Located on the east coast of Argentina in the Chubut province, Puerto Madryn is still technically in the Patagonia region. Today we will see what to do in Puerto Madryn.
It has many beaches to hang out on, but by far the main attraction is the appearance of the southern right whales that visit its bays.
The city is located right next to the famous Valdés Peninsula , full of wildlife, where visitors can wander among penguins and elephant seals, as well as watch whales from the coast.
Take a boat tour, learn a little about marine biology at the local museums, and enjoy a great seafood dinner in downtown Puerto Madryn.
It is a tourist destination also in summer, even when the whales are not there.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Puerto Madryn :
1. Go whale watching
Southern right whales frequent the coastal waters of Puerto Madryn and the nearby Valdés Peninsula, making this area a great tourist destination for wildlife-loving visitors.
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June through December is peak whale watching season , so be sure to visit if you’re interested in seeing them.
It is even possible to see whales from the shore if you head to El Doradillo beach, just 30 minutes from the city.
Whales come to the bays to give birth and teach their young to swim, and you’ll often see them playing just offshore.
To get even closer, take a whale-watching boat tour to see these massive creatures emerge right next to you; It is definitely one of the most popular tourist activities in Puerto Madryn.
2. Ecocenter Madryn
Learn a little more about the area’s ecosystem by visiting this three-story oceanside maritime museum.
You can learn all about the wildlife of the gulfs and the Valdés Peninsula here with interactive and sensory exhibits.
There is a huge whale skeleton on display and guests can climb to the top of the observation tower for sweeping views of the coastline.
Though small, the museum includes a library, art exhibits, a small sea creature tank, and a room where you can feel like you’re in the ocean among the whales, listening to their calls and watching them swim by.
3. Diving and Snorkeling with Sea Lions
Dive into the water with sea lions to discover just how curious and playful these creatures are in their natural environment.
You can book snorkeling or diving trips with them right off Punta Loma, where hundreds live throughout the year.
Although sea lions can be aggressive on land, they are docile and playful in the water, and will approach and play with humans.
For other diving excursions, check out the nearby shipwrecks filled with coral and fish.
Puerto Madryn is considered the capital of diving in Argentina for its good visibility and abundance of marine life.
Lobo Larsen is one of the favorite companies to organize snorkeling or diving trips, and their guides receive rave reviews.
4. Visit the penguins
Another great attraction in the area, if you want to walk among many little penguins, make sure you visit Punta Norte on the Valdés Peninsula or make the long drive to the Punta Tombo Nature Reserve.
Both places are popular walking spots for literally thousands of Magellanic penguins (but Punta Tombo is crazy). From September to April, these flightless birds come to these particular places to mate and give birth, and you will see them eating, sleeping, mating and caring for their young.
They are not afraid of humans, so make sure you give them their space and watch out for their nests as you walk along their beaches.
5. Check out the beaches
They may not be the best beaches in the world, but if you’re here in the summer (December to February), they’ll get the job done.
They are long and wide, so there is plenty of space to hang out, have a mate or have a picnic, although the water can be cold and the wind a bit strong.
Concerts are often held on the beach, and you can eat or drink at one of the many surrounding cafes, restaurants and bars.
Due to the wind, many local shops offer kitesurfing or windsurfing lessons and rentals along the beach.
The one in town is nice enough, but head to pristine El Doradillo for whale watching, or the quiet pebble beach of Playa Paraná to relax.
6. Visit an Estancia
A popular day trip for tourists, you can visit a Patagonian estancia (ranch) to learn how life works on an authentic sheep farm.
Take a tour of the property, view the local cattle and wildlife, and even arrange horseback riding.
At most of these ranches, you can enjoy a roast lamb asado (barbecue) and a great wine list.
At nearby Estancia San José , you can also enjoy a folkloric show and a sheep shearing demonstration.
Estancia Rincón Chico is located near the Valdés Peninsula and offers wildlife tours.
Further on, one of the most popular estancias, Estancia San Lorenzo , will allow you to combine your visit with a trip to the penguin colonies.
7. Dolphin watching
If you’re hoping to see a few pods of dolphins while you’re here, book a tour to see the local Commerson’s dolphins playing and swimming in the open ocean.
Trips will take you to Puerto Rawson and the Nuevo Gulf to see this rare species of black and white dolphins, nicknamed “panda dolphins” or “skunk dolphins”.
Your guides can tell you all about the world’s smallest dolphin as you watch it jump and run around the boat.
