South America’s Best Beaches: Sun, Surf, and Sand

South America is a treasure trove of vibrant cultures, delectable cuisines, and breathtaking landscapes. Among its many wonders, the continent boasts some of the world’s most stunning beaches. From the lively shores of Brazil to the tranquil coves of Colombia, South America’s beaches offer something for every traveler. Whether you’re looking to surf, sunbathe, or simply soak in the natural beauty, these beaches are sure to impress. Let’s dive into the best beaches South America has to offer.

Key Takeaways

  • Copacabana Beach in Brazil is famous for its vibrant atmosphere and annual Carnival celebrations.
  • Ipanema Beach, also in Brazil, is known for its stunning views and lively cultural scene.
  • Jericoacoara Beach in Brazil offers a serene escape with its tranquil waters and picturesque landscapes.
  • Mancora Beach in Peru is a popular destination for surfers and beach lovers alike.
  • Playa Blanca in Colombia is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and pristine white sand.

Copacabana Beach, Brazil

Copacabana Beach is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most famous beach destinations. The wide stretch of sand is accompanied by the promenade, buzzing with life. Get ready to check this one off your beach bucket list—it’s known as one of the best places to visit in South America for a reason.

Take in the view of Sugar Loaf Mountain and Fort Duque de Caxias while strolling the white sand. Go for the sun and sand, stay for the atmosphere. Picturesque from its pretty palms to its patterned pavement, it’s no wonder Copacabana Beach adorns many postcards sent around the world, touting one’s trip to the most famous beach in South America and certainly one of the best.

Copacabana is a lot like carnival: loud and proud. And much like the parade, your eyes won’t know where to look, from the bustling promenade dotted by food vendors to the vibrant beachgoers.


  • Promenade: A lively area filled with bars, pubs, and street performers.
  • Views: Sugar Loaf Mountain and Fort Duque de Caxias.
  • Atmosphere: Energetic and uniquely Brazilian.

Ipanema Beach, Brazil

Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro is one of South America’s most iconic beaches. This full-of-life beach is almost always buzzing with music, soccer games, tourists, cafes, and boutiques. The world-famous sunsets here are not to be missed.

Ipanema quietly steals your breath with stunning mountain views, royal blue waters, and vibrant people. It’s the perfect spot to people-watch, from games of soccer to futevolei on the sand. The beach is also a great destination for surfers, with waves reaching up to 9 feet in the winter.

Embrace the soul of Rio de Janeiro at this top spot. Beware that you may have the song, ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ stuck in your head while visiting, though.

Jericoacoara Beach, Brazil

Jericoacoara Beach Brazil

Paradise is a place, and it’s a beach called Jericoacoara, close to the city of Fortaleza, in northeastern Brazil. Unsurprisingly, travelers who rock up with the aim of spending a long weekend often stay for weeks. It’s not necessarily the perfect spot for swimmers, as the water is quite shallow, but what makes Jericoacoara so special is the multitude of sand dunes, all facing west.

Get ready to cancel your plans because this beach will have you staying long after any scheduled trip. Jericoacoara Beach is a little slice of windswept paradise hidden on what feels like the edge of the world. The wide beach and shallow water buffeted by beautiful sand dunes create the perfect setting to lounge and play to the heart’s content. As one of only a handful of beaches facing the west, Jericoacoara Beach promises dreamy views of the sky during sunset. You may just end up leaving your heart here.

Jericoacoara Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the unique beauty of Brazil’s northeastern coast. The combination of sand dunes, shallow waters, and breathtaking sunsets makes it an unforgettable location.

Praia do Rosa, Brazil

Praia do Rosa is a hidden gem located in the southern state of Santa Catarina. This beach is renowned for its breathtaking beauty and charm. The crescent-shaped bay is surrounded by lush hills and offers a perfect blend of tranquility and adventure.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as surfing, whale watching, and hiking. The beach is particularly famous for its powerful, bottle-green Atlantic waves, making it a favorite spot for surfers. After a day of surfing, you can relax and enjoy fresh fish or petisco bar snacks with a cold beer or caipirinha at one of the local beachside restaurants.


