I was fortunate enough to ring in 2019 with loved ones in Punta Del Este, a beach town on the South East end of Uruguay, 130 km from Montevideo. I traveled to Punta Del Este on a ferry + bus combo ticket that included a ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo then a bus transfer from Montevideo to Punta Del Este.
For the first half of my trip I stayed at a the most expensive hostel I’ve ever stayed at, located in the center of town, called Tas De Viaje. This hostel offers bike, longboard and surfboard rentals, a good breakfast buffet, and an on site bar. Pros: central location, 24 hour reception, air conditioning, good security, comfortable bunk beds, gender specific dorms, and reliable Wi-Fi throughout the facility. Cons: tends to be loud at night, you can not bring in your own alcohol, and it is expensive (my room averaged $60+ USD for a bunk in a mixed dorm when I stayed here).
Punta Del Este has two areas, one called Play Mansa (quiet beach), and the other called Playa Brava (rough beach). From certain areas of town you can see both beaches standing in one spot. As the names imply Playa Mansa has quiet, protected waters, and Playa Brava has rough seas and frequent surfers. The famous sculpture made in 1982, called “The Hand on the Sand,” can be found on Playa Brava.
About 40km from Punta Del Este you can find the village of Jose Ignacio. What originally started as a small fishing village is now a posh beach community that attracts busy crowds during season. There are not many accommodations for rent in Jose Ignacio, but there are plenty of restaurants, bars and boutiques to keep you busy exploring for a day.
Continuing past Jose Ignacio for another 15 minutes or so you can find Garzon, a town that locals claim is going to be “the next Jose Ignacio.” After a suggestion from another traveler, we made the drive here to have lunch inside a growing gated community. Here I enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve had in South America and got to sneak in a selfie with a Lama which one of the local residents has as a pet.
After a week in the center of Punta Del Este, in early January I moved on to Punta Ballena, which is located about 15 km from the heart of Punta Del Este. I had been hostel-hopping for almost a month, so I was beyond excited to get to spend a week relaxing at Casa Pueblo. Known in the area for having the most beautiful seaside and sunset views, Casa Pueblo was constructed by a Uruguayan artist named Carlos Páez Vilaró and the resort houses a museum, art gallery, hotel rooms and a beach front restaurant.
Since I did not have a car while I was staying at Casa Pueblo I felt a little isolated, as it is not easily accessed from downtown without a car, and taking frequent Uber rides was outside of my budget. The hotel itself was beautiful and even if you aren’t planning to stay there I would highly recommend making the trip to explore the property and catch a sunset there.
Uruguay was filled with many yummy local craft beers and food. One of my favorite treats was the alfajor de maicena, which consists off two corn starch cookies hugging a filling of dulce de leche, and often lightly coated with coconut on the side.
After my time in Punta Del Este and the surrounding areas, I took off to explore Chile for two weeks. It was a relatively easy transition to get to Chile, by flying from Montevideo to Santiago, onto the next adventure!