The place to be in summer in South America is Punta del Este, Uruguay’s playground for the rich and famous. Of course, you don’t need to be part of the elite to enjoy a summer vacation in Punta. The beautiful beaches, and endless array of chic restaurants, bars, and nightclubs draw Argentinian and Brazilian holidaymakers and other foreign tourists alike, who come to soak up the sun in this glamorous city.
People flock to Punta del Este for its beautiful beaches / Image Source
1. Bask on the beautiful beaches
The number one reason to visit Punta is to enjoy the beaches. Punta del Este’s location on the point of the peninsula means you can choose between the calmer coast at Playa Mansa, or the windier side at Playa Brava; perfect for surfers. If you want to follow the model crowd, head to Bikini Beach in La Barra.
2. Take photos of La Mano
One of the most iconic images of Punta del Este is the famous hand sculpture, with fingers rising out of the sand. Known as La Mano or Los Dedos, this sculpture made by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal emerges from the beach on Playa Brava. Don’t leave Punta without getting a picture of the famous fingers.
La Mano – The Hand – is one of the most photographed attractions in Punta del Este / Image Source
3. Watch the sunset at Casapueblo
Visit the unique “house-village” designed by Carlos Páez Vilaró, a Uruguayan abstract artist. This sprawling white compound has a unique design meant to resemble the mud nests of the local Hornero birds. Today, Casapueblo is a hotel, but also has a museum (Museo Taller de Casapueblo), art gallery and café. It is also a spectacular spot to watch the sunset. Go in the afternoon to enjoy the museum and stay until sunset.
4. Spend an afternoon shopping
If you like a bit of retail therapy while on holiday, Punta del Este won’t disappoint, whether you’re after clothes or a piece of art. The most popular shopping area is El Remanso or “Little Paris,” which runs along Avenida Gorlero and Calle 20. Punta Shopping is a mall which also has many options. To pick up souvenirs, head to Plaza Artigas, also called Plaza de los Artesanos, for handcrafted goods.
Watch an incredible sunset from Casapueblo, one of Punta’s most iconic buildings / Image Source
5. Walk to the Punta del Este Lighthouse
Take a walk to the tip of the peninsula to visit the Faro de Punta del Este (Punte del Este Lighthouse). Built in 1860, the location and height provide great views of Punta. While access inside the lighthouse is not always possible, the walk here is worth it both for the picturesque lighthouse and the views along the peninsula.
6. Cruise past Isla de Lobos
Take a break from the glitzy people and shoreline with a boat tour to Isla de Lobos. This island, located 8.5 km from Punta del Este, is home to a large colony of sea lions. Get a close up view of the colony on the island and sail past the Isla de Lobos Lighthouse.
Enjoy the famed nightlife in Punta in the summer / Image Source
7. Indulge in the nightlife
Punta del Este is not short on exciting nightlife. There is a little something for everyone here. One of the most popular spots is Moby Dick Pub, a bar at the port, with an inviting terrace to enjoy the warm Punta summer. If you want to spot celebrities head for Tequila, an exclusive nightclub which draws the rich, famous and beautiful. Whether you go to the city’s fanciest hotspots, chilled bars, or one of the casinos, the nightlife is sure to be pumping over the summer months.
8. Explore La Barra
A short drive north of Punta del Este, over the undulated suspension bridge Puente de La Barra, is the resort town of La Barra. Small but chic, La Barra has great beaches, and fun bars. It’s also the perfect spot for people watching as the fashionistas and models tend to congregate here.
Cross over the striking La Barra Bridge / Image Source
9. Learn about the sea at Museo del Mar
A good option on a rainy day or to entertain the kids away from the beach is Museo del Mar. This Museum of the Sea has a large collection, and is a fascinating place to learn more about the natural and social history of Uruguay’s coastline. Expect whale skeletons, vast shell collections, a pirate room, memorabilia and more.
10 Admire the art at Pablo Atchugarry Sculpture Park
Urguayan sculptor Pablo Atchugarry has a fantastic space between Punta del Este and José Ignacio. Fundacion Pablo Atchugarry includes the sculptor’s workshop, an auditorium, exhibition spaces, classrooms and the main highlight, a large open air sculpture park. An interesting place to visit for anyone interested in art.
Don’t miss the chance to eat at La Huella in José Ignacio / Image Source
11. Eat at La Huella in José Ignacio
Travel a bit further north to the town of José Ignacio. Another laid-back beach town on the outskirts of Punta del Este, José Ignacio is home to the very popular restaurant, La Huella. While the vibe is relaxed – you can wander in straight from the beach – the food is top-notch. During high season reservations are necessary as La Huella’s reputation draws in consistent crowds.
12. Relax in the countryside inland
Once you’ve soaked up enough sun, head inland to enjoy some of Uruguay’s pretty countryside. The town of Garzón and its surroundings offer wonderful landscapes to relax in. Head to Hotel and Restaurant Garzón, where legendary Argentine chef Francis Mallmann heads up the kitchen. Or, explore the olive farm Colinas de Garzón where you can taste premium extra virgin olive oils.
. . .
Punta has more to offer travellers than just its beaches (although these certainly are the biggest drawcard). With so many great things to do in Punta del Este, it’s time to plan your visit. Come in the summer if you want to mix with the glamorous crowds and enjoy the party atmosphere, or visit in the low season for a laid-back vacation on Uruguay’s coast.
To discover day tours in Punta del Este and across Uruguay, visit uruguay4u.com.
By: Nicole Eberhard