Punta del Este, Uruguay

The St. Tropez of Uruguay

Yacht Harbour at dusk
Richard I'Anson / Getty Images

The eastern spit of land separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Rio del la Plata was once known to sailors and fishermen as Cabo Santa María. Today, called Punta del Este this area is known worldwide as a scenic resort area with miles of beautiful beaches, luxury hotels and restaurants, glittery nightlife and an upscale summer population.

For decades Punta del Este was an exclusive resort for wealthy South Americans, and it is still expensive, but not as much as famed European and US resort areas. The city and resort appeal has attracted multiple governments to hold summit meetings there.

A new casino, more luxurious restaurants and hotels, never ending sports activities, plenty of natural attractions, shops, nightclubs and a temperate climate beckon to international travelers. The local pines scent the air and add to the sense of relaxation.

To get to Punta del Este, check flights from your area to Montevideo or other locations in Uruguay. You can also browse for hotels and car rentals.

An hour and a half by car from Montevideo, Punta del Este offers twenty miles of pristine beaches. You'll need a car to visit them all or discover your favorite. Mansa, or gentle beach, is on the bay side, while the one facing the Atlantic is Brava. These are terrifically crowded during the summer season, which begins in December and ends in March. Locals use other beaches, notably to 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.

La Barra is also the 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.

Punta del Este offers a relaxed lifestyle. It is geared to vacationers who get a late morning start. Hotel dining rooms and services may be open before noon, but the rest of the city may not be. 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. The Cipriani Lido at the Cipriani Punta del Este Resort in La Barra is one of the hottest spots in town. Consult this list of hotels for availability, rates, amenities, location, activities and other specific information.


  • Beaches, of course
  • Golf, tennis and sailing and more sports
  • Shopping
  • Current activities
  • Faro de Punta del Este - The lighthouse dates from 1860, built by Tomás Libarena. The crystal prisms were brought from France.
  • Casa del Pueblo - Once the home of celebrated Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez Vilaro, this eye-catching seaside Mediterranean-style structure is today a modern art museum.
  • Isla Gorriti - Catch a frequent boat ride for the 2 km trip to the island for more beaches, ancient fortifications, and greenery.
  • Isla de Lobos - 8 km from land, the island is by one of the world's largest sea-lion colonies. There is a lighthouse on the island.
  • Parque El Jagüel - Children's playground with wooden play equipment and animal figures.
  • Parque Municipal Zoológico Medina - Large zoo with interactive exhibits.
  • Zoológico Pan de Azúcar - Zoo with a large selection of native species set in natural settings.
  • Take a sunset or evening stroll along Gorlero, Punta del Este’s main place to see and be seen. In the space of a few blocks, you’ll find restaurants, bars, shops, cinemas, the Feria Artesanal.
  • The nearby city of Maldonado has several interesting attractions:Do you have comments or questions about Punta del Este, called the Jewel of Uruguay? If so, post them in the South America for Visitor's Forum.
    • From Plaza San Fernando, visit the Diligencia de Castells Capurro
    • The neo-Classic Catedral San Fernando, dating from 1895 and now a historic monument
    • Cuartel de Dragones, military headquarters constructed between 1771 and 1797
    • 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.

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.

Do you suppose the residents of St. Tropez refer to it as the Punta del Este of France?

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