Updated May 16th, 2018.
Punta del Este is the coastal Uruguayan city where the rich and illustrious own pricey holiday houses which shelter tanned and sculpted bodies during the Summer months. December to February is red hot with good looking and well dressed people on the streets, football games on the beach with cervezas and cocktails flowing all night long.
Nicknamed the ‘St Tropez’ of Uruguay, and one of the most expensive places in this continent, Punta Del Este is a spick and span place that proudly shows off its beaches, luxurious port side area with gleaming yachts, high rise city buildings, fancy restaurants, retail stores and swanky nightclubs.
The locals are more than willing to accommodate and party with the visitors whether you’re there for the weekend or the whole summer. During the Winter it’s a bit of a ghost town, with a lot of the shops and cafes shutting down, however it can offer a nice reprieve from the hectic Brazilian coast.
Places to Stay:
The main street of Punta is Av Goriero, so anywhere close to that is easy. Otherwise it takes about 20-30 minute to walk to one end of town to the other, and everything is relatively centralised.
- Uy Punta Hostel – Out at La Barra the Uy is a great place to stay with the lovely owner, Walter. Fully equipped kitchen, close to transport, good rooms and a gorgeous hostel gato.
- El Viajero – One of the biggest South American hostel chains has a Punta location. Situated at the East end of town, about a 5-10 minute walk from the Hand in the Sand and the bus terminal. They offer laundry service, surfboard and bike rental and bilingual staff.
Things to Do/Eat:
- Mano de Punta del Este – Punta is home to the famous ‘Hand in the Sand’, also known as ‘Los Dedos Playa Brava’, as well as about half a dozen other names. The piece sits at the Eastern end of the main street, about 400m from the bus stop, and is considered a “living sculpture” due to its continuously changing environment and thus context.
- La Barra – Take a 15 minute bus ride up to La Barra and explore the beaches, cafes (Café de la Place is great) and surf shops. With many beaches it’s the perfect spot for a game of football on the beach followed by a few Quilmes.
- Puerto – Head on down to the Port to grab some fish and chips and you might be lucky enough to see some Sea Lions sunbaking.
- Casa Pueblo – The stark white museum of Casapueblo, took 36 years for South America’s answer to Picasso, sculptor Carlos Páez Vilaró, to finish. It is particularly magnificent at sunset and is like labyrinth with no straight lines inside and a maze construction with no predictable structure.
- People Watch – During the summer Punta is crawling with celebs. Famous visitors include Shakira and her lying hips, Naomi Campbell and her throwing arm, as well as numerous famous faces from neighbouring Argentina.
- Hire a Motorbike – Rent a moped or motorbike to take your own trip along the ocean front or down to some of the more off the beaten track beaches. It costs around 50 dollars for 24 hours. A tip here would be to hire it at around 2-3pm, use your time wisely for the rest of the day whilst still having time the next day if you fancy an early morning ride. Some companies will allow you to keep it until 5-6pm the next day anyway if you haggle!
Where to head next?
- Montevideo – Buses heading to Uruguay’s capital leave from the main terminal, located near the ‘Hand in the Sand’, every 30-60 minutes.
- Porto Alegre – Head to the capital of Rio Grande do Sul situated on the banks of the Rio Guaiba. In regards to the border crossing, some bus companies just take your passport at the beginning of the bus ride and do the border cross completely for you.
About the Writer: Klara Thwaite is a Business Management graduate from Sydney, who skipped graduation to go backpacking. Endowed with a massive Chris McCandless (Into the Wild) complex and limited Spanish, she zigzagged her way across the continent and developed a deep appreciation for toilet paper, plan Bs and alfajores. Check out her personal blog at drinkingink.tumblr.com
Updated in March 2015 by Tommy Walker.