Cabo Polonio is sandwiched between the luxurious Punta Del Este and the Wild West backpacker favourite beach town Punta Del Diablo, Cabo Polonio is a unique hippie settlement that shines with tranquillity and laid-back vibes. It boasts only 95 permanent inhabitants, although not crowded, the law now prohibits no more. This will hopefully ensure the maintenance of its sacred and ‘off the beaten track’ feel, despite nearby Uruguayan tourists regularly vacationing there during the summer months.
Also read: Uruguay Backpacking Guide.
The small settlement of Cabo Polonio is built up with huts, shelters and accommodations scattered around grassy sand areas between two beaches. The accommodations are funky and each has its own unique style, with old bits of materials or junk that have been re-fashioned into usable objects or decorations.
A majestic lighthouse watches over this once old fishing boat spot, for the boats coming in hundreds of years ago. If you’re lucky, you’ll glimpse sea lions bathing close by the lighthouse on the rocks that dip into the main South Atlantic Ocean.
The settlement is known for little or no electricity and lack of running water. This is true, apart from the odd electric light or portable charge. There is WIFI hardly anywhere in the hostels by the beach, although you may find some modern facilities towards the lighthouse area, where the more fancy hotels are located.
Places To Stay
You can’t book online, however, you can do it the old-fashioned way and research the names of accommodations and phone up. Don’t be surprised if the phone rings out in some places, people normally rock up and find a place as they explore the small area. There are many places available if you come early enough during the day. (There are several mini truck jeep rides into the settlement, which is the only way into the town unless you want to hike the sandy, bumpy journey).
I would recommend where I stayed, Hostel Del Cabo. It boasts a coat of red paint on its roof and outline structure. It has several rooms, all dorms though, with hammock and eating areas on the front, which foresees the sunrise beach only steps away. It’s on the beach and a perfect location for everything.
Things to do in Cabo Polonio
- SURF! Both beaches offer good surfing conditions in the summer. The water temperatures are refreshing and just below mild, so don’t chicken out of a quick dip thinking it may be ice cold!
- SAND DUNES: Sizzling formations of sand dunes appear to the West of the spot, parallel with sunrise beach. Take a trip up and down these, great for photography but watch your bare feet if the sun is burning down. You may be skipping to the paralleled ocean quickly!
- MARKETS: The markets are festival like with natural jewellery being sold, along with artistic creations like paintings and instruments. Small wooden huts which serve empanadas, pizza and other local delights. Weave and wander your way through slowly, and marvel in this peaceful culture. Tip – buy your drinks and food from the local market which closes at 10. You can get a bottle of red of less than 100 Pesos as well as Rum.
- THE LIGHTHOUSE: The lighthouse has an entry charge of 20 Uruguay Peso which is less than a dollar. Take a trip up the windy stairs and have a peek out over to this small cute little inhabitant. If you’re lucky, sea lions will be bathing close by the lighthouse on the rocks that dip into the main South Atlantic Ocean. At night during the summer months, blue plankton fish can be seen in the distance whilst the moon is out. Keep an eye out for it during an evening walk to the shore. You may be lucky and if you have a good enough camera, take some snaps!
- NIGHTLIFE! There is a small but entertaining nightclub that is really enjoyable. Drinks are quick, atmosphere is hippie and happy and it’s barely a short walk from wherever you are staying in the area as the place is so small.
No buses go directly to Cabo Polonio, so you will have to go local. If you are coming from Punta Del Este, you will need to get to the small bus stop in San Carlos. There you can take a 2 hour ride to Cabo Polonio. On a local bus to San Carlos its about 1 hour despite it only being 15km from Del Este.
Once you are at Cabo Polonio, giant mini truck jeeps that look more like something off transformers than fitting in with a small coastal hippie town, dominate the entry area. Buy your entry to the Cabo Polonio Park and wait for a 20-minute ride to the centre. Ride on top of the Mini truck to get a better view and thrill from the ride!
Where to go next?
- 1.5 hours west from Cabo Polobio lies the ‘St Tropez’ of South America, Punta Del Este, with its high-rise buildings and luxurious yachts.
- 1.5 hours east lies the backpacker favourite Punta Del Diablo. Both have beaches, both very different places.
About the writer: Tommy Walker backpacked South America for nine months from 2013-14, traveling Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. Mad on being connected to the rainforest and jungle, a new addict to diving in the ocean and a keen culture geek, South America has taught him many new things and interests! As well as South America Backpacker, Tommy is currently writing for Matador Network, Clapway and The Buddhahood Culture.