Spring break is approaching and it’s finally about time to break out that new bikini. If you’re still undecided on where to head for a spring break vacation, but know you want to bum on a beach, Latin American shores are some of the best stretches of sand in the world and offer the perfect getaway for a cultured, beach-centric trip. Sports Illustrated knows it, too, and shot the cover for their always-much-anticipated swimsuit issue on Easter Island, Chile. Here are our picks for top destinations for sun, sand and scene.
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Punta del Este, Uruguay
The St. Tropez of South America, the Hamptons of South America – you can make the comparisons, but there really is no place like it. Punta del Este pulls in the rich, famous and stylish from Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and beyond who sunbathe during the day and party at night. The area includes a bustling, cosmopolitan, shore-side city and sleepier, more artistic enclaves like La Barra around it. Around New Year’s and into January, this is the place to be in South America.
Jaco, Costa Rica
Surf-friendly like most of Costa Rica is, Jaco is one of the country’s star shore towns. The area is active, but quiet and relaxed and nothing is farther than a short walk from the beach. Non-surfers alike are just as entertained and pleased with the clean, well-maintained beaches. For a dose of pura vida in your spring break, this is where to head.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
As far as urban beaches go, Rio is unrivaled with its long white shores, lush mountains jutting up along the edges and an exciting city buzzing among it. If you are looking to be in the center of the action, Rio is the South American beach for you. This is the perfect place to be social and live a little: from people watching to playing sports on the beaches, to visiting the bars and samba clubs at night.
Travelers to Peru often are focused on making it to Machu Picchu, and with reason, but many overlook is that Peru also has some stunning beaches perfect for a seaside escape. Many of the best surfers in the world hail from Peru, as well, and in the water along the pristine beaches of Máncora is one of the places they practice. The beach resort town has developed to attract non-surfing beachgoers, too, and includes luxury accommodations and fine dining restaurants.
Bocas del Toro, Panama
This cluster of Panamanian islands encompasses some of the most beautiful beaches in the region. While the area is developed to accommodate tourists, it has been carefully well preserved and makes for a relaxed, quiet beach getaway. Fun, little island towns dot the area beloved for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and calm, white beaches.
About a two-hour drive outside Rio is one of locals’ favorite spots for beaching: Buzios. There is a statue of Brigitte Bardot in town, who many credit with making the locale famous internationally. Buzios is much smaller than Rio, but still includes many of Brazil’s most dazzling beaches and a happening social scene. To appreciate the beauty of Brazilian beaches, culture and people in a place slightly quieter than Rio, schedule some time in Buzios.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
You really can’t go wrong with any beach in the Yucután, but Playa del Carmen is the crown jewel of the lot. The crowd is attractive, the nightlife hopping and the beaches are postcard-perfect. You will mix with an international crowd here – people come from all over the world because they know Playa del Carmen is worth it – and can just easily slip away to a quiet piece of beach as see and be scene.
Belize might be a sliver of a country, but it makes excellent use of its long shorelines. Placencia is a cool, yet calm destination with about 16 miles of coastline, all for visitors’ sun-basking pleasure. You also can snorkel, kayak and visit nearby Mayan ruins.
Viña del Mar, Chile
Viña del Mar is an attractive beachside city known as Chile’s tourist capital. It draws a cool scene of in-the-know international travelers as well as vacationing Chileans both to the wide, sandy beaches and active city. The area is alive with cultural attractions and events, as well, with music and film festivals happening regularly in town.
Ocean Park Beach, Puerto Rico
Ocean Park is the place to head if you’re looking to mingle while on your beach vacation. The scene at Ocean Park Beach is young and fun, and people watching is prime. And the beach, of course as you can expect in Puerto Rico, also is beautiful.