Chilean poet Pablo Neruda once wrote that “love is so short, forgetting is so long”.
Planning a vacation to Santiago, Chile—Neruda’s birth place is—is a must see. Though you can’t surf in Santiago itself (except for at the wave pool), as it is about 2 hours from the coast by car, you can prepare for some excellent waves near the capital and enjoy this fabulous city before launching into the Chilean coastal towns.
It is nothing short of an adventure in Pacific Coast Paradise. There are endless surfing opportunities—with 300 days of waves per year—and plenty of other things to do as well. In this article we’ll just talk about a visit to the capital. Though Santiago itself sits in a valley not far from the sea, it will likely be your jumping off point for any trip into Chile.
Santiago is the most populated city in the country of Chile and was founded in 1541, which lent it neoclassical architecture since its inception.
Because of its more recent economic growth, it is also juxtaposed with a more modern metropolis design, giving it a neat sense of time travel while walking through it.
Mountains of the Andes chain can be seen from most points in the city and tend to trap the smog from the rapid pace of growth and development.
The city is situated in central Chile, at an elevation of 1,706 feet, which gives it a temperate Mediterranean climate, with low humidity and mild winters.
The reliable waves and plethora of attractions, have secured Santiago as an enviable destination for surfers and travelers alike.
Santiago is filled with many different parks, museums, monuments and markets, all beautifully designed and centrally located, making it easy to explore. Spicy Chile Tours offers free walking tours of Santiago, with a mix of historical information and the best anecdotes and recommendations for enjoying the city,
Be sure to check out the beautifully manicured Cerro Santa Lucia Hill, which is centrally located, making it a great starting point for your exploration and a great start to any walking tour of the city.
Across from the hill is the famous Santa Lucia Craft Market, filled with traditional artisanal crafts that are perfect for souvenirs and a great place to see what people are making with their hands. There are several dozen stores offering various styles of clothing and hand crafted souvenirs—most of which probably are typical of Chile.
Also, not to be missed in Santiago, is the food. Santiago is known for its seafood, which can be found in many of its trendy restaurants. Aqui esta Coco has been popular among the locals and tourists, alike, for its innovative atmosphere and incredible dishes.
If you are looking for a way to relax and rejuvenate yourself, you can take advantage of Yoga Luka which offers a subscription of sorts to local yoga studios for just $2 a session. This gives you unbeatable prices for a variety of styles.
As for accommodations, Santiago is one of the more expensive cities in South America, so you can easily find nice hotels and boutiques to stay in during your visit.
One of the favorites is the Lastarria Boutique Hotel, which has a great location and a very chic yet homey feel; separating it from the more traditional hotels.
It is easiest to get to Santiago via airplane. If you are flying from the U.S., be prepared to pay the $100 USD tourist tax at the airport.
From there you can catch a cab, or a shuttle to your hotel.
If you’re heading straight to the Central Coast, then renting a small car is your best option, with prices from 100-150 US$ for a week.
If you are staying inside Santiago, then you can easily rely on the safe and clean Metro, as it is well-connected throughout the very large city. Metro Santiago has a metro system with five lines and 94 stations, with many holding rotating art exhibitions.
Trains run between roughly 6.00AM and 11.00PM, with each station posting the exact hours for the first and last trains. Buses run parallel to subway lines after hours. (Grab a free PDF of the Metro Map here)
Hotel Aruma is located in Arica very close to the pedestrian walkway that goes to the wharf, shopping district, laundry and walking distance to many different restaurants and services.
They have 16 not super large but clean and comfy rooms to choose from. The Hotel has a modern minimalist design with a jacuzzi to chill in on the roof terrace. They offer a yummy breakfast made with local organic ingredients and tea, drinks and snacks during the day.
Hotel Aruma has good wi-fi and safe parking in a secure lot across the street. The service here is by far the best they will go above and beyond to make you happy and do it with a smile.
With only a $20 difference between this place and other average places nearby, I would definitely stay at the Hotel Aruma.
Hotel Loreto is located a stone’s throw away from Barrio Bellavista, Santiago’s most heterogeneous and cosmopolitan area and is very close to the capital’s city center.
They offer all the usual stuff like wi-fi, satellite tv, heat and a safe deposit box. The biggest plus for this hotel is the amazing customer service they offer. The staff and owners will make your stay as enjoyable as possible and if you’re lucky might even give you some coupons for free drinks at a bar/restaurant near by.
