Punta del Este is a beach resort town in Uruguay complete with casinos, beaches, yachts and lots of tourists from all over the world. Many of these tourists come from the other side of the Rio de la Plata from Argentina to get some nice fun in the sun on a beach away from the brown waters of the Rio de la Plata. Punta del Este is located in Maldonado Department, adjacent to the departmental capital of Maldonado, on the Atlantic Coast in the south of the country. The city had a population of 9,300 people in 2011.
Popular tourist spots include La Barra, Punta Ballena, Casa Pueblo, Pan de Azúcar or the island where you can swim with sea lions.
The unspoilt Uruguayan peninsula of Punta del Este is all heavenly beaches, exotic sophistication, beautiful people and an ardent night scene. Punta del Este is sometimes called the Monaco of South America. There are many travel sights, including the amazing restaurants. Urbanization and the construction of high-rise buildings are obscuring the sun, however. Tourist season varies wildly from totally deserted in the winter to very, very crowded in the summer, unusual for a city this size.
- 1 Capitán de Corbeta Carlos A. Curbelo International Airport (Laguna del Sauce Airport - PDP IATA) (located 20 km west of the peninsula). Out of season, there is one daily flight from Buenos Aires, and two weekly flights from Brazil mainly catering to casino visitors. In high season, however, there are several flights from Buenos Aires and also nonstop flights from other Argentinian cities (Rosario, Córdoba), Chile (Santiago), Paraguay (Asunción) and Brazil (Porto Alegre, São Paulo, Campinas and Rio de Janeiro). As of January 2018, the airlines operating in the airport are Aerolineas Argentinas and Latam Airlines (year round). The following airlines also have scheduled flights in summer: Amaszonas, Andes, Sky Airline and Azul Linhas Aereas.
Another option is flying to Montevideo airport (MVD IATA) where the fares are usually lower and there are far more connections available. From MVD Airport, Punta del Este is only an hour and a half away by bus.
Regular buses come back and forth from Montevideo, making Punta del Este a convenient day trip (two hours by bus, see timetables). If you accidentally get off the bus at Maldonado Terminal which is a few kilometers north of Punta del Este you can easily catch a local bus (marked "Punta del Este" in top front) at the stop just behind the bus terminal for about U$30 (pesos) which you pay to the driver.
Maldonado and even San Carlos (further north near the highway) are frequented more often by buses from minor and close-by destinations. For instance, there are no direct buses from La Paloma, Punta del Diablo or such into Punta del Este. There is a direct bus going along the highway, via Rocha, etc.
By cruise ship
Punta del Este is served by some cruise lines in the summer. Mostly on itineraries departing from Buenos Aires or Santos.
Punta del Este is a two-hour drive from Montevideo and a slightly longer drive from the Brazilian border. Coming from Argentina, if arriving by ferry in Colonia, it's a 4 hour drive; otherwise, if driving all the way from Buenos Aires, plan for at least an eight-hour drive plus some delays (huge in the summer) at the border because of customs controls.
The bulk of Punta del Este is on a peninsula jutting into the ocean. The perimeter of this peninsula can easily be traversed by foot.
To get to La Barra o José Ignacio you had better have a means of transport like a car (renting a car is always going to be the best way to visit all the places). Buses are not very frequent and public transport like taxis usually has to be called over the phone (very expensive compared to standards of the rest of Uruguay). Hitchhiking is common for young people since night clubs are far from each other and people may be staying in places far from the clubs. If you have a car, be kind; pick up someone (especially in the morning, after the clubs have closed). Remember that Punta del Este is very safe, but normal precautions should always be taken.
You can rent a moped (scooter) for US$10/hour or US$45/day at several places.
The beautiful sunsets in the port of Punta del Este, La Barra or Jose Ignacio are other spots not too far away (by car), from Punta del Este itself. Go to the beaches, being a peninsula you have two coastlines, one of them is pretty quiet and calm (called "mansa"), and the other one is windy, with some surf spots (called "brava"). Famous beaches includes: "La playa de los Dedos" (the finger beach"), which is near the main street in Punta del Este, close to a surf spot, and it has a giant hand emerging from the sand. In La Barra the Bikini Beach is famous because of the models and famous people that go there. The endless beaches, beautiful seaside mansions, tree-lined streets, chic boutiques, stylish people.
