South America is known for a lot of things: famous archeological sites, massive rainforests, exotic wildlife and, of course, beautiful beaches. Take a look at what we’ve deemed to be the best of the best of South America’s most pristine sand.
Baia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
How great is Baia do Sancho? So great that TripAdvisor named it the Best Beach in the World. That wasn’t any arbitrary title decided upon by a staffer in TripAdvisor’s editing room, but a culmination of excellent reviews by visitors over the course of a year. Visitors often cite its white sand, sparkling emerald waters and its coral reef as reasons that it simply can’t be beat.
Anakena Beach, Easter Island, Chile
Anakena is one of only two sandy beaches on an island surrounded by a rocky volcanic coastline. The beach is lined with palm trees and coconuts as well as the island’s famous moai statues. After a day of exploring the history of the island you can relax and have a picnic in the shade of the palms or catch some rays on the white sand.
Galapagos Beach at Tortuga Bay, Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
If you like being surrounded by sea life on your beach getaway, you’ll want to check out Galapagos Beach. It gets its name from the sea turtles that love to congregate near the sand, along with a myriad of sea lions, flamingos, pelicans, marine iguanas, and the famous Galapagos finches. Not too far from the beaches are the Lava Tunnels that were formed from the surrounding volcanoes thousands of years ago.
Punta Tombo, Argentina
While the sandy beaches and rock formations that jut out into the ocean are beautiful to look at, the real draw at Punta Tombo is the penguins. Each year from September to April between 500,000 to a million Magellanic Penguins return here to mate and raise their children. Visitors are free to walk among them, as long as they keep their hands to themselves.
San Bartolo, Peru
San Bartolo is a bustling beach community located along Peru’s Pacific Coast. It’s home to one of South America’s most popular surfing spots, the Penascal right reef break, and is only an hour drive south of Lima. The town itself lies on bluff overlooking a ovular beach lined with an endless array of tourist spots and activities. It’s basically a surfer’s paradise.
Shell Beach, Guyana
As you may have guessed, Shell Beach is another sandy oasis that derives its name from its four-legged visitors. Each night from March to August giant sea turtles emerge from the ocean to lay their eggs. Shell Beach is actually 90 miles long and encompasses nine separate, but interconnected, beaches. Throughout the centuries the turtles have left behind billions of shell fragments that cover the shores of Guyana and act as natural shelter for the baby turtles hatched here.
Brazilians routinely cite the fishing village of Jericoacoara as the best beach in Brazil, and the Washington Post has named it one of the ten best in the world on numerous occasions. So what makes this beach so great? For starters, visitors flock to take in the sites of Pedra Furada, a rocky formation carved out by the sea over thousands of years. Natural lakes, unexplored sand and enormous dunes surround the beaches. Jericoacoara is also a famous sporting destination, with kite and windsurfing, sandboarding and capoeira drawing thousands of tourists each year.
Punta Del Este, Uruguay
Punta Del Este is technically a city, but choosing just one beach along the 13 lining its sands would be fruitless. That’s because this city was designed to entertain. The beaches contain an endless variety of options, from surfing to sunbathing or just relaxing with your children. One of them even has a giant hand sculpture coming out of the sand! If you’re into a little drinking on the sand, there is a yacht harbor and shopping boulevards lined with restaurants and bars to keep you busy for days.
Parque Nacional Natural (PNN) Tayrona, Colombia
Paque Nacional Natural Tayrona is a national park that lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and is surrounded by jungle. You can enjoy this picturesque beach lying back on a hammock or you can take a horse ride along the shores. You’ll also see titi monkeys and black howlers along the jungle and maybe even a jaguar. The variety of wildlife is an enormous draw, but so is the surfing. The riptides here are strong, so only experienced surfers should give it a try.
Ilha de Santa Catarina, Brazil (Santa Catarina Island)
Locals know this island as Floripa, and it actually contains 42 separate beaches so there’s something for everyone here. Up north you’ll find the touristy section with modern resorts and calmer waters as well as family-friendly activities. Down south, though, is where the party’s at. The beaches here are more rugged and the waves bigger and more fun, which is why all of the surfers prefer this side of the island.