Punta Del Este
Uruguay’s Punta del Este Is The Latin Riviera and Cote d’Azur!
With a mild Mediterranean-like climate and cosmopolitan energy, Punta Del Este and its neighboring beachside towns along Uruguay’s Maldonado coast, have been a popular jet-set destination since the 1950s.
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 landscapes of forested hills.
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 Piriapolis and Montevideo to Punta del Este, La Barra and Jose Ignacio are enclaves of private homes, grand hotels and five-star resorts designed by noted Latin American architects such as Carlos Ott, Rafael Violy, Horacio Ravazzani, Mario Connio, Martin Gomez and Diego Montero. The region is abuzz in the design world as a new epicenter for architecture and design.
Punta is full gleaming condos, international hotels, high end shops and boutiques, trend-setting restaurants and an intense night life.
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.
Among Punta’s first celebrities to discover its allure was Mirtha Legrand, an Argentine movie and television star best known for a long-running daytime show. During its first heyday in the 1950s and 60s, you might have seen Ingmar Bergman, Yul Brynner and Brigitte Bardot.
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. Ricky Martin, Madonna, Enrique Iglesias, Antonio Banderas, Pamela Anderson, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Leonardo DiCaprio all have dipped their toes at Punta.
Punta is circled by the Rambla Artigas, the main coastal road that leads past its residential neighborhoods to the stretches of pristine and rugged beaches.
Avenida Gorlero is Punta’s main commercial drive running north and south through the heart of its peninsula where upscale dining, art galleries, boutique inns, and elegant world class shops line the streets.
Fine dining can be found at La Bourgogne, Lo de Charlie, Lo de Tere, El Palenque known for its classic Uruguayan food just to name a few.
Punta’s stretch of coastal beaches each have their 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 sit above the cal Playa Solanas at Punta Ballena. Just east from Playas Chiringo, from Chileno to Pinares, the sea become rougher with deep waters and strong winds, making swimming riskier here.
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 high rise modern condominium towers stretch along the beach.
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 March for Uruguay’s remaining summer season.
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 fresh caught lenguado (flounder), merluza (hake) and calamar (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. Please call or e-mail us when you want to buy a house in Punta Del Este.
Compiled and Edited by Pamela Bieri