There’s no doubt that Viña del Mar is a fun place to visit, but if you aren’t careful, the costs can roll up quickly. There is, however, a way to enjoy the city and all it has to offer while not breaking the bank.
12pm: Before you get settled in Viña, head north to discover what Concón has to offer. Often overlooked by its more tourist-driven and ritzier neighbors, Concón is known as the Gastronomical Capital of Chile for a reason. Walk to Avenida Libertad in where you will soon find a bus that says “Concón” (amongst other intermediary destinations). The price is typically CLP $550 (USD $1.10).
Get off when you have reached the sand dunes. The directions may sound too simple, but the dunes are so massive (visible from Valparaiso) they are hard to miss. There is no admission to walk among the dunes, although on some days, typically during the summer, people rent sand boards for CLP $2.000 to $4.000 (USD $4 to $8) for a few hours. A sand board, however, is not compulsory to enjoy the dunes.
2pm: After you’ve taken in the panoramic views and tired your calf muscles on the dunes, it will be time to eat. Luckily, Las Delicias is a short micro ride (or a long walk) away. Located near the center of the town on Avenida Borgona, Las Delicias is famous throughout the country for its fried seafood empanadas. It is hard to go wrong here, but favorites include crab, razor clams with onions, and shrimp with cheese. The prices are right, too, although not particularly cheap for empanadas (CLP $800 to CLP $2.400; USD $1.60 to $4.80). Las Deliciosas, Av Borgona 25370, Open Daily 11am to 5pm
5pm: The city has no shortage of expensive hotels, but good deals still are aplenty, especially out of the high summer season. Small hotel and hostel operators will not be offended if you try to make a deal; indeed, that is how things typically work.
Hotel Santino is a relatively new hotel on Avenida Valparaiso. Double occupancy rooms start at CLP $20.000 (USD $40) and the interiors are nice and well-mantained. Each room has a television and showers with consistent hot water. The noise at night is a drawback, so if you are interested in sleep ask for a room away from the street. Hotel Santino, Av Valparaiso 78
If Hotel Santino is out of your price range, Che Lagarto is a good choice. Geared mostly towards younger travelers, Che Lagarto, part of a chain of hostels located all over South America, offers shared rooms with bunk beds. If that doesn’t sound inviting, the price may change your mind. Depending on the month, a bed at Che Lagarto can be had for as little at CLP $5.000 (USD $10). If other guests want to party, however, don’t expect to get too much sleep. Che Lagarto, Diego Portales 131
7pm: After you’ve settled into your room, its time to get the night started. Head to Glasgow for a great selection of beers and wood-fired pizzas, two things not often found in the city. Glasgow, 3 Poniente 660
12am: No self-respecting Chilean would show up a nightclub (or discoteque) until at least midnight, so don’t blow your cover. For those between 18 and 22,Scratch is the place to be. The cover charge can vary (usually no more than CLP $3.000, USD $6) but if you know any young local they can likely get you in free.
Stingray is another good option. From outside it may look like a house, but the basement of the structure is rocking regularly until 5am. Scratch, Calle Quillota 898; Stingray, 5 Norte con 4 Poniente
9am: Save money on breakfast by stopping by a local supermarket (Santa Isabel, Unimarc, whichever) for some bread and fresh fruit. Then, weather permitting, hit the beach. Different beaches are in no short supply, either. The beach at 8 Norte can be nice, is centrally located and is easily accessible by public transportation.
Some will urge you to go to Reñaca, the nation’s most popular beach. If a 10 to 16 minute bus ride north is nothing to you, head to Reñaca. If you want to swim, however, your best bet is to stay closer to the city, perhaps checking out Playa Las Salinas on the city’s northern edge. Swimming at Reñaca’s principal beach is often not allowed due to the size of the waves and the strength of the current.
1pm: After a morning at the beach, you’ll be hungry. That’s good, because if you’re not, don’t bother going to Sibaritico. The legendary completo (Chilean version of a hot dog) shop does big business well into the night, and leaving the city without trying it just doesn’t seem right. The crowds have swelled even more since Anthony Bourdain visited, but you won’t be waiting in line long. The menu is simple as is the food, but that doesn’t take away from how satisfying it can be. The prices are low, too (CLP $1.200 to $2.500; USD $2.40 to $5). There are also locations in Valparaiso, Renaca, and Concon, but this has to be the sentimental favorite. Sibaritico, 5 Norte 167
4pm: To get an extra dose of culture during your trip, head to the Museo Bellas Artes. Admission is very cheap (CLP $300 for kids, $600 for adults; USD 50 cents, $1.20) and the museum has great Chilean paintings along with European art from as far back as the 17th century. Museo Bellas Artes, inside the Parque Quinta Vergara, Errázuriz 563
7pm: La Flor de Chile is a restaurant on 8 Norte known for its chorrillana. The Chilean dish is made up of french fries topped with a combination of meats (typically beef, sausage, and hot dog) along with onions and usually a fried egg on top. Suffice to say, it’s not very healthy. But it is delicious and there aren’t many better places to try it locally (CLP $2.000 to $3.500; USD $4 to $7).La Flor de Chile 8 Norte con 3 Poniente
12am: Located in the basement of the historic Casino Municipal, Ovo Discoteque should not be missed. If you are not accustomed to reggaeton beats, you may be annoyed at first, but eventually you will find it difficult to avoid the dance floor (depending on your Pisco intake levels, of course). Cover can be high during the summer season, but at least it includes a free drink. Ovo Discoteque, inside the Casino Municipal on Av San Martin