Just up the coast from Valparaiso, 75 mi/125 km northwest of Santiago, Vina del Mar, Chile, is a conventional seaside resort that's less interesting than its southern neighbor: Parts of it are shiny, slick and chic, offering golf, tennis, fine hotels, casinos, parks, shopping, nightlife and beaches (though the water is often murky or even muddy); other parts are drab and the Marga Marga estuary that runs through town becomes a dusty parking lot when the river dries out in summer. Most people go to loll on the beach (the main season is January-March) and party at night, but the ocean is cold at these latitudes.
February's Festival de la Cancion, the annual song festival, attracts tens of thousands, so reserve hotel space early if you plan to stay for it. If Vina del Mar is too crowded for your taste, you can always go north to Zapallar, Maitencillo or Cachagua, which have the area's most exclusive resorts. The best excursion from Vina del Mar is La Campana National Park, a park full of huge native palms—several trails lead to overlooks that reveal the Andes on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
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