The Hamptons of Chile

by Andrew Stein

Zapallar and its neighboring towns to the south feel like the Chilean version of the villages and hamlets on the South fork of Long Island, New York.  Not that I’ve ever been to the Hamptons, but based on my extensive television viewing, this seems to fit most of the stereotypes of that region.  The homes are extravagant, built into hillsides, and accessorized with their own elaborate swimming pools, expansive driveways, and umbrella-covered patios.  The beaches are full of teenagers summering at their parents second home.  Some of these kids have guitars, some have braces, some have paddleball equipment, and they all have immaculate tans.  White summery dresses can be seen a plenty and the alcohol and marijuana are ubiquitous.  The cars are all upscale, the restaurants all a bit expensive, and there are few views of the ocean that are unimpressive.

One morning, we venture away from our Hotel Isla Seca to explore a nearby Expo entitled La Feria boutique del verano (The boutique summer fair) in a beach town just a couple kilometers south called Cachagua.  The price of admission buys us free tastings of champagne, beer, cheeses, and other delectable foods.  The local attendees of this summer fair are dressed stylishly from head to toe, and each brand is represented by very attractive Chileans.  The fair is complete with a fashion show runway, massage booths, and new car raffles.

Other than the locally famous seaside restaurant of El Chiringuito in Zapallar, the small town has little to offer in the way of food and we were forced to venture slightly farther south to find more options.   Thus, we pretend to be part of the Chilean elite by hopping from town to town along this stretch of Chilean coast.  Along with Zapallar and Cachagua, we visit Maitencillo, where we enjoy our first night’s dinner at Puntamai.