinity of sea breezes.
Playa Caleta Abarca, Viña del Mar
Only two hours from Santiago, Chile’s capital city, Playa Caleta Abarca is one of Chile’s most popular summer beaches. It’s one of three gems in the resort city of Viña del Mar, along with Playa el Sol, and Playa Acapulco.
The beach is bound to the north by a hotel, and to the south by Cerreo Recreo, on which stands a convent. Just behind it is the colorful, must-see, floral clock marking the entrance to Viña del Mar.
Although hemmed in by buildings and a sea wall behind it, the beach is long enough, and wide enough, to feel spacious. The sea is only warm enough for swimming at the height of summer, when the beach becomes crowded with sun loungers and umbrellas.
The rest of the time, there’s plenty of room for sunbathing, and some fascinating people watching. Take a break by strolling or cycling the promenade, or enjoying one of the many cafés, bars, and restaurants lining the beach.
Visiting Viña del Mar—nicknamed La Ciudad Jardín (“Garden City”)—is one of the best things to do in Chile. The town has lovely gardens laid out behind the beach for a walk in the shade. There are also enough stores selling handcraft, and everything else, for the most ardent shopper.
Playa Las Salinas, Viña del Mar
This beach is a marked contrast to the slicker beaches lining the center of Viña del Mar. Its quaint infrastructure takes you back to an earlier time, when the city was still developing.
Its best features remain equally unaffected by change. The beach itself is calm, protected by headlands, making it one of the best places to swim in Viña.
Those headlands also help produce good, gentle waves, making for relaxing surfing or bodyboarding. The slope off the beach is steep, however, so pay attention to the instructions of the lifeguards on duty.
This quiet, intimate beach, 20 minutes from the center, is popular with local people, and regular visitors staying in the many holiday apartments around. It’s a place to see and be seen, while wearing the latest fashion in beachwear.
In summer, there’s also a good chance there will be some events open to all. Yoga, live music, or fitness classes are all possibilities.
There are several restaurants in the immediate neighborhood, well-placed if you want to spend some time here. There is a nearby artisan fair, and a popular promenade if you want to see more of this fashionable area.
Playa Reñaca, Viña del Mar
This beach is at the very northern end of Viña del Mar, in the prosperous neighborhood of Reñaca. Once a separate community, it has been swallowed up by Viña, but retains its own exclusive character.
Playa Reñaca is one of the most famous beaches in Chile, popular with a younger crowd for its energy, and photogenic looks. The year-round nightlife is as much of a draw as its bars, and restaurants.
However, that fame rests on the strong foundation of a long, wide beach with surfer-friendly waves. Although the water on this coast is cold, it’s still used for many water sports.
During the day, people enjoy sunbathing on the soft sands, sports such as volleyball, and water sports. In the evening, the terraces of restaurants and pubs that open onto the beach, and its busy promenade, start to come to life.
The key summer season is December through February. Outside that high season, you’ll find fewer people, but good eating and shopping remain reliable constants.
Playa Amarilla, Viña del Mar
Compared to hip Reñaca, Playa Amarilla in the neighborhood of Concón is more of a family destination. Its gentler waves make it more suitable for swimming, or at least paddling since the water is no warmer.
The beach gets its name from its lovely yellow sand, perfect for playing on or sunbathing. It’s always had a reputation as an exclusive, relatively quiet beach, partly because of a lack of parking.
Nowadays, public transportation and urban growth have made the beach a bit more crowded. But it’s still far enough away from the center of Viña del Mar to be less busy than many others, especially outside weekend peaks.
Rent a deckchair and a parasol, or paddle along the shore to explore the rock pools nearby. Concón’s promenade has also been built up over the years, and now has plenty of restaurants.
Like other beaches in Viña, Playa Amarilla is overlooked by holiday apartments. Construction has been tastefully done, however, and you’ll not really notice them when enjoying the ocean view.
Santo Domingo Beach, Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, about 90 minutes south of Valparaiso, has almost a dozen beaches, depending on how you split the coastline up. The longest is simply called Playa Santo Domingo and is almost 12 miles long.
