The town of Curanipe is right on the Pacific Coast, about 400 km southwest of Santiago. It is a very small town, but very proud of itself. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 2010 destroyed much of the town, but the residents used the money given to them by the Chilean government not only to rebuild the town, but to develop the economy as well. It is known mainly by surfers, but it’s worth going to for more than the surf breaks. Ask someone for directions to the road that takes you inland along the Río Cholleven. As you follow the road along the river, you’ll find rare native trees as well as wild berry bushes and various kinds of flowers. If you go in February, you’ll find a lot more tourists, but you’ll also find ripe wild blackberries. If you want to see some more of the local scene, go to the next town, Pellehue. It’s larger than Curanipe, and at the height of the summer season (late January through early March) it’s packed with tourists who are there for a good time.
Throughout the town you can see murals that depict Curanipe’s history. Many of them have to do with the ships which were built in order to send goods to Peru. The sailors of Curanipe would take the ships to a port in Peru, sell or exchange their goods, and then leave the ships there and go back to Curanipe by land. You may also see a road name that seems odd: after the damage from the tsunami, Paul Walker helped to build several homes for the people who had lost theirs, but this time higher up on a hill. A new street led to the new buildings, and the mayor of Curanipe named it Paul Walker street.
Although it is very small, Curanipe is well-equipped for anyone who wants to visit. There are several mini-markets, meat markets, vegetable and fruit vendors, cafés and restaurants, as well as a small bus station and a campground. There are kayak rentals for river and sea kayaking, and plenty of hotels both in and around the town.
How to get there by bus
Take the Pullman del Sur bus from the Turbus terminal in the Santiago bus station. It takes 5.5 to 7 hours and goes directly to Curanipe—buses for this route depart 4 times daily.
Take a Tepual bus from Temuco to Talca, then take a Pullman del Sur bus from Talca to Curanipe. Bus schedules in Chile are not usually posted online, so I would recommend starting the trip earlier rather than later. The Tepual bus route you will need to take departs twice daily, and the Pullman del Sur route departs 4 times daily. From Temuco to Talca is about 5 hours, and from Talca to Curanipe is 2 to 2.5 hours.
Where to stay
Villa María Curanipe Cabins
Arturo Prat 160, Curanipe 3710000 Chile
Bungalows, apartments, and double bedrooms, 4-minute walk to the beach, and right next to shops and restaurants
Ecolodge Ekilibre Hostel
Family Suite, 6-bed mixed dormitory
Sector Cardonal, 3710000 Chile
The hostel is about 9 km away from Curanipe, so you can either catch a taxi or hitch-hike. Ask to go to Cardonal, to a shop called Chicopete (a mini-market). You can ask for Stephanie, one of the owners of the hostel; if she is not there, simply walk down the dirt road marked “Jose Rivas Hernandez” until you arrive at the property. It is recommended to let the owners know of your time of arrival, so they can help you with directions.
Just up the dirt road is a woman who sells fresh fruits and vegetables from her garden, and a quiet and secluded beach is a 5-minute walk down the hill. The owners speak Spanish, French, and English, and are very kind and hospitable.
Good to know
Hitch-hiking is a fairly common and safe way of getting around. If you don’t have a car and only need to go a couple of miles, this is a good option, and is probably actually easier than getting a taxi or waiting for a bus.
There are buses that go from Curanipe to nearby cities and beaches--inquire at the bus station for schedules and destinations.