Adventurers have always trekked to Chile to tour its mountains, valleys, lakes, and deserts. Now they have even more to discover. Over the past few years, the government has opened some 30 official diving sites along the 2,650-mile coast—ranging from caverns in the north to shipwrecks within the Juan Fernández archipelago. Compared to what you might find in warm Caribbean waters, these unexplored depths of the South Pacific are rich with tuna, sea urchins, octopuses, eels, fur seals, and lobsters.
A warning to scuba sissies: temperatures average an invigorating 61 degrees (requiring a 1/4-inch-thick wet suit), visibility can be as little as 50 feet, and the strong currents, while not dangerous, make excursions exhausting. Santiago's Centro de Buceo Aqua-Lung (627 Padre Hurtado Central; 56-2/220-9338; www.bucea.cl; $38 per day, including equipment, boat, and guide) offers undeterred novices a seven-day beginner's course ($285), with certification. The center can also hook up cold-water pros with outfitters throughout the region.