Punta del Este
After Montevideo, we continued our trip up the eastern coast of the continent stopping in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Since we wanted to get to know both the glamorous as well as the more laid back beaches of the country, we also made a stop farther north in Punta del Diablo. Both towns turned out to have some really great beaches. Arriving in Punta del Este outside of the busy season was a surreal experience. Punta dell Este has what you call a superpeak season in January and February where everything is packed with people, prices more than triple, and parties fill the summer night. However, when our bus dropped us off at the station at 8pm, we made our way a few blocks to our hostel and we did not pass a single person. On the four lane route running along the entire coast in town, maybe only five cars passed us. In the hostel, we were the only guests. The lack of lights on in the high rises along the beach almost made it seem like a ghost town. In the morning we spent our time on the equally deserted soft white sand of Punta del Este’s beautiful beaches. We walked the entire peninsula that makes up Punta del Este, past the longest beach, Playa Brava, past the port, and Playa Mansa, with its calmer waters on the bay side of the peninsula. We also got a chance to get some pictures with the famous hand in the sand sculpture (La Mano) that has become the city’s iconic landmark.
Punta del Diablo
A few days later and a 4 hour bus ride up the coast and we arrived in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay. Perhaps the antithesis of the glamorous, Punta del Este, Punta del Diablo is much more of a fishing village turned summer escape that attracts a much more budget traveler. There are no skyscrapers along the beaches here, just colorful one or two story houses complete with hammocks to relax the day away. Again, because we were in town during the low season, we had the picturesque beaches almost entirely to ourselves again.
We spent our days in Punta del Diablo walking along Playa de la Viuda to the lighthouse and Playa Grande to the nearby national park. We tried buñuelas de algas, seaweed fritters characteristic of the Uruguayan coast, and our second favorite empanadas in all of South America at one of the little artisan stands in front of the little fishing boats. Our hostel, Hostel de la Viuda, was one of the best hostels we’ve ever stayed in and it was just the cherry on top of our experience in Punta del Diablo.
If I had to choose which beach I liked best out of those we visited in Uruguay, I would pick Playa Grande in Punta del Diablo because of its length, its long swash zone, and the lack of buildings on and behind the beach. In fact I’d put Playa Grande in my favorite beaches list, behind only Zapatilla Beach in Panama. Overall, the beaches of Uruguay were amazing stretches of soft, white sand that squeaked when you walked, which, because of the time of year, we had almost entirely to ourselves. I’d definitely recommend spending time on Uruguay’s beautiful coast.