In Hawaii, officials ordered evacuations of beaches and low-lying areas, but when the waves arrived, there were no reports of injuries or major damage. Tsunami warnings have also been issued for Japan and Russia.
Ronald Scott, an American who was staying at a hostel in Santiago when the earthquake hit, told ABC News that while he was terrified, the damage he has witnessed was far less extensive than what he saw reported from Haiti.
"It was very scary," Scott said. "The first thing I did was jump underneath the first table I could find and even that was about to collapse on me.
"I also grabbed a bottle of water just in case I was going to be there for awhile. The first thought I had was what was going on in Haiti and what they must have gone through," he said.
"Everything just started jumping up and down, the lights went out and everything sounded like a railroad train," Scott said. "The buildings were shaking, but they're still standing because of the construction."
The buildings in Chile are constructed specifically to withstand earthquakes, and the country is no stranger to disaster from an unexpected quake.
Chile has the record for the world's strongest earthquake -- a 9.5-magnitude quake that struck in 1960. The current 8.8-magnitude quake will likely make the top 10 for world records.
Chilean officials are asking people to stay in their houses if their homes are not damaged and to stay off the roads unless there is an emergency.
"Everything is still standing," Scott said. "The only things that are not broken were not nailed down in the house."
Elliot Yamin, a former contestant on "American Idol," had just finished performing at a music festival in Vina Del Mar, Chile, when he said the "rumbling started.
"At first, it was more of a kind of swaying back and forth, and then it was a really fast kind of shaking," Yamin said.
In a sixth-floor hotel room, Yamin said he quickly moved to a doorway and then the hallway, and eventually got out of the building safely. Still, Yamin said he feared for his life.
"I thought it was a [6.0 magnitude or a 7.0 magnitude]; I had no idea it was an 8.8," Yamin said. "The shaking and rumbling was just so -- I didn't know if I would make it down the stairs.
"It was surreal. People were panicking and a couple of pregnant women in the hospital were crying," he said. "I shed a few tears. I was pretty emotional."
Yamin said the chaos has mostly died down hours after the earthquake rocked the country at 3 a..m. local time and that the aftershocks have become far less frequent.
ABC News' Nancy Ayala contributed to this report.