Pichilemu is located about 200km south-west from Santiago de Chile. It’s a small beach town popular with local tourists that come here for the summer holiday and with surfers because Pichilemu is one of the best surfing spots in this part of South America. The town is surrounded by the vineyards of the famous Colchagua Valley so you can combine a beach holiday with surfing and wine tasting.
How to get to Pichilemu
The easiest way to get here is by bus from Santiago de Chile. There are many daily buses from Terminal San Borja (Santiago), buses leave every hour or so, the journey to Pichilemu takes 3h20min., price CLP5900/US$9 per person. You can check the timetable and buy tickets online.
Renting a car in Santiago is the most comfortable way of traveling, it gives you an advantage of exploring surrounding wine estates and visiting some hidden gems of the area like Siete Tazas National park it’s difficult (almost impossible) to get directly there by public transport.
Hitchhiking is always an option in Chile, we did it in many places and it worked pretty well though sometimes it’s difficult to get out of the places in the middle of nowhere.
Suggested tours from Santiago de Chile
- Vina Del Mar, Valparaiso and Casablanca Valley Full-Day Tour
- Concha y Toro: Official Winery Tour (without transportation)
- Concha y Toro Full Master Edition: Wine Tasting Included (with transportation)
- Cajón del Maipo and Embalse El Yeso Tour from Santiago
- Santiago: Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour
Best time to visit
Weatherwise Chilean summer November – March is the best time; sunny days, warm and little rain just remember that the water here is always cold you’ll need a wetsuit for any water activities. April and October are the shoulder season when it starts raining but precipitations are not frequent, the temperature is close to the summer months. May to September is the rainiest and the coldest period in the area, June has the most rainfall.
Water temperature changes from 19°C in February – March to 14°C in July – September.
Pichilemu travel cost
Depending on what kind of accommodation you choose, if you make your own food or eat out if you rent a board or take surf lessons etc.
The most budget accommodation in Pichilemu is camping there you’ll pay per person. A good thing is that two main campsites are located right in the town, close to the beaches and surf spots. Depending on the season camping is between CLP 5000/US$7 and CLP 7000/US$10 per person per night (with your own tent).
We camped at La Caletilla (no link the site doesn’t seem to be working but you can find them on Google.maps) and it was great, the only problem was leaving our valuables in the tent when we went out. We did have a combination lock so we could lock our tent but it’s still a tent and it’s not difficult to get in there. I’d suggest asking at the reception to put your valuable stuff away. It’s much easier if you have a car, you can just lock everything in there. The camp has all the necessary; hot showers (from 7am to 11 am and from 7pm to 11pm), toilets, kitchen (CLP 1000/$1,5 per day per tent for using a gas stove), wi-fi in the reception area. Every camping spot has a table, two benches, a place to make fire, outlets and light. Every night the owner makes a big fire all guests gather around, family atmosphere, a great place for meeting people. If you don’t have a tent, sleeping pad or sleeping bag you can rent everything here.
Bed in a dormitory is another budget option for those who don’t like camping or don’t have camping gear with. A bed in a hostel (depending on the time of the year) will cost between CLP 7000/US$10 and CLP 10000/US$15. A great thing about staying in a hostel is that most of the hostels have a kitchen so you can make food and save money on eating out.
Staying in a hotel might be as cheap as in a hostel if you’re two people and rent a budget double room. There are some places from CLP 15000/US$22. If you’re up for a nice stay in a fancy place, prepare to pay from CLP 27000/US$40 per room.
Eating out in Chile is quite pricey compared to Peru or Bolivia if you want to save it’ better to find a place to stay with a kitchen that you can make your own food. Some campsites have a kitchenette with a gas stove. There is a supermarket and several grocery stores in Pichilemu buying food won’t be a problem. If you buy food in the supermarket and cook for yourself you’ll spend between 5US$ and 7US$ per day per person.
Another budget option but not always very healthy (a lot of fried stuff) is buying street food there are many stands along the Main beach that sell pies, French fries, hot dogs, fish and seafood – Mariscal (local ceviche), the last one is a must-try here. These cost between CLP 2000/US$3 and CLP 3500/US$5.
If you go to a restaurant for lunch or dinner be ready to pay from CLP 7000/US$10 per person, more if you order wine. I would recommend to go once and try fresh seafood and fish with great local wines.
Hitchhiking is the most budget way of getting here but it can take a while it’s fast and easy to get a ride along the main roads in Chile but if you turn off to a secondary road you can get stuck sometimes.
Buses from Santiago de Chile to Pichilemu are not very expensive, CLP5900/US$9 per person. As I already said there are several daily buses so it’s easy and fast to get here.
If you rent a car it’ll cost you from CLP 17000/US$25 per car per day (the longer your rental period the cheaper it gets per day). If you’re more than two people it’s not that much and you have absolute freedom to move around and explore the area. Tip! If you’re one or two people renting a car you can always try to find another person or two in a hostel or campsite to split the rental cost and petrol.