That length—the longest in the region—makes the beach ideal for walking, and it’s also popular for horseback riding. The beach is a big draw for sport fishing too.
Lacking a direct connection to the coastal highway means access is difficult enough to keep the beach surprisingly quiet. However, a couple of festivals attract crowds during a few long summer weekends.
Strong offshore winds bring many windsurfers to enjoy the open waters. Those winds also sculpt the extensive dunes that back the beach.
If you’re thinking that sounds like a perfect setting for a classic links golf course, you’re not wrong. Rocas de Santo Domingo GC, about ten minutes away, is one of the oldest golf courses in Chile.
Rated as the top course in the country, its original 18 holes date to the 1940s. Now well shaded by lovely pine and cypress trees, it added another nine holes in 1999.
Playa Las Torpederas, Valparaíso
As it’s perhaps the most historic beach in town, visiting Playa Las Torpederas is one of the best things to do in Valparaiso. Hemmed in by a major road, a university campus, and a cemetery, it clings on as a well-loved urban beach.
The beach is named for some torpedo boats of the Chilean Navy that were moored here in the late 1800s. The beach had been used for sea bathing before that, but really took off after the boatyard was removed in 1895.
A tram route opened a few years later and linked the beach to the center of Valparaiso. A casino, hotel, and more spa facilities soon followed.
Another famous South American landmark here was the lighthouse of Punta Ángeles, the first of 70 built along the Chilean coast by Scottish engineer George Slight. A ten-minute walk from the beach is the relocated lighthouse of 1857, which holds a small museum dedicated to Slight’s life and work.
With these deep links to the area, it’s no surprise that the beach remains a central part of local life. You can see whole families enjoying a picnic, or groups of friends sparking off the party atmosphere.
Even better, this is one of the best beaches in Valparaiso for swimming. It’s calm, with no difficult currents or wave action.
Playa Chica Laguna Verde, Valparaiso
Embraced by a wide horseshoe-shaped bay, this lovely beach is only some six miles south of Valparaiso. The enclosing cliffs and white sandy bottom give the sea here a turquoise hue, hence its “green lagoon” name.
The sheltered water makes it seem a good place to paddle—although it’s still cold. There are notorious currents offshore, so most visitors stick to the sand, enjoying their sunbathing.
There are two beaches here, the larger Playa Grande, and the smaller Playa Chica. Playa Chica is further in, with a very risky cliff diving spot that’s best avoided.
Playa Grande is more sedate, with a wide, deep stretch of sand, popular with families. You’ll need to take to the rocks to reach Playa Chica, so beach shoes are a real necessity if that’s your plan.
There are several Chilean food stalls specializing in seafood. You can also hire a bicycle to explore a bit further inland.
Playa el Sol & Playa Acapulco, Viña del Mar
The main beach of Viña del Mar is nominally split into two by the old Vergara pier. The larger, northern half is Playa el Sol, with the shorter, southern section called Playa Acapulco.
The distinction is hardly important, as the whole beach is linked by landside gardens and the ocean waves. Its white sands also seem unaffected by the pier’s foundations.
The town has put a lot of care into those gardens, and it shows. Facilities put in for visitors, and residents, include showers and restrooms, outdoor gyms, and a bike trail.
The beach is about two miles long, and most visitors chill out on its sands to take in the ocean view. The water—often seemingly straight from the Antarctic—is good for a dip if you get too hot, but strong currents discourage anything much more.
Any walk will naturally lead you to the landmark Muelle Vergara. This old pier has been remodeled for recreation but its restored crane reminds you of this area’s industrial past.
Walk to the pier’s tip for great views north along the shore to the areas of Reñaca and Concón. If you see someone fishing, look out for a sea lion hunting for a tidbit.
If you start to feel hungry yourself, there are plenty of good restaurants nearby, as well as options nearby for drinks, ice cream, or shopping.
Has this list of the best beaches in Chile inspired you to visit? Then browse our Chile cruises to find the perfect South American vacation.