Weekend Beach Escape
We’ve spent the last month or so relaxing in and exploring Buenos Aires (which I will be sure to expand upon in another post or two), so we haven’t been moving around as much as we’re used to. To cure our encroaching restlessness, we decided to take a weekend trip to nearby Mar del Plata, a city about five hours south along the coast, to visit a friend we’d met waay back in Playa Blanca. It’s easy to tell why porteños (natives of Buenos Aires) flock to the area on weekends and holidays; it’s a convenient nearby retreat where you can trade the hustle and bustle of the big city for the relaxing atmosphere of a beach town without sacrificing nightlife or amenities.
Unlike many places in the US, there is nothing stopping private companies in Argentina from purchasing portions of the coastline and renting it out for a profit. As a result, the vast majority of the beaches in Mar del Plata are cordoned off behind sales booths and signs offering membership deals. These “beach clubs” generally have pools, volleyball nets, cabanas, and even some water park style fixtures, as well as strictly enforced occupancy limits, ensuring you plenty of space to yourself. Anyone not willing or able to pay for access to the primo beach spots instead head for the public beaches (one of which is pictured above). Though a bit claustrophobic, a beach is a beach, and we welcomed the chance to soak up some rays on our first stretch of coastline here on the Atlantic side of the continent.
Further down the coast lies the port section of town, where amongst the hustle and bustle of the active fishing boats and ship repairs, you can find some of the best seafood in the country. We opted to try rabas, battered and fried calamari rings, which were delicious (though I can’t think of anything that isn’t delicious when battered and fried) and undoubtedly fished out of the sea earlier that day.
Just around the corner is a marine reserve where hundreds of lobos marinos (sea lions) rest, eat, and fight on the sand. These guys are much bigger and hairier than their Californian cousins due to the fact that they migrate down into the frigid waters around the southern tip of the continent. Stretching along the path next to the sea lions is a huge mural done by local artists. The sign claims it to be the longest mural in the world. After some googling, this appears to be definitively not the case, but it certainly is a very long mural, and a testament to how easy it must have been to make things up before the internet came about.
At night, we met up with some more local friends and headed to the trendy part of town, packed to the gills with breweries and gastropubs, many of which reminded us quite a bit of similar digs in LA. The craft beer scene is huge in Mar del Plata, from the near-ubiquitous Antares (the oldest craft beer in town), to the dozens of newer varieties offering hoppy goodness at every IBU and ABV under the sun. After months of drinking slight variations of the same pale lager all across South America, actually being able to order a proper IPA or stout was quite a treat.
On Sunday we somewhat reluctantly headed away from the beach and back to the city. After three solid weeks in the same place, it was nice to put some miles (kilometers, that is) behind us and tread some new ground. We’re wrapping up our time in Buenos Aires this week, and our quick jaunt to the beach last weekend has us all the more excited to head off towards new vistas. We’ll be heading to the famous Iguazu Falls next week before finally making our way into Uruguay where we’ll have a bit of beach time leading up to our flight to Japan! It feels strange to be thinking about leaving South America; this has become our home in a way and it still feels like we just got here. We’ll be leaving with a lot of good memories, a few stressful ones, and a huge list of things to do next time.