Mar del Plata’s beaches are mostly safe and swimmable, though thanks to the nearby harbor, the water isn't all that pristine. Downtown faces onto the most central beach, Playa Popular (formerly Playa Bristol), with its wharf and restaurant and several breakwaters. The boardwalk here, next to the casino area, is always packed with activity thanks to its centerpiece skate park – replete with bowls and rails. The next beach to the north is Playa La Perla, favored by a younger crowd and filled with balnearios (bathing resorts, or sections of beach with services such as beach chairs and parasols). To the south of Punta Piedras are Playa Varese and Cabo Corrientes, a pair of small beaches that are protected by small rocky headlands.

South of these beaches, at the more fashionable end of town, lies Playa Grande, also crowded with balnearios. About 11km south of the center, just past the port, you’ll find the huge Punta Mogotes complex – slightly more relaxed and favored by families, who fill the balnearios to overflowing in January. This is also the location of Playa Waikiki, a popular spot for surfing.

Beyond the lighthouse is a less urbanized area. Though the beaches here are still filled with yet more balnearios in the summer, they’re a quieter option. And for the adventurous, there’s Playa Escondida, some 25km south of Mardel, which claims to be Argentina’s only legal nude beach.