Where to surf in Chile

Chile may have 4,270km of coastline, but it’s usually not on people’s list of beach destinations. While the beaches of the central regions in Chile have plenty of space for those who are looking to relax and catch up with a good book, most Chilean beaches are filled with wildlife and adventure.

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Surfing

Chile’s rocky coastline is a perfect destination for those who are chasing world-class waves and hidden beaches. No matter what your skill level, it’s best to go with a surf guide the first time you attempt to tackle the waves at any of these surf points. The locals know the waves better than anyone and can guide you to the best breaks and where to enter the water.

Iquique

Iquique is one of the most popular northern cities in Chile. Filled with adventure, many people come to visit for its historical landmarks, cultural festivals, and for activities such as surfing and paragliding. Iquique is well-known to have excellent waves for surfing and bodyboarding.

Playa Cavancha has everything you would want in a beach. During the summer months, the beach does get crowded but there is always room for a dip in the ocean. Head north to find bodyboarders and surfers in the water catching world-class caves. While Iquique has a few spots for beginners, the waves along this coast are more for experienced surfers and should be entered with caution.

Where to surf

Most of Iquique’s waves break close to the rocky shore and onto shallow reefs, making it one for more experienced surfers. Beginners should try bodyboarding first. You’ll enjoy your time much more and catch a wave a lot faster than surfing.

El Colegio
Considered the best waves in Iquique, as well as the hardest, El Colegio is definitely for advanced surfers as swells can reach 5-6m on a good day. On average, you’re looking at 2-3m swells. Right waves are formed here that allow tubes and good curves.

Las Urracas
Right next to El Colegio, this spot offers consistent surfing throughout the whole day. Watch out for the surprisingly shallow reef. Waves at Las Urracas reach up to 3m tall and move quickly.

La Punta
Located just north of Cavancha, this is one of the most popular points for surfers, so arrive first thing in the morning. This spot offers excellent surfing in low swells, meaning it’s often crowded.

Faro
Located on the northern end of Cavancha beach, this section is perfect for beginners and those who are trying to get familiar with the waves in Chile.

Visiting Iquique

Surfing in Iquique can be done year-round, but be aware that the city experiences extreme temperatures and the water will always require you to wear a wetsuit. There are a number of surf hostels and hotels along the coast and near surfing spots.

Pichilemu

Known as Chile’s best surf spot, this is a paradise for experienced surfers, offering challenging waves and strong currents. It offers a number of activities such as kite surfing, sailing and windsurfing near the beach, but surfing has definitely taken over.

Where to surf

Pichilemu has grown massively in the last decade, offering excellent surfing and a chilled out atmosphere. Be aware that surfing here requires a full wetsuit as the water is very cold.

La Puntilla
Located at the front of Park Ross, La Puntilla is ideal for those who want to enjoy a day at the beach — and for those who are looking for the longest surf ride in the country. The waves here run for a kilometre with consistent swells that can reach up to 4m high. This is a great place for beginners and for riders getting acquainted with the waters in this region. Paddling out against the drift can be exhausting, so many opt for the treacherous walk along the rocks before jumping in.

Infiernillo
This black sand beach is just a short walk away from La Puntilla and is best for intermediate and advanced riders. Known for having fast and unpredictable waves, it’s best to come out during high tide as this spot has no wind protection.

Punta de Lobos
Only for advanced surfers, this is the hardest surf spot in Pichilemu offering rocky cliffs and plenty of inquisitive sea lions. Waves can reach up to 6m high and surfers walk out along the rocky edge waiting for the best moment to jump into the sea.

Visiting Pichilemu

Winter has some great waves but you can find consistent waves throughout the year. The summer months (Dec-Feb) are quite busy with Chileans who visit Pichilemu as a holiday destination.

There are plenty of places where you can rent a board and a wetsuit. The water is very cold, therefore a wetsuit is necessary and booties, caps and gloves are recommended.

