TRAVEL

Algarrobo – The Nautical Capital of Chile

Long weekends and public holidays are frequent in Chile, and one of the best ways to spend one is to leave behind the smoggy cities and head to the coast. Tranquility, fresh air, delicious seafood, scenic hiking, beautiful architecture, horseback riding and a wide variety of water sports are just some of the activities one can find in the small seaside resort town of Algarrobo, located in the province of San Antonio, in the region of Valparaiso.

Known as the Nautical Capital of Chile, Algarrobo is a great place to practice sailing, surfing, and diving. The beach stretches as far as the eye can see, but if you are not one to brave the cold waters then you’re in luck, as Algarrobo is also home to the world’s second longest swimming pool.

History

The town’s name directly translates as “carob tree” due to the abundance of the species that proliferate there despite the high humidity.  Algarrobo is one of Chile’s oldest resorts, and it has a long history of human settlement. Hunter-gatherers of the Llolleo culture settled there at least as early as 200 to 700 BC.

Fast forward to 1578 and Algarrobo was a favorite refuge for corsairs and merchants. Famed Englishmen such as Francis Drake, Thomas Cavendish and Richard Hawkinds were also known to make stops along its beautiful coastline.

In 1854, Algarrobo gained importance when it opened a small port to trade wheat with neighboring Peru. As the community grew it attracted more residents. Notable examples were the grandparents of President José Manuel Balmaceda, one of the first investors in the area.

In 1918, looking for peace, solace and tranquility the renowned priest, Father Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, came to spend the last years of his life in Algarrobo.  The settlement underwent many historical changes until it officially became a commune in December 1945.

As Algarrobo grew, so too did its need for infrastructure, and the Algarrobo Fire Department opened in 1967, brandishing leather uniforms and riding in a 1924 Mercedes-Benz fire truck. The town has since grown and modernized, but it has retained its charm of years gone by.

To do and see

Thousands of visitors flock to Algarrobo for its relaxing atmosphere, long stretches of sandy beaches and tranquil coves which are best suited for basking in the sun, picnicking, or relaxing with a good book. The most scenic beach is El Canelo, a secluded cove south of the town, which features clear blue waters, golden sand and statuesque pines that reach above the surrounding cliffs.

Those interested in people-watching and a livelier atmosphere are better off in the more central beach, Pejerrey. Wildlife enthusiasts will also be happy to know that boat rides are available at the beach’s pier. These trips include a tour of a colony of penguins. Although the boat gives the birds a wide berth to avoid disturbing them, the birds can still be seen well enough from a distance, relaxing on the rocks or in their cave homes.

If a glimpse of Chilean penguins is not enough, just a few meters south a local seafood market puts out buckets of unused fish, attracting a loyal following from the local squadron of pelicans. While watching these giant birds swoop down with their long and slender limbs one cannot help but be reminded of their dinosauric ancestors.

For the more adventurous there are plenty of watersports available from diving to surfing. However, if getting tangled up in seaweed in cold Pacific waters isn’t your cup of tea, then you can head down to The San Alfonso del Mar Condominium for the world’s second longest pool. This behemoth pool is equivalent to 6,000 backyard pools and holds 66 million gallons of temperature-regulated salt water. Its location right next to the beach will make you feel like you are in the ocean itself, just in a more comfortable fashion.

A long promenade runs the length of Algarrobo, providing stunning views of the beaches and the elegantly carved coves and pine groves. A whole day could be spent strolling its length and enjoying the fresh ocean breeze. Local markets found along the way sell small trinkets and handmade crafts. Restaurants line the promenade and offer delicious seafood dishes from ceviche to grilled salmon. There is no better way to finish the day in Algarrobo than with a stunning watercolor sunset. Watch the sky melt into bright pinks and purples while sitting on the beach or at a restaurant with a glass of wine or cocktail.

Finally, Algarrobo is surrounded by beautiful hills and farmlands, making it the perfect place to go horseback riding. Turismo Campo Caballo is one example of a family run farm that provides long and short horse rides with transportation to and from the town. A horseback ride in Algarrobo features beautiful countryside scenes under picture perfect skies with glimpses of the coastline.

To stay

Algarrobo provides many lodging options for all budgets, from rentals to condominiums. The most notable hotels are the San Alfonso del Mar, home to the monumental swimming pool, and the Winery Boutique Hotel, set on a lush hill in the center of town.

Climate

Algarrobo is privileged with a warm temperate coastal climate. The temperature varies only slightly, staying fairly consistent throughout the year. Winters are moderate and summers are breezy. Average summer temperatures are a mild 20º C and winter days can be as warm as 15º C. Spring and summer, from November to April, can be fairly warm, with 65% humidity and quite dry in terms of rainfall, while fall and winter months, from May to October, see most rainfall and can be quite wet and windy. Not surprisingly, the town gets most crowded in the warm and dry summer months, but visiting in early fall or late spring can be just as satisfying, although too chilly to enjoy sunbathing at the beach.

Getting there

Algarrobo is easy to reach and is only a few hours from Santiago. Driving routes are well-mapped and buses are very frequent and affordable (between $5,000-10,000 CLP) from any major stations in cities like Santiago and Valparaiso and do not require prior booking.

Easily accessible, versatile and naturally stunning, Algarrobo is a must-see for anyone looking to get out of the city and explore the Chilean coastline. Take advantage of any upcoming long-weekends or holidays to visit Chile’s Nautical Capital.

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