The Chilean Caribbean: The wonderful beaches near Bahía Inglesa and Caldera.

by Ale Werner
Playa las Agatas (Agate's beach) in Chile

There is no doubt that the Atacama beaches are some of the most beautiful ones in Chile. Turquoise waters, bays with calm waters and white sand are just some of the characteristics that make the beaches of Caldera, municipality to which these wonders belong, a place that you have to visit and that over time has won the popular distinction of “the Chilean Caribbean”. Within these beaches are the popular Bahía Inglesa and Playa la Virgen, now very well known to the Chilean people. However, there are also many other “hidden” ones that can be easily or difficult to access, but that you certainly can not miss if you visit the coast of Atacama.


The most beautiful beaches of Caldera in Atacama.

Thanks to the huge number of bays in the area, you can find several beaches with different characteristics, which make each one special. The beaches of Atacama are among the most beautiful in Chile, but not only that is what makes them special. They also allow children and everyone to enjoy natural pools, perform sports such as kitesurfing and surfing thanks to the wind and waves in some of them, or simply enjoy a beautiful landscape with cliffs and rock formations. Here we leave you the 10 beaches of Atacama that you can not miss if you travel to Caldera or Bahía Inglesa, and a small description of each of these Atacama beaches.

The best way to get to know the area is to rent a car and go exploring on your own. Keep in mind that it should have good traction because if you want to venture you will get into dunes and areas of stone paths. It’s worth it, believe me.


1. Playa Zapatilla (“Sneakers Beach”)

Ideal to visit with small children, this beach has lots of natural pools of beautiful blue and turquoise colors. some of them are small and others are big, so adults can also enjoy a quiet bath and swimming in the sea.

Playa Zapatilla is located north of Caldera, about 25 kilometers along the road to Chañaral. You can get there by public transport or in your own vehicle, but we recommend doing it on your own because if you do not, you will have to walk about 2 kilometers to the beach. You do not need a 4×4 car, just drive with care because of the stones and paths on the road.

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There is no commercial activity in this area, so you must bring your own food and water if you want to spend a longer time in it.

2. Playa Los Pulpos (“The octopuses”)

This beach is very close to Caldera, only about 5 kilometers to the north. Due to its location, it is quite protected from the wind, so it is ideal for those who want to make a barbecue on the beach or enjoy a quieter place. It is quite large, so the cars are easily dispersed and there are no crowds of tourists.

Near the beach, there is also a wave for surfing with the same name of the beach. It is a right wave that comes from a pointbreak, easily identifiable as you will always find someone in the water surfing at Los Pulpos.


3. Playa Mansa (“Meek beach”)

Located in the city of Caldera, this beach is more popular than the previous ones. You will always find many people in Playa Mansa, especially in summer. The waters are very calm and it is next to the harbor, so there are also several restaurants and shops nearby. Playa Mansa is the main beach of Caldera, with about 250 meters long.

Although it can be a bit dirtier, it is ideal for trips with children to Atacama. The proximity to services and urbanization will be very useful if you want to feel more secure.

It is also known as “The Copiapina”. The train station just steps from the beach was formerly used to transport cargo and people between Caldera and Copiapo, so with each arrival of the train came lots of people from this city. Today the train station is a paleontological museum that you can visit if you are interested in the animals that once inhabited the area.

4. Bahía Inglesa (“English Bay”)

Bahía Inglesa has gained enormous popularity in recent years. It has gone from being a lost paradisiacal beach to a true town with many constructions and accommodation options. Even several condominiums are being built. Although this may have eliminated its more “mystical” side, it has made of Bahía Inglesa the ideal place to stay during your visit to the Atacama beaches in Chile.

There is a great offer of restaurants and shops. You can not miss eating live oysters, a typical dish of the area where you can see how the shells are opened in from of your eyes, and, with a little lemon, take them directly to your mouth. A true delight if you like seafood.


5. Rocas Negras (“Black Rocks”)

A little further south of Bahía Inglesa is Rocas Negras (Black Rocks), a very small beach but also very quiet. It is an ideal bay to relax. Here you can also find live oysters, sold right after collected by fishermen in the area.