Most visitors rent cabins or stay at surf hostels in Pichilemu. You’ll need a car to get between surf points but those without can catch a ride with others going to the same spot.

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Arica

Known as the city of eternal spring, Arica is the most northerly city in Chile. It is packed with world-class waves and annual surf competitions featuring some of the world’s most famous surfers.

Where to surf

Arica is most suited to advanced surfers. However, there are plenty of spots where beginners and intermediate riders can come and learn from the best.

El Gringo
The most popular spot in Arica, El Gringo is also known as the Chilean pipeline. This one is only for experienced surfers, with hazards including shallow, sharp reef studded with barnacles and sea urchins and the occasionally aggressive sea lion.

La Isla
Suitable for intermediate and advanced riders, the best time to visit is during the summer months where you’ll find great tubular sections for manoeuvring. The waves at La Isla break really close to the rocks and it needs a medium-size swell to be at its best.

Arenillas Negras
This where beginners and surf schools go to practice and get used to the waves in Arica. This black sandy beach is filled with fun waves for all levels.

Visiting Arica

Since this city is known as the city of eternal spring, you can catch waves all year long. The waves tend to be more hollow between November and March due to swells from the north. The Pacific is warm enough to bathe in comfortably, but weak swimmers should be aware of the strong ocean currents, especially those travelling with children.

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Beaches

Chile might not be known as a beach destination despite its many miles of coastline, but there are hidden, wild beaches well worth visiting.

Coquimbo region

A five-hour drive north of Santiago lies the Coquimbo region and the nearest thing Chile has to beach resorts. Here, you’ll find a number of beautiful beaches to sunbathe on and enjoy the crystal blue waters. Be warned though — while the waters may look inviting, the Pacific currents mean they stay cold year round.

The scenic, sheltered bay of La Herradura is a popular spot to walk around and sunbathe. Its waters are calm throughout the year so it’s a safe place to swim and try other watersports. Further north is Peñuelas beach, which is famous for its fishing port and a great place to try scuba diving.

Also worth visiting is the small beach town of Totoralillo, which is a good place for beginner surfers to get in the water. Its gentle waves are perfect for beginners and intermediate riders as well as bodyboarders.

Caleta Condor, Mansa Bay

One beach area that you don't want to miss in the south of Chile is the protected area of Mapu Lahual. Located just 60km from the regional city of Osorno lies Mansa Bay and a number of smaller bays and coves with beautiful blue waters and white sand. The most isolated — but possibly most beautiful — of these is Caleta Condor, a bone-white sandy beach that lies in the indigenous Huilliche Reserve, surrounded by forests.

Due to its remote location, getting to Caleta Condor is a challenge. So, it’s worth spending a couple of days to a week in the area exploring the various coves and beaches. The area is relatively new to tourism, so accommodation is largely based around homestays or camping. It’s also worth bringing cash as facilities for credit and debit cards are limited.

The fastest way to get to Caleta Condor is from Osorno, with a bus to Mansa Bay taking two hours. From here, you can take a two-hour boat ride to Caleta Condor. At the time of writing, the boat only operates on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Cole Cole beach, Chiloé

On the wildlife-filled island of Chiloé lies a hidden beach of white sand and clear blue water surrounded by lush rainforest. Cole Cole is located in the northern section of Chiloé National Park. To get there, visitors have to travel along cliffs, forest paths and beaches from the south entrance, with the hike taking a couple of hours. However, the views from Cole Cole are worth the walk.

It’s worth spending the night near Cole Cole if you don’t want to hike too much. This beach has campsites and basic services for those who want to sleep here, or you can stay in hotels and lodges at nearby Cucao, which also offers horseback tours along the beach.

Chiloé is Chile’s largest island and its unique ecosystem means it is filled with diverse wildlife. Located in the famous Lake District, visitors can easily spend a week exploring everything that the island has to offer.

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