Softer Side Of Paradise
Five tips for an off