A day in Zapallar, Chile
As I mentioned in my post about Valparaíso, Chile, the beach scene there wasn’t the greatest. Wanting to enjoy my summer-in-winter to the max, beach time was a must. We enjoyed Viña del Mar, but were also wanting to explore a bit more of the area, so we decided to go where Conde Nast Traveler wanted to lead us, which was Zapallar.
Zapallar was about an hour and a half drive north of Valpo, so you definitely need to have your own transportation if you’re planning on going. Looking at a map, I was imagining gorgeous ocean side views the whole drive, and that was not the case at all. It was definitely not a scenic drive, and we contemplated stopping off at some other beaches we passed along the way, but once in Zapallar we were glad we stuck to our guns.
When we arrived it was about 10:30 in the morning, and I was devastated to see completely overcast skies, and was chilly in my jeans and long-sleeve button down! We parked in a tiny little dirt lot, right by the beach, and Mitchell immediately made his way to a little coffee stand for a hot drink to warm up. Mitchell seemed unperturbed by the weather so he proceeded to lay out his towel on the empty beach. I was too cold to just sit still though, so I decided to go exploring. There’s a wide dirt path going in both directions from the beach. I went the northern route first, and was struck by the blueness of the ocean, and all the rock work along the path.
As I made my way back towards Mitchell I remembered that I’d seen what I thought looked like a piano player in the middle of a forest, so I detoured to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Sure enough, right next to the parking lot was a little forest amphitheater. There were tall tree trunks planted in circles, with a small flat area in the middle, and tree logs sawed in half to be used as benches scattered throughout. There was a lone piano player, in a full suit, at an upright piano, playing his little heart out. There was only one other person sitting amongst the trees, and a sound guy at a table behind me. As I sat there entranced, he walked over with a little flyer announcing Zapallar’s Culture Festival, which was going on that week. I asked him how long the piano player would be playing, and he said until 9pm - it was about 11:00am when I asked this. He said he was playing for 12 hours straight, so he had started a couple hours earlier. So crazy! The music was so beautiful, I sat there for a while, watching beach goers pass by, stop and listen for a few minutes, and then move on. At this time the sun was starting to come out, so when I finally did make it back to Mitchell, he was no longer alone on the beach.
By noon there were no more clouds or fog, and it was hot! I couldn’t believe the change! I was too big of a wuss to get in the water, so I just laid in the sand and watched the seagulls running away as each wave approached. Surrounded by enormous modern and Mediterranean style villas, deep turquoise water crashing over the rocks, and mountains all around, I felt more like I was somewhere along the Pacific Crest Highway than on another continent. Mitchell used to live in California, and he too felt a very California vibe about the place.
When we’d had enough sun we decided to hit the southern trail, and went up a hill that overlooked the beach. There were tons of cool succulents, and the views were stunning. On our way down we stopped at the one restaurant in the cove, and ate fish with sand beneath our toes. The restaurant wasn’t the greatest, but it wasn’t the worst either, and the location was unbeatable.
By the time we headed to the car to go back to Valpo, the tiny parking lot was overflowing, the sun was beating down, and the suit-clad piano player was still at it. It took us closer to 2 hours on the way back because the traffic was terrible and there were SO MANY people trying to sell stuff along the side of the road. In spite of the stressful drive back, we were really glad we made the trip. Mitchell even said it was his favorite place of our whole South American trek! I am glad we just made it a day trip though because other than laying on the beach and the short hikes we did, there didn’t seem to be much else to do in the area - though sometimes that’s all you’re looking for, I suppose.
Any of you been to a hidden gem beach town? I’m always looking for new ones to explore!