South America's best beaches...
The most iconic stretches of sand to enjoy

Ipanema. Rio de Janeiro.
Ipanema beach. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

If you find yourself thinking about a turquoise ocean and a deserted, flour-like white sand beach, or perhaps dreaming about a palm tree-lined beach or a lush Atlantic forest falling into the water amidst the singing of birds, then you should read on, because South America has all that and much more.

With the exemption of Bolivia and Paraguay - the two lanlocked countries in the continent - there are splendid beaches in almost every country, whether on the Atlantic, Pacific or the Caribbean.

Surely, not all of them have been equally blessed by Nature with the same amazing surroundings, while others don't fall into the category of deserted, simply because they're urban or more developed in terms of tourist infrastructure, but the number of South American beaches runs by the thousands, so if you're a sun-worshipper you'll feel at home like nowhere else in the world.

Having said that, to try and identify South America's best beaches is a daunting task and would likely be unfair to many great stretches of sand to sandbathe in the continent. However, we need to draw the line somewhere and picking out the top countries seems to be the way to go.

With over 7,000 km of coastline, Brazil comes as a clear winner. The number of Brazil beaches is simply overwhelming. Consider that only Ilha Grande - in the State of Rio de Janeiro - has over one hundred of them. Venezuela has the largest extension of Caribbean coastline of any other country in the world, nearly 3,000 km long.

Sun-soaked Colombia - fourth-largest country in the continent - has fantastic beaches, both on the Caribbean sea and Pacific ocean, although not equally developed for the international visitor yet. And then, in the list of South America's best beaches, comes little Uruguay - second smallest country after Suriname - with some iconic coastal towns like Punta del Este, La Paloma and Piriapolis for example, and a couple of "wild" spots for those seeking Nature first and foremost.

For now, have a look at the following photo gallery to get a visual perspective on the continent's beauty. If you've never been in South America, you couldn't possibly know what you're missing out...

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Beyond Copacabana and Ipanema, Rio's world's famous beaches, the norhteastern State of Rio Grande do Norte is a great place to start your quest for South America's best beaches in Brazil. If you're fond of coral reefs and natural swimming pools, head off to Rio do Fogo and Maracajaú. You wouldn't want to miss Pipa, in Tibau do Sul, and the dunes of Genipabu either.

The now well known Jeri or Jericoacoara provably is the most iconic beach in the neighboring State of Ceara, without forgetting the old hippy enclave of Canoa Quebrada, or the amazing cliffs of Morro Branco beach.

Apart from Tamandaré, Praia dos Carneiros and Porto de Galhinas, Recife - State's capital of Pernambuco - has the fantastic Fernando de Noronha archipelago within a stone's throw. Enough to mention praia do Sancho and Cacimba do Padre for that matter.

Salvador - State's capital of Bahia - is literally surrounded by beaches; so the list would be very long. Just make sure to include Tinharé and Boipeba if you'd like to experience paradisiacal palm-lined beaches.

Further down south, in the State of Rio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande is a must-visit when it comes to Brazil beaches and Atlantic forest rolled up into one. Lopes Mendes comes first, only reachable by trekking from Abraão or by taking a boat to Pouso/Manges beach followed by a short trek. Experience Santo Antonio while you are at it, a side trip worth to be made for an unbelievable deserted rocky beach.

Santa Catarina island, Floripa's home, is pretty well known in South America and some parts of the world as well, for families, surfers and divers alike. Joaquina beach is very famous, but our heart goes to Barra da Lagoa, an enchanted little fishing village about 1/2 hour away from Florianópolis.

Jericoacoara. Ceara, Brazil
Jericoacoara. Ceara, Brazil.

First in the list of top Venezuelan beaches comes Los Roques archipelago. Not easy to reach though, you'll need a boat or a small airplane, but you'll be rewarded with flour-like sands, crystal clear waters and a number of water sports to enjoy. Margarita island is another great Caribbean destination, in fact, it is known as the Pearl of the Caribbean.

Playa Grande, popularly known as Choroní due to its proximity to the colonial village of the same name, is one of the most popular beach destinations in the country. To reach it is an adventure by itself, two hours drive from the city of Maracay through the cloud forest mountains of Heny Pittier National Park.

Two other great spots for sunbathing are Mochima National Park and Cumaná. The city of Cumaná is also of historical importance since it was the first settlement founded by Europeans in mainland America, in 1501.

Colombia boasts some of South America's best beaches to lay your towel on, with over 1,700 km of Caribbean coastline. The Archipélago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina is home to one of the largest and most complex barrier reefs in the Americas, top of the range when it comes to isolated beaches and unspoiled coral reefs, ideal for diving and snorkeling.

Cabo de la Vela - in La Guajira peninsula - is a place to explore, so it's Tayrona National Park, with pristine beaches like Cañaveral, Arrecifes and Playa Cristal, not far from the city of Santa Marta. Just 5 km away fron downtown, El Rodadero is the beach to look for if you're fond of Miami-like hotels and comfort, otherwise, try the fishing village of Taganga.

We shan't forget Cartagena in the equation, it boasts around 19 km of urban beaches plus another 100 km of beaches heading north to Barranquilla. Bocagrande is the equivalent of Santa Marta's El Rodadero, but if you want to be in touch with Nature, head off to the Islas del Rosario, some forty minutes away by boat from town.

The ruggedly beautiful Pacific coast is where the jungle and ocean meet alongside grey-sand beaches, perhaps one of the least visited parts of the country, but of unmeasurable beauty to share with those willing to find it. Chocó, Bahia Solano, Nuquí and Gorgona island are top places to explore. It is on the Pacific coast where you'll come across humpback whales and leatherback turtles.

Punta del Diablo. Uruguay.
Punta del Diablo, Uruguay.

You surely have heard of Punta del Este, otherwise known as the St Tropez of South America. It's Uruguay's and the continent's gathering point for the international jet set from end of December through February. However, you don't need to rub shoulders with celebrities and millonaires of all sorts in order to enjoy a summer vacation in the Banda Oriental.

Seek for quieter and stylish coastal towns like Piriapolis and La Paloma instead, or even La Pedrera, one of the top places in the Rocha department for a summer retreat. Both Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo are great options to have a quiet vacation immersed in Nature, away from the bustling activity of Punta del Este and the need to spend an arm and a leg that comes attached to it.

So take your pick and enjoy any of all South America's best beaches you've been introduced to. You can't go wrong, just follow your heart and be prepared to experience the fourth-largest continent in the world in a smashing way.


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