The city of Mar del Plata, Argentina, lies on the South Atlantic 250 mi/400 km south of Buenos Aires. It's not a pretty town and is certainly no Rio, and the beach is only average—but it has its own vibe and is something of a nostalgia icon for middle-class Argentines. Wide, sandy beaches stretch 15 mi/25 km along the seafront. The seafood is very good and the fishing excellent. Nightlife centers on the country's largest casino (it's mostly roulette—and black tie is de rigueur).
The best time to visit is December-March, but be forewarned that the water is quite chilly even in the summer. Two nights will do, unless you want to visit an estancia (ranch) in nearby Ojo de Agua or Chapadmalal (if so, add at least a full day). Sweater factories in the area offer good bargains. Given the Atlantic waves, the area is also popular with surfers and the city has produced a few pro champions.
The city hosts an international film festival every spring, and while its glory days as Latin America's premier film event are now gone, it still offers a great opportunity to catch cutting-edge movies for a solid two weeks.
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