Best beaches in Uruguay

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From the oceanic beaches of the Rocha region to the calm waters of the River Plate, Uruguay has about 600 kilometers of coasts – making it the ideal place for a road trip through some of its main cities and seaside resorts. We now offer you a route beginning in Brazil, at the border town of El Chuy and finishing at Colonia del Sacramento, from where you can get to Buenos Aires in less than an hour of boat ride. Get ready to discover the best beaches in Uruguay!

Punta del Este. Best beaches in UruguayWith its 600 kms of coast and some of the best beaches in the world, Uruguay will satisfy every kind of customer. / Picture: Carina Fossati

Santa Teresa

Rocha Department, Ruta 9, km 302

If you love camping and nature, the National Park San Teresa is the place for you to go: three thousand hectares next to the sea and one of the most well-preserved and pretty colonial fortress of the country (from the mid-18th century). Two kilometers in are the beaches – where you can rent a cabin, go to a hostel or to the camping site.

Entering the National Park is free for any one-day visitor who came to enjoy the beaches and have an “asado” in one of their public barbecues. However, if you want to spend the night you must register at the reception and pay the corresponding price. La Fortaleza opens from 10am to 7pm on the high season and from 10am to 5pm on the low season. The entering fee is 40 Uruguayan pesos (one dollar and a half) per person.

Colonial Fortress of Santa TeresaDiscover the amazing colonial fortresses of Santa Teresa / Picture : Carina Fossati

Punta del Diablo

Rocha Department, Ruta 9 km 298

The seaside resort was created in the 30’s and it kept its fishing village profile until not so long ago, when it was discovered by the tourism industry and converted into one of the favourite summer destinations for young Uruguayans during the high season. However, during the winter only 800 people live there (according to the 2011 census); that’s why this place keeps its authenticity. There are three beaches in its 10 kilometers of coast – and they definitely are some of the best beaches in Uruguay: the Los Pescadores beach, in the center. This is the most familiar, characterised by its colourful and home-made fishing boats coming near the beach to offer the fishes of the day to the tourist. The two other beaches are the Playa de la Viuda at the southwest and the Rivero beach, at the northeast.

Best beaches in Uruguay: Punta del DiabloIn the Los Pescadores Beach you will find traditional and colourful fishing boats / Picture: Carina Fossati

Valizas

Rocha Department, Ruta 10, km 271.5

Barra de Valizas, a small fishing village surrounded by high dunes, is like the “hippie” part of the beaches in Uruguay, being the favourite of musicians and craftsmen. Among other things, if the water is clear enough, divers can visit a few shipwrecks. One of the traditional activities would be taking a stroll through the dunes up to Cabo Polonio (about eight kilometers long). Following the coast will take a little more time, but you will observe the wreck of Don Guillermo, a US marine boat that got stranded in the 50’s.


Cabo Polonio

Rocha Departement, Ruta 10, km 264,5

This resort does not have electric light or asphalted streets. It isn’t accessible from the road either – you can only come in through the Terminal Puerta del Polonia going through seven kilometers of woods and dune in a 4×4 truck until you get to the resort. The only ones allowed to enter with their own vehicles are those living there – and the difficulty to access this place also guarantees that it will be preserved as a spot with unique characteristics, only comparable to Jericoacoara in Northeastern Brazil. You have some of the best beaches in Uruguay there, however its biggest asset is the night, when the only light source apart from the moon and the stars is the lighthouse of Punta del Cabo (and the candles and lanterns of the locals).

Travelling tip: if you are in Punta del Este and don’t want to miss the incredible experience of knowing this place, reserve online the Cabo Polonio and Mount Ombúes Tour and fully enjoy your journey.

Cabo Polonio Lighthouse is one of the must-see places if you go the beaches in Uruguay / Source

La Pedrera

Rocha Department, Ruta 10, km 228.5

This is ideal if you do not rent a car since walking from any hotel, hostel or cabins, you can access the beaches (El Desplayado and El Barco) and the pubs, restaurants, and stores of the main street. Even though this is one of the favourite places of youngsters, families love it too – except during the Carnivals, they prefer to get away from the very loud music that lasts until morning.

About 10 kilometers from there is La Paloma, seaside resort that receives families and groups of youngsters during the high season and has more infrastructures and hence more services. La Balconada, one of the best beaches in Uruguay, is known as one of the ideal places to watch the sunset since it seems like the sun is diving directly into sea.


Punta del Este

Maldonado Department, Ruta Interbalnearia, km 132

One of the most exclusive resort of Latin America, the favourite of the River Plate region jet-set and also north american celebrities and members of the European royalties. If you want a beach and some Miami looking buildings you can stay at the Península – this is where Gorlero, the main street, is and a block from here you have the famous “Calle 20”, headquarters of one of the most exclusive brands. Some will choose the hippie but chic style that you can find in La Barra, Manantiales and José Ignacio. However, you must know that the best sunsets are at Portezuela and Solanas, where the artist Páez Vilaró created its famous hotel, restaurant and museum: Casapueblo. Do not miss the port of this seaside town, situated at the Península and if you have time take a ferry to spend the day at the Gorriti Island.