You may also see dusky dolphins, which are known to be friendly and love to play in the wake of the boat.
When whale season ends, dolphins are the center of attention in the city from December to March.
8. Visit Peninsula Valdés and Puerto Pirámides
This peninsula is actually a reserve teeming with wildlife and one of the highlights of any trip to Puerto Madryn.
Located just 48 miles (77 kilometers) from the city and situated between the Golfo Nuevo and the Golfo San José, you can visit the beautiful beaches, interesting geography, and many marine animals of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are colonies of elephant seals and a lighthouse converted into a hotel in Punta Delgada and penguins in Punta Norte.
The only town on the island, Puerto Pirámides , is a cute little town surrounded by pyramid-shaped cliffs with lots of retro cafes, bars, and tour companies.
From here you can easily organize whale watching, hiking, kitesurfing, fishing or diving.
9. Punta Loma Sea Lion
Not far from the city, Punta Loma is a protected reserve where you can see the many sea lions that make this area their home.
Even if you decide not to go swimming with them, you can observe them from land in the only permanent colony of sea lions in South America.
There are hundreds of fur seals that live here on the pebbly beach, and for a fee you can see them from a lookout point on top of some rocky cliffs. Binoculars would be a bonus! Take the trip yourself or go as part of a 4×4 tour to visit throughout the year.
10. Have a great dinner
For all the mouths of visitors it has to feed, Puerto Madryn boasts a plethora of high-quality restaurants.
It’s especially great if you’re looking for traditional Argentine cuisine like steak or lamb, but there’s also amazing seafood and Italian.
Cantina El Náutico is fabulous for seafood, paellas, grilled prawns and octopus, as well as desserts.
En Mis Fuegos is a popular gourmet spot for romantic multi-course meals made from local and organic produce.
Unamesa comes highly recommended for its seafood, risotto, steak and fresh garden vegetables, and they also offer cooking classes.
11. Provincial Museum of Natural and Oceanographic Sciences
For a little more insight into the surrounding nature and history, head to this small museum housed in one of the oldest houses in the city to learn about the biology of native marine life and land animals.
Check out its preserved specimens like stuffed birds and skeletons, learn about whales and marine mammals, and hear about the history of the Welsh who settled here.
Just a short walk from the center, admission is free, so it’s worth taking a stroll through the exhibits, especially on a rainy day.
The giant canned squid is the highlight!
12. Visit the elephant seals
If you want to see colonies of these huge elephant seals, head to Caleta Valdés, Punta Delgada or Punta Ninfas .
There is also a lesser known place called Isla Escondida which is located on the beach near Rawson, south of Puerto Madryn.
You will be able to see mothers and their incredibly cute seal pups , along with the gigantic males.
Elephant seals are actually the largest species of seal in the world.
In this area, the males arrive in August and the mating (and calving) season begins in September, with colonies reaching even greater numbers in October.
It is possible to see babies nursing from their mothers, and in November the molting season will come, when they begin to lose their fur.
13. Take a trip to Trelew and Gaiman
There are a couple of small towns about an hour outside of Puerto Madryn that make good day trips.
Trelew is a wool processing center with a nice paleontology museum that exhibits dinosaur fossils; the largest dinosaur fossil ever discovered was found nearby.
You can visit a real laboratory in the place where scientists analyze those fossils.
Further afield, the town of Gaiman is a farming town that was founded by the Welsh in the 19th century.
It has historic buildings and charming little Welsh tea shops.
Stop by Ty Gwyn Tea House for afternoon tea as they have great plates of bread, jam, cakes and tea to share.
14. Go kayaking
Many of the tour companies in Puerto Pirámides can hook you up with a kayak or afternoon (or even multi-day) kayak tour. Sail into the Gulf of San José and watch swimming sea lions and seals, watch birds, listen for whales and enjoy sunsets from your kayak.
15. Outdoor adventure sports
There are tons of outdoor adventures when you’re done spotting marine life.
Take a hike or rent a mountain bike and go from the beach to the bay.
You can also go horseback riding along the cliffs and hills, or arrange a field trip with a ranch.
There is sand boarding down the dunes and water skiing behind some local boats in the summer.
Check out the kiteboarding and windsurfing activities available on Puerto Madryn’s main beach or book a sport fishing tour with a local guide.
If all that is a bit extreme, you can always go play golf at the Puerto Madryn Golf Club .