Uruguay’s Punta del Este is The Latin Riviera and Cote d’Azur!
Punta del Este and the small beach towns along the coast have been visited by the jet-set since the 1950s. The mild Mediterranean-like climate makes it a popular destination and gives Punta del Este a cosmopolitan energy along Uruguay’s Maldonado coast. International personalities from all over the world choose it as their vacation resort or to invest like Donald Trump or the Cipriani Family. World-known Musicians and DJ’s like Ricky Martin or David Guetta perform during the high summer season and attract large crowds.
Today, celebrities run the gamut from supermodel Naomi Campbell, musician Fito Pez, the hotelier Alan Faena, and Latin pop star Shakira, who owns a ranch nearby. Madonna, Enrique Iglesias, Antonio Banderas, Pamela Anderson, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Leonardo DiCaprio among others all have dipped their toes at Punta del Este.
The whole area, known as Punta, is Latin America’s version of Saint Tropez, Cote Azur or The Hamptons, touted for its trendy restaurants, pulsating nightlife, pristine beaches, gaucho country ranches, and rugged interior landscape of forested hills. What we know as Punta del Este is a large area of the Maldonado coast that stretches from Sauce de Portezuelo to José Ignacio, with its heart on the Peninsula that separates the Rio de la Plata from the Atlantic Ocean. An enormous diversity of incredible beaches, unique sunsets, natural spaces, and city to go shopping, to eat, do sightseeing or to dance offers tourists and residents a diverse lifestyle. Punta del Este is located 134 kilometers from Montevideo the capital city of Uruguay and can be reached by the “Interbalnearia” Route along the coast coming from Montevideo and International Airport Carrasco.
Due to its great tourist importance, Punta del Este has excellent connectivity with Montevideo and other cities in the region. The most common way to get to Punta del Este from Montevideo and Colonia is by car or by bus. It can also be reached by air through the Punta del Este International Airport by Laguna del Sauce, which is about 15 minutes outside of Punta.
Punta del Este is a complete city offering all amenities and services necessary to make any stay a pleasant experience. It is the only destination in Uruguay besides Montevideo with its own International airport, which makes it connected to the world equally than the capital itself. During the summer season, passengers arrive from hundreds of cruise ships and private yachts to visit this vacation resort.
The Peninsula is the heart of Punta del Este and provides the best services with is central road Gorlero Avenue and parallel streets. Another primary area is Avenida Roosevelt, Parada 7, where the Punta Shopping Center is located.
The city has around 8,000 permanent inhabitants, which ensures an active dynamic 365 days. Out of season from May till November, the intensity in Punta del Este decreases, but that does not turn off its brightness. The natural charms give their magic all year round; the night is still active in the classic Moby Dick Bar at the harbor which does not charge an entry fee; the sunsets on the Mansa Beach are as unforgettable all year round, and in the peninsula some streets still offer the feeling that you are on an island when you stop at its crossroads to see the sea through the four cardinal points. There is no excuse for not visiting Punta del Este, and it is even an attractive destination for a permanent resident. You just have to choose a long weekend and come to discover and remember why it is the most famous destination on the continent.
The modern urban landscape of Punta del Este, full of avant-garde designs, can make us forget that it is a city with a lot of history, which still keeps several ancient monuments to be visited in the old quarter of the Peninsula. The town was founded in 1829 by Don Francisco de Aguilar, who called it Villa Ituzaingó and he was the great founder of the area. In 1907, the town was renamed to Punta del Este, when the first vacationers began to arrive aboard the Golondrina steamer. In the following years, roads were built, and hotels were added. The area was connected using the railway and elementary services were developed. Already in the ’80s, the boom of Punta was consolidated as the great international destination that it is today.
It celebrated its centennial in 2007, but just a half-century ago, Punta was a small fishing village nearly submerged in sand dunes. It was first discovered by wealthy Europeans seeking to escape winter in Europe, and to some extent by North Americans. Following suit, South Americans began flocking to its beaches during high season in January.
Mirtha Legrand from Argentina was one of the first celebrities to discover Punta del Este. Her movie and television shows were one of the best known at that time. During its early heyday in the 1950s and 60s, you might have seen Ingmar Bergman, Yul Brynner, and Brigitte Bardot.
Over the past decade, well-heeled Brazilian, Argentinean, American and Europeans are buying up homes in Punta Del Este, fueling a real estate boom and generating a new, upscale lifestyle.
Stretching along Uruguay’s Atlantic coast from Montevideo and Piriapolis to Punta del Este, La Barra, Manantiales and Jose Ignacio are enclaves of private homes and apartment buildings, Grand Hotels and Five-Star Resorts designed by noted Latin American Architects such as Carlos Ott, Rafael Vinoly, Horacio Ravazzani, Mario Connio, and Martin Gomez. The region is abuzz in the design world as a new epicenter for architecture and design.
Punta’s short social season peaks from Christmas through January, frenzied with glamorous parties, celebrity sightings, as well as leisurely days on the beach. Calm returns in February and March for Uruguay’s remaining summer season.
The privileged geographical location of Punta del Este generates a coastal strip that extends for more than 60 kilometers of very different stretches of pristine and rugged beaches, from Portezuelo to José Ignacio. In this huge stretch of coastline, there are beaches for all profiles, from the most familiar to the most surfing ones.
