Mar del Plata: Primadonna by the Sea

Enko and I leap off the pages of my travel guide from Fodor’s, boldly going into the unknown!


At least, unknown to Fodor’s. Seriously, how is the city of Mar del Plata not listed in their travel guide?!?! Here’s what you need to know, based on our travels. Hopefully if you take a trip to Argentina, you won’t miss this jewel by the sea!

Mar del Plata thrives from summertime tourism, though there are things to see and do year-round!

You can probably see from the photos that there are many places to enjoy a beach that stretches the length of the city. There is typically plenty of room for everyone, even at the peak of the season, which is when we went. Mar del Plata was the resort city when Buenos Aires was in its hey-day. Wealthy Porteños would beat the heat and humidity of the port by high-tailing it south to this beach city. There are tons of places in the city center where you can still see remnants of crazy amounts of opulence–now taking a turn toward decay after surviving through the country’s economic collapse. Getting to spend time with Mar del Plata is like getting to spend time with a legendary Broadway diva. The shine may be showing the signs of time passing, but the sparkle never really fades. One is always aware of the luxury, the glitter, the opulence, hiding just beyond the surface of ordinary life.

Dozens of beach clubs have different colored cabanas available for rent for the day, or the season!

People who live here often express a mixture of reverence toward living in such a beautiful city, pride at its cultural significance for the creme de la creme of Argentina once-upon-a-time, and a sort of dejection about, quite frankly, not having all that much to do in modern days. Many of the people we spoke with looked wistfully around the city while explaining that nowadays, it operates as any other small city might. The slower pace of Mar del Plata is enjoyed by the elderly, as well as young families. Argentine culture typically places high value on appearance, but in general here the nigh-impossible standards are taken down a peg or two. (Still very chic by American standards, so even though it is a beach town, you still have to dress well.) Teenagers here dream of moving far away to bigger, more cosmopolitan experiences–places like Buenos Aires, where they can see and be seen, and be in the thick of things. Funny enough, that’s how things are in my little valley! It was fun to find that familiarity here.

Mar del Plata: glorious gem by the sea!

In the summer, the weather here still has a huge range. As you might expect, mornings are a great time to go for a walk, and to take a dip in the silver water. This water felt fantastic! Much warmer than the cold beaches that are near my little valley back home in California.
People-watching here is a true pleasure, and provides yet another glimpse of life in Argentina. If you do look around at the beaches here, rest assured that they don’t operate the same way people-watching at some of Europe’s beaches do (you know, where you have to look around through your fingers to make sure you don’t get an eye-full of more than you bargained for)! Be prepared to enjoy scene upon scene of families enjoying the waves with their dogs, and tons of cyclists and joggers, engaging the day with athletics, and suntans that would make all of Hollywood jealous.

This is sometimes referred to as the “sea of silver,” because at certain times the sunlight hits the water just right, and makes the entire ocean look as though it is made from liquid silver! It is one of those special things that does not show up on camera–you have to go there and see for yourself!

Like I said: experiencing the climate here means being open to a range of weather! The above picture was taken one morning, and the next photo was taken that very afternoon:

This storm included lightning, thunder, rain, and hail! Just when you think you know what the weather will be, whoopsie!

After you get over the initial beach obsession (which I admit did not actually happen for me), the realization starts to sink in that there is an entire city waiting to be explored. There are great things to do around Mar del Plata, like city bus tours, and museums (which are making their comeback any day now). Regular things like arcades and ice cream are fun ways to spend a free afternoon. This city holds the record for best churros I have ever tasted. Pilgrims can also visit the Gruta de Lourdes, which is a replica of one of the most famous apparition sites of Our Lady. Learn more about it here!

The city has plenty of hustle and bustle for those who can forget about the beautiful beaches for a moment or two.

While I wouldn’t say there is a huge amount of nightlife, somehow Enko managed to take me on what was probably the most romantic restaurant date I’ve ever had! I have no idea what in this world might smell better than barbecue. Mar del Plata was yet another delight for the senses on this.

People laugh when I say how pretty this is….but I will not be ashamed! I think it is pretty! Look at this grill. Would you call this flame-kissed, or just rotisseried? I would call it delicious.

I will say that since Mar del Plata is a more hidden gem, visitors from the States are probably not quite so common. On a couple of occasions, it was very clear to some folks that there was a foreigner in their midst, and the reactions were as might be expected. There was fascination from the experienced, and a little bit of revulsion from the more soccer-playing purists of Argentine culture. Don’t let the latter types fool you though, because fancy though they may be, people here have their guilty fan-pleasures too. Case in point:

Pope Francis is an absolute rock star here, for the obvious reason that he was born in Argentina. There is Papa Francesco swag in pretty much every store. In a city that doesn’t have a lot of international tourism, who, I ask, is this fan-girl-worthy merch for??? Hmm???

All in all, my memories from Mar del Plata are some of my favorite memories from any vacation I’ve ever had. What could be better than a week by the beach with the person you love? If you get a chance to go to Argentina, absolutely check out Mar del Plata! You won’t regret it!

I have half a mind to write a letter to Fodor’s. This city needs to be listed among any side trip they might include in a Buenos Aires travel guide. Don’t you think?

Until next time!

Maggie O’the Valley

Source for adventurous reading:
Fodor’s Travel. Buenos Aires, with Side Trips to Iguazu Falls, Gaucho Country & Uruguay. 4th edition. New York, NY: Random House LLC. 2015. Print.

(C) 2017
*This post was NOT sponsored.

Thanks for stopping by the L.A.B! Come back soon! Who knows how many great discoveries await us in the Library of Adventurous Books!

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