The bustling surfer town of PICHILEMU lies 87km west of Santa Cruz. Built around a wide, sandy bay at the foot of a steep hill, the town dates from the second half of the nineteenth century, when Agustín Ross Edwards set out to create a European-style seaside resort. Today Pichilemu wears the charming, melancholy air of a faded Victorian seaside town. From the seafront, a broad flight of steps sweeps up the hillside to the splendid Parque Ross, planted with century-old Phoenix palms and extravagant topiary.
On the edge of the park, jutting out over the hillside, the grand old casino – Chile’s first but now functioning as a cultural centre – is perhaps the most evocative of Ross’s legacies. In contrast, Pichilemu’s central streets are crammed with snack bars and schoperías catering to the crowds of young surfers who come to ride the waves – among the best in all of Chile.
The most challenging surf is at Punta de Lobos, 6km south, where the national surfing championships are held. Look out for the sea lions in the beach’s peculiar escarpments. Closer to town, surfers wade into the chilly sea (the ocean temperature rarely rises above 14°C) at La Puntilla, which juts out at the western end of the calmer main beach, Playa Las Terrazas. Just south of here lies Playa Infiernillo, with a faster wave for more experienced surfers. Pichilemu took a battering in the 2010 tsunami and earthquake, but bounced back faster than a surfer after a wipeout.