Find out what the best beaches in South America are as awarded by millions of real travelers.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
From its bustling beaches to the outrageous Carnival, Rio de Janeiro is a city that knows how to entertain, day or night. Travel through Tijuca National Park to Corcovado Mountain's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. Take the cable car up Sugar Loaf for more views. Explore Brazilian history at the Municipal Theatre, Praca Quinze and former presidential residence, Catete Palace. Try hang gliding, surfing or a game at Maracana Soccer Stadium. Or just chill with a caipirinha on the sand.
Natal, perched on Brazil's Atlantic coast, at the mouth of the Potengi River, is the gateway to the stunning beaches of Rio Grande do Norte. Escape the bustle at secluded Pipa and Pirangi beaches or live it up at lively Genipabu and Tibau do Sul. Kitesurfing is the sport of choice in Natal—brave the wind and let a gust tug you over the waves. Marvel at the majestic sand dunes while enjoying one of Natal’s 300 sunny days of the year.
If there’s a "beach economy," Buzios is its Wall Street. Its more than 20 beaches, world-class galleries, clubs and boutiques draw an elite set of travelers. Surfers love Geriba Beach, snorkelers enjoy Ferruda, hip Ossos Beach offers upscale beachside cafes and laid-back Ilhabela Beach offers a more down-to-earth Buzios experience.
With 42 beaches to choose from—including the clothing-optional Praia da Galheta—you can ride the bus to a different beach each day of your stay in Florianopolis. The capital of Santa Catarina is all about sun, surf and sand. Travelers recommend Praia Mole any time of year for swimming, surfing and relaxing in deck chairs with an order of shrimp and beer.
San Andres Island, Colombia
This tiny Colombian island is actually northwest of the Colombian coastline, at about the same latitude as Managua, Nicaragua. Its Caribbean ambiance extends to the people, the culture, and the delicious seafood. Stop by one of the island's dive shops to plan your underwater exploration, and don't miss nearby Johnny Cay Island for spectacular beaches and weather.
Paraty is speckled with gorgeous beaches that spill into warm blue-green waters. It’s an ideal escape for snorkelers and divers who love acttion under the water and tranquility on the beach. Framed by mountains and rainforests, the sandy stretches of Paraty are like snapshots of perfect, sunny days.
Santa Marta, Colombia
The beaches of Santa Marta are alive with a constant stream of activity, particularly the cries of convivial vendors. Soak up the sun to a soundtrack of jet skis buzzing across the surf, or duck underwater for a snorkel or dive session amid a beautiful coral reef.
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Punta del Este is known as the St. Tropez of Uruguay, thanks to its beautiful beaches, upscale resorts and nightclubs complete with velvet ropes. Lounging on the sand of aptly named Bikini Beach ranks among the top activities, but windsurfing, water skiing and boating are also popular. Don't miss the Monumento al Ahogado, artist Mario Irrarazabal's sculpture of five fingers emerging from the sand. It was created as a warning to swimmers to respect the strong pull of the sea.
Renowned for its African-influenced cuisine, music and architecture, Salvador is known as "the Capital of Joy," because of its exuberant week-long Carnival celebrations. Mingle, splash, swim and dive with beautiful Brazilians on one of the city's postcard-perfect beaches. The site of Brazil's first European settlement, Porto da Barra is ideal for swimming, while Farol da Barra boasts a picturesque lighthouse.
Stroll along the beach-side Rambla of Montevideo and you’ll be rewarded with views of bronze-skinned sunbathers, merry fishermen and glistening rollberbladers working up a sweat under the Uruguay sun. The beaches of this historic port city each boast a unique flavor: Ramirez Beach abuts Parque Rodo amusement park and is great for families; crowded Pocitos is the spot for beer-soaked people watching; and quaint Buceo offers picturesque views of sailboats bobbing in the breeze.