Referred to as The Hamptons of South America, the elite of Argentina and Brazil flock to Punta del Este during the summer months from December to February. The peninsula is packed with long beaches, excellent restaurants, high-end shopping, and luxury apartments and hotels. However, this high-roller reputation didn’t shy us away from exploring one of the most popular beaches south of the equator.
We visited Punta del Este for four days in February and were happily surprised that we could enjoy our time here without breaking the bank. This guide will help you plan your next beach vacation to Punta del Este!
How to Get There
Punta del Este is only a 2 hour drive from Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo. Buses leave the city every hour for Punta del Este and cost about $10.00 USD per person.
We traveled from Argentina to Uruguay by ferry via the Seacat Colonia. The ferry is an hour and a half ride across Río de la Plata. Once you arrive in Colonia del Sacramento, buses take passengers to the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo. From Montevideo, additional buses bring sun seekers to Punta del Este.
Instead of heading straight to Punta del Este, we explored Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo along the way.
The route to Punta del Este is full of cows grazing lush, green pastures. The sleepy, farming towns are a stark contrast to the buzzing, vibrant streets of Punta del Este. The landscapes looked similar to Ireland’s emerald green countryside!
Where to Rest Your Head
During our vacation, we stayed at the Atlantico Boutique Hotel. It is located in the heart of the peninsula and is a short walk to the great restaurant in Puerto (the port). Their terrace includes a pool with plenty of comfortable chairs and cabanas as well as a tiki bar. We thoroughly enjoyed a cabana and strawberry daiquiris on our first day.
The staff members were all very friendly and accommodating. The cost of our room was $110.00 USD per night. This may seem expensive, but in Punta del Este it is a bargain, especially for the quality of the hotel, the services, and an included buffet breakfast.
We decided to splurge a little on the accommodation because as a traveling couple we prefer the privacy of a hotel room and wanted to be within walking distance of all the action in Puerto.
What to Do
Soft sand, warm water, and big waves drive thousands of people to the coast every summer. By day, the beaches of Punta are the places to see and be seen.
Playa Brava is on the Atlantic Ocean and is packed with surfers & beach bums. It is also home to the famous El Mano en Arena sculpture. There are plenty of vendors who rent comfortable beach chairs. We paid about $30.00 USD to use ours for the whole day.
Playa Mansa is the other beach that borders the peninsula and it is located on Río de la Plata. The water here is calmer and the beach is frequented by families.
Walk or Bike ‘La Rambla’
‘La Rambla’ is the pedestrian pathway that wraps around the entire peninsula in Punta. Walkers, joggers, and bikers hit the pavement to exercise and admire sweeping views of the water. We rented bikes from our hotel and cruised along La Rambla to familiarize ourselves with the area.
On our second day in Punta, we woke up to a terrible rainstorm. We decided to book a tour for the late afternoon in fear that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beaches. The tour around Punta del Este and its surrounding posh neighborhoods concluded at Casa Pueblo.
We went to Casa Pueblo at sunset and it was incredible. The building is a museum and hotel with an all white exterior resembling the houses of Santorini. It was created by Uruguyan artist, Carlos Paez Vilaró.
At sunset, the sun’s golden and rosy hues shrouds Casa Pueblo and transforms it into a canvas for the universe’s natural beauty. It was incredibly romantic and one of the best sunsets we’ve seen.
Casa Pueblo is located on Punta Ballena, which is located about 20-30 minutes from Punta del Este. We recommend renting a car or taking a tour to visit it!
Where to Eat
By night, the beach bums shower off the sand and fill up the tables at Punta’s restaurants. Don’t rush to dinner though – Punta’s visitors don’t go out to eat until after 9 PM.
Il Baretto – This delicious Italian restaurant was a block from our hotel and we went twice during our trip! The first night, we ordered pizza, spaghetti with shrimp, and a bottle of wine and it only cost us $40.00 USD (including tip)! Check out their menu here.
Mariskonea – On our last night in Punta del Este, we indulged at this seafood restaurant. We actually wanted to go to Olivia Resto, but they had closed their kitchen. Luckily, we had a great meal here! We ordered the Brótola a la Americana and Brótola a la Maitre d’Hotel. See the rest of their dishes on the website.
Moby Dick’s – One of the most popular bars in Punta del Este. This is the jumping off point for the night owls in Punta. Their doors are open until 6AM in high season as well.
Regardless of the beach town’s luxurious reputation, the atmosphere in Punta is laid-back and boho-chic. We didn’t feel hard pressed to dress to the nines while we were here. Punta del Este stays true to beach town fashion regardless of the size of the closets & bank accounts of its visitors.
We were happily surprised that we stayed within our budget while exploring the peninsula. Then again, almost everywhere in South America has been a bargain compared to Boston. We recommend visiting Punta del Este at the tail end of high season (mid or end of February) to relish in discounted hotel rates and more beach space.
Punta del Este is the perfect location for couples looking to relax and recharge in an international location. With some planning and very few sacrifices, you and your better half will be able to enjoy the beaches, cuisine, and culture of Uruguay’s most expensive cities for a fraction of the cost.
Would you like to go to Punta del Este? Where are your favorite beaches around the world?