Board rental. It’s not only a board you have to rent for surfing here it’s a wetsuit as well, to rent a board and a suit for a day will cost you about CLP 10000/US$15.
Surf lesson. One lesson with the instructor and the gear costs CLP 12000/US$18, the lesson is usually a couple of hours. There are packages that include accommodation and surf lessons, depending on a school and accommodation type you’ll pay about 700US$ per week per person which is very expensive considering that recently we were in the south of Portugal (Algarve) and you can find better packages there (accommodation, surf lessons and food) for 500 Euro.
Tours and excursions
This is the most expensive part there are several tours from Pichilemu e.g. wine tasting, visiting the Salar, cycling tours with transfer etc. but they are quite pricey between US$50 and US$150 per person. I think to visit some of the places it’ll be cheaper to rent a car.
If you’re on a very tight budget (camping and making food) you can survive in Pichilemu for about 10US-15UD per day per person but if you rent a board or take a lesson it’ll increase your budget to 25-30 per day.
Middle price range (staying in a hostel/budget double, cooking food/eating street food, renting a board) – 35-40US$.
High end (staying in a hotel, eating in a restaurant, renting a car, renting a board) – from US$50 per person per day.
Surfing in Pichilemu
You’ll be surprised to know that Pichilemu was the first time surfed only in 1983! Since then its popularity among surfers increased quite a bit nowadays there are several surf rental shops and a couple of surf schools in the town. And in summer, especially over the weekend, there are quite a lot of people in the water but it’s still far from being as crowded and busy as Bali or some beaches in Sri Lanka or the Philippines.
As I already mentioned the water n Pichilemu is cold between 19°C and 14°C which means you’ll definitely need a wetsuit for surfing. You can rent it at any surf shop in the town. Like in our hometown Cape Town the ideal time for surfing in Pichilemu (I mean the best waves) you get in winter when the southeast wind blows. In a way it’s good there will be no holidaymakers that fill local beaches in summer but it might be rainy and chilly.
Best beaches for surfing in Pichilemu
The beach in Pichilemu, Playa Principal de Pichilemu, is good for those who want to learn or the beginners (just like me), sandy bottom (rocks scary me), in the low tide you don’t even have to paddle out you can just walk to the “break”. Surfing at the Main Beach feels safe there are many instructors with their students and the lifeguards on the beach. And if you’re a beginner you don’t feel too bad looking at advanced surfers catching every wave here everybody is just like you.
Accommodation near the Playa Principal (the Main Beach)
- Budget | Camping La Puntilla | Lof Pichilemu Hostel | Hostel Moreno | Punto Rojo Hostel | Green House Pichilemu |
- Middle price| Pichilemu Surf Hotel | Residencial Arrebol | Departamento Jose Joaquin Prieto | Hostal Portal de Ortúzar |
- Luxury | Hotel Rex | Hotel Rocas del Pacifico | Condominio Don Alberto |
If you’re good or confident enough in your surfing skills head to Infernillo, by the way, the name from Spanish means “little hell”. This point is significantly less crowded, no learners or beginners, but it gets very windy here sometimes. The beach is basically in the town, depending on where you stay it’ll take you between 10min. and 20min. to walk there. Obviously, if you’re planning to surf here it’s better to find the nearest accommodation that suits your budget.
Places to stay near Infernillo
- Budget | Hostal Patiperro | Los Rukos Cabanas (Bungalows) | Bellymar | Casa Familiar Oyarzo |
- Middle price | Lilafken Apart | Sunset Hostal Pichilemu | Cabaña acogedora kati |
- Luxury | Delfín Apart | Apart Hotel Kudun | La Mai | Hotel 8 al Mar |
Probably the most famous surfing spot in the area Punta de Lobos (which means “wolves’ point”). It’s about 7km from the center of the town but there are many hotels and surf lodges where you can stay nearby. This spot is for advanced surfers, it’s considered to be the best left pointbreak in Chile. It does get quite big here but we didn’t witness this point working maybe because of the wrong season or the swell wasn’t big enough but Punta de Lobos didn’t look very impressive.
Places to stay near Punta de Lobos
It’s more difficult to find budget accommodation close to this spot even camping here is significantly more expensive.
- Middle price | Olas de Chile Camping | Rancho lobos | Lomita Quebrada |
- Luxury | Tripanko Lodge & Bungalows | Palo Santo | Conviento de Lobos | Cabañas Cantomar |
Things to do in Pichilemu besides surfing
Running. We went running on the beach every day sometimes in the morning sometimes in the evening and absolutely loved it. We walked barefoot from our campsite to the beach and usually ran to Punta de Lobo and back what a pleasure running barefoot on the sand next to the sea!
Swimming. The water is cold here in the summer, about 19C max so don’t dream about spending hours in the water like in Mexico or Brazil but when it’s hot it’s nice to go for quick deep. Watch for the Man of War (a poisonous jellyfish) they are quite poisonous and some days we saw many of them on the beach.
Watching the sunset. You can see the sun going down into the water while sitting on the sandy beach, very romantic and absolutely free!
Surfing is not the only water thing you can practice in Pichilemu. Kayaking, kitesurfing, windsurfing and SUPping can be a good option for those who are not into surfing. For kite and windsurfing summer is a better period though we were here in January and saw very few people kiting compared to Cape Town where in summer we see literally hundreds of people. We didn’t kitesurf in Pichilemu we’re not good at this we took a couple of lessons at home (in South Africa) but don’t feel confident to rent a kite yet. As for windsurfing, I’m not a big fan of this activity I did try it twice and even managed to pull the sail out of the water and attempted to maneuver.
Kayaking, SUPng and boating are less technical activities if you don’t surf or kitesurf but would like to get into the water these two are pretty good options. You can do it in the sea but Laguna Cáhuil (11 km from Pichilemu) is the most popular place for these activities it’s quiet and flat with not much current or waves which makes kayaking/paddling experience more relaxing as you don’t have to worry about being dragged in the open sea. To rent a boat costs from CLP 5000/US$7 depending on the size, paddleboard CLP 7000/US$10, kayak CLP 5000/US$7.
Cycling. You can rent a bicycle and try to visit some nearby attractions (will be cheaper than renting a car). You’ll have to cycle on the road but there isn’t much traffic here. There is a cycling route that goes on the gravel road along the old train track and passes through a couple of tunnels, it’s called the Tunnel Tree or El Túnel El Árbol after the main 1960m long tunnel the route goes through. There is not much information about this route online, we’d suggest asking around in Pichilemu.
Visiting Salinas de Cáhuil. These saltworks are an interesting place to visit and see how they get salt here, it’s not the same as famous Uyuni salt flats this salt comes from the sea. Every time the sea rises (high tide) it brings water to fill the pools when the water level goes down (low tide) the saltwater stays in the pools. After a couple of months in the pools exposed to the sun the water evaporates and there is only salt left there. The Salinas is about 17 km away from Pichilemu you can try to cycle here or get by car.
Wine tasting. Not far from Pichilemu, about 1,5 hours drive, there is a small town of Santa Cruz where you can find some of the best vineyards in Chile. It’s pretty far from Pichilemu to get there you can take a bus Pichilemu – Santa Cruz. It’s possible to visit local vineyards only with a tour, no independent visits. Tours leave from Santa Cruz (the Main Square) several times a day during the summer holiday. To visit one vineyard (Bodega in Spanish) with wine tasting costs about CLP 12 000/US$17 per person. Bus Pichilemu – Santa Cruz CLP 3500/$5 (one way). There are wine tours from Pichilemu as well but they’re more expensive, US$100 per person, it includes transportation, snacks and a visit to three different bodegas with tasting.
Learning Spanish. Some surf schools offer combined packages of Spanish and surfing lessons you can combine both and after a week or two, you’ll be able to speak some basic Spanish and surf a little bit.
Where to go from Pichilemu
We were lucky to meet a Chilean couple at our campsite they invited us to join them on a trip to Siete Tazas where they were heading from Pichilemu. It’s an amazing spot, not very famous outside Chile but well worth visiting. Siete Tazas park is not far from Pichilemu, 180km, but it’s difficult to get there by public transport. It’s easier to go back to Santiago and take a bus from there.
Handy items to pack on the trip
- rush vest (ladies’ option) if you’re planning to do water activities other than surfing
- boardshorts (ladies’ model)
- sunscreen with high protection
- mosquito repellent
- water bottle
If you’re planning to camp in Pichilemu, you’ll need;
Recommended books & guidebooks
- Ghost Wave: The True Story of the Biggest Wave on Earth and the Men Who Challenged It by Chris Dixon, 2016. Paperback & Kindle
- Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan, 2016. Kindle & Paperback
- Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do by Wallace J.Nichols, 2015. Paperback & Kindle
- Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island (Travel Guide), 2018. Paperback & Kindle
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Chile and Easter Island, 2018. Paperback
- Fodor’s Essential Chile: with Easter Island & Patagonia (Travel Guide), 2018. Paperback & Kindle
- My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile by Isabel Allende. Paperback & Kindle
- Best things to do in the Atacama desert
- A detailed guide to Uyuni salt flats
- Things to do in Valparaiso
- Siete Tazas park – a secret paradise in Chile
- Torres del Paine all you need to know
- Complete guide to the W trek, Torres del Paine
- Complete guide to the O Circuit, Torres del Paine
- 25 day-hikes in Torres del Paine
- 35 amazing hikes in Patagonia; Argentina and Chile
- Pumalin park hiking
- Cerro Casillo trekking
- Hitchhiking Carretera Austral