Make no mistake, when you visit Chile, the ocean makes an impression. Whether that’s driving one of the lonely coastal roads of the north, visiting Viña del Mar or Valparaíso or dining in some of the freshest seafood the world has to offer, the importance of the vast Pacific Ocean on the country cannot be underestimated. With Chile’s 4,300 km of coastline, there’s something for everyone, and a whole lot of cool ocean breezes to fortify Chile’s wine production. There’s also something else: world-class surfing.
Pichilemu/Punta de Lobos
Worldwide, the best-known surf destination in Chile is at Punta de Lobos. The main break, considered by many to be the best left break in South America is the stuff of legends. Big wave competitions take place here when the weather is right, but you’ll find people surfing here at most times of the year. The main break is more than 100 meters from the shoreline, but there’s access in from the rock islands called Los Morros, which has most experienced surfers putting in much closer to the break with a bit of a leap. For inexperienced surfers, there’s a break closer to the shore perfect for beginners, and other breaks nearby at Infiernillo, and there’s also the nearly km-long left break at La Puntilla. On rougher days, surf tends to be quieter at Las Salinas. There are lots of other activities here, including SUPping in a local bay if you like a little more distance from the surf, or come in a mixed group of surfers and non-surfers. Punta de Lobos in Pichilemu is also a great place for those who want to watch or take photos, as the peninsula lets you look right down the barrel of the waves as the surfers work their magic. Upscape works with Hotel Alaia, which has great ocean views for surfers and non-surfers alike.
Historically, Matanzas has been a well-known kite-surfing spot with strong and steady winds, but in recent years, surfing has picked up popularity here. The break, known also as Matanzas is known for being one of the longest barrels in Chile. Getting to the break can be a challenge, but Matanzas promises great surf, especially when it’s below midtide. Matanzas is a bit less well-known outside of Chile than Punta de Lobos, a high probability of fewer people, though it’s less than two hours’ drive away. Surazo is where Upscape goes in Matanzas to disconnect at this simple, comfortable hotel right on the beach.
ConCon’s La Boca has been home to many local surf competitions, and this area is just north of Viña del Mar, which makes it easy to add on to a visit to this lovely coastal city. Also, in Algarrobo, a bit further south, is the pocket-sized beach of El Canelillo, which offers family-friendly water activities, including fairly gentle surf. Other lesser known, but no less worthy spots heading south are Santo Domingo, and then later Bucalemu, which is close to Pichilemu.
In Maule, which is one of Upscape’s favorite regions for wine and because of the cool, laid-back rural atmosphere, there are two coastal spots that attract surfers, one of which is Playa de la Piedra de la Iglesia in Constitución, where there are occasional surf and bodyboard competitions. Also nearby, in the small bay at the Caleta de Curanipe, surfing is just catching on but will likely become more popular as word spreads.
The Far North
The far north of Chile is fairly sparsely unpopulated, though there are two sizeable cities with surf culture, which are Arica (farther north) and Iquique (slight further south). Water is far warmer here than in the southern parts of Chile. In Arica one well-known spot is at the Ex-Isla del Alacrán, a former island now connected to the mainland via a causeway. This tricky spot, called “El Gringo” has both right and left breaks, and some sharp rocks. A small canal is the only access point, and while surfing this spot is better left to experts, it’s always worth it to spend some time watching. Iquique has several beaches popular with surfers, including Playa Cavancha and Playa El Águila. A bit farther out of town is Caleta Los Verdes where every January there’s a bodyboarding competition.
If exploring the Norte Chico (near north, roughly close to La Serena) is on your list, there are a couple of beaches where surfing is popular. Pichidangui is popular with Santiaguinos, a tranquil town in the Norte Chico, or near north of Chile. Also popular among locals, and not that far away is Playa Totoralillo. This beach is just 15 km from Coquimbo, and there are three breaks among its white sand beaches and turquoise waters, but shallow rocks and heavy surf make it better suited to experts.