This week’s travel dream: Bumming along South America’s beaches

Along South America's 9,000-mile Atlantic coastline, there’s a beach for “every taste and temperature.”

In South America, a beach is “so much more than a sunny stretch of sand,” said Hanya Yanagihara in Condé Nast Traveler. It’s an expression of local character. The continent’s eastern border boasts more than 9,000 miles of Atlantic coast, and there’s a beach for “every taste and temperature,” no matter if you like to swim, surf, or just bask in the sun. You’ll not only find tropical heat and party crowds but “pebbled shores populated with penguins, unpeopled stretches where palm trees are your only company, and waves without end.”

Trancoso, in Brazil’s Bahia state, is the ideal place to start. Its “most committed admirers” are known to fly in for Praia dos Nativos’ seven miles of beach, where “shaggy flame trees and clumps of pink-and-yellow ginger” run along the shore. An hour south is one of the “loveliest” beaches in all of Brazil. “Bookended by white limestone cliffs,” Praia do Espelho is lined with “squat palms” and picturesque bungalows. During low tide, the ocean peels back, “exposing dozens of coral outcroppings you can pick your way through.” Dive into “womb-warm” water so crystal-clear “that you can see every crevice and scuttling crustacean.” Further south, just off the coast of Angra dos Reis, is the island of Gipóia. On Praia do Dentista, only accessible by boat, beach­goers while away the day “bobbing in the warm, jewel-bright waters.” Here “everything—time, responsibilities, reality—feels suspended.”

Uruguay’s José Ignacio and Argentina’s Punta Ninfas are the southernmost attractions on this beach lover’s itinerary. The “pinkish beige and powder soft” sands of José Ignacio’s Playa Brava are speckled with throngs of easy-on-the-eyes Uruguayans, who run the “gamut from matter-of-fact good-looking to preternaturally stunning.” But its “low-key cool” is a reminder “that silence and space are more exclusive than glitz and glamour.” Reaching Punta Ninfas requires a “20-minute scrabble down a 300-foot cliff,” but the result is worth the risk. This beach is “one of the most spectacular stretches of Patagonia’s wildlife-rich shores.” Teeming with elephant seals, penguins, and even flamingos, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. You’ll “never think of a beach in the same way again.”

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