Beaches away from the crowds or fashion “Paradores” with exclusive parties at sunset: in Punta del Este you can choose what suits you best.
Punta’s stretch of coastal beaches each has its own personality and allure. On the Rio de la Plata side, find Playa Chihuahua, Uruguay’s only sanctioned nude beach. The famous Casapueblo museum and hotel sits above the Playa Solanas at Punta Ballena. Just going east from the Peninsula, the sea becomes rougher with deep waters and stronger winds, making swimming riskier in some areas but a beautiful location to watch the waves.
At Punta’s longest beach, Playa Mansa, shallow water, soft sand and proximity to downtown make it the most family-oriented beach. Playa Brava continues on the Atlantic side toward La Barra where modern condominium towers stretch along the beach.
Avenida Gorlero is Punta’s main commercial drive running north and south through the heart of its peninsula, and with its parallel roads, you find upscale dining, art galleries, boutique inns, and elegant, world-class shops lining the streets.
Punta Shopping on Roosevelt Avenue offers many different stores from clothing, shoes, jewelry, furniture and appliances, pet supplies, etc. and one of the best Grocery stores Tienda Inglesa.
Punta is full of gleaming condos, international hotels, high-end shops and boutiques, trend-setting restaurants, and intense nightlife.
Fine dining can be found at La Bourgogne, L’Incanto, Mi Piace, Lo de Tere, El Palenque is known for its classic Uruguayan food, just to name a few.
A staple of Uruguayan cuisine is beef, raised along the rugged interior estancias where gauchos — counterparts to American cowboys — round them up. So, dining in an Uruguayan steak house with beef grilled parrillada or gaucho style is a must.
Just as picturesque as the wild gauchos are the Uruguayan fishermen who troll the coast daily bringing freshly caught lenguado (flounder), merluza (hake), brotola a local fish and calamari (squid) to the fishing villages. Many of the renowned and top chefs source their seafood at local fish markets. A taste of this bounty is a treat at many seafood restaurants from Montevideo to Jose Ignacio.
Entrepreneurs are filling culinary niche demands with new wineries, olive oil estates, and dairy farms crafting artisanal cheeses and other delicacies.
Throughout Punta Del Este, lunch is generally served between noon and 3 p.m. The better restaurants begin to fill around 12:30 and are packed by 1:30 p.m. Many restaurants do not open for dinner until 8 p.m. and are rarely crowded before 10 p.m. Trendy sportswear is acceptable at even the fanciest establishments.
As one of the most important holiday destinations in the world, Punta del Este has more than a hundred restaurants to choose from, all of a very good standard and with options for a different taste. The largest number of restaurants are in the center of the Peninsula, but there are also excellent places to eat in Punta Ballena, La Barra, Manantiales and José Ignacio. Even in the most remote areas, there are interesting and original places to find. Even though many of the restaurants close when the summer ends, Punta del Este does not rest at any time of the year, and there are some restaurants that work well and are open during the low season.
Check out our recommended Restaurant Page.
Nightlife in Punta Del Este
One of the great attractions in Punta del Este is its hectic nightlife during the summer: large nightclubs with international DJ’s; multitudinous events that celebrities call; parades of important designers with the most top models of the moment; large casinos; musical shows with renowned artists. The exclusive private parties, themed, with a dress code made by celebrities or international brands such as Stella Artois, Movistar (Summer Festivals) or Lacoste (this brand opened its 2015 season with a party for 850 people, fireworks and dancing on the beach). But it is not necessary to be famous to live the vibrant Punta Est night. In the Peninsula, near the port area, you can spend a night of luxury in the casino, and the Ovo nightclub at the Hotel Enjoy; or strolling down Gorlero Avenue, to end up in the port itself, have a drink with friends in clubs such as Moby Dick or Soho. On the Rambla, La Brava is the nightclub Ocean Club while La Barra and Manantiales have some bars in its centers, as well as many parties held in private homes or “Estancias.”
Music: Punta del Este receives great artists who keep the musical billboard in a high bar. Just to mention some personalities that were presented in the past: Ivete Sangalo, Ricky Martin, and the Pet Shop Boys, convened by the Conrad Hotel now called Enjoy. The fans of electronic music wait all year for the Summer Festival with David Guetta, leading the list of Dj’s. Apart from these newer music trends, the Jazz Festival is held annually, which brings together the best musicians of the genre of the world over several days.
Golf in Punta Del Este
Golf lovers will find in Punta del Este the best place in the region to practice their sport. The Cantegril Country Club golf course is one of the most important in South America with 18 holes. Club del Lago is the beautiful course that borders the Laguna del Sauce. Another option is the newest one, La Barra Golf Club, with 18 holes, where you can watch many tournaments take place. It is located in a more rural environment, surrounded by farms and just a few kilometers away from the coast. In Garzon, they just opened the first private PGA golf course in the world outside the United States.
Art and Museums
The Ralli Museum located in the heart of Punta del Este exists since 1988 and is surrounded by a large and beautiful park in the Beverly Hills area. The Ralli Museum features one of the most relevant collections of Latin American works in the world.
Some art galleries can be found on the Peninsula and Harbor area featuring different artists, although in La Barra town many more art galleries can be found along the main road Ruta 10.
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