9.2.16

Travel to Punta del Este, Uruguay

Punta del Este Peninsula

Punta del Este, Uruguay is South America's premiere beach resort. It's often compared with France’s Saint-Tropez and The Hamptons of Long Island, New York.

Punta del Este has a year-round population of approximately 25,000 that jumps to hundreds of thousands during the summer (Mid-December through February).

Most of the summer vacationers are from neighboring Argentina and Brazil. There is also a regular contingent from Europe and North America who escape the Northern Hemisphere winter for some mid-summer fun in January.

Punta del Este History


The Punta del Este Peninsula was originally named Cabo de Santa Maria by Juan Diaz de Solis in 1516. (Solis is the European credited with discovering the region while searching for a water passage to India.)

Between 1906 and 1910 the peninsula was incorporated as a community called Ituzaingó Town. It was named in honor of the Battle of Ituzaingó (a local battle in the struggle toward independence). Ituzaingó Town was located on the east point of Maldonado Bay. It eventually became known by it's geographical name, Punta del Este (Point of the East).

The Punta del Este Peninsula is considered the official dividing point between the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) to the west.

The west side of the peninsula is called the Playa Mansa (calm or tame beach). The east side of the peninsula is the Playa Brava (brave or wild beach) where there is ocean surf and stronger currents.

Over the last fifty years, Punta del Este’s resort development has expanded off the peninsula, both west and east along the mainland coast. What is now referred to as “Punta” is a series of small towns and communities that extend 40 miles along the Uruguayan coastline.

Map illustration by my  father, Charles Hammond


Things to see and do


During the high season Punta has a 24-hour menu of things to do and see.

With summer come tournaments, which include polo, golf, tennis, and seven-a-side rugby. There are yacht races, music festivals, horse competitions, and fashion shows.

In the evening you'll find live music and frequent firework displays. On Sunday nights people (both locals and visitors) congregate near the Punta del Este Marina to watch the sunset.

And for those that don’t sleep, there are casinos, nightclubs, and beach parties that go until dawn.

Popular outdoor activities in Punta del Este include golf (there are three golf courses in Punta del Este), tennis, horseback riding, and beach volleyball.

Water sports include beach fishing, surfing, stand-up-paddle surfing, kite surfing, and jet skiing.

For endurance athletes Punta has lots of good places to run and bicycle.

Boat owners fish, sail, and water-ski. Some make day trips to anchor off of protected beaches, like the beach at Gorriti Island or the beach at Portezuelo, near Punta Ballena.  (If you don't have a boat, there are tour boats that will ferry you to Gorritti Island. Once there you can walk through a wooded trail to the beach.)

Many boaters visit Punta del Este during the peak summer months of January and February


Food


Local restaurants get fresh seafood from Punta del Este's artisan fishing fleet. A mild local fish called brotela is very popular, as is corvina, shrimp, mussels, and octopus.

You'll also find fresh produce stands during the spring, summer, and early fall.

Other popular foods include barbecued beef and Italian food. Uruguay's organic grass fed beef is among the most flavorful in the world. Dinner is often accompanied by local wines. A quality Uruguayan Tannat wine is the perfect match for Uruguayan beef.

Artisan fishing fleet in Punta del Este Marina


Dining 


Punta del Este has more than 150 restaurants and cafes to choose from. Following are a few standards to get you started:

Guappa (Punta del Este Peninsula)
Rambla General Artigas between 27th and 28th streets.
 (598) 42-440-951
You’ll find several famous restaurants on the west side of the Peninsula near the Punta del Este Marina. One is Guappa. It serves traditional Uruguayan dishes and seafood prepared with an international flair. Guappa has indoor seating as well as outdoor tables with a water view.

El Palenque (Across from the Punta Shopping mall) 
Avenue Roosevelt Parada 6 (El Palenque has an additional location in Montevideo)
 (598) 42-494-257
El Palenque is a long-time standard for its variety of premium meat cuts. It also serves seafood and Spanish dishes.

La Huella (On the beach in José Ignacío)
From Ruta 10, make a right turn on Eugenio Saiz Martinez, and then another right on Los Cisnes. Go until the road ends. Walk out onto the beach and look to the right.
 (598) 44-862-279
The combination of the rustic beach setting, boho-chic crowd, as well as great food and service make La Huella a memorable experience.

