The Atlantic Coast of Uruguay consists of two departments, Maldonado and Rocha, both full of beaches.
- 1 Aguas Dulces – Similar and close to but less busy and more expensive than Barra de Valizas.
- 2 Barra de Valizas – The hippies have moved on to this nice and laid-back little village with live music every evening and a nightmarket. The are no apparent borders between the village, dune and beach, but unlike Cabo Polonio it comes with all the modern conveniences, a prettier beach and a large dune to its south, which begs to be explored.
- 3 Cabo Polonio – A much hyped beach community and major tourist hotspot. Simple beach houses and not much else, often not even running water or electricity. Popular for its interesting seal and sea lion colony at its lighthouse.
- 4 La Esmeralda – Similar to Punta del Diablo but more quiet and barely any budget accommodation.
- 5 La Paloma – A good alternative to Punta del Este if you just do not get what all the fuss is about there. It has active nightlife, many bars and a free popular club, and a large lagoon to its west.
- 6 La Pedrera – A very laid-back beach and surf experience, worth a visit with many inexpensive hostel accommodations and close to La Paloma.
- 7 Piriapolis – An alternative to Punta del Este mostly for couples and older people, but no party or hippie hotspot.
- 8 Punta del Este – A world famous beach party town for the posh and party people among us.
- 9 Punta del Diablo – A sleepy old fishing village, and beach and surf hotspot with inexpensive budget accommodation. Head here if you just want to lay back, see the famous Playa Los Pescadores, and seek the secret beach party at 3 o'clock in the morning.
- 10 Chuy – The border town with Brazil.
- 11 Maldonado – The capital of the eponymous department, a key bus hub with a couple of small historical attractions.
- 12 Rocha – Another departmental capital, useful for bus connections but low on attractions.
- 13 San Carlos – An unremarkable town, but with an old church that was built in colonial times.
Full of beaches, this region is extremely popular in the summer—many Montevideans have time-shares here.
Punta del Este Airport (PDP IATA) is in Maldonado and has a few commercial flights, mainly from Buenos Aires (AEP IATA). The other option is to fly into Montevideo (MVD IATA); intercity buses from Montevideo to this region generally stop at the airport to pick up passengers.
International buses to Punta del Este are available from Porto Alegre and Florianópolis, Brazil. You can also take a bus to the Brazilian border town of Chuí, walk across the border to Chuy, and take a bus from there.
Cruise ships and yachts can dock at Punta del Este.
Depending on where you're trying to go, you might have direct buses multiple times a day or you might find yourself having to transfer on a route that does not run frequently. Maldonado near Punta del Este and Rocha are the most important hubs.
- 1 Line of Trees (shortly after the turn of to Cabo Polonio). This amazing set of trees begs for a picture to be taken of them.
- 2 Duna Valizas. The largest dune in this region.
- 3 Monte de Ombúes (Park your car after Valizas river crossing, from where you need to take a boat.). A fascinating forest with extraordinary and 400-year-old trees. The boat trip there on the Valizas river and the Catillos lagoon is a picturesque and magnificent ride. In addition, you will get a very knowledgeable guide. U$450.
- Surfing. The two most popular surf destinations are La Pedrera and Punta del Diablo, including the nearby Santa Teresa. While in Punta del Diablo you can find Uruguay's longest right break, La Moza, the waves in La Pedrera are said to be bigger. Besides these two hotspots surfing schools offering lessons and renting boards can be found pretty much everywhere along the coast.
- Hike the dune. Between Barra de Valizas and Cabo Polonio. The whole way: 7 km/2 h across, 12 km/3 h along the beach. Or you just hike up and back. Walking along the beach, right after Barra de Valizas you will have to cross a river, which you can either do by boat (U$80 return), or you just walk through the waist-high water, best at the frontier between the river and the sea.
- Surf the dune, Barra de Valizas. The large dune is an excellent opportunity to surf down a steep sandy slope. Boards can be rented in Barra de Valizas.
- Live music, Barra de Valizas. Barra de Valizas has live music every evening in the summer from performing artists that travel the region.
Bars and restaurants are what this region lives off, so you will not have any problem finding one.
This is generally a safe region—Brazilians come here on vacation to relax on the beach without the risk of crime they'd have to worry about at home. But watch out for pickpockets and petty thieves at the beach resorts, especially Punta del Este.
- Central Interior – rolling hills and wide-open ranches await.
- Rio de la Plata – back to the other half of coastal Uruguay, including lovely historic districts and humbler beaches.
- Rio Grande do Sul – cross the border at Chuy to experience the striking diversity and warm friendliness of Brazilian culture