  • Surfing: Praia do Rosa is a surfer’s paradise with its powerful waves and scenic backdrop.
  • Whale Watching: From July to November, you can spot southern right whales near the shore.
  • Hiking: Explore the lush hills surrounding the beach for some breathtaking views.

Praia do Rosa offers a unique blend of natural beauty and adventure, making it a must-visit destination in Brazil.

Baia do Sancho, Brazil

Baia do Sancho is touted as one of the most beautiful beaches ever. It’s easy to understand why once you lay eyes on the blue waters kissing the horizon, turquoise waves lapping at the shore, and rolling golden sands. Volcanic rocks jut from the waters, dusted with verdant foliage. Majestic bluffs stand to the side, simultaneously imposing and mesmerizing. And corals reefs dot the shoreline, perfect for catching a peek at aquatic beauties. Baia do Sancho isn’t just one of the best beaches in South America; it’s one of the best. Period.

Located on the island of Fernando de Noronha, this pristine beach is known for its crystal clear waters and stunning limestone cliffs. Baia do Sancho also offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking and bird watching. The only thing more captivating than the views? The locals, who are known for their laid-back, come-as-you-are attitude.

Mancora Beach, Peru

Mancora Beach, located in the north of Peru, is a burgeoning travel hub where backpackers and beach lovers from around the world come together to enjoy paradise. Sun-drenched shores and infinite blue views are just two reasons visitors flock to this beautiful destination. While Machu Picchu is Peru’s show-stealer, Mancora is its unassuming heavyweight champion. Free of tourists and bursting with quiet charms, it won’t take long to fall in love with Mancora’s laid-back vibes, beautiful swells, and mesmerizing sunsets.

Once upon a time, Mancora was Peru’s best-kept secret. It was known as a quiet spot where international travelers and Peruvian locals alike could go to get some peace while luxuriating in the rays of the always-warm equatorial sun. This may not be the case anymore, but Mancora still maintains much of its small-town charm despite an influx of popularity.

Beyond that, Mancora is also now a burgeoning travel hub where backpackers and beach lovers from around the world come together to enjoy paradise together. This unique atmosphere is coupled with a bevy of beaches that are just as perfect for surfing as they are for lounging! Additionally, the sandy, desert-like area that surrounds Mancora is unlike the majority of the Peruvian landscape, meaning the adventures you can have on a trip to Mancora are truly one-of-a-kind.

Montañita Beach, Ecuador

Montañita Beach Ecuador

Montañita, situated on Ecuador’s famous Ruta del Sol, is a chill beach town that offers incredible surfing, scuba diving, bodyboarding, windsurfing, and waterskiing opportunities. You see travelers from around the world enjoying the town’s laid-back Rasta vibe with a ceviche or cocktail in hand, while relaxing under the sun, playing beach volleyball or football, and even watching surfers who proudly wear their dreadlocks. This is also the country’s only tolerant and liberal party spot where smoking marijuana is not illegal.

High tourism season for the town starts in January and hits its low in June. The town’s liberal, party beach is the only place in Ecuador where it isn’t illegal to smoke marijuana. And it’s not uncommon to see same-sex couples holding hands freely with support from the locals.

Montañita is a perfect party getaway spot. If you are more into surfing and some chill time on the beach, Montañita is the place to be. It is a small beach town with a big heart and an even bigger wave.


  • Surfing
  • Scuba diving
  • Bodyboarding
  • Windsurfing
  • Waterskiing

Best Time to Visit

Month Tourism Season
January High
February High
March High
April High
May High
June Low
July Low
August Low
September Low
October Low
November Low
December High

Nearby Attractions

  • Santa Elena: Explore the rich, complex history of this region of Ecuador.
  • Museum of Los Amantes: A must-visit for history enthusiasts.
  • Playa de San Lorenzo and Playa Chipipe: Great beaches for those who simply want to stretch out near the waves.

Playa Blanca, Colombia

Playa Blanca Colombia beach

Playa Blanca is a hidden gem on Colombia’s northern shore. With towering palm trees, fine white sand, and dazzling waters, it’s an unexpected Caribbean getaway and an absolute must on your bucket list. Take a refreshing dip in the cool waters and spend a night swaying in a hammock over the waves, with the sounds of the ocean in your ear and the starry night sky above.

