Life’s a beach
EXPLORING SOUTH AMERICA’ S BEST STRIPS OF SAND
WHEN ONE THINKS OF SOUTH AMERICA’S beaches,the image is often as sexy and sultry as Rio de Janeiro’s sun-soaked coastline. The classic bossa nova tune “The Girl from Ipanema” might evoke scenes of the young and beautiful sporting skimpy thong bathing suits and Speedo swimwear, sunning themselves along one of the most popular strips of white sand in the world. Brazil’s 4,650 miles of coastline and tropical weather affords it some of South America’s best beaches complete with mountainous views and blue-green seas. Yet from the continent’s remaining 11,000 or so coastal miles stem a seemingly endless array of beaches — from the warm Caribbean waters of Cartagena to the glacier-fed fjords of Patagonia — many within easy reach of cruise ship ports. Some beaches nestle within protected coves while others face pounding Atlantic and Pacific surf. The wealthy often flock to resort areas in Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile, for example, while only elephant seals and penguins take to the unpredictable currents around Cape Horn. There are riverbank beaches and those seemingly untouched on offshore islands. With so many choices, deciding on your favorite beach paradise may not be easy, but booking a South America cruise is certainly a good way to begin. Here are some seaside highlights that await.
Brazil THE ONCE BOHEMIAN IPANEMA BEACH IS WITHIN ONE OF RIO’S
most desired neighborhoods of trendy boutiques and expensive restaurants. Deeply tanned locals slap volleyballs, play soccer, and wakeboard, usually near their favorite beachside watering holes. The crescent-shaped Copacabana Beach, meanwhile, caters to an older and richer crowd. Its stunning turquoise waters and, on a busy day, multicolored umbrellas popped open make for a spectacular sight.
Other Brazilian beaches include the Praia Boa Viagem in Recife, the large city often called the “Venice of Brazil” because of its crisscross of canals. Beachgoers flock to Boa Viagem’s white sand, but stay out of the water except in protected areas because of shark attacks.
Deep in the Amazon at Santarém, more than 60 miles of freshwater white-sand beaches — noted as the “Caribbean in Brazil” — string along the Tapajós River where it merges with the Amazon River. City beaches in Fortaleza, one of the country’s largest cities, span about 15 miles; Futuro Beach is the most well known.
Some beaches nestle within protected coves while others face pounding Atlantic and Pacific surf.
Colombia BEACHES ARE NOT HIGH
on the list for many cruisers visiting Cartagena, Colombia, as they instead opt to spend their time ashore walking cobbled streets and exploring the walled Old Town and colonial buildings. Mainland beaches are not pristine, but those on the Rosario Islands and Playa Blanca on Barú Island are a world away — think white sand and aquamarine water — but are just 45- and 15-minute boat rides respectively from Cartagena.
FAR FROM THE CROWDS, Ecuador’s Playa Los Frailes sits about 60 miles from port of call Manta. Secluded, crescent-shaped, and brimming with white sand, it’s touted as one of the country’s most beautiful beaches. As part of Machalilla National Park, the cove- protected Los Frailes is great for snorkeling and water sports.
OFTEN REFERRED TO AS THE “Uruguayan Riviera” or “Hamptons of South America,” Punta del Este is one of South America’s most glittery summer resort areas. Some 250 miles east of Buenos Aires, it’s where flashy Argentines and celebrities flock for the vibrant nightlife. High season brings no shortage of yachts and pleasure boats — yet more comparisons to Monaco and St. Tropez.
Jutting out on the southernmost tip of Uruguay, the port city of Punta del Este narrows to a point and is tipped by its famous lighthouse of the same name. On the eastside of the point, roughsurf Playa Brava stretches several miles opposite high-rises, fine restaurants, galleries, and boutiques along busy boulevards. The gentler waves of Playa Mansa ripple along a more sheltered western cove. Nearby Playas Bikini and La Barra attract the party crowd, while Las Delicias and Pinares beaches are quieter, to name just a few.
Peru WHILE LIMA’S BEACHES ARE
gravelly in spots and often crowded in hot months, Peru’s northern beaches are places to go because of year-round warm ocean currents. Well-to- do crowds, young people, and surfers flock to the trendy beach town of Máncora, often called the “Hawaii of Peru.” Nearby Punta Sal and Vichayito beaches offer similar white sands and surf.
Patagonia THE CONTINENT’S SOUTHERN
shores yield to different flocks of swimmers. Not far from the Chilean port of Punta Arenas, thousands of Magellanic penguins rule the sandy shoreline along Otway Bay. Along the gravelly beaches of the glacier-fed Beagle Channel, slumbering elephant seals grunt and snort while trying to feel some warmth from the Patagonian sun.
Shore excursions from Ushuaia, Argentina — the world’s southernmost city — explore Tierra del Fuego National Park where black-headed cormorants nest along ocean-side rocky ledges, and where black-browed albatross soar along cold ocean winds.
STRETCHING 2,600 MILES ALONG the Pacific coast, Chile has several spots to test the waters. While the colder southern coastline is dotted with scenic fjords, the warmer northern shores are ideal for swimming. A lighthouse fronts the beach at La Serena, one of Chile’s biggest coastal resort areas at port of call Coquimbo. The white sands of Bahía Inglesa (English Bay) are near the Atacama Desert region. At Valparaíso, the upscale beach at Viña del Mar is one of Chile’s most popular with a busy boardwalk.
You’ll find Carnival dancers, sports enthusiasts, and sunbathing beauties along the shores of Brazil’s Copacabana (opposite page top), Ipanema (opposite page bottom), and other beaches.
Left: A rainbow over Playa Blanca in Colombia; This page: A famous lighthouse and La Mano, a symbolic hand sculpture grace the beaches of Punta del Este, Uruguay.
Surfing in Máncora, Peru; the bustling beach of Viña del Mar in Chile (below); and beach-bound penguins of Patagonia make South America’s beaches unique.