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South America’s coastline, a vibrant tableau of sun-kissed sand and sparkling water, plays host to both untouched shoreline and vibrant nightlife. From the lively Copacabana in Brazil to the tranquil Punta del Este in Uruguay, these beaches offer a captivating blend of natural beauty and cultural richness. Discover South America’s finest beaches, from the pristine shores of Colombia to the secluded bays just a boat ride away from Rio.
Anakena Beach | Easter Island
Visitors are drawn to Easter Island for its enigmatic moai statues, unique Polynesian culture, and the allure of an off-the-beaten-path adventure —and that’s exactly what they uncover at Anakena Beach. This white coral sand beach, one of only two sandy beaches on the island, spans a modest yet breathtaking stretch.
Despite its popularity, there’s always enough space to carve out your own tranquil spot. Stick close to the locals around the beachside kiosks, and you’ll be just fine. While many visitors are content to simply bask in the sun and the scenery, don’t miss the opportunity to take a dip in the warm, clear waters of the Pacific: Even in the cooler months, the ocean temperature is invitingly warm.
Where To Stay: At the Hotel Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa, a luxury refuge nestled in the heart of Rapa Nui, indigenous tradition meets modern comfort. After a day exploring the island’s famed moai statues and pristine beaches, unwind in your private clay soaking tub or savor fresh seafood at one of the two on-site restaurants.
El Cabo San Juan | Santa Marta
El Cabo San Juan, a standout on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, is a beach that offers more than just sun and sand. Situated within the boundaries of Tayrona National Park, it’s a destination that requires a two-hour hike through the park’s lush landscape, passing several other picturesque beaches along the way. The journey is worth it, as El Cabo San Juan is frequently recognized as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
The flat, sandy seabed and tranquil water make it an ideal spot for sunbathing and swimming. Amenities are available, including a bar and snack bar, and restrooms with showers. A short walk from the beach, travelers can find Restaurante Cabo San Juan Del Guia serving traditional Colombian fare. The beach is often bustling with activity, especially on weekends and holidays, full of beach-goers ready to capture a photo of the iconic thatched-roof huts.
Where To Stay: Just five minutes from Tayrona Park’s main entrance, Kantawa Eco Spa Hotel perfectly complements a day at the beach.
Tortuga Bay | Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
It’s no surprise that some of the most breathtaking white-sand beaches can be found in the Galapagos. Tortuga Bay, a gem on Santa Cruz Island, is one of our favorites. Aside from the vast, untouched beach, the main attraction is the wildlife, with marine iguanas, Galapagos crabs, and birds dotting the volcanic rocks. A separate cove offers a rare spectacle of white-tip reef sharks and tiger sharks. Visitors come to explore the walking path and immerse themselves in this preserved sanctuary. Register for the self-guided walk at the Galapagos Park Service.
Where To Stay: Bask in the sunny and bright rooms and suites of the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, constructed with natural materials like dark stone and native wood, and adorned with modern furnishings (including whimsical tortoise artwork). Enjoy the breathtaking ocean views from the private balconies of the suites, or relax in the hammocks on the shared porches.
Ipanema Beach | Rio de Janeiro
Just a short drive from the heart of Rio de Janeiro, you’ll find Ipanema Beach, a bustling stretch of sand and sea that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Brazil. The beach is divided into sections by numbered lifeguard stations, known as ‘postos’, with Post 9 being a particular favorite among the city’s stylish crowd. Throughout the day, the beach is a flurry of activity, with locals and tourists alike playing volleyball, enjoying live music, or simply soaking up the sun. Vendors weave their way through the crowd, offering a variety of beach merchandise, local snacks, and refreshing drinks.
However, it’s worth noting that the waters of Ipanema can be rough, so caution is advised when swimming. For those looking to sunbathe, the ideal time is before 11 am and after 3 pm, while the peak hours offer the perfect opportunity for long chats under the shade of a ‘guarda-sol.’
Where To Stay: Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro offers elegant accommodations with balconies, spacious living rooms, private bars, Dalí inspired designs by Sérgio Rodrigues and Philippe Starck, and unmatched ocean views.
Lopes Mendes Beach | Rio de Janeiro
Lopes Mendes Beach, a secluded paradise on Ilha Grande, is a short boat ride and hike from Rio de Janeiro. This beach stretches for nearly two miles along the Atlantic, framed by almond and palm trees. Known for its fine golden sand and clear waters, it is also a popular destination for surfers. Despite its popularity, the beach remains unspoiled, with no pousadas or restaurants in sight, making it a tranquil escape to simply unwind and savor the untouched beauty of nature.
Where To Stay: Mama Ruisa Boutique Hotel is a colonial residence featuring unique and modernist design, with views of Pão de Açúcar and Baía de Guanabara. Step into a relaxed atmosphere and a collection of Brazilian furniture from designers of the 50s and 60s.
