Praising Puerto Madryn: Your guide to Argentina’s capital for marine life

Home to majestic whales, industrious penguins, and rambunctious sea lions, this small city in Chubut should be on everyone’s South American itinerary

Editor’s note: We have not included prices in this guide due to Argentina’s steep rate of inflation. For the most up-to-date information, we recommend you visit individual websites and Instagram pages.

Nesting penguins, breaching whales, and barking sea lions. If you love marine life, Puerto Madryn in Chubut Province is a visit that belongs at the top of your bucket list.

While technically a city, this seaside port really functions as its own natural habitat, along with neighboring Península Valdes and Punta Tumbo. There’s plenty to see year-round, but the prime months are from June to December, when endangered southern right whales gather in the Golfo Nuevo to feed, mate, and give birth. We recommend observing these majestic mammals up close and personal on one of the many guided boat tours that depart from the peninsula daily.

Landlubbers can enjoy their share of attractions as well. At El Doradillo lookout point, you can watch the whales clear their blowholes and teach their calves to swim, among other cetacean activities. The Museo Provincial de Ciencias Naturales y Oceanográfico offers an illuminating history of 19th century naturalism to go with its collection of taxidermied sea creatures. And no trip to Puerto Madryn is complete without a visit to Estancia San Lorenzo in nearby Puerto Pirámides — the world’s single largest Magellanic penguin reserve. 

Each of these sites is worth the price of your plane or bus ticket. Fortunately, Puerto Madryn doesn’t force you to choose between them. 

What follows are a few of the Herald’s favorite places to stay and eat — with a few additional sights to see for good measure. 

The beachfront in Puerto Madryn

Hotels and accommodations

Dazzler (Bv. Almte Brown 637) — Situated on the beachfront of the city center, this hotel more than lives up to its name, offering a dazzling view of the Golfo Nuevo at affordable prices. It also has ample amenities, a small gym with a built-in sauna, and a spacious terrace where you can savor your surroundings.`

La Tosca (Sarmiento 437) — La Tosca features comfortable beds, a modern design, and one of the best breakfasts in town, replete with homemade cakes. Its courtyard is a lovely place to hang after an afternoon of touristing, and the hotel rents bicycles if you want to go for a ride along the beachfront.

Casa de Piedra (Arenales 82) — What it loses in size, this bed and breakfast more than makes up for in charm. Casa de Piedra has seven whitewashed rooms surrounding a sunny courtyard and includes a free breakfast of yogurt, toast, and fruit. Its owner is also a naturalist guide with some great tips about how to enjoy the city’s wildlife.

Hotel Territorio (Roca 33, Punta Cuevas) — With its minimalist aesthetic and polished concrete, Hotel Territorio is the most stylish hotel in Punta Cuevas, approximately 15 minutes outside of Puerto Madryn. The kids can explore a spacious game room and gawp at the giant whale vertebrae hanging in the lobby, while the adults enjoy a walk along the surrounding dunes.

Good eats

Bistro de Mar Nautico (Blvr. Brown 860, 8 a.m. to midnight, all week) — Argentina is not exactly famous for its seafood, even on its coast, but here you can find fresh grilled fish and heaping portions of crispy calamari. The bistro’s ocean view can’t be beat, and it’s open for lunch and dinner.

Cantina el Nautico (Julio Argentino Roca 790, 12 to 2:45 p.m., 8 to 11:45 p.m., all week) — Established in 1963, this down-and-dirty cantina boasts an array of shellfish dishes, as well as pastas and steaks for the seafood-averse. The scallops are some of the best in town.

Giuseppe (25 de Mayo 388, 12 to 2:30 p.m., 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., all week) — If you need a break from seafood, this trattoria offers traditional Italian fare like pizzas and pastas, as well as more extravagant dishes like risotto de langostinos (crawfish). The red-checkered tablecloths complete the red-sauce dining experience. 

Lupita (9 de Julio 146, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., all week) — It may not be authentic Mexican cuisine, but Lupita is bright and colorful and a great place to grab a fajita or enjoy a plate of nachos with your fellow travelers. You might also try the whole wheat tortillas and house salsas, which are surprisingly spicy for the Argentine palate.

Península Valdes

Some (more) sights to see

Reserva Faunística Punta Loma — Located 17 km (approximately 10.5 miles) from the city, this reserve contains a permanent sea lion colony and a rookery for cormorants. The reserve is accessible by car, bus, or bicycle if you’re willing to make the trek, and the same road will take you to Punta Ninfas — a breathtaking lookout point with its own lighthouse, where you can take in the elephant seals below. 

El Pedral — If you can’t make the trip to Puerto Pirámides, El Pedral is a great spot to acquaint yourself with Patagonia’s Magellanic penguin population. The private estancia provides guided tours that allow you to walk right up to the wildlife, and there’s a charming hotel mere minutes from the reserve if you decide to spend the night. Reservations are required, and prices vary depending on the season.

Museo Gemas (San Luis 805, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday) Free and open to the public, this gem museum is a must-visit for rock, mineral, and jewelry lovers, with a collection from Patagonia and across the globe. It also offers workshops where you can learn how to work with silver, alpaca, and other natural materials.

Parque Histórico Punta Cuevas (Bv. Almte Brown 3777, open 24 hours, all week) — Approximately 10 minutes outside of Puerto Madryn, this park was the site of a Welsh colony in 1865, and the ruins of its first settlement are still visible today. History lovers and naturalists alike will marvel at its natural caves, which contain several room-sized living spaces in varying states of preservation. 

Two unforgettable day trips

Reserva Faunística Península Valdés — Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, this reserve is a habitat for all manner of wildlife, from sea lions and elephant seals to guanacos and rheas. It occupies 400 km (approximately 248 miles) of coastline and has a number of worthy stops, including Punta Pirámides, where you can observe southern right whales, and Punta Norte, where you can behold pods of orcas in all their splendor.

Trelew — Trelew isn’t just the site of the region’s major airport. It’s also home to the Museo Palentológico Egido Feruglio, which houses some of the most archaeological discoveries in Patagonia and Argentina as a whole. Here you can find more than 1700 fossils and a collection of local dinosaurs, including the tehuelchesaurus, patagosaurus, and titanosaurus. There’s even an “Explorers in Pijamas” program for kids eight to 12 to spend the night and tour the museum with flashlights. The Magellan penguin colony at nearby Punta Tombo commands a visit as well.


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