Travelers from Santa Barbara enjoying a Sunday at La Huella's in José Ignacio

Shopping 


Calle 20
The main street of the Punta del Este Peninsula is Gorlero Street, which is lined with a variety of shops that stay open past midnight during the summer.

One block west of Gorlero is Calle 20 (20th street). Twentieth Street and the connecting streets between Gorlero and 20th are known as the fashion district.

Also on the Peninsula is a large artisan fair set up in Plaza Artigas where there is local art, handmade crafts, and hand-knit wool goods.

Just a few miles inland from the Peninsula is a shopping mall called Punta Shopping. Punta Shopping has clothing stores, furniture stores, appliance stores, restaurants, and a movie multiplex.

If it rains while you are in Punta del Este, you should know that Punta Shopping also has a large indoor recreational facility with bowling, pool tables, and rides for children.

Nightlife 

During the summer, you'll find as much or more going on at night as you do in the day. At midnight the sidewalks and restaurants on the Peninsula and in La Barra are often full. It is not uncommon to see a line of people waiting to buy ice cream at 1:00 am on a weeknight.

Dance clubs in Punta start getting busy at 2 am and stay open until dawn. There are several nightclubs on the Peninsula, in La Barra, and along the beaches between the Peninsula and La Barra. During the shoulder season and off season, most of the nightclub activity is on the Peninsula.

It is not uncommon for a nightclub to be popular for a few years and then go out of fashion or not reopen after the off-season. The place that stays open year after year where English speakers often congregate is Moby Dick’s, a down-to-earth bar by the Punta del Este Marina.

For a steady night spot with more polish try OVO  in the Conrad Hotel.

Accommodations


Hotels  


Punta del Este has a broad selection of hotels in a variety of price ranges. Following are just a few of the many hotels with good reputations:

The Grand Hotel Punta del Este 
Rambla Lorenzo Batlle Pacheco, Punta del Este
(It's about 3 kilometers from the base of the Peninsula on the Brava side.)
 (598) 4249 1234
The Grand Hotel is a newer Punta del Este hotel that is quickly building prestige.

The Conrad Hotel and Casino
Rambla C. Williman Parada 4 Playa Mansa
(598) 4249-1111
The Conrad Hotel and Casino is located across the street from the beach near the base of the Punta del Este Peninsula. In addition to a casino it has several restaurants, a spa, nightclub, and an event theater. It is the largest hotel in Punta del Este and hosts conventions and trade shows.

Hotel Remanso
Calle 20 (20th Street is also called El Remanso)
(598) 4244-7412
The Hotel Remanso is centrally located on the Punta del Este Peninsula. It is an affordable and comfortable hotel a short walk from the beach, bus station, restaurants, casino, and shopping. A great place if you are traveling without a car.

Hotel, Art, and Spa Las Cumbres 
Ruta national N° 12 – km 3.5
Laguna del Sauce – Punta Ballena
(598) 42-578-689
La Cumbres is at the top of a hill in the Punta suburb of Punta Ballena. While the rooms are more cozy than plush, the service (especially the spa service) gets high marks. The setting is both unique and romantic with incredible views. (You will need a car to get to the beach, shops, and outside restaurants from this lovely spot.)

Conrad Hotel and Casino, Punta del Este

Vacation Rentals


For longer stays renting a home or apartment can often be less expensive than a hotel. Most vacation rentals come with a fully supplied kitchen, so you have the option of eating in when you like.

You'll find a broad selection of properties to rent. Some homes and apartments are bare bones. Others have porters, maids, and various other services. Most real estate offices in Punta del Este handle vacation rentals. You can also find properties to rent on sites like Vacation Rentals By OwnerAirbnbFlipKey.


Hostels

The number of hostels in Punta del Este is growing. Hostels provide an affordable way to spend time in Punta and meet other travelers.

Gazebo at Punta del Este Marina


Finding your way around Punta del Este 


Understanding street directions 


Following are explanations of common terms you'll hear when people give you street directions in Punta del Este.

Playa Mansa and Playa Brava
Beaches and coastal neighborhoods to the west of the Punta del Este Peninsula are on the Mansa side. Beaches and communities between the Punta del Este Peninsula and La Barra are on the Brava side.

