The nearest Pacific Ocean beach to Limache (25mins drive) is at the holiday resort of Con Con. Officially marketed as Chile’s ‘Gourmet Capital’, this is painting the town much finer than it really is. However, it is an excellent place to sample traditional seafood snacks, such as the delicious cheese and shrimp pastries known as empanadas de queso camaron.
It is also an excellent place to try surfing and there are plenty of places offering classes and all the gear required. The entire Chilean coast is popular with surfers, and good facilities also exist at Maitencillo, further north, which offers miles and miles of superb sandy beaches, as well as a charming fishing port at its heart.
Huge uncrowded beaches are one of Chile’s highlights, and a lovely one can be found at Cachagua, north-west of Limache. An added attraction here is the small island just off the beach that is home to a penguin colony.
Further north-west, about an hour’s drive from Limache, you will find the country’s most exclusive beach at the immaculate half-moon bay of Zapallar; followed by the delightful seaside town of Papudo, which has an excellent range of seafood restaurants, from cheap and cheerful to designer elegant.
The huge bay that stretches from Valparaíso and Viña del Mar to the giant sand dunes beyond Reñaca is a terrific place to spot sea lions and seals, and there are several viewing platforms along the coast; one can even be reached by the local metro train. If you are really lucky, you might even spot dolphins. These urban beaches are also great for people watching and eating ice-cream.
Heading south-west, down the coast from Valparaíso, the lovely beach and fishing village of Quintay makes for a great excursion timed around a seafood lunch; and the same goes for Isla Negra, made famous by the fact that Pablo Neruda had one of his houses there. Finally, the Bay of Tunquén (title picture) between Quintay and Isla Negra is stunning.