A beach resort town may not be what first comes to mind when you think of Patagonia, but Las Grutas is an excellent option for those looking to get away from the throngs in Mar del Plata and Punta del Este.
That said, it’s very different from Argentina’s more famous beaches.
Each beach resort, or balneario, has its own onda and vibe.
Punta del Este in Uruguay is for Argentina’s wealthy, Mar del Plata is for the masses.
Las Grutas is a bit rough around the edges.
It feels frozen in another decade.
You won’t find frills or fine dining here.
But you’ll find crystal clear, warm water, expansive shell covered beaches. and fresh seafood in spades.
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The Beach & Tides in Las Grutas, Argentina
Las Grutas is the principal beach town in Rio Negro in northern Patagonia.
The name comes from the caves in the cliffs that line its beaches.
But besides the caves, what really sets Las Grutas apart is the impressive tides.
At high tide the beach all but disappears.
This is when we’d nestle into the cliff’s edge to lay back and relax.
At low tide, the water recedes to over 500 meters, revealing the rocky sea floor to the sun.
My toddlers were in heaven, splashing about in the puddles.
We’d walk out hundreds of meters across the slippery rock, looking for shells or as “explorers,” which was hours of fun for the kids.
And the best part was a carved out pool in the rock, allowing the kids to swim even at low tide in a natural pool.
Also unique, the water here is warmer than other beaches.
The rocky seafloor soaks in hours of sun at low tide and holds onto that warmth during high tide.
Things to do in Las Grutas
The obvious answer to this is: hang out at the beach.
Your hotel probably supplies a couple of lounge chairs, if not then you’ll want to pick some up.
Nearly every shop you see will sell them along with beach towels, beach games and sand toys for the kids.
Lounge chairs in hand, here are the best things to do in Las Grutas.
Balneario Piedras Coloradas
A 15 minute drive down a bumpy dirt road south of town will bring you to Piedras Coloradas, a red sand beach flanked by sand dunes.
This was my favorite spot outside of town and I wish we had dedicated more time to it than just a stop at the end of an afternoon.
There are a few paradores here for lunch, snacks, or drinks on the beach right by the parking area, even a cozy tea house, Casa de té Kapenke Yaten.
If you want an “off the grid” sort of vacation, we saw hostels and accommodation options out here. Play around on Google Maps to find them and find booking information.
The fun part about us arriving at the end of the afternoon, though, was the fishermen pulling their boats out of the water after a day of fishing.
They yelled out to sell us some of their catch and my husband took the bait (pun SO very much intended).
He bought a huge bag of mussels almost literally right out of the water and ate like a king that night.
El Cañadon de Las Ostras
Keep going south past Piedras Coloradas for even more beaches and geological formations.
You can find fossils of mussels and other sealife the El Cañadon de Las Ostras.
For more cliffs and an even more impressive low tide at El Sótano de Las Grutas.
Check the tide table before going as you need to visit these beaches at low tide to be able hike and explore.
Calle de los Pulperos
Just south of town on the way to Piedras Coloradas you’ll pass Calle de los Pulperos.
This is a string of fishermen’s stands selling their catch, if you can’t get your seafood straight off of the boat this is the next best thing.
There weren’t many stands open yet since we were too early in the season but we stopped at one of the few stragglers.
My husband picked up a few jars of pickled octopus or pulpo al escabeche (not exactly my cup of tea, but he swears it was incredible).
Try Patagonian Olive Oil
Las Grutas is home to the southernmost olive plantation in Argentina and the olive oil is spectacular.
Visit Olivos Patagonicos for a tour and to pick up a bottle or two to take home.
They’re open in the morning and again in the afternoon after 4 pm, closing midday.
Whales & Wildlife Viewing
The viewing season is shorter, from August through September (for whales).
Along with southern right whales, you can spot dolphins, sea lions, and countless birds.
Definitely pack your travel binoculars to best see the wildlife.
Salinas del Gualicho
The Salinas del Gualicho salt flat is actually what put Las Grutas on the radar for me and why we came.
This massive salt flat is otherworldly but doesn’t get the same level of attention as Jujuy’s Salinas Grandes.
The road to get there requires a 4×4 and we were told you had to go on a guided excursion due to safety concerns.
Tours take place at sunset to avoid the hot midday sun and to take advantage of the clear skies for stargazing.
Dinner is included as part of the package, right under the milky way.
We didn’t end up making to the salinas since our kids were exhausted by dinner time, but we did research local companies running the excursion, like Desert Tracks.
Things to do near Las Grutas – San Antonio Este
Las Grutas is right next to San Antonio Oeste and San Antonio Este.
Our hotel and a friend that comes here every summer both ra bved about beaches in SA Este, so that’s where we went…
Playa Las Conchillas
Playa Las Conchillas is an expansive kilometers long beach covered in sea shells, hence the name.
This beach is 40 minutes south of Las Grutas in San Antonio Este.
It’s remote, so bring snacks, sunscreen, and everything you’ll need.
There’s one parador/restaurant here but not much else, which is what makes it so great.
If your kid loves collecting shells, they’ll be in heaven here on the mountains of pink and purple shells.
Also in San Antonio Este, Punta Perdices was my favorite place out of our day exploring San Antonio Este.
