While Argentina isn’t known for powdery white beaches and transparent warm waters like some Latin American countries, it does boast 4,989 km of coastline as well as lakes, streams and rivers. What Argentina lacks in tropical vibes, it more than makes up for in rugged natural beauty. Keep that in mind as you check out our list of the best beaches in Argentina.
Many Argentines – and especially porteños, or Buenos Aires residents – take their holidays in January and February, meaning popular spots really pack out during these months. There nothing stopping you from enjoying the Atlantic Coast in spring (September-November) or a rocky Patagonian beach in autumn (March-May).
Mar del Plata's heyday was in the 1920s, when wealthy porteños flocked here by train, hoping to exchange Buenos Aires’ swampy weather for cool Atlantic breezes. Today, Argentina’s largest fishing port is surrounded by a cluster of beaches, each with a different personality. In January visitors pack in like sweaty sardines, but the bracing Atlantic ocean is refreshing to say the least.
Hands down Argentina’s biggest seaside resort, there are plenty of beaches to choose from. Playa Grande’s waves attract wannabe surfers and pro riders, beautiful people pitch up on La Caseta’s yellow sands, while Punta Mogotes fills with families sharing mate and playing games at low tide.
For the ultimate Mar del experience, spend the day on close-to-bursting Playa Bristol in front of the casino, just to say you’ve done it. Those who can afford it to book into a balneario (private beach club) with various facilities such as a swimming pool and bathrooms, renting a carpa (tent) and sunbeds for a fortnight; the colourful pointy roofs dot the coast.
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While this port city's main draw is as the jumping off point for visiting Unesco world heritage site the Valdés Peninsula, Puerto Madryn offers up a few trump cards of its own. Playa Paraná on the Nuevo Gulf offers up a stretch of very white sand, which turns into a seaweed bed come low tide, and is a great beachy base for exploring the surrounding area. Time your visit right and you could be sharing this bay’s waters with the famous southern-right whale (May to late November). Other bayside aquatic activities include snorkelling with friendly sea lions, SUP and kayaking.
Golden sands, warmish Atlantic currents and manageable waves await at Pinamar, which translates to pine tree on the sea. This beach town complete with fishing pier and surrounding forest attracts families with little kids as well as brattish teens let loose for the first time. Kite surfers head here each summer for the vigorous breezes. If you can acquire a 4X4 or quad bike, drive north up and over the sand dunes up to La Frontera beach for relative peace and quiet, and plan to stay for the unadulterated pink-and-purple ocean sunsets.
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A few miles south of sister town Pinamar, Cariló’s fancy houses and lovely gardens attract the wealthy upper class that chooses to vacation in Argentina. A quiet spot home to just 300 families out of season, visitors might be surprised by the number of cars that cross the dunes and park up on the beach itself, which somewhat goes against Cariló’s eco-friendly attitude. Regardless, this is the country’s top resort, chosen by politicians, impresarios and celebrities looking for a tranquil safe haven.
beach, where the rich and famous come to play © Alex Ruhl/Shutterstock
When the end of the world hits its annual top temperature of around 24Cº in summer, fueguinos strip off at Playa Larga in Tierra del Fuego. The hardiest even brave the Beagle Channel’s icy waters. An hour’s trail from the main road leads visitors to this remote nature reserve, where a shingle beach awaits. Keep an eye out for whales, penguins and petrels.
The endless hawkers flogging churros, ice-cream, sunglasses and headgear form part of the landscape at Villa Gesell, the seaside bolthole for Buenos Aires’ working-class families and students – who pack out the surrounding camp sites. A wooden boardwalk lines the yellow sandy beach, which turns muddy come low tide, traipsed by joggers and dog walkers. Head south of the centro from calle 20 upwards (near the fishing pier) for a slightly quieter experience at balnearios such as Afrika.
For mountain views and Alpine vibes from your towel, pitch up at one of the lakeshores around Lago Nahuel Huapi in Bariloche. Summer temperatures in this part of Patagonia can hit 30ºC so don’t forget to slap on some sunscreen. Families while away days at Playa Serena, while sporty types head to Playa Bonita for scuba diving and kayaking. Lago Nahuel Hapi might not be the ocean, but its lakeside shores count as some of the nicest beaches in Argentina.
It’s not all Atlantic waters around Buenos Aires – Tigre’s cola-coloured rivers and streams that form part of the Paraná Delta are just an hour’s train ride from the capital. Sound unappetising? Despite the colour the water is clean (the coffee hue comes from sediment picked up on the rivers' journeys), and the real USP is that this collection of tropical islands is within easy distance of BA. Escape the rather dull town of Tigre itself on a lancha colectiva (boat taxi) to an island resort such as Playa Catalina, which accepts day visitors, then work off lunch by kayaking or rowing. Tigre is busy year round, especially at weekends.
Looking for more beach holiday options in South America? Explore our list of the best beaches in Uruguay.
Top image: Mar del Plata is BA's busiest seaside resort © JopsStock/Shutterstock