From the oceanic beaches of the Rocha region to the calm waters of the River Plate, Uruguay has about 600 kilometers of coast – making it the ideal destination 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 by boat. Get ready to discover the best beaches in Uruguay!
With its 600 kms of coast and some of the best beaches in the world, Uruguay will satisfy every kind of customer. / Picture: Carina Fossati
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 beautiful colonial fortresses in the country (built in the mid-18th century). The beaches are situated two kilometres inland – 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 comes to enjoy the beaches and have an “asado” at 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 during the high season and from 10am to 5pm during the low season. The entrance fee is 40 Uruguayan pesos (one dollar and a half) per person.
Discover the amazing colonial fortresses of Santa Teresa / Picture : Carina Fossati
Punta del Diablo
Rocha Department, Ruta 9 km 298
This seaside resort was created in the 1930s and until recently had been known for being a fishing village, however, when it was discovered by the tourism industry it transformed 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 are definitely some of Uruguay’s best beaches, such as the Los Pescadores beach, in the center. This is the most familiar, characterised by its colourful and hand-made fishing boats approaching sure in order to offer the fish of the day to the tourists. The two other beaches are the Playa de la Viuda at the southwest and the Rivero beach, at the northeast.
In the Los Pescadores Beach you will find traditional and colourful fishing boats / Picture: Carina Fossati
Rocha Department, Ruta 10, km 271.5
Barra de Valizas, a small fishing village surrounded by high dunes, known “hippie” beach in Uruguay, often a favourite spot for 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 50s.
Rocha Departement, Ruta 10, km 264,5
This resort does not have electric light or tarmac 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 people allowed to enter with their own vehicles ar Cabo Polonio’s residents – 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
Rocha Department, Ruta 10, km 228.5
This is an ideal destination if you do not want rent a car since you can access the beach (El Desplayado and El Barco) on foot from any hostel, hotel or cabin walking from any hotel, hostel or cabin. You can also walk to the beach from the centre where you’ll find pubs, restaurants and shops on the high street. Even though this is one of the favourite places for 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 away is La Paloma, a seaside resort that welcomes families and groups of youngsters during the high season and has more infrastructure and hence more services. La Balconada, one of the best beaches in Uruguay, is known as one of the ideal locations to watch the sunset since it seems like the sun is diving directly into sea.
Punta del Este
Maldonado Department, Ruta Interbalnearia, km 132
Punta del Este is one of the most exclusive resorts in Latin America, the favourite luxury destination within River Plate region and also a known getaway for North American celebrities and European royalties. If you want a beach and some Miami-looking buildings you can stay i. the Península – home to the famous high street, Gorlero. Just a block away you’ll find 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 in this seaside town, situated at the Península and if you have time, take a ferry to spend the day at Gorriti Island.
Punta del Este is one of the most exclusive resorts and one of the best beaches in Uruguay and Latin Americaa / Source
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 unusual for the mostly flat Uruguayan coast. Using some chairlifts on the coast, you will be able to go up the hills, an ideal spot to take panoramic pictures; single people can go to the sanctuary of San Antonio, known to help match couples. Four kilometers from there is the Pan de Azúcar hill, at 389 meters altitude this is the highest hill in the country – you can see it from very far since there is a 35 meters concrete crucifix on top. There are some tracks you can use to walk to the top and also a seven-hectar natural reserve, the autochthonous fauna breeding Station of Cerro Pan de Azúcar, includes Pampas deers, wild cats and capybaras. A few years ago an Adventure EcoPark has was created in addition, it offers activities such as a canopy tour, trekking, falconry, climbing and absailing. Another recommended stroll is through Piria Castle, that once belonged to the businessman Francisco Piria (1847 – 1933), founder of the seaside resort. Even though it was not very well conserved, it is still worth a visit in order to discover the symbols that masons and alchemists during the construction.
Montevideo Department, km 0 of the country
Even though the River Plate washes these coasts, Montevideo beaches are characterised by being surrounded by a 22 kilometers seaside promenade on which you can walk, cycle or drive. This is the favourite place of the people from Montevideo to go for a stroll, a run or to sit down for a chat or enjoying a “mate”, a sort of herbal 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.
Walk 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 cobbled streets with some Spanish and Portuguese constructions from colonial times (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 on its coast: yellow, orange, red and purple colours merging in a way you will not see anywhere else in this country. Do not forget to charge your camera’s batteries. The town next to it, Nueva Helvecio, is in the same region but 58 kilometers away. It also deserves a visit: this is the only Swiss colony of Uruguay and you can see houses and public spaces decorated with the coats of arms of the locals, giving the town some unique characteristics.
Travelling tip: Explore the charms of this enchanting city with those tours at Colonia del Sacramento.
Take a stroll through the historic center of Colonia and explore its narrow stone streets / Picture: Carina Fossati
– If you want to enjoy the best beaches in Uruguay and the water, we suggest you to make your trip between mid-spring and the beginning of autumn (September to early April). If you like an exciting atmosphere, night and noise, then the last week of December, the first two weeks of January and carnival week will be the perfect time for you. On the other hand, if what you want is a quiet, family-friendly environment and cheaper prices go at any other time of the year. This does not include Montevideo because January is the city’s quietest month, and a lot of businesses, restaurants as well as bars and night clubs 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 survive the long delay between lunch and dinner, which can be between 10pm and midnight, is taking advantage of 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 “merienda” 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 in order to stay awake until midnight, 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 make the memories of a lifetime in this wonderful 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 the unmissable activities are if you go to Uruguay, go to the tours catalog of Uruguay4u to find valuable information to help you choose the trip that suits you best.