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Near this beach there is a bigger bay ideal for kitesurfing, a sport where the wind plays a key factor and here is perfect. Especially during the afternoons, when you get up with energy making the navigation in kitesurfing very good in ideal conditions.

6. Bahía Cisne (“Swan Bay”)

Also ideal for Kitesurfing, this bay is larger and longer than others on the area. You can also practice fishing. The truth is that on windy days it is not advisable if you want to relax because it gets a lot of it.

It is located south of Bahía Inglesa, after passing through the Morro de Copiapo. You can get to it in any type of vehicle, because the coastal road comes directly to its shore.

Bathing is not recommended on this beach, as it can have a lot of current.


7. Playa Blanca and Puerto Viejo (“White Beach and Old Port”)

Right next to Puerto Viejo, the old port that was replaced by Caldera, is this wonderful beach called Playa Blanca. It is flanked by large cliffs of rock and sand, eroded by the passage of time. The sand, as you can imagine from the name of the beach, is very white.

The beach of Puerto Viejo is also quite beautiful. Ideal for bathing because its waters are a little calmer, although they can also be dirtier cause of the fishing boats that parks on them of the town.

Playa Blanca (
Playa Blanca (“White Beach”)

8. Playa las Ágatas (“Agate’s Beach”)

Playa las Ágatas is located next to Playa Blanca to the south of this one. To get here, it is necessary to walk along the shore and go through some stone caves. You will reach this small stone beach (no sand in here, that’s why the name) between cliffs. The water is very calm, and it is definitely worth the adventure to get there.

You can also arrive by car 4×4 up on the cliff to appreciate the view of Las Agatas Beach and its cliffs.


9. Playa la Virgen (“Virgin Beach”)

How to stop naming it? Playa la Virgen in Caldera has become one of the main attractions of the area, a true Chilean Caribbean. The beach is encased in a small bay, so its waters are calm and ideal for bathing and enjoying for both adults and children. You will see a show of blue, light blue and turquoise colors in its waters, which is even more beautiful on sunny days.

Until a few years ago, Playa la Virgen was a quiet place, without services and with a really wonderful turquoise water beach, almost out of a dream. Today, of course, the beach is still as beautiful, but the concessionaire has made sure to get the most of money that can be possible out of the tourists who visit it and also to the place itself. It’s not as “virgin” as it used to be.

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Today the area is practically urbanized, there are several buildings among them restaurants where tourists can stay to sleep or enjoy a seafood meal with very overvalued prices.

There is much more trash than before, although it is cleaned every day. It is inevitable that the flow of visitors without awareness of taking care of the places will not leave its trace. (Learn more about travel responsibility here). But for those who visit the place with children or who like to give themselves a couple of luxuries, it is perfect because there are also toilets available, but only if you pay ($ 1,000 per use).

How to get to Playa la Virgen?

From Puerto Viejo, there is a detour to the upper part of the beach. It’s a dirt road with many stones, so drive very carefully if your car has no traction. Once there, to get to the virgin beach you have two options:

  1. Enter for free but walk about 25 minutes (and return back also walking in the same place)
  2. Enter the vehicle to a parking lot next to the beach. However, this option is paid. According to whether you go in high season, low season or holidays the price can reach up to $10,000 Chilean pesos per car. If you pay for this, you have also the right to use the bathrooms at no cost.

Accommodation in Playa la Virgen:

You can stay in cabins or at the camping of Playa la Virgen. Prices are also different according to the season and time of year, also tend to rise every year as the flow of visitors increases considerably.

10. Bahía Salada (“Salty Bay”)

Further south of Playa la Virgen is this long beach of fine white sand, with beautifully colored waters. The truth is that there is more than one bay, so we recommend that you see the area a bit before deciding where to stay.

The main bay is almost 2 kilometers long. It is a fairly unexplored area inhabited mainly by small fishing coves, as the calm and transparent waters make this place ideal for fishing. In addition, the surroundings have many dunes so they are ideal if you have a 4×4 car and can ride through them. But be very careful! It is very easy to get stuck in them and there is no cell phone signal or nearby cities or towns.

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