The Allure of Argentina’s Atlantic Coast

These beach towns shine year-round.

By Nell McShane Wulfhart

Argentina’s Atlantic coast is where porteños (people from Buenos Aires) go when they want to catch some rays and escape the big city. Pinamar and Mar del Plata, two of the country’s most stylish resort towns, are packed in the summers (here, December through February), when their wide beaches and good surfing conditions draw the crowds. But for visitors seeking fresh air and beautiful scenery—not to mention great food—there are plenty of year-round attractions, from fishing to horseback riding to excellent museums. Whether you’re packing swimsuits or sweaters, these two towns are always a good time.

Pinamar

Steep sand dunes and picturesque pine forests make the seaside town of Pinamar ideal for a range of outdoor adventures. Sandboarding—sliding down the dunes on what look like oversize snowboards—is a popular family activity. But the scenery is also ideal for more relaxing pursuits, such as strolls along the beach or through the woods. The nearby town of Cariló is home to a century-old plantation filled with pine trees and other species; it’s now a protected landscape. Come here for shady afternoon strolls and bird-watching in all seasons.

In the cooler months of May and June, anglers and nature lovers can plan a day’s boat outing on the Salada Grande, an enormous inland lagoon that’s a favorite among fishermen who cast their lines for pejerreyes (silversides). Guides take boats out for daylong excursions; try Leonardo Luis Soraire (Laguna la Salada Grande; 011-54-2267-66-6942; all-day boat tours, from $115*, including bait and guide) is a good option. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot capybaras (an unusual-looking mammal native to South America) and otters hanging out on the shore.

Mar del Plata

About 80 miles down the coast lies Mar del Plata, a resort town that’s been a beloved getaway since the 1950s. Mar del Plata is the surf capital of Argentina, and in the high season, surf schools set up shop right on the beach. Beginners can head to Playa Varese, a protected beach, while more proficient surfers find consistent breaks at Playa Grande. Summer here means jam-packed beaches and lots of families on holiday, but in March the water is still warm—and you’ll have a dozen or so pristine beaches mostly to yourself.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite in the water, head to Viento en Popa (257 Av. Martinez de Hoz; 011-54-223-489-0220; site in Spanish; dinner for two, $50; reservations recommended), a perennially popular and unpretentious seafood restaurant dishing up heaping plates of pan-fried whole fish, fresh shrimp, and squid. Or stop at any of the city’s many craft-beer bars for an evening picada (shared plate) of cheese and charcuterie washed down with an amber ale. La Paloma Brewing Company (3063 Olavarría; dinner for two, $50) has a gorgeous garden, while Cervecería Antares (12 de Octubre 7749; 011-54-223-481-8202; dinner for two, $30) offers views of the on-site brewery.

Beyond its outdoor activities, Mar del Plata is also a cultural hub for the region, hosting festivals throughout the year, including the Mar del Plata National Film Festival each November. The local branch of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Buenos Aires (Av. Félix U. Camet and López de Gomara; 011-54-223-471-7695; site in Spanish; admission, free) often puts on film or art events after hours. The museum is an unmissable daytime destination as well thanks to both its stimulating visual-arts exhibits and the space itself, an eye-catchingly modern edifice overlooking the ocean that’s well worth seeing in any season.

  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: March 2019