Resorts south of Valparaíso

This cluster of resorts stretches along the coast from the mouth of the Río Maipo north towards Valparaíso. The resorts here are not as upmarket as those north of Viña, but every summer tens of thousands of Chileans flock to them from the capital. Beaches range from classic wide white-sand affairs to secluded coves, and a wild, rocky zone around Isla Negra; off season, most are deserted.

Ins and outs

Road links between Valparaíso and the resorts to the south are poor, but there are two good routes from Santiago: one a branch off the main Santiago-Valparaíso highway to Algarrobo and the other, Route 78, direct to San Antonio. Buses link the resorts in this area, but a hire car will allow you to explore more secluded coves.

San Antonio and around

Situated near the mouth of the Río Maipo, 112 km south of Valparaíso, San Antonio was at the epicentre of a large earthquake in 1985. Subsequently, the harbour was rebuilt and has now taken over from Valparaíso as the main container port for this part of the coast. It is the terminal for the export of copper brought by rail from the large mine at El Teniente, near Rancagua as well as being an important fishing port. Many restaurants buy their fish and seafood here and a visit to the docks just after the catch has been unloaded is an interesting experience.
Museo Municipal de Ciencias Naturales y Arqueología
, has displays on nature, pre-colonial culture and geology. There is also a botanical garden.

Nearby to the south are two resorts:
Llolleo
, 4 km, and 7 km further
Rocas de Santo Domingo
, the most attractive and exclusive resort in this area with 20 km of beaches and a golf course; even in high season it is not very crowded.

Cartagena

Eight kilometres north of San Antonio, Cartagena is the biggest resort on this part of the coast, but is a quieter place than San Antonio. It is filled with fish restaurants and ice cream shops and has lovely views sweeping north around the bay towards Isla Negra. In the early years of this century, it was a fashionable summer retreat for the wealthy of Santiago; a number of mansions survive, notably the
Castillo Foster
overlooking the bay. The centre lies around the
Plaza de Armas
, situated on top of the hill. To the south is the picturesque
Playa Chica
, overlooked by many of the older hotels and restaurants; to the north is
Playa Larga
. Between the two a promenade runs below the cliffs; high above hang old houses, some in disrepair but offering spectacular views. Cartagena is a very popular resort in summer but out of season it is a good centre for visiting nearby points of interest; there are many hotels and bus connections are good.

North of Cartagena

The road to Algarrobo runs north along the coast through several small resorts including
Las Cruces
,
El Tabo
and
El Quisco
, a small fishing port with two beautiful white-sand beaches (crowded during Chilean holidays). Just south of Las Cruces is
Laguna El Peral
 a nature reserve that protects a wide range of aquatic birds.

Isla Negra

Four kilometres south of El Quisco in the village of Isla Negra is the beautifully restored
Museo-Casa Pablo Neruda
, www.funcaciónneruda.org
. Bought by Neruda in 1939, this house overlooking the sea was the poet's writing retreat in his later years, and became the final resting place of Neruda and his last wife Mathilde. The house contains artefacts gathered from all over the world and the café specializes in Neruda's own recipes. The museum conveys a powerful sense of the poet and is well worth a visit. However, some Chileans feel that the
Fundación Pablo Neruda
should not be charging such high admission prices. For further information about Pablo Neruda, visit his Santiago house, La Chascona, page , and La Sebastiana in Valparaíso, page .

Algarrobo

Algarrobo is the largest resort north of Cartagena and the most chic, with large houses, a yacht club and a marina. Conveniently located for Santiago, it was the retreat of politicians in the 1960s; both Salvador Allende and Eduardo Frei had summer residences here. Today, it remains one of the most popular spots on the central coast: its shallow waters and sheltered bay ensure that sea temperatures here are much warmer than at most other resorts
along the central Chilean coast, while good beaches are supplemented by activities such as fishing, surfing and sailing. From
Playa Canelo
there are good views of pelicans and boobies in a seabird colony on an offshore island. Boat tours circle round it in summer, departing from the jetty.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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