photo of Mar del Plata

Beach crowds in Mar del Plata, Argentina. (Erik Stattin/Flickr)

What to do in Mar del Plata

Mar del Plata has been Argentina's favorite beach resort for more than a century. Historically, it was almost exclusively for the very wealthy—many former summer mansions still exist amidst the ubiquitous high rises. By the 1950's, with Juan and Evita Peron in power, a more egalitarian resort town developed: Unions built summer retreats, completely changing the makeup of the town. Today, the town is largely a middle-class resort that receives nearly eight million visitors during the summer season.

You'll find crowded urban beaches, seafood restaurants serving local fish, and live entertainment along La Rambla, the long walkway overlooking the Atlantic, particularly in front of the iconic Mar del Plata Casino, which sits just off Plaza Colon in the heart of the city. The fantastic nightlife and entertainment comes Buenos Aires-style, as many shows and stars escape from the capital to Mar del Plata for the summer. Within a two-hour drive, wealthier, less crowded resorts pepper the region—Pinamar, Miramar, Villa Gessel, and Carilo—all of which offer quieter beaches buffered by pine-covered dunes, small B&Bs, and a more exclusive atmosphere. Miramar is blessed with a beachfront forest reserve called Vivero Dunícola Florentino Ameghino, where there are wooded hiking trails. You even can go four wheeling (Carilo's beaches allow four-wheel-drive vehicles) along the high dunes overlooking the Atlantic.

Mar del Plata offers an urban locale with easy accessibility to water activities. Some of the best surfing is just outside downtown at beaches like Playa Grande, where high-rise buildings form a magnificent backdrop. Most other beaches and waterfront activities are easily accessible either by taking local busses along Argentina's beachfront Route 11, or express inter-urban busses from the downtown to the other coastal beach resorts.

Within Mar del Plata, major tourism sites include the kitschy Museo del Mar, which has over 30,000 seashells in its collection, and a restaurant surrounded by shark tanks. Use your nose as well as a map to find the city's port area and the Sea Lion Colony, a very fun, though smelly, diversion.

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