The best beaches on the Central Coast of Chile
One of the advantages of Chilean geography is that, being a strip of narrow land, the sea is always relatively close to the inner cities. And that is well known to the Santiaguinos, who during the holiday season and practically all long weekends take the opportunity to escape the hustle and visit the beaches along the Central Coast of Chile. Some of the nearest destinations are no more than 120 kilometers away, about two hours of travel by car or bus, depending on the specific destination.
Algarrobo is one of the most beautiful beaches of the Central Coast of Chile / Photo: Alexis González Molina
Many of these beaches make up what is now known as "El Litoral de los Poetas" or “The Poet’s Coast” because some of the most important writers lived in these coastal towns who were fascinated by the beauty of the Pacific and its rugged landscape marked by gorges, cliffs , rocks and small bays. For this exact reason Pablo Neruda, Adolfo Couve, Vicente Huidobro and the recently deceased Nicanor Parra built their houses here. For this and for many other reasons, we recommend all those who visit Santiago (even for a few days) to take a tour of the popular beaches of the central Chilean coast.
Possibly one of the most popular beaches in Chile, due to its proximity to Santiago. It has two wide beaches, San Carlos and Playas Blancas, which every summer attract thousands of tourists. They stand out for being "encased" by small bays, which causes the waves to be calmer and therefore are both suitable for wading in, in addition to having a pleasant temperature compared to others that are colder on the same central coast. From the Tabo you can also visit Isla Negra, a town that doesn’t stand out because of its beach (it’s obstructed by rocks), but because it’s the place where the poet Pablo Neruda lived and where his house which is now a museum is located.
Travel tip: On many of these beaches there are "caletas", which are small piers used by artisanal fishermen. In the vicinity of these coves you can buy fresh fish and seafood, as well as sit down to eat in the restaurants that the fishermen collectively administer.
Reserve a tour to Isla Negra with Wine Tasting from Santiago online.
Officially belonging to the El Tabo district, this area has three beaches suitable for swimming (Playa Blanca, Las Salinas and Los Pescadores). It stands out for its natural beauty, which has sparked the development of scientific research focused on the flora and fauna of the coast, and for one of its emblematic neighborhoods, the Vatican, where even today remain the beautiful mansions with heritage value dating back to the early twentieth century. Las Cruces is also well known for having been the home of the recently deceased poet Nicanor Parra.
Cruces is known for having been the home of the recently deceased poet Nicanor Parra / Photo: Rubén Pérez
Punta de Tralca
It officially belongs to the El Quisco district, but unlike this beach, Punta de Tralca is very quiet and ideal for families or couples who want to get away from the hustle and bustle. Don’t forget that many of the nearby areas literally "explode" in summer, but in Punta de Tralca that doesn’t happen. Its beach is very pretty, safe and has a wide range of activities and outdoor sports, such as rock climbing , surf and bodyboard classes, and bicycle rentals.
It is one of the most beautiful beaches on the central coast, both the main one and the smaller one that bears the name "El Canelillo". Both are located between a peninsula and a cove that ends in an islet, so in the area of the bay the water is very calm. It also stands out for the color of its sea water, an intense and transparent bluish green hue. The only problem with this beach is its small size, so during summer season it’s full of people and at certain times during the day it is impossible to find a place to lay down your towel.
Travel tip: this beach is ideal for visiting very early in the morning or after five in the afternoon. Do not forget that the sun sets at 8 o'clock pm during the summer in these latitudes.
Algarrobo not only has a beautiful beach with golden sand, but it is also a town with a very refined architecture; and that is immediately seen when one comes from the areas that are just south of there (such as El Quisco) where the building styles are more rustic and don’t follow a specific style. Here tourists can find a more varied gastronomic offer, as well as various cultural activities.
Depending on the point of view one has, one of the disadvantages of this town are the huge towers of buildings that have been built in the last ten years justifiably attracted by the qualities of the beaches that are located here, which are free of rocks and apt for swimming. One of the most famous buildings complex in the area is San Alfonso del Mar, which even has a huge artificial lagoon pool that adjoins the coast.
The next town, travelling north on the coastal road from Algarrobo, is called Mirasol. Here you won’t find big tourist centers nor crowded streets, just low houses with beautiful and well-kept ante-gardens.
Going down to the beach along the main street, tourists will find a lovely square that has a wide variety of plants and flowers, which are cultivated by the skillful residents who live there. When you reach the end of the street, the tourists can turn right to find the "Buenos Aires Passage" which is where the access to the Mirasol wetland is. This is, without a doubt, the main attraction of the town. It is a huge green ravine from whose underground valley waters emerge, as slopes. Thanks to this, the entire bottom of the ravine that runs to reach the coast becomes a micro natural sanctuary which refreshes different species of native birds.
Then, when the reeds are behind you you will find a beautiful golden sand beach sandwiched between cliffs. This beach is not suitable for swimming, as its waters are very violent, but it is a true spectacle for the eyes. You won’t regret it.
In the indigenous language, Tunquén means "brittle land", and this name is very accurate, since if you go down to the beach from the cliff that projects from El Yeco (the town that’s between Mirasol and Tunquén), you will see long and narrow cracks that are projected on the ground and that mark the tone of this incredible landscape. Just where the steep slope descends from the cliff you can stop and admire a beach that seems never ending, because it is really large, both wide and long. You’ll also notice that the beach is practically deserted, because it’s a difficult place to access.
If you don’t feel like going down the side of a cliff, you can also arrive by car following the same coastal route that took you to Mirasol. There you will find a fork that indicates El Yeco to the left and Tunquén to the right. Follow signs for the second option and after several sharp turns you will reach a field where there is a public access to the beach; you’ll have to pay 4 USD for the parking. From that the parking lots its a 20 minute walk to reach the ocean through the sand. It may seem difficult, but it's worth it, since Tunquén is the most beautiful beach on the entire central coast.
How to arrive from Santiago and daily budget
If you travel by bus from Santiago, you’ll need to go to the San Borja Bus Terminal in the Central Station Comuna, or you can also go to the private terminal of Tur Bus and Pullman, located in the same municipality. The buses that travel to the coast leave very frequently, especially during summer.
Now, if you’re travelling by car, you’ll want to take Route 68 and go straight west for approximately an hour and twenty minutes. Then, when you arrive at the intersection of Casablanca, turn left towards Route F-90. This route takes you straight to Algarrobo, and from there you can take the coastal road G-98-F, both to the south and to the north to visit the different beaches. All of these are very close to each other, no more than fifteen minutes of travel.
Although all these beaches are connected to each other, some prices vary depending on the location. But as an estimate of average expenses; renting an apartment or cabin will cost around 65 USD per day, and you can eat a traditional coastal meal, such as fried fish with a side, starting at 6 USD.
By: Brian Gray, a Chilean anthropologist and muralist specializing in urban visual culture