San Antonio Oeste
San Antonio Oeste is the most important port city in Rio Negro Province of Argentina, with 20.000 inhabitants. It is well known because of its beach in the suburb of Las Grutas, a nice seaside resort. The town is located near the Bay of San Antonio in the Gulf of San Matías.
Whether the proper San Antonio Oeste is a quiet and lovely town, the Las Grutas beach becomes very crowded in January and February, as it has converted into a "in" place since the 1990s. It is mostly visited by families and young people. Best time to visit is late summer and early autumn, when the water is very warm - it's the warmest of Argentina because of the good climate of the area - and there are less tourists.
San Antonio has an airport with only 2 connections per week, but the flight (which starts in Santa Fe and ends in Comodoro Rivadavia) stops at many cities, including Buenos Aires and Córdoba.
Most people will go to San Antonio by bus, with connections to all important cities in Argentina. There are three terminals, the most active at Las Grutas.
A inexpensive train serves the line between Viedma and San Carlos de Bariloche twice per week, stopping at San Antonio. For train lovers, it is recommended to take the "Expreso Arrayanes" (only in summer, once per week) a luxurious train with restaurant, café-concert, cinema and disco. Prices of the "Expreso" are about 20 AR$ higher than that of the normal train (and there is no tourist class), but not really expensive.
The city is divided into three barrios: the proper San Antonio Oeste, the port of San Antonio Este (at the other side of the bay) and the Las Grutas beach (7 km south).
There are local buses (San Antonio - Las Grutas every 30 min, to the port and Las Conchillas beach only 3 times per day!).
The harbour section in the proper San Antonio Oeste is full of pictoresque old wooden houses, but most of the area is run down. There are no special buildings in the city centre or Las Grutas.
The beaches are the main attractions of town and surroundings. The Las Grutas beach is crowded and rocky, about 4 km south is the very pictoresque Piedras Coloradas beach with red rocks. An interesting alternative are the beaches of San Antonio Este, above all the Las Conchillas beach, where there is also a little sealion colony. The beaches of San Antonio Oeste itself (near the fishing port) only have water when tide is high!
In Las Grutas and San Antonio Este you have a lot of attractive beaches, and you can practice diving and fishing in many areas. The San Antonio Bay loses nearly all its water when the tide is low, and nature lovers can make large walks "on the ground of the sea".
Many restaurants offer good fish specialities. They are concentrated in Las Grutas but San Antonio itself and the port also offer good choices.
In summer, Las Grutas has a active nightlife, but music in the clubs tends to be very poor. The rest of the year there are a few pubs and a disco in San Antonio itself.
Most visitors of Las Grutas sleep in rented apartments, there are few hotels and a lot of camping grounds. It is highly recommended that you reserve your place in advance, even in the campings (above all at weekends, when many families of the Rio Negro Province come). In the proper San Antonio Oeste and San Antonio Este the situation is less tense, but there were cases with the whole area without a single free bed!
Internet and locutorios (telephone centers) exist in all parts of the city. In Las Grutas they are most expensive (there seems to exist "tourist prices").
A little known and attractive area is the surroundings of Sierra Grande, 120 km south of San Antonio, with a sea-lion and penguin colony, nice desert hills, very attractive beaches and much tranquility.