Baia do Sancho | Fernando de Noronha
The journey to the Baia do Sancho is an adventure, involving a flight from the mainland, walking through a wooded area, a boardwalk, and a descent down a ladder through a rock crevice. And it’s worth every effort to make it to this UNESCO World Heritage Site and frequent “world’s best beach” winner.
Despite its remote location, the beach is part of the Parque Nacional Marinho de Fernando de Noronha, and access is carefully managed to preserve its tranquility. The beach offers excellent snorkeling opportunities, with rocky slabs in the central part of the water supporting a diversity of marine life. Visitors can observe sea turtles and corals, and enjoy swimming without damaging the wildlife. A $35 fee grants a 10-day pass to visitors, which includes access to the entire park.
Where To Stay: As the only guesthouse featuring 180-degree views of Fernando de Noronha’s skyline, Pousada Ecológica Akanã seamlessly integrates with the surrounding landscape. Its “Super Luxury Apartment” panoramic ocean view is unforgettable.
The Los Roques Archipelago, with its natural beauty and diverse ecosystems, attracts approximately 70,000 visitors each year to its white sand flats. Many of these are day visitors from Caracas and the mainland, drawn to the archipelago for a refreshing break from city life. With the archipelago consisting of numerous islands and islets, hopping on a small boat allows travelers to venture beyond the shores of Gran Roque to open up a world of hidden beaches and secluded spots.
Despite its popularity, Los Roques maintains its serene atmosphere and unspoiled landscapes, providing the perfect backdrop for swimming, sunbathing, and underwater adventures around its keys. The best snorkeling is found at Cayo de Aqua, where a white sand bridge connects two islets, and more advanced divers can explore the renowned Los Roques barrier reef, all protected by one of the island’s management zones to preserve its delicate ecosystem.
Where To Stay: The 5-star Pestana Caracas is located in a safe and quiet area of Caracas, with contemporary rooms and exceptional city views from its outdoor pool.
Soft sand and incredible sunsets aren’t the only thing that draws travelers to Peru’s Punta Sal. Here, the Pacific Ocean is a playground for swimmers, jet skiers, and kayakers; the beach transforms into a stage for kitesurfers, their colorful sails painting the sky against a backdrop of the ocean. From June to October, the ocean reveals another spectacle as humpback whales make their majestic appearances, best viewed from private yacht tours. Nearby, the Tumbes mangroves and the village of Ñuro offer a peek into the local ecosystem, even offering a chance to swim alongside sea turtles.
Where To Stay: El Samay Hotel Boutique, a beachfront hotel in Canoas De Punta Sal, has a private beach area and sea views from its room balconies.
Punta del Este
Punta del Este, a picturesque peninsula in Uruguay, boasts two iconic and well-maintained beaches — Playa Mansa and Playa Brava. Playa Mansa, known as the calm surf, is ideal for families and swimming. Playa Brava, dubbed the turbulent beach, is famous for its surfing waves and is a popular spot among the younger crowd. Both beaches have vibrant promenades, where you’ll often find people engaging in activities like exercising, cycling, and rollerblading, and plenty of beachside restaurants.
But it’s after sunset when Punta del Este truly comes alive, offering a dynamic nightlife scene for those looking to dance the night away or enjoy a cocktail by the beach. Beach clubs and bars along the coastline transform into buzzing hotspots featuring live music, DJs, and themed parties.
Where To Stay: Punta del Este is rich with exceptional accommodations. The expansive Scandi-modern Hotel Fasano Punta del Este is a destination in itself and the down-to-earth, authentic Kalá Hotel Boutique properties capture our fancy time and time again.
Mar del Plata | Buenos Aires
Mar del Plata, a bustling city on Argentina’s Atlantic coast, is renowned for its expansive beaches. The city’s crown jewel, Playa Grande, is a magnet for surfers, with consistent waves and a vibrant surf culture. The adjacent beach, Playa Chica, is calmer and ideal for families and leisurely swimmers. The coastline is punctuated by lively restaurants and bars, while the backdrop of the city’s historic architecture adds a unique charm.
Where To Stay: Close to the beach and shopping, the boutique Sainte Jeanne Hotel is most memorable for its French-styled rooms and delectable spa.
Discover More Latin America Beaches
- Cabo de La Vela Beach is perhaps the best beach in Colombia’s La Guajira, a coastal desert.
- Playa de Spratt Bight, the primary beach (and most popular) in San Andrés, Colombia, is worth the visit for its soft, white sand.
- The beaches in Central America, particularly Playa Blanca and Playa Conchal (Shell Beach) in Costa Rica, are on par with South America’s best.