The 19 Best Beaches in South America

Wide shot of Copacabana beach with the skyline and the mountain in the background

 Stephanie De Melo / TripSavvy

South America has a long and interesting coastline that includes stretches on the Caribbean, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans, and when it comes to beaches there are some excellent options to be found across the continent.

Some countries are better known than others for their beaches, with Brazil and Colombia particularly noted for their fabulous beach destinations, while the landlocked countries of Bolivia and Paraguay have no ocean beaches at all.

Brazil's extensive Atlantic coastline offers a great variety in terms of the beaches. There are also oceanfront stretches in cities like Rio and Florianopolis that have thriving social scenes as well as relaxing sun-tanning spots. The northern coast of Peru is another under-the-radar destination, as most travelers tend to stay around Lima, visiting the narrow beach at the bottom of the Miraflores cliffs. Meanwhile, Venezuela has many beautiful beaches facing the Caribbean Ocean, especially on the islands off the north coast.

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Baia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha (Brazil)

Praia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha

João Vianna / Getty Images

Located on an archipelago off the northeast coast of Brazil, this beach is a stunning but short stretch of sand with placid waters. It can only be reached by boat or by climbing down the steep rocky slopes on each end, so it isn't particularly good for younger children or people with limited mobility. The clear waters are perfect for swimming or snorkeling and because this gorgeous beach is so difficult to get to, you won't have to fight other visitors for space on the sand.

Sancho Beach, State of Pernambuco, Brazil
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Copacabana, Rio de Janiero (Brazil)

Aerial view of the curving Copacabana beach, There is water to the right of the beach, and roads and buildings to the left

Lepretre Pierre / Getty Images

Copacabana is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in South America. With a long strip of bars and nightclubs just off the beach, Copacabana is a beautiful stretch of golden sand that is often crammed with people making the most of their free time. You will mainly find adults and older teenagers on the beach. The cold water means this isn't an ideal swimming location, but the beach football and the constant activity during the day make it a great beach for people watching.

Copacabana Beach - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro - State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Jericoacoara, Ceara (Brazil)

Jericoacoara beach and rock formation in Brazil

Brasil2 / Getty Images

This remote beach in the northeast of Brazil is one that requires a fairly long journey including four hours of off-roading through dunes and beaches. But the reward for all that effort is stunning surroundings and sunsets. The sea isn't ideal for swimming, but several lagoons provide better conditions. There is also a range of good spots for surfing and windsurfing. The many dunes make for entertaining beach walks while dramatic rock formations add even more beauty.

Jericoacoara, Jijoca de Jericoacoara - State of Ceará, Brazil
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Vichayito (Peru)

four wooden fence posts connected by barbed wire on Vichayito beach.

Víctor Augusto Mendívil/Getty Images

Just a short distance from the waterfront towns of Los Organos and Mancora, this lovely beach is often quiet and peaceful and offers some nice shallow water to paddle in for younger children. A little further out, the waves pick up making for fine surfing and windsurfing surroundings, while the charming village offers some nice rustic accommodation.

Vichayito, Peru
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Punta Sal ​(Peru)

landscape of Punta Sal beach in Tumbes district in the north of Peru

gustavo ramirez/Getty Images 

Backing onto hillsides thick with green jungle, this lovely village on the northern coast is ideal for a Peruvian beach getaway. One half of the curved beach is protected from larger waves, making it a calm environment for swimming. The northern half of the 4-mile beach is a little more exposed, but will often be a little quieter.

Punta Sal, Peru
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Cabo Blanco ​(Peru)

Cabo Blanco, Peru

EcaterinaLeonte/Getty Images 

This beach is split into two by a fishing pier that stretches out into the water, which indicates one of the biggest attractions of visiting Cabo Blanco — the excellent fishing which once drew celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe. Today, it is a beautiful stretch of sand where you can relax, and although the waves are too big for weak swimmers, they are great if you are looking to hang ten.

Cabo Blanco, Peru
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La Caleta, Capurgana (Colombia)

Near the border with Panama and just a short boat ride from Cartagena, the beach in Capurgana may be small but it is also one of the most beautiful on the continent. A narrow strip of golden sand with just a small number of hotels, this beach is charming with gentle waters that make it good for swimming, while there is also excellent scuba diving nearby.

Capurganá, Acandí, Choco, 278017, Colombia
Phone +57 301 7593612
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Playa El Almejal (Colombia)

Orange Sunset at the famous Playa El Almejal on the Pacific Coast on September 03, 2016 in Bahia Solano, El Valle, Colombia
EyesWideOpen / Getty Images

Located on the edge of a nature preserve, this famous beach is great if you are looking for a quiet place to relax, and the waves here are best for surfing rather than for swimming. Aside from the 1.2 miles of beautiful beach, wildlife spotting draws many visitors. Particularly the turtle conservation project. A variety of eateries and a nearby eco-lodge make it easy to spend a few days enjoying El Almejal.

