When summer in Chile comes to an end and the weather and crowds start cooling down, it doesn’t mean a beach trip is out of the question. It may not be your typical vacation with days spent swimming and sunbathing. Yet, the natural beauty and rugged landscape of the Chilean coast offers activities that don’t require hot temperatures.
Playa de Guanaqueros, Photo by Brandon Stanley
About five hours north of Santiago, the village of Guanaqueros is far enough that one can feel they are really getting away, while still keeping it realistic for a weekend trip (although a couple more days are recommended for the stresses of daily life to fully dissipate). To make the most out of your trip and the surrounding area it is best to rent a car. But don’t fret, you can still enjoy yourself by taking one of the daily buses up from Santiago.
Guanaqueros fish stalls, Photo by Brandon Stanley
Located in a vast bay, this rustic fishing village is a little off the beaten path for the average tourist. Dirt roads lead down hills past homes, motels, restaurants and markets to the port and a sprawling 17km beach.
Your time here is best spent lounging and walking the empty beaches, indulging in fresh seafood at local eateries, and losing yourself in a village that feels 30 years behind the rest of the world. For more strenuous activity you can hike south of the town towards the peninsula for beautiful views of the bay and surrounding mountains. Guanaqueros also serves as a perfect jumping off point for other beaches in the area, each with their own appeal and hiking options.
Playa Totoralillo, Photo by Brandon Stanley
Backed by rocky hills and steep, arid mountains is the beach of Totoralillo. There are plenty of crowds during the summer months, but once schools are back in session you will mostly find peace and quiet along with the occasional surfer and beachside campers. For a relaxing hike head north from the beach and up the coast.
Just south of Guanaqueros is Playa Blanca; a small beach surrounded on three sides by hills, all funneling to its white sand beaches. On the north end are low-key campsites for the budget friendly traveler. From here you can keep hiking north and find nothing but hills, sand dunes and ocean views for hours. Or head south towards Puerto Velero, a more upscale beach community.
Playa Blanca, Photo by Brandon Stanley
Guanaqueros has a decent number of sleeping options, but a majority of them can’t be found online. Both unofficial and official beachside camping will offer the most unique experience, but if the thought of colder nights without walls and modern comfort doesn’t interest you, there are motels and hostels to choose from (CP$8,000 to $30,000+, or US$16.50 to $61.80+). If you are traveling with a larger group, a cabaña, which is a simply furnished beach cottage, is another great option.
Whatever route you take bear in mind that a trip to Guanaqueros is best spent slowing down and enjoying nature, so plan accordingly.
Camping in Totoralillo, Photo by Brandon Stanley
Getting there: By car it’s a 4-5 hour drive on Ruta 5.
A 6 hour bus ride from Estación Central http://www.terminaldebusessantiago.cl/
Staying there: http://www.guanaqueros.cl/alojamiento.htm