Most people associate northern Chile with the desert and its arid landscapes, but the truth is that that part of Chile offers much more than that. During the last weekend of my holidays I had the chance to visit Hotel de la Bahía -part of the Enjoy consortium-, which is located between Coquimbo and La Serena. It was the perfect time to enjoy the amazing features of this part of the Chilean north, in a five star hotel, but without the tourist frenzy of the summer.
La Serena is one of the most important beaches in Chile, a city with an impressive colonial architecture mixed with a modern, entertaining infrastructure, and a beautiful, white-sand beach topping it off. It has numerous tourist facilities, ranging from five star hotels to family cabins to suit the traveler’s needs. The coastline also has a number of bars and clubs for young tourists, as well as restaurants and activities for the family.
To get to La Serena you can take a plane or go by car -5.5 hours from Santiago-. If you go by car you should definitely stop at Huentelauquén, a village which is famous for its crunchy, delicious empanadas. You can buy them in the small kiosks by the main road. They also have small tables and chairs to sit and relax for a while.
Along the coastal road from Coquimbo to La Serena you will find Enjoy casino and its Hotel de La Bahía. It is recommendable to get there early to avoid the crowd that goes there at night to go to the casino. You should also go to the bar located by the slot machines and try the papaya sour (delicious!) or use the casino tickets you will be given at the reception.
The rooms of Enjoy the la Bahía overlook the sea and meet the standards of any five star hotel. The only inconvenience is the noise of the nightclubs bye the beach. It won’t prevent you from sleeping bout it could be a bit annoying for sensitive ears. They have a “pillow menu”, and though it is only available for deluxe rooms I thought it was an interesting idea.
Regarding the common areas, I would say the restaurant is rather small; during breakfast it can get a bit crowded, but the food is really good and plentiful. The outdoor pool is divided in two levels connected by a water chute. From the upper level there is an amazing view of the beach. Also, there are green areas, a volleyball net and tennis courts. In the spa there is a heated pool, saunas, and Jacuzzis, as well as a gym offering dancing and yoga lessons, and other activities. Surrounding the pool there are couches and reclining seats where you can take a nap. You need to wear a swimming cap to use the pool; if you don’t have one you can buy one at the front desk, where you can also book massages, appointments with the hairdresser, manicures, and other services.
The casino usually has shows and good entertainment options, though it can be a bit overwhelming if you’re not a big fan of gaming. Try going early when there aren’t many people there.
The hotel has several restaurants, but my recommendation is to go out at sunset, take a walk along the promenade and go to La Mía Pizza (2100, Del Mar Ave) which is located close to Faro Monumental de La Serena (La Serena’s Monumental Lighthouse). If you are driving, I suggest having lunch at Los Vilos on the way back. In the pergola there is a good restaurant called La Paletita: the attention Is quick and the dishes are big.
One of the main attractions of Coquimbo and La Serena is the number of beaches in their surroundings, which can be the ideal alternative if you are looking for a quieter, more tranquil place.
- Totoralillo: It’s located 15 kms away from Coquimbo, going through ruta 5 norte heading south. It is a small peninsula divided in two beaches of 500 and 800 mts respectively. You can buy fish and seafood on the cove, and it is also a great place to go surfing and enjoy other water sports.
- Guanaqueros: located 34 kms away from Coquimbo, it is one of the main tourist spots in this Región. It has several accommodation options, mainly cabins and campgrounds. The beaches go for over 10 kms, being a great alternative for sport fishing, water sports, and camping. In the cove you can get good prices for boat rides. El Pequeño is the most famous restaurant, with a long standing tradition.
- Playa Blanca: you can get to it through the road to Guanaqueros-Tongoy. It is a small, 500 mt bay, and it’s apt for swimming, sport fishing, and water sports.
- Tongoy: It is located on a small peninsula next to the bay. There is a patrimonial road that tan be covered by bike or by car. It allows you to go over the moors Salinas Chica, Salinas Grande, and Pachingo. Tongoy is divided in two beaches: Socos and Playa Grande, being 2 km and 14 km long respectively. Both are good for fishing. Across from Playa Grande there is a pergola with seafood restaurants and some craft work shops.
If you want to learn more about this part of Chile you can check our destination guide.