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Playa Blanca (Colombia)

Cartagena Beach in Colombia Playa Blanca

SL_Photography/Getty Images

This beach is on Isla Baru, just a short boat trip from Cartagena. It's a popular day-trip destination so while there can be crowds, there are also plenty of choices in terms of sunbeds and beach bars when you are looking for a drink or a snack. For a quieter, more secluded experience the south end of the beach is the best bet as it's a distance away from where boats drop off visitors.

Playa Blanca, Colombia
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La Bellaca, Bahia de Caraquez (Ecuador)

Located around 2 miles south of the city center, this beach is very popular among surfers thanks to its great waves. It isn't too rough for swimming either, although a slightly rocky seafloor means you'll need to be careful where you step. You will find a few vendors and stalls near the car parking area just off the beach, but on the whole, this is a quiet beach with plenty of places to spread out.

Playa La Bellaca, Ecuador
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Montañita (Ecuador)

Montañita Montanita, Ecuador

ampueroleonardo/Getty Images

This small town is one of the most popular beach destinations in Ecuador, boasting great surfing conditions and waves that are tame enough for stronger swimmers. While this is a lovely place to have a beach holiday, it's not a great place for families with young children. Montañita has a reputation as a party town and the party often spills onto the beach.

Playa Montañita, Montañita, Ecuador
Phone +593 96 040 1840
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Canoa (Ecuador)

Beach of the village of Canoa, Ecuador

elisalocci/Getty Images

At 10.6 miles in length, you won't struggle to find a tranquil spot on the beach, though you may have to walk for a while! The swimming conditions here are quite good and the moderate waves means you'll usually only find beginner and novice surfers here, with board rentals available. If you do fancy breaking up the day, a walk up to the cliffs at the northern end of the beach provides a beautiful panoramic view over the coast.

Canoa, Ecuador
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Cayo de Agua, Los Roques (Venezuela)

Cayo de Agua' (Water Key) in Los Roques Archipelago, Venezuela

 PCostaBaldi/Getty Images

Located within the Los Roques National Park, this stunning beach has beautiful white sand and azure waters that are great for swimming, although the tide can be quite strong, while it is also clear enough to make snorkeling a joy too. Reached by boat, this beach is a true Caribbean gem and is well worth the trip if you are visiting the park.

Cayo Agua, Federal Dependencies of Venezuela, Venezuela
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Playa El Agua, Margarita Island ​(Venezuela)

Playa El Agua, Margarita Island, Venezuela

jmsilva/Getty Images

This beach is as close to the stereotype of a Caribbean paradise as you can get, with around 2.5 miles of golden sand lined with palm trees on one side and the sparkling blue water on the other. Despite its beauty, this isn't a beach suitable for swimming, as there are some strong currents, and the lifeguards regularly call people back who are getting in too deep.

Playa El Agua, 6324, Nueva Esparta, Venezuela
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Choroní ​(Venezuela)

Venezuela: Choroní Beach

Cristóbal Alvarado Minic/Getty Images 

This rustic beach is particularly popular with locals as well as the visitors, and has a few umbrellas and deck chairs, as well as having reasonably calm waters that are great for swimming. The beach lies in a bay which backs on to steep mountain slopes covered in greenery, with the palm trees swaying gently in the breeze making for a lovely spot.

Playa Grande, Choroni, Aragua, Venezuela
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Zapallar (Chile)

A curve of golden sand flanked by rocks that stretch out into the ocean, the waters here are quite calm and good for swimming, with plenty of local families often doing the same. The rustic surroundings of the village could easily have been transplanted from Europe, in what is a charming town as well as being a great beach location.

Zapallar, Valparaíso, Chile
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Cifuncho (Chile)

Cifuncho in Taltal town at Antofagasta region, Chile

abriendomundo/Getty Images

Just a short drive from the town of Antofagasta, this beach has some dunes that are dwarfed by the high mountains close to the coast. The beach has soft white sands and is quite a low-key place, while the water is pleasant for swimming with small waves, while it also has a charming little town nearby too.

Cifuncho, Taltal, Antofagasta, Chile
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Mar del Plata (Argentina)

Argentina, Mar Del Plata

Karen Clarke/EyeEm/Getty Images

Argentina's rival to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Mar del Plata has beaches just yards away from the city center, and the waves here are good for those looking for good surfing and body boarding. There are plenty of facilities such as sun loungers and beach sports on those beaches nearest the city center, although at the weekend you may struggle even to find a spot to lay your towel.

Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
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Pinamar (Argentina)

Pinamar, Argentina

Daniel Yanello/EyeEm/Getty Images

Unlike most cities, Pinamar was developed as a planned city, which means that while there are some excellent facilities and accommodation here, the prices can be a little steep as development is limited. The beach itself is golden with some good waves for surfing, although again this isn't a location for those looking for good family-friendly swimming due to the waves and currents.

Pinamar, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
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The 19 Best Beaches in South America