The rooms are very clean and some have great views. The only complaint I’ve seen is that the larger room didn’t seem to have enough furniture and no closet to hang their belongings.
Also be sure to ask for a room with a private bath if that matters to you (does to me) otherwise there are small bathrooms across the hall. Be sure to stop by the courtyard which has an orange and pomegranate tree. Level 2 balconies have roof covers in case of rain and if it does rain they even offer loaner umbrellas for when you want to take a walk to near by Central Market or the Pacific Galleries.
Just looking for somewhere to chill? Well look no further than the ChilHotel cause that’s pretty much all you’re gonna get there.
It’s affordable, safe and quiet. With less than a 3 minute walk to the metro, strong wi-fi, a hot shower and a simple breakfast it’s a perfect place to sleep in between outings.
Do not visit Santiago Chile without having a “Completo Del Domino” Domino is an awesome little place to go grab some cheap eats, a cold beer and people watch while you rub elbows with the locals.
They have a limited menu but still something for everyone. The Completo Del Domino is the most recommended by far, it’s a hot dog made “Italian Chilean style” with tons of mayonnaise, avocado and tomato.
Sounds gross huh? Well apparently it’s not gross it’s brilliant and before you know it you’ll be pouring mayo on all your buddies hot dogs at your next BBQ.
Bahia Pilolcura is a little deceiving to the eye. When you first arrive all you’ll see is a fish market until you find the trap door that leads you down a rickety set of wooden stairs to the basement “dining room”, don’t freak out though you’re not in the middle of a horror movie you’re about to have some really good food.
They only serve seafood but being as it’s located right under a fish market you can imagine how fresh it is.
Try the outstanding ceviche or the grilled swordfish or just ask the waiter what’s fresh and recommended that day.
The service is eh, honestly after your food arrives the waiter will probably forget you’re even there but that’s OK just go back upstairs and pay when you’re done.
This is a cultural experience that you should not miss out on. Super cheap but cash only.
Want to take your lady out for a nice romantic evening after all the hole in the wall joints you’ve hit up so far on your trip? Then Maracuya is the just the place.
Located just outside of the Port of Arica, Maracuya serves lovely elegant traditional Chile dishes with a beautiful view of the ocean. Locals say it’s the best restaurant around. The place isn’t cheap but offers real value for the money. Time to splurge!
Sky Costanera is the tallest building in South America! Inside it’s a multi level high-end mall with movie theaters and restaurants but the main attraction is the top 2 viewing levels.
Many people recommend going the day after it rains right before sunset. The views are incredible. You really don’t realize how big Santiago is until you see it from that far up. There’s no where to eat or anything on the viewing levels yet but that’s OK it’s totally worth it.
Some reviewers stated they wished they had some open air access at the viewing level since they have to take their pics through glass but I can understand how that would be a safety concern. There’s never really too many crowds but it does cost more on weekends and holidays. Look for the signage above every window to help you pick out landmarks!
Fantasilandia is an amusement park located in Santiago. Great for
children of all ages and adults too.
At under $15 per person (as of 9/2015) it’s a great value! It’s no Disneyland/Six Flags by any means but there’s plenty of rides and attractions to keep you busy all day.
The bathrooms are clean and easy to find and don’t forget to bring a change of clothes cause you will get wet on a few of the rides. Some reviewers recommend taking a cab or the metro to get there probably cause the parking sucks.
Around Halloween it’s pretty rad, they stay open late and everyone is dressed up in crazy costumes!
Now for the surfing and what brings people from far and wide. Fall is a great time of the year to plan a surf trip, as the water has had all year to warm up and school is back in session, so the beach is less crowded.
It is also the time before the more temperamental winter has begun. The close proximity of Santiago to some of the world’s best surfing has inspired many surf schools in the area to open up.
If you’re looking for lessons check out Magic Chile International Surf School as the top loved surf school by tourists from all over the world.
Waves suck today? Well then head on over to Wave House to get your fix. Located in the Los Condes neighborhood in Santiago they have everything from Simulators, wave pools and climbing walls.
The instructors are great and the staff is always available to answer any questions you might have. There’s no hot water in the dressing room and the wet suits are a bit worn out so if you have your own bring it.
But if you’re looking for some waves right in the middle of the city, this is the place to go.
Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation, or one filled with action, Santiago certainly can be the place for you. Central Chile has a temperate climate, making it accessible throughout the year.
Enjoy the weather, the surf, the seafood, and the endless activities Santiago, Chile has to offer.