Travelling tip: Enjoy the Sunset at Casapueblo from another perspective and find extraordinary experiences of Punta del Este, one of the best beaches in Uruguay, in this catalog.

O Que Fazer em Punta del Este / Uruguay4uPunta del Este is one of the most exclusive resorts and one of the best beaches in Uruguay and Latin Americaa / Source

Piriapolis

Maldonado Department, Ruta Interbalnearia, km 82

This is a quiet and familiar middle class seaside resort where you can find a colourful promenade surrounded by some hills – which is peculiar for the plain Uruguayan coast. Using some chairlifts on the coast, you will be able to go up the hills, the ideal place to take panoramic pictures; single people can go to the sanctuary of San Antonio, known to help create couples. 4 kilometers from there is the Pan de Azúcar hill, at 389 meters of altitude this is the highest of the country – you can see it from very far since there is a 35 meters concrete cross on top of it. There are some tracks you can use to walk to the top and also a natural reserve of seven hectares, the autochthonous fauna breeding Station of Cerro Pan de Azúcar, that includes Pampas deers, wild cats and capybaras. A few years ago an Adventure EcoPark has been added to the lot, it offers activities such as canopy, trekking, falconry, climbing and rappel. Another recommended stroll is through Piria Castle, that belonged to the businessman Francisco Piria (1847 – 1933), founder of the seaside resort. Even though it was not very well conserved, its visit is still worth it to discover the symbols masons and alchemists hid in the construction.


Montevideo

Montevideo Department, km 0 of the country

Even though the River Plate and not the Atlantic Ocean washes these coasts, Montevideo beaches have the particularity of being surrounded by a 22 kilometers seaside promenade on which you can walk, ride or drive. This is the favourite place of the people from Montevideo to go for a stroll, a run or to sit down talking or enjoying a “mate”, a sort of tea that they share in group, almost as a ritual.

Travelling tip: Discover every corner of the Uruguayan capital with the tours in Montevideo of Uruguay4u.

Montevideo - Guía de Playas en UruguayWalk through the seaside promenade of Montevideo and enjoy the nights in Uruguay / Picture: Carina Fossati

Colonia del Sacramento

Colonia Department, Road 1, km 176

Its historic center still has narrow stone streets with some Spanish and Portuguese constructions from the colonial time (it was founded in 1680 by Portugal, which makes it the first and oldest uruguayan city). But a visit cannot be considered complete if you haven’t watched the sunset since its coast: yellow, orange, red and purple colours merging in a way you will not see any place else in this country. Do do not forget to charge your camera batteries. The town next to it, Nueva Helvecio, is on the same department but at 58 kilometers. It also deserves a visit: this is the only Swiss colony of Uruguay and you can see houses and public spaces decorated with coats of arms of the locals, giving it some unique characteristics.

Travelling tip: Explore the charms of this enchanting city with those tours at Colonia del Sacramento.

Colonia del SacramentoTake a stroll through the historic center of Colonia and explore its narrow stone streets / Picture: Carina Fossati

TIPS

– If you want to enjoy the best beaches in Uruguay and the water, we suggest you to make this circuit between mid-spring and the beginning of autumn (September to early April). If your thing is movement, night and noise, the last week of December, the first two weeks of January and the carnival week will be the perfect time for you. On the other hand, if what you want is a quiet and familiar environment, cheaper prices go at any other time of the year. This does not include Montevideo because this is precisely in January that the city is the quietest, and a lot of businesses, restaurants and nocturnal places close during the holidays.

In Uruguay they eat later than in most parts of the world and their perception of time is even more relaxed during the summer. The secret to make it until dinner after lunch, that can be between 10pm and midnight, is the “merienda”: maté, tea or coffee with “bizcochos”, a speciality similar to croissants that you can get alone or filled with cheese, ham, jelly or dulce de leche. On the good days the Uruguayans like to have a “merenda” on the beaches, promenades, parks or squares. When it rains, above all in the small towns or in the center of the country, you can find street stalls with fritters. Another secret to make it to midnight with energy is the siesta, a habit for many Uruguayans during holidays or weekends. In the interior of the country and in the villages many shops close from midday until 2pm so that the owners can lunch with their family and rest.

Discover the best beaches in Uruguay and all its coast has to offer and live great moments in this lovely south american country. If you are already convinced and want to begin planning your itinerary, here you can find a few Tips to travel in Uruguay. If you also want to know what are the activities you can’t miss if you go to Uruguay, go to the tours catalog of Uruguay4u to find valuable information so that you can choose what suits you best.

By Carina Fossati, journalist and author on the Hills to Heels blog (www.hillstoheels.net) / Translated by: Grégory Noël