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Punta del Este:

four days to enjoy summer in this resort city

Photos: Getty Images/Karol Kozlowski, Getty Images, Publicity, Pedro Serra/Turismo Uruguai, Banco De Imágenes De La Fundación Ralli Uruguay

Four days to experience the excitement and beauty of Punta del Este, one of the most popular seaside resorts of the season

 

In the hottest months of the year, Punta del Este, Uruguay, undergoes a transformation. It goes from a peaceful seaside resort to a favorite destination among anonymous travelers as well as celebrities from all over the world. Parties at sunset, restaurants with a rustic-chic atmosphere and even luxurious casinos comprise the itinerary during peak tourist season. And then there are beaches, of course. Calm waters and white sands, extreme waves for surfers, stretches where beach clubs liven up the days: there’s a little of everything in this small city in the state of Maldonado, 81 miles [130 km] from Montevideo. Want to know how to fill up your schedule in Punta during the summer? Check out how you can experience four intense days there.

Day 01 - Shopping, an outing and gambling

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10 a.m. - View of the sea 

Part of life in Punta del Este takes place between the port and Playa Mansa on the peninsula. That’s where crowds gather in the morning. The stretch of sand in this section is great for walks and the water is peaceful, perfect if you have kids or are looking for a relaxing morning. At the port, between December and March, you can spot sea lions and get some cute pictures. But even if the creatures don’t show up, the excursion won’t be in vain: the view is extremely beautiful, the surroundings are charming, and you can even see the yachts that helped earn Punta a reputation as a sophisticated resort city.

 

1 p.m. - Luxury and outlets

Avenida Gorlero is the busiest thoroughfare on the peninsula. You can have lunch there and afterwards head for Calle 20, parallel to Gorlero and known for having name-brand shops like Versace and Carolina Herrera. It’s also home to two popular outlets, Premium, where you can find Gap, Calvin Klein and other brands, and Valentino (between Calle 20 and Calle 30), which has pieces from past collections.

 

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3 p.m. - Sweet sweets

How about a churro to sweeten up your afternoon? The central region of Punta is where you’ll find Churros Manolo, an irresistible local cliché. The classics, made with dulce de leche filling, are a big hit.

Calle 29, between Avenida Gorlero and Calle 24

 

5 p.m. - Walk around the center

Start your outing at Plaza de los Ingleses, which marks the division between the Río de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean, the southernmost spot in Uruguay. From there, you can see the Isla de Lobos, famous for its large population of South American sea lions, and, among the rocks, the sculpture El Canto de las Sirenas, popular among selfie aficionados. Nearby, you’ll find the Punta Lighthouse, erected in 1860 with volcanic earth brought over from Rome, and the Iglesia de la Candelaria. 

 

8 p.m. - Try your luck

Gambling in the casinos is one of Punta’s attractions. Popular year round, the one inside the Conrad Hotel promises a Las Vegas-style experience. It has a total area of 36,600 ft2 [3,400 m2] with 75 tables. More experienced gamblers get access to a 4,840-ft2 [450 m2] VIP area. Curious visitors can take some time to have a drink or watch a show.

 

Day 02 - Low profile by the sea

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10 a.m. - An essential shot

You simply cannot leave Punta before you get a picture of the Al Ahogado sculpture (better known as La Mano or Los Dedos). The hand that looks like it’s emerging from the sand was created by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal in the summer of 1981 and is located at the first stop on Playa Brava. Around there, you can go for a bike ride, and, further on, check out the neighborhood of Beverly Hills, lined with mansions. Meanwhile, on the way to La Barra, our next stop, take some time to see the Leonel Viera Bridge, AKA the “Wavy Bridge.”

 

1 p.m. - Fancy and unassuming

One of the most sophisticated addresses in town is the hotel Fasano Punta del Este in La Barra. Even if you aren’t staying there, you can have lunch at its restaurant Las Piedras, which specializes in Italian food, or reserve a legitimate Uruguayan v served outdoors. The grounds also contain a lovely golf course that’s open to non-guests.

 

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4 p.m. - Wine and olive oil

The village of Garzón lends its name to its main attractions: Colinas de Garzón and Bodega Garzón, which offer visitors country experiences. At the former, it’s possible to learn everything about olive oil production. At the latter, the wine is the star. You can bask in the green scenery or plan an activity – always with reservations, they offer everything from picnics under the olive trees to hot air balloon rides in the heavenly blue sky.

