Nothing beats injecting some seriously wicked beachside R&R on a trip to South America with the continent home to some of the most idyllic stretches of sandy shores on earth. Yet while Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema and Copacabana are probably the most – and perhaps only – beaches which can claim to have worldwide fame and are inarguably the most considered, there are innumerable dreamy beaches way off the beaten path that can rival any of the world’s best. These startling hidden treasures, some of the best-kept secrets in all of South America, offer some sensational options for a seaside vacay that’ll make for a glorious ending to any multi-country tour.
So pack the sunscreen and sombreros, amigos, and pin our favourite and hottest of South America’s dreamiest beaches way off the beaten path to your map.
The only regret you’ll have is not discovering them sooner…
Ilha Grande, Brazil
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One of Brazil’s most astonishing and unspoilt pockets of paradise, Ilha Grande is a bona fide ‘paradise island’. Its interior is covered in luscious verdant wilderness home to parrots, monkeys and a flurry of other incredible wildlife. Most of its coastline is framed by impossibly white sandy beaches – in the bits where the forest doesn’t just tumble into the sea – and the whole compact lot lapped by the kind of turquoise seas for which the tropics are so renowned, whose balmy temps and nutrient-rich currents attract starfish, reef sharks, turtles and huge school of colourful, exotic fish. Walking is the only way to get around this car-free island and although trails through the rainforest abound – to get you to various hidden beaches – hiking in this heat can be quite arduous, so your best bet is to stay in a luxury lodge that boasts its own private beach. With palm trees offering shade.
Palm trees provide shade at the various beaches, walking trails the only way to get around this car-free islet and a handful of carefully selected boutique resorts offer the only overnight option. A pristine swathe of Atlantic forest, crazy beautiful beaches and the kind of peaceful isolation that Rio-dwellers seeks on a regular basis.
How to reach Ilha Grande: Floating just off the shores of the mainland, merely 140km east of Rio, Ilha Grande is not only outstanding but also easy to reach. A private transfer- which includes a drive to the ferry port and short boat-ride across – should take no more than 3.5 hours, maximising your time in both destinations. See how we combine the best highlights of Rio and Ilha Grande on a 9-day Tropical Brazil Tour.
Baia do Sancho & Praia do Leao, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
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If you’re flying into Rio de Janeiro from Europe, you’ll likely fly right by the idyllic archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, a maze of 21-islands revered for being exclusive and exclusively beautiful. This fiercely protected UNESCO-listed marine reserve is an outstanding wildlife destination, home to some of the most pristine jungles and beaches of all, although dedicated outside travellers, it remains widely unknown. Here, you’ll enjoy some of the best snorkelling in the entire country, and the strict regulations on visitor numbers mean that both beaches and snorkel spots are uncrowded and absolutely awe-inspiring to boot. Due to the unique geology of this archipelago, Fernando de Noronha showcases very distinct types of reefs and species of marine life and forms one of the most valued ecosystems on earth. Warm balmy temps, year-round, make this an ideal beach vacay destination no matter when you travel to South America.
When we talk about South America having some of the most glorious beaches on earth, it’s beaches like the ones you find at Noronha that we mean. The most popular three and the ones that ubiquitously feature on all of Brazil’s best beaches lists are Baia do Sancho (north), and Praia do Leao, in the south.
How to reach Fernando de Noronha: Dedicated charter flights connect visitors to this northern archipelago, which sits just off the easternmost point of the mainland in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, from the northern cities of Recife and Natal (via 1.5 n 1 hr flights) both of which are connected to Rio via nonstop flights. All up, it’s wise to count a full day of travel in each direction. Plan a Rio Stopover to soak up the city’s highlights and ask us about a bespoke itinerary to explore the most magical northern treasures.
Jericoacoara National Park, Brazil
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The Noronha archipelago may undoubtedly be a unique geological wonder yet this doesn’t mean that its corresponding mainland cousins, near the city of Fortaleza, are anything to sneeze at. If you have a little less time to dedicate to the beachside portion of your South America tour but still wish to explore northern Brazil, then make a beeline for Jericoacoara instead. This is the kind of place that entices you for a couple of days and then kidnaps you for weeks on end, with its vertiginous and rather photogenic sand dunes, sandy shores and cute as a picture village attracting a jet-setting yachting crowd. With a vast array of accommodation and foodie options along the sandy shores of the beach, warm seas and the fantastical backdrop of the Jericoacoara National Park, this is a dreamy fusion of trendsetting Ipanema and secluded Ilha Grande.
