A 16-room beach hotel and restaurant in Uruguay - part of this expat's perfect retirement

Jerry Bruner at the ViaPark Hotel and Restaurant
When the year 2000 rolled around, Jerry Bruner realized a lifelong retirement dream: Spending his winters on a sailboat in the Sea of Cortez.

But the reality was different than what he expected. “It drove me crazy,” says Jerry, “absolutely nothing interesting to fill the days.”

Jerry is making another go at retirement; this time in Uruguay.

Having learned that he needs a challenge and interactions to stay engaged with life, Jerry’s second take on retirement includes the operation of a 16-room beach hotel and restaurant. “This little business offers a low-key way of staying engaged with life. It's lots of fun,” says Jerry.

Jerry first came to Uruguay in 2009 for a property tour. He liked what he found and moved to Uruguay in 2010. After touring nearly all of Uruguay, he settled on an 11-hectare farm outside the coastal town of Atlántida.

“The area offers a country environment with good proximity to local services in Atlántida. Montevideo is an easy one-hour trip.

"Climate is another bonus. Having lived in the desert for 64 years, I really enjoy the 40-45 inches of annual rainfall and the lush greenery - a nice contrast,” says Jerry.

Making new friends in Uruguay 

In Uruguay, Jerry spends time with expats and locals. “My time was pretty evenly balanced between locals and ex-pats till the hotel came online – now it's about one third ex-pats and two thirds locals.

“The folks that live here are a real treat. Locals are extremely friendly and welcoming. If you appear to be struggling with something, say trying to navigate your way through the clinic front desk to make a doctor’s appointment, someone with a bit of English will appear and shepherd you through the thicket.

“The ex-pat community is an assemblage of fascinating personalities. It seems that more adventuresome folks tend to drift farther from their home country," says Jerry.

Challenges of expat life 

“Language has been far and away the biggest hurdle of my relocation,” says Jerry. Having a basic survival level of Spanish from other chapters of his life. He has taken a few classes and pays close attention to the Spanish he hears on the street.

 “Buying this little hotel where little English is spoken has been a real speed-up; a definite jump into the deep end of the pool,” says Jerry, “I have a neat little i-pod app dictionary ($1.95) that is my true amigo.”

Hotel ViaPark – a 16-room hotel on a great beach in Uruguay

Jerry’s 16 -room hotel and restaurant fronts the beach in Parque del Plata, a small beach town a few kilometers east of Atlántida.

“Most of the year it is a sleepy little community reminiscent of the central California coast during the mid 20th Century. That ends around Christmas when the southern cone goes to the beach for vacation. From then 'till about the end of February it’s continuous partying, eating, and drinking 24/7,” says Jerry.

The ViaPark has a restaurant adjoining the hotel. There is a food and drink stand across the street on the beach during the summer. The business also provides an amusement park featuring an inflatable water slide, an inflatable climbing rock, as well as volleyball and football courts.

The ViaPark Hotel and Restaurant viewed from the beach
Taking on the new business 

“The initial idea was to set the enterprise up in a manner that would let me do 'oversight', but not day-to-day operations. I had made personnel arrangements to that effect.

“Of course that cratered. A week before escrow closed, it became apparent that I was to be on deck as El Senor Jefe Del Dia, Todos Los Dias (The day boss, every day).

“At first it seemed like I was low on a steep learning curve..... It turned out I was standing at the base of a learning cliff! I needed ropes and climbing gear.

“However, I have learned more in the last 6 weeks than the last 6 years. I am loving it!” says Jerry.

At one point the mayor of Parque del Plata stopped by to meet Jerry, the new owner of the Hotel ViaPark, at about 1:00 pm one afternoon. Jerry told the mayor there was a nearby streetlight out, and that there was a low spot in the road out front that filled up with water.

“That same evening at around 8:00 there were workers with a boom truck fixing the streetlight. The next morning at around 9:00 am workers were repairing the road..... and the mayor was there working with them,” says Jerry

ViaPark Water slide on the beach in Parque del Plata

What's special about the Hotel ViaPark?
ViaPark inflatable climbing cone

“Fronting on one of the finest beaches in the world is a good place to start.

“We are creating a menu looking to please the Northern hemisphere palate; starting with breakfast items not common here like Biscuits 'n gravy, pancakes, country style sausage, hash brown, and country fried potatoes. The sort of things some grumble about missing from their former homes.

“The crew at the Hotel ViaPark is largely the group that was in place when I took possession of the business on December 30th, 2012. They are a delightful set of personalities that I am privileged to call my new friends.

“There are a total of 12 workers here in high season.  Each one has unique offerings ranging from 'this is my first job' to a former bank manager. We have excellent cooks, and the beach crew offers top-flight specialty drinks. Overall, our customer service is something to be proud of,” says Jerry.

Parque del Plata beach, across from Hotel ViaPark
The future of the Hotel ViaPark 

“In previous years the Hotel ViaPark opened in mid-December and closed in mid-March. Up until now, the people who have come to the hotel and eaten at the restaurant have been Uruguayans and Argentines,” says Jerry.

Jerry plans to expand the customer base and days of operation. He is in the process of developing an Internet presence. He wants to get the word about the ViaPark hotel and restaurant to North Americans who may be coming to the area to travel or to explore the Atlántida area as a future place to live.

The Atlántida area is attracting a growing number of travelers and potential expats from North America and Europe. For someone checking out the Atlántida area, the ViaPark could make a great place to stay and form connections.

Also, for those living in the Atlántida area, the ViaPark makes a good place for get-togethers and meet-ups.

"The Atlántida English speaker's group has started meeting here, at the restaurant, for lunch the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month at 1:00 pm. There are usually 20-30 folks are there.

“Also, on Thursday evenings the Canelones Card Club sponsors a Texas Hold’em game here from  7 pm to 10 pm. Anyone who wants to join us is welcome to fall by,” says Jerry.

Editor's Note: 
The Hotel ViaPark is located on the corner of the Rambla and Calle 11, Parque del Plata, Canelones Uruguay, CP16100;;

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