To get there you’ll drive the 30 minutes to San Antonio Este and keep going down a dirt road for another 10 minutes.
You may think you’re going the wrong way for a while and that there is no way this barely worn path is the road: it is.
When you reach the literal end of the road you’ve found Punta Perdices.
There are a couple paradores/food trucks set up but it’s very remote.
Bring snacks, a picnic, drinks and all sun protection with you.
The beach here is part of a bay so the water is very calm and transparent.
Some generously call it the Patagonian Caribbean.
It’s missing the rum punches and palm trees but the water IS great for swimming.
While the beach is still very sea shell heavy, there IS sand so if traveling with your kids don’t forget your beach toys (like we did).
Also, for what its worth, my husband and I both had cell signal out here with Movistar and Personal.
While it’s a long drive the actual beach isn’t far from the town across the water and signal reaches.
Sea Lions in San Antonio Este
There’s a large sea lion colony out here as well.
IMPORTANT: This season (2023/2024) visiting the sea lions is closed due to the avian flu epidemic.
Click here for information on how to visit the regions lobo marinos.
This is a great addition to your day at Punta Perdices or the Playa de las Conchillas and a must-do for families.
During low tide, the sea lions here rest on a sandbar far in the water far from the beach.
During high tide they move onto the beach.
The best time to see them is when they’re moving from the sandbar to the beach.
Because of this they recommend visiting a couple hours before high tide, check tide schedules here.
Where to stay in Las Grutas
When looking for where to stay in Las Grutas, my main tip is to stay as close to the beach as humanly possible.
Front line is ideal.
And yes, I know that’s the case in any beach resort, but Las Grutas loses its charm the further you move away from the coast, at least outside of downtown.
We were on the northern edge of town and I LOVED where we stayed, but just a few blocks away from the beach on the main boulevard it had no charm, no view, and no fun whatsoever (to be brutal).
Downtown, closer to the south, that may vary.
But like I mentioned (a few times), Las Grutas isn’t polished or beautiful, it has its own charm but that charm is not in the posh shops or restaurants in town.
It’s on the beach.
- Pueblo del Mar – I cannot swear by this small tourist complex enough. It was absolutely gorgeous and so well decorated. The garden is beautifully manicured, the white stucco homes are pristine with colorful murals blanketing the stairwells. The apartments are spacious, well equipped, and modern (a rarity). It’s on the northern edge of town, which was very quiet. It is beachfront, steps from the ultima bajada del mar.
- Modern Apartment – This apartment is very modern with great views and a ton of space to stretch out in.
- Hotel Riviera – If you’d prefer a hotel, Hotel Riviera is highly rated and has an ideal beachfront location downtown. It has a great rooftop pool, gym and other amenities.
How to get to Las Grutas, Patagonia’s Best Beach
We visited Las Grutas as part of a long road trip through Patagonia.
Working our way back to Buenos Aires from Bariloche we made as many stops as we could along the way, and one of those stops was a few days of relaxation in Las Grutas.
The drive from Buenos Aires to Las Grutas is a long 13 hours.
If you want to drive plan on a couple stops.
Alternatively, you can take the bus, check Busbud for options.
The bus takes 16 hours but with lie flat seating, you’ll get a night’s rest and will wake up ready for the beach.
Flying is an option but isn’t direct.
Check flights into Viedma and take a bus from there.
Other cities you can fly into are Trelew or Bahia Blanca, but the bus ride/drive will be longer.
Do you need a car in Las Grutas? You can get around without one, but as usual in Argentina, it does make it easier to have your own transportation.
If you plan on staying in town, you can just walk, get the city bus, or take a remis around. You could even hitchhike to the further flung beaches in a pinch.
If you want to go further, like to San Antonio Oeste and its beaches, having a car is easiest.
Argentina Travel Resources
- TRAVEL INSURANCE | It is always a good idea to travel insured. It protects you in so many cases, like lost luggage and trip cancellations, medical emergencies and evacuations. It’s very affordable with the potential to save you thousands in the case of an emergency. I recommend SafetyWing.
- PHONE PLAN | These days, traveling with data is essential. Especially in Argentina where everything is managed on Instagram and WhatsApp. I recommend this E-SIM card. It’s hassle-free and affordable, for more read how to get an Argentina sim card.
- ACCOMMODATION IN ARGENTINA | booking.com is the most common hotel site used in Argentina and it’s where you’ll find the most options.
- RENTAL CARS | I love to travel Argentina via road trip, check out RentalCars.com for the best rates for rental cars here.
- BUS TICKETS | I like Busbud for long distance bus routes and tickets.
- VPN | If you’ll be using a public WiFi connection and want to secure your data, I highly recommend using a VPN, I personally use and have had a good experience with ExpressVPN. I also use it to access Hulu and American Netflix from Argentina.
- FLIGHTS | Always check Google Flights and Skyscanner for flights to and within Argentina. Aerolineas Argentina is the local airline with the most routes. FlyBondi and Jetsmart are two budget airlines with dirt-cheap prices (but expect to pay for every add-on like luggage).
- NEED HELP PLANNING? | I offer one-on-one travel consultations to help you plan your trip to Argentina. Pick my brain to get a local’s insight. Click here for more information.