Sun and sand
Rugged beach escape, minutes from Chile’s ‘Jewel of The Pacific’
Quintay — a relaxed coastal town only a short drive from Valparaíso — is home to two unique beaches, each offering a special summer getaway.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Deserted wooden shacks line Playa Chica’s ruggedly beautiful coastline. Photo by George Nelson / This is Chile
Chile is home to hundreds of idyllic and deserted beaches, many of which are easily accessible from main cities including Santiago and Valparaíso — aka “The Jewel of The Pacific.”
Quintay, located only a 30-minute taxi ride from the quirky architectural splendour of Valparaíso, is a charming town boasting two picturesque sandy stretches in close proximity.
After arriving in town, a 20-minute stroll — or five-minute drive — just north of Quintay will take beachgoers to Playa Grande. As suggested in its name, the broad strip of bleach white sand is the largest of the two beaches in the area.
Due to the gentle gradient in which Playa Grande rolls into the refreshing waters off Chile’s Pacific coast, the beach is an ideal spot to to dive in and enjoy the water. The waves rarely reach dangerous heights but are tall enough to ride out on a body board.
It is also rare to find any litter on Playa Grande — the fine sand is impeccably clean. the only distraction from the serene landscape is a great little kiosk, selling empanadas and cold drinks, is the perfect shaded respite if the sun gets too much.
Car owners are able to park right up to the edge of the sand so access could not be easier. The beach rarely becomes too crowded with Chileans tending to prefer nearby Viña del Mar — also easily reached from Valparaíso.
For the more adventurous sun-worshipers, the slightly more rugged — yet equally stunning — Playa Chica offers a touch more solitude. A path cuts through a thick, fragrant pine forest before spilling out onto the southern side of Quintay.
A rocky outcrop frames the semi crescent contour of the beach as the waters of the Pacific tumble onto the craggy sarsens dramatically jutting out from the ocean floor. Visitors will do well to find a wilder place so close to the city.
Eerie wooden remnants of abandoned holiday homes adorn the immediate cliff tops — a path meanders in and around the structures. It is a fine place to escape the beach for a while and popular with young couples often enjoying all the countryside has to offer.
There are no facilities on Playa Chica so all supplies must either be brought from home or from the collection of shops in Quintay. A couple of small convenience stores, a green grocer and a liquor store should be enough to provide food and drink for a beachside meal.
Camping and fires are forbidden on the beach so the local police will either trot down on their horses or rumble across the sand in a 4x4 — politely reminding people it is time to go home at around 10pm.
From Valparaíso, a taxi to Quintay will cost somewhere in the region of US$25, but split between four it is a relatively inexpensive way to travel. Buses run the route but are not the most frequent — a trip will be cheaper though, at around US$1 one-way.
Buses do leave Quintay for Valparaíso on both Saturday and Sunday but it is wise to afford at least two hours if catching another bus from Valparaíso straight afterwards.
Taxis also run, but again, it is recommended that visitors allow plenty of time, especially as there is usually a cue of people waiting.
The price of a bus ticket from Santiago to Valparaíso costs in the region of US$10 each way but are considerably cheaper in advance. Buses can be caught from Terminal Santiago (La Alameda 3850) and the journey takes just under two hours.