Visiting Isla Negra and Pablo Neruda’s Beachfront House

A rust-studded metal sculpture of a fish sits on the steps outside Isla Negra.

Sculpture at Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda’s favorite home. Photo © Carl Mueller, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

About 10 kilometers south of Algarrobo, Isla Negra (tel. 035/461284, 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Tues.–Sun. summer, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sun. fall, winter, and spring, US$6 for adults, US$3 for children and seniors, admission includes tour, for tours in English add US$1 pp)—which is not an island—has become famous for the Casa de Pablo Neruda, the poet’s favorite beachfront house and burial site. Built to entertain his friends and hold his whimsical collections of nautical memorabilia, including bowsprits, ships-in-bottles, and woodcarvings, the house has been open to the public for more than a decade. The Fundación Neruda, which administers the site, has added a room, originally planned by Neruda but never completed, to house his huge assortment of sea snails, clamshells, and narwhal spikes.

In summer, reservations are imperative at Isla Negra. During the rest of the year, it’s easier to join a tour on a drop-in basis.Unfortunately, because Isla Negra is Neruda’s most popular house, the half-hour guided tours are so rushed that the guides sometimes find themselves talking over each other. No photography is permitted in the house itself, but after the tour is over, visitors may remain on the grounds and photograph the exterior.

In summer, reservations are imperative at Isla Negra. During the rest of the year, it’s easier to join a tour on a drop-in basis.

Most people come to Isla Negra for the day, but for those who stay longer, down the road is Hostería La Candela (Calle de la Hostería 67, tel. 035/461254, US$96–116 s or d), which belongs to people who befriended Neruda in his later years. Past its prime, but still interesting, the rambling building also has a good restaurant. The best rooms have ocean views.

The Fundación Neruda’s own El Rincón del Poeta (tel. 035/461774, open museum hours, entrées US$8–10) has good seafood lunches. From Valparaíso, Pullman Bus Lago Peñuelas (tel. 032/2224025) stops at Isla Negra (US$6.50, 1.5 hours) en route to San Antonio, frequently between 6:15 a.m. and 10 p.m.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Chile.

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