How to reach Jericoacoara: The nearest airport to the national park and beach town is at Fortaleza, just under 300km to the south. Given the traffic (and parking restrictions) and the somewhat unsurprising unreliability of public transport (buses tend to leave Fortaleza only when they’re full), a private transfer is by far your best and most convenient bet. As above, include a bespoke tour of the north as an add-on to a Rio stopover for a comprehensive adventure through the largest country in South America.
Anakena Beach, Easter Island, Chile
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Chile’s mysterious Easter island is primarily coveted by lovers of enticing history and culture, and many will be utterly surprised to know that the big island home to the big stone statues actually boasts some seriously wicked beaches. Seek the shade of a moai on the sparkling white coral sandy shores of Anakena, and we’ll forgive you for thinking you’ve been hijacked and transported to the Caribbean, instead. This is the side of Easter island not many people even know exist and an incredibly idyllic excuse to extend your visit by a few days.
How to reach Easter Island: LATAM offers direct flights to Easter Island from the Chilean capital, Santiago. See just how much you can experience on a 4-day Easter Island Tour and add as many days of beachside relaxation to your itinerary as your heart desires.
Islas del Rosario, Colombia
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A short boat ride away from glorious Cartagena, Colombia’s most revered colonial-era town, the Rosario archipelago is just one of 46 national reserves in the incredibly luscious country and inarguably the most glorious for sea and sun lovers. Turquoise waters home to an array of marine life and colourful coral reefs frame idyllic specs of tropical gorgeousness, with secluded bays, romantic over-water bungalows and some of the most magnificent Caribbean beach experiences of all. Pristine, idyllic and dreamy beyond words, this archipelago is the country’s best kept secret and one of the most prominent marine parks in the entire continent. What we love about this particular spot is that it’s insanely easy to reach, drop-dead gorgeous and allows visitors to seamlessly combine a beachside stint with explorations of the most beautiful historic city in all of South America. A trifecta no traveller could ever refuse.
How to reach Islas del Rosario: A short and scenic boat ride from Cartagena takes just an hour. Pack snorkel gear and ask us about availability at one of the few luxury boutique resorts on the islands. See how easy it is to combine a visit to Rosario on a Highlights of Colombia Tour and if a day-trip here seems a travesty to you, ask us to extend your stay by a few extra nights, also taking in the spectacular sight of phosphorescent plankton of Isla Grande’s Enchanted Lagoon. This is a bucket-list beach destination with very few rivals.
Bachas & Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
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Primarily revered the world over as an unmatched wildlife-watching destination, home to such endemic creatures as Giant Tortoises, Iguanas, Blue Footed Boobies and Albatross, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador consistently surprise visitors with their array of remote, desolate and utterly spectacular beaches. The surprise is certainly appreciated and, without a doubt, one of the archipelago’s best attributes yet it may pay to know before visiting if you’re planning a longer stint of beach-side R&R. The best beaches in the Galapagos are found on those astonishing uninhabited islands you’ll visit on a small-ship cruise yet Santa Cruz, the main bae island and the one home to some glorious boutique resorts, has plenty of sandy stretches to rave about. In the Galapagos, you can soak up the rays with lazy iguanas and turtles, snorkel with playful seals and dodge Sally Lightfoot crabs as you meander the shores. Check out Bachas Beach and Tortuga Bay when planning an all-day beach experience with a totally unique twist.
How to reach the Galapagos Islands: A short flight from Quito or Guayaquil will see you reach Santa Cruz, the capital island of this fiercely protected wildlife haven. The best way to explore the islands is on a multi-day cruise, as most of the islands are remote and uninhabited. Island-based tours are also offered and, although they are certainly rewarding, they don’t quite offer the same level of intensity as cruises, as most of your time is spent travelling rather than exploring. Visit out Galapagos Tours page for travel and beachside inspiration.
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