 

2 a.m. - Late night

Nights out in Punta start late. So don’t expect to find excitement before 2 a.m. at any nightclub in the city, even during the summer. In the port region, one of the options is the Moby Dick Pub, which runs as a bar until 2 a.m. and then takes on a nightclub atmosphere.

 

Day 03 - On the outskirts

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10 a.m. - An essential view

Located 11 miles [18 km] from La Barra, at the border between Rocha and Maldonado, José Ignacio is an old fishing village that still retains some of the tranquility of the past. Enjoy the beaches as well as the restaurants. The popular La Huella has the feel of a rustic-chic beach house. Another equally charming option is La Susana.

 

2 p.m. - Break for sweets

On the way back to Punta, stop in Manantiales, where you’ll find the traditional Argentine ice cream shop Volta. The small pots filled with the flavor Dulce de Leche Tentación are guaranteed to please.

 

4 p.m. - A cultural afternoon

The elegant Beverly Hills neighborhood is home to the Museo Ralli, surrounded by greenery and containing a collection of sculptures by Salvador Dalí. Another highlight is the Sculpture Patio. Wrap up the day by enjoying the restaurants and beach clubs at Playa Bikini.

 

8 p.m. - After sunset

The Playa Montoya region hosts some of the famous summertime after-sunset parties. As soon as the sun goes down, the excitement starts, especially for those who dig electronic music. The parties keep on until 2 a.m., when the nightclubs start to fill up.

 

Day 04 - Grand finale

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4 p.m. - Beaches and more beaches

Head over to Piriápolis, 20 minutes from Punta Ballena. This tourist hub features a lovely promenade as an attraction, as well as a pleasant stretch of sand. The Castillo de Piria, the old residence of Francisco Piria, the seaside city’s founder, which today runs as a museum, is another popular spot.

 

5 p.m. - Artisanal treats

The cheese store Nonno Antonio in Punta Ballena is an invitation to shop. In addition to the famed cheese varieties, you can also try (and take home) some local breads and wines. Open all year.

 

7 p.m. - Night falls with ceremony

A structure built without rules in Punta Ballena has become a celebrated landmark. The famed Casapueblo has an area of over 43,000 ft2 [4,000 m2] and contains a museum, gift shop, hotel and café. It was once home to artist Carlos Páez Vilaró (1923-2014), the man responsible for its construction. The museum’s terraces host the sunset ceremony (as late as 9 p.m. in the summer), which includes an audio recording of Vilaró reciting a poem. A poetic experience to wrap up the day and your trip. 

 

Tips from people who know this Uruguayan resort city like no one else:

 

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Angie Landaburu

An Argentine digital influencer who has a house there

 

What’s your favorite place?

Isla Gorriti (located on the Río de la Plata, in front of the port region), where I often spend entire days on a boat and swimming with friends.

 

What’s the best activity in the summer?

Going sailing and having an asado with friends and family.

 

What place would you recommend to first-time visitors to the region?

Casapueblo in Punta Ballena at nightfall.

 

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Lucas Madrid

A Uruguayan surfer who’s among the best in the country

 

What’s your favorite place?

At night, I like to go to La Barra or Manantiales with friends and have a beer at one of the bars. One of my favorite places is Pico Alto, which serves the most delicious pizza in Punta.

 

What’s the best activity in the summer?

Preparing some mate tea and going to look for waves along the shore with my dad and brother.

 

What place would you recommend to first-time visitors to the region?

Los Dedos. You can’t come to Punta and not get a picture of this sculpture.

Avenida Eduardo Victor Haedo, between Los Ensueños and Los Silencios

 

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Rogério Fasano

A Brazilian businessman who co-owns Fasano Las Piedras

 

What’s your favorite place?

My little cabana in the Las Piedras complex in the middle of a forest of conifers.

 

What’s the best activity in the summer?

Spending the day in Los Caracoles, a restaurant that belongs to the owners of La Huella.

 

What place would you recommend to first-time visitors to the region?

Pueblo Garzón and the Garzón bodegas, owned by mega-mogul Bulgheroni, and the restaurant owned by Francis Mallman, one of my idols.

LOS CARACOLES: 28, Los Meros

 

LATAM has direct flights to Punta del Este from São Paulo and Santiago.