Seven kilometers north of Zapallar , Papudo’s sheltered harbor is a more egalitarian destination than its snobbish southern neighbor.
Fertile Papudo was the port for colonial Hacienda La Ligua, but it became part of Fernando Irarrázaval Mackenna’s Hacienda Pullalli in the mid-19th century and shortly thereafter an official port. With the railway’s arrival in 1898, it took off as a beach resort, its landmark Gran Hotel (since destroyed by fire) designed by architect Josué Smith. After 1927, it became a separate municipality from La Ligua , forsaking its port status for the tourist trade.
The main highway, known in town as Avenida Irarrázaval, parallels the central Playa Chica and the more extensive Playa Larga, which stretches northeast. At Avenida Irarrázaval and Avenida Latorre, the main remaining landmark is the neocolonial Iglesia Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes (1918), a national monument, which features a baroque facade by architect Alberto Cruz Montt.
Beyond the Club de Yates, at the west end of Playa Chica, brown pelicans hang out on rocky outcrops where the town has created an informally landscaped Camino del Conquistador footpath to trace Pedro de Valdivia’s steps. There are more formal beachfront promenades along Avenida Irarrázaval.
Though the rooms are a little cramped, family-run Residencial La Plaza (Chorrillos 119, tel. 033/791391, US$10 pp) maintains year-round rates with private bath and breakfast. Upgraded Hotel Carandé (Chorrillos 89, tel. 033/791105, fax 033/791118, www.hotelcarande.cl , US$43–48 d) may be overpriced in summer, but for US$18 per person with breakfast in the off-season, it’s not bad. Rooms are heated, the service is decent, and the hot water abundant and easy to regulate.
Playa Chica’s Gran Azul (Av. Irrarrázaval 86, tel. 033/791584) prepares fine fish and seafood, with attentive service, at moderate prices (US$7–10 for entrées); in a dining room with high ceilings and natural wood beams, large windows face the sea and surf.