Beach Vacation Recommendations in South and Central America
August 15, 2016 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend some places for a 4-6 day beach vacation in Central or South America in mid-late February.

My wife and I are currently planning a three-legged honeymoon in South America in February 2017. The first two legs will be in Patagonia and Buenos Aires (not sure which we'll do first at this point), and we'd like to spend the third hanging out on a beach somewhere. We'll be on our way north back to San Francisco, leaving from either Punta Arenas, El Calafate, or Buenos Aires, so we should be able to stop more or less anywhere in South or Central America or even Mexico on our way home. We'll have 4-6 days to spend, and we'd like some recommendations on good spots.

We're primarily looking to vegetate on the beach to recover from the first two legs. It would be cool if, in addition to nice beaches, we could stay somewhere with a small city or town or other cultural attraction nearby. We are open to any form of accommodation, from AirBnb to all-inclusive resorts. Zika is definitely a concern, so we'd like to stay away from any areas where it would be an issue. Finally, we'd like to minimize travel as much as possible; it would be great to stay somewhere near major international airports so that we don't have to burn too much time getting to and from the beach.

We heard some good things about Cartegena in Colombia, but another friend told us that the beaches around there weren't actually that nice. We've also head that Lago Atitlan in Guatemala is cool. We've both been to Costa Rica and Mexico before, so aren't quite as interested in those nations, but we would still be interested if there were a truly awesome destination to visit in either of them.

So, Mefites: please share any vacation destinations that you liked or loved in Central or South America that sound like they would be a good fit for this trip.
posted by Aizkolari to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cartegena has beautiful beaches! They're just not the ones right in town. Playa Blanca (30 min away by speedboat) is the place to be -- white sand, turquoise water, super cheap places to stay. There's also a bioluminescent lagoon on the Isle de Pirata (get one of the locals to take you to the opposite side of the island from where the boat drops you off).

Lake Atitlan is really gorgeous, cute towns with great markets and restaurants and cultural things, but it doesn't really have beaches. There are a couple spots you can jump off the rocks to swim, though I don't recommend it because the lake frequently has giardia blooms. I've lived there for long periods, and I love it there -- I just don't get in the water ;)

If you want a non-beach place to swim in Guate that looks like you've dropped into a fantasy fairyland, go to Semuc Champey -- it's 6 hours north of Guate City and seriously is the most beautiful place I've ever been. Pictures do not do it justice. Stay at El Hostal and walk over to the waterfall park to swim in dozens of bright turquoise cascading pools in a mountain jungle valley.

My favorite true beach spot is Punta Mona in Costa Rica -- it's almost in Panama, so the town is Garifuna culturally. The resort itself is an ethnobotanist's farm right on the beach, so it has every flower and fruit that can possibly be grown in that climate. It also has a private island you can kayak to, and dolphins swimming by every morning. It's a bit remote, you have to take a speedboat from town, but you'll have lots of privacy and quiet and wonderful meals from their farm produce included in your room price.
posted by ananci at 10:51 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Zika is definitely a concern, so we'd like to stay away from any areas where it would be an issue.

How much of a concern is it for you? I.e. Do you plan to get pregnant before the honeymoon, or within a few months after the honeymoon and it's a concern in that context? Or are you concerned there may be lasting effects from an infection (which is currently undetermined at this point) that may have an effect on a pregnancy later on?

With the exception of Chile, each of the places you named, have been, as a country determined to be at risk for Zika. Most of the countries in South America are under CDC guidelines at level 2, meaning that certain high risk populations should avoid traveling to the location, with the remainder taking extended precautions as to travel. Some of the countries in the advisories in the second link will show you specific maps where they advise pregnant or potentially pregnant women stay away from, which in most cases appear to be parts of the countries below 6,500 feet.
posted by Karaage at 11:01 AM on August 15, 2016


Response by poster: Do you plan to get pregnant before the honeymoon, or within a few months after the honeymoon and it's a concern in that context? Or are you concerned there may be lasting effects from an infection (which is currently undetermined at this point) that may have an effect on a pregnancy later on?

More the latter question than the former. We are not planning to have kids in the next 4 years or so, so it's more a worry about unknown longer term issues than one about an upcoming pregnancy.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:10 AM on August 15, 2016


If you want to stay close to Buenos Aires, Villa Gessell is only around 4 hours away and is a lovely laid-back beach town.
posted by pantarei70 at 11:16 AM on August 15, 2016


You might consider Viña del Mar, Chile. And you can also visit Valparaíso while you're there.

Note that the Viña del Mar International Song Festival happens during the 3rd week of February, which might impact finding lodgings.
posted by needled at 12:26 PM on August 15, 2016


The Resort at Playa Las Lajas in Panama. Very laid back place with one of the best swimming beaches in the country. You're only about 2 hours from the mountain town of Boquete if you want something else to do. Excellent ziplining up there.
posted by white_devil at 1:16 PM on August 15, 2016


When my husband and I were planning a similar trip a few years ago, we were thinking of Uruguay -- not too difficult to get to from Buenos Aires. We had to change our plans due to visa reasons, but I'm still sad we never went.

One other tiny point re: Zika. How anxious are you and your spouse? I am an anxious person (and was an extremely anxious pregnant lady) and something like worrying about the lingering effects of Zika would have been a lot for me to bear. If you are this way, you may want to reconsider! But if you have a more sensible approach to these things, then it sounds like an amazing trip.
posted by caoimhe at 2:06 PM on August 15, 2016


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