- 1 Casa Pueblo (The White House) (From Punta del Este bus terminal, ask for a bus to Punta Ballena. Tell the driver that you are getting out at this destination. Potentially you may have to change buses at the Maldonado Terminal. Transfer bus ticket: U$51.). Casa-Pueblo is a beautiful resort-museum near Punta del Este. It was created by Uruguayan artist Paez-Vilaró in a kind of mediterranean surrealistic architecture, making the whole place to look like a giant sculpture. He was the father of one of the survivors of the infamous plane crash on the Andes. Some visitors complain about the steep entrance fees, even for just visiting the restaurant. US$10.
- 2 Museo del Mar, Romildo Risso, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Marine museum, Sea Museum : A collection of embalmed southern hemisphere seabirds, found dead on the shore after storms. Petrels, albatrosses, gulls, terns, cormorants, oystercatchers, shearwaters, black skimmers, snowy sheathbills, skuas, sandpipers.
- Museo Ralli. A large collection of contemporary Latin American art
- Maam. A museum based on the private art and archaeology collection of the Uruguayan artist Vilaro (architect of Casapueblo).
- Port - with the fish market and a lighthouse. You can also see sea lions swimming around and begging for food.
- 3 Isla de Lobos. 8AM, 10:15AM, noon (at least two), 3PM. The largest sea lion colony in the southern hemisphere. Tours can be booked and leave at the 2 port. US$30-60 depending on the time of day.
- Arboretum Lussich - a botanic garden displaying mainly exotic species. It is one of the most important botanic gardens worldwide.
- Museo del Indio y Megafauna
- Reserva de Fauna Autoctona - Pan de Azucar - a zoo of indigenous animals on Uruguay's highest hill.
- Castillo Pittamiglio
- Cuartel de Dragones - Historical site
- Whale watching, Playa Brava.
- Punta del Este is a very important tourist port. The upper crust has its yachts there and if you want to rent a boat, this is the place to ask.
- Tanning is a popular activity on Punta del Este's famous beaches. You can choose from beaches on the calm side of the peninsula where you can rent jet skis or banana boat trips, or on the other, windier side. Punta del Este has some good surfing spots, not as good as La Paloma (150km up to the north of Punta del Este), but it gets pretty decent in good days.
- You can also rent sea bikes, windsurf and kite-surfing equipment, and surf boards.
- Punta del Este has an island nearby called Isla Gorriti. It is protected because of its nature so there are no great buildings or anything like that. You can take a 20-minute ferry at the port that will drop you off at the island where you can enjoy the fun atmosphere, beach, and good food at the restaurant. It is also possible to take private yachts, speedboats, or sailboats to the island and anchor by the shore. Renting a boat is nice in good weather.
- Come to the port in the morning (9-10AM) when the fishermen prepare their caught fish and throw the leftovers into the water for the waiting sea lions and seals.
- Liberty Ranch Kids Camp, ☏ . A fun and educational summer camp for children staying in Punta del Este. Kids have the option of horseback riding, organized sports, educational classes, kayaking, arts and crafts, or several other options. Instruction in English and Spanish.
- Candelaria Church. Candelaria Church, or Saint Mary of Candelaria Parish Church, is the most important catholic temple in Punta del Este. The building is located in the Lighthouse square, in which facade impacts the sky blue color and in its interior it is an image of Candelaria Virgin who was brought from Spain.
As a popular resort, Punta del Este's food can be expensive—if taking a day trip from Montevideo, consider bringing your own lunch.
Punta del Este has a seafood-based cuisine. It has a huge variety of food with dishes like tortugón, paella, chivito, hot dog, sushi, and fish among others.
Seafood is delicious. Chivitos (steak sandwiches) and asado (steak) are the locals' favourite dishes. Aside from that, pretty much any type of food can be found: sushi, Indian, Italian, French cuisine, etc.
- 1 Hotel L'Auberge, Pda. 19 Brava, Carnoustie y Av. del Agua (Two blocks in from stop 19 of Brava beach), ☏ . 17 - 21. L'Auberge Hotel & Te House: charming luxury hotel and tea house. Famous for its water tower and its Belgian waffles, served with different sauces. Also, excellent restaurant for lunch or dinner. Only by reservation. US$14-20.
- Restaurant at YOO, Av Roosevelt y Parada 8, ☏ . Normal prices. Unforgettable dinner. Awesome.
Local and imported wines (especially Argentinian and European vineyards). There's a famous drink in all Uruguay called "medio y medio" (half and half) which is a mix of sweet sparkling wine, and dry white wine.
Punta del Este is famous for its clubbing scene. Most parties start very late, between midnight and 3AM and end around dawn. You cannot name a specific club because it's probably going to change its name or its location the next year. Don't worry, they do good marketing, so you will find out very easily.
Every year the night life changes, so you never know which is going to be place that will hit the summer in Punta del Este. Most of the clubs are away from the peninsula of Punta del Este, mainly in La Barra. But the fashion places changes, it depends on the year.
You can expect high prices for club entries in late December and early January, and specially in the weekends. After 15 January the prices go down (this includes most of the things), and although there may be still a lot of people in Punta del Este, it is not going to be as crowded. Anyway, expect a lot of movement in the clubs at weekends.
Book ahead between Christmas and carnival, when most every bed is taken. Staying in the peninsula of Punta del Este is probably the best option if you don't have a car, as buses are few, and cabs are expensive. Keep in mind that beds here are among the most costly on the continent.
- Planet Punta Del Este Hostel, Corner of 18th and 30th street, ☏ . Expensive (but well it is Punta del Este) hostel. Has internet facilities and a basic breakfast. The price is US$15 (US$22 during high season) a night or around the equivalent of US$25 when paying in Uruguayan pesos. Has tiny, cramped rooms but an amazing dining room, with big windows directly to the pavement.
- Shelton Hotel, Calle 31 y Av Gorlero (One block from the bus terminal), ☏ . Check-in: 15.00, check-out: 12.00. Rooms come with private bath, fan, A/C, cable TV, and wifi. Two blocks from the Brava beach with the giant hand. US$35 per room(March 2009 they take Visa and US$).
- Baie des Anges Apart Hotel & Spa, ☏ . Situated in the "Parada 27" on Mansa beach, this elegant boutique hotel is minutes away from Punta del Este's Downtown, where all the most important restaurants and clubs of the city are located. Sea view, awesome sunsets and friendly people.
- La Solana Boutique Hotel, Ruta Interbalnearia Km 118, Punta Ballena, ☏ . Surrounded by thriving gardens, historical museums, and art galleries, it's also a few minutes from the famous Punta del Este and these attractions: Arboretum Lussich, Casapueblo, and Lake Club. It offers rooms with breathtaking scenes, all equipped with 26/29-inch LCD television, Wi-Fi Internet access, and an air-conditioner. Best rates on official website start at US$290.
- The Chic Collection Hoteles & Resorts. The most exclusive 4 and 5 stars hotel collection at Punta del Este. Each hotel maintains its own and strong personality, providing a wide variety of possibilities to tourists. The Chic Collection consists of Barradas Parque Hotel, Hotel del Lago Golf & Art Resorts and Golden Beach Resort & Spa.
- Hotel L'Auberge, Parada 19 de la Brava, Carnoustie y Av. del Agua, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. More than six decades old, the famous water tower of L'Auberge rises, majestic, amidst the tall pines, and is a silent witness of the evolution of the hotel, the tea room and all the Parque del Golf neighborhood. The Most Excellent Hotel for South America 2010, according to Condé Nast Johansens.
- Enjoy Punta del Este Resort and Casino, Rambla C. Williman Parada 4 Playa Mansa, ☏ . A five-star luxury hotel and a famous casino in Punta del Este
- Nearby beach towns make for convenient day trips or nice overnight escapes from the crowds of Punta del Este.
- Piriapolis – Another beach resort that is more laid-back and less fancy.
- Maldonado – The department capital, is adjacent to Punta del Este.
- La Paloma, Cabo Polonio, Punta del Diablo, etc. – These destinations are more laid-back and with their own tranquil atmosphere. They are the places you want to head for if you do not get what all the fuss is about Punta del Este. There are no regular buses from Punta del Este, so either hitch-hike (if you get out of the city) or transfer via the Maldonado terminal or San Carlos which has regular and frequent buses to those destinations.