The Rambla 
The Rambla is the coastal road that runs along the beach or the water’s edge. Different parts of the Rambla have different names.
• West of the Punta del Este Peninsula (Mansa side): Rambla Claudio Williman
• On the Punta del Este Peninsula: Rambla Gen. Jose Gervasio Artigas
• East of the Punta del Este Peninsula (Brava side): Rambla Lorenzo Battle Pacheco.

In conversation most people refer to the Rambla and describe where it is instead of using the proper name. For example the “Port Rambla” would be the Rambla near the port.

Paradas
Paradas refer to bus stops. You'll see parada numbers affixed to the light poles on the center divider of the rambla every few blocks on both the Mansa and Brava side of the Peninsula. The numbers start at 1 at the base of the Peninsula and get larger as you get further away.

There is an inland road called Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt that runs parallel to Rambla Claudio Williman (the Playa Mansa Rambla). Ave. Roosevelt also has parada numbers that correspond with the parada numbers on the Rambla.

No street numbers
In Punta del Este, buildings and residences do not have street numbers. Instead they have names. A home’s name will be on the house or on a sign in the yard.

Ready to put it all together? Here is the address of the Conrad Hotel:
Conrad Hotel, Rambla C. Williman, Parada 4, Playa Mansa

One more thing
On the Punta del Este Peninsula the streets have numerical and word names. As an example, calle 20 (20th Street) is also called El Remanso.

Transportation 


Walking 
If you are staying on the Punta del Este Peninsula there are great beaches, restaurants, shops, and night spots all within walking distance.

Bus Service
Punta del Este has regular bus service between the bus station at the base of the Punta del Este Peninsula and La Barra.

Taxi service
There are convenient taxi stands scattered around the Punta del Este Peninsula and at each casino. Uber has recently arrived to Uruguay, which will usually cost less than a taxi.

Car rentals
Punta del Este has many car rental businesses.
I have had a good experience with Avis and Punta Car.

Local maps and Travel Information 


As you approach Punta del Este from the west, you'll see an information center near Parada 25 on the water side of the road.

You'll also find an information center near the base of the Punta del Este Peninsula on the Mansa side. Coming from the west it's after you pass Parada 1, across the street from the beach. The nearest cross road is the Rambla and calle 31 (also named F.E. Inzaurraga).

A third information center is located in the middle of the Punta del Este Peninsula at Plaza Artigas on Gorlero Street (the main street down the middle of the Peninsula) at the corner of calle 23 (also named El Coral).

When to come 


December 26 – January: High season (New Year's Eve and the first week of January is the pinnacle of high season) Hotel and car rental prices are at their highest.
February: Also high season, however hotel rates are lower than in January
December 1st – 25th; and month of March: Spring and Fall shoulder seasons Prices are less than high season and the weather can still be nice.
April – November: Low season - Punta is very quiet in the off season. Prices are at their lowest.
After high season, you'll find most of the activity in Punta del Este on the Peninsula.

Punta del Este, Mansa Beach - on the west side of the Peninsula

Getting Here 


By Car from Montevideo or the Montevideo Airport 
It is 135 kilometers from Montevideo to Punta del Este on the Ruta Interbalnearía. It's a two-hour drive to Punta del Este from Montevideo’s city center. It is an hour-and-a- half drive to Punta del Este from the Montevideo Carrasco Airport, which is just east of Montevideo.

By Bus from Montevideo or the Montevideo Airport
You'll find regular bus service between the Montevideo main bus terminal, called Tres Cruces, and Punta del Este. Most buses between Tres Cruces and Punta del Este stop at the airport. In front of the airport's lower level you'll find a COT bus line ticket office where you can learn the bus schedule and buy a ticket. 

The direct buses from Montevideo to Punta del Este makes a stop at the Maldonado bus terminal before continuing to the Punta del Este bus terminal. It is another 15 minutes from Maldonado to Punta del Este.

By Plane
The Capitan Corbeta C.A. Curbelo International Airport (PDP) (commonly known as the "Laguna del Sauce Airport," or the “Punta del Este Airport”) is an international airport located about 24 kilometers west of Punta del Este.  The airport is used for commercial flights between Punta del Este and Buenos Aries, as well as a few other cities in the region during summer. 
The airport is also popular with vacationers who travel by private aircraft. PDP can handle almost any size plane.


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