  • Towering palm trees
  • Fine white sand
  • Dazzling waters

Reachable only by launch from the Playa Colorada village on the mainland, you’ll rarely see more than a handful of other visitors except at weekends.

Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Tayrona National Park beach

Tayrona National Park on Colombia’s Caribbean coast is home to stunning beaches set beside jungle forest, only an hour from Santa Marta. Travelers looking for beaches that are off-the-beaten-path should try one of these beach destinations, but remember to pack light. Cañaveral Beach is the only beach reachable by car. The other three beaches—Arrecifes, La Piscina, and El Cabo—will require a hike to reach the sandy shore, which is ideal for eco-friendly tourists and backpackers.

  • Cañaveral Beach: The only beach accessible by car.
  • Arrecifes Beach: Requires a hike, perfect for those seeking adventure.
  • La Piscina Beach: Another hike-in beach, known for its calm waters.
  • El Cabo Beach: A secluded paradise that demands a two-hour hike.

The journey to this remote beach in the heart of Tayrona National Park will make you savor your destination all the more. With towering palm trees, fine white sand, and dazzling waters, it’s an unexpected Caribbean getaway.

Punta del Este, Uruguay

Punta del Este is a small coastal city located on the very southern tip of Uruguay, about two hours east of Montevideo. The beaches here are truly magnificent — in fact, they’re so good that this small community of around 10,000 year-round residents is known around the world as an idyllic getaway for celebrities and jet setters. With a variety of beaches to pick from, you can tailor your beach days to your current vibe and end the day with stops at incredible art museums or clubs.

During its summer tourist season, Punta del Este explodes from a population of 7,300 people to more than 150,000. The town sits at the point where the Río de la Plata meets the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches here become less crowded the farther you get from the center of the town. Some of Punta del Este’s beaches include Montoya Beach, Bikini Beach, and Manantiales Beach.

The upscale resort town of Punta del Este is frequented by many famous people and is the place to soak up the sun and be seen doing it. Other than rich cultural attractions like the city’s museums, the shopping scene is vivacious as well. The beaches, however, are a must visit.


South America is a treasure trove of diverse cultures, stunning landscapes, and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. From the vibrant shores of Brazil’s Copacabana to the tranquil coves of Colombia, each destination offers a unique blend of sun, surf, and sand. Whether you’re looking to indulge in the lively beach towns or seeking a serene escape, South America’s coastline has something for every traveler. As you plan your next beach getaway, consider the rich cultural experiences, delectable cuisines, and breathtaking sights that await you in this enchanting continent. Pack your bags and get ready to explore the best beaches South America has to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best beaches to visit in South America?

Some of the best beaches in South America include Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach, Jericoacoara Beach, Praia do Rosa, Baia do Sancho in Brazil, Mancora Beach in Peru, Montañita Beach in Ecuador, Playa Blanca and Tayrona National Park in Colombia, and Punta del Este in Uruguay.

What is the best time to visit South American beaches?

The best time to visit South American beaches is during the summer months, which vary by country. Generally, December to March is ideal for Brazil, while December to April is best for Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.

Are South American beaches safe for tourists?

Most South American beaches are safe for tourists, but it’s always advisable to stay informed about local conditions, follow safety guidelines, and avoid isolated areas, especially at night.

What activities can I do at South American beaches?

South American beaches offer a variety of activities such as surfing, swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, beach volleyball, and enjoying local cuisine at beachside restaurants.

Do I need a visa to visit South American countries for their beaches?

Visa requirements vary by country and your nationality. It’s recommended to check the specific visa requirements for each South American country you plan to visit.

What should I pack for a beach vacation in South America?

For a beach vacation in South America, pack essentials like swimwear, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, flip-flops, a beach towel, and light clothing. Don’t forget a reusable water bottle and a good book!

Can I find accommodations near South American beaches?

Yes, there are numerous accommodations ranging from luxury resorts to budget-friendly hostels and vacation rentals near South American beaches. It’s best to book in advance, especially during peak seasons.

What is the local cuisine like at South American beach destinations?

Local cuisine at South American beach destinations often includes fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and regional specialties. In Brazil, you might enjoy dishes like moqueca and acarajé, while in Peru, ceviche is a must-try.

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