Top What to Do and See in Punta del Este, Uruguay

Punta del Este, Uruguay is called the St. Tropez of Uruguay for its miles of beautiful, pristine beaches, its upscale and exclusive resort tradition, famed nightlife, and the wealth of its summer visitors. Expensive by local standards, Punta del Este is attractively priced compared to European and US resorts. In the off-season, Punta del Este is more relaxed and resembles any resting seaside resort. Many of the restaurants and shops close, but the beautiful beaches are still there.

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    Beaches

    ••• Playa Brava in summer. Krzysztof Dydynski/Getty Images

    Playa Brava on the Atlantic and Playa Mansa on the Río de la Plata are the two main beaches, but all the beaches are terrifically crowded during the summer season, which begins in December and ends in March. Locals use other beaches, notably La Barra del Maldonado, a beautiful inlet that flows from the back bay area of Maldonado out to the Atlantic Ocean. One of the city landmarks ​is the Dedos, fingers, in the sand at Playa Brava.

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    La Barra is a center of youth oriented activities, from daytime sports on the fine sandy beach to all night discos. To get to this small village, you cross an unusual bridge shaped like an easy roller coaster. With all the water surrounding Punta del Este, sailing is popular and large marinas attract an international flotilla.

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    Sports

    Beach activities, plus golf, tennis, horseback riding, biking, bird-watching, and numerous watersports, such as parasailing, windsurfing, water-skiing and snorkeling on both Playa Mansa and Playa Brava.

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    "Punta has world-class shopping, with Uruguayan shops and European boutiques lining Calle Gorlero, the principal street bisecting this resort town. Punta Shopping Mall, Avenida Roosevelt at Paradas 6 and 7, has 100 stores on three levels and a 12-screen cinema. A weekend crafts market takes place from 5 PM to midnight at Plaza Artigas."

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    Casinos, bars, nightclubs, discos start late and continue through the night. The Conrad Resort and Casino, linked here, holds Las Vegas-style reviews and other music, dance, and magic shows. The enormous 24-hour casino has 450 slots and 63 tables for baccarat, roulette, blackjack, poker, dice, and fortune wheel.

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    These restaurants and many more will tempt your appetite. Dinners are late, at 10 PM or later, and discos go until dawn, allowing revelers to see both the sun rise and set over water. Ask the concierge at your hotel for up to date recommendations.

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    Make your reservations early! Summer in Punta del Este is crowded. This hotel list, by Frommers, is only a sample of accommodations. You'll find more selections from Kayak.

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    Zoos and Wildlife

    • The Parque Municipal Zoológico Medina is fun for both adults and children with its interactive exhibits
    • The Zoológico Pan de Azúcar has a large selection of native species set in natural settings
    • Take a boat ride to Isla de Lobos to see one of the world's largest sea-lion colonies
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    Historical Monuments

    • Tour the neo-Classic Catedral San Fernando, dating from 1895 and now a historic monument
    • the Cuartel de Dragones, a military headquarters constructed between 1771 and 1797
    • the Marco de los Reyes in the Plaza Torre del Vigía. This white and rose marble marker was created in Lisbon in 1753 and erected to mark the division between Spanish and Portuguese holdings in South America according to the 1750 Treaty of Madrid.
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    Click on the thumbnails of photos by Roberto Bernasconi for superb views of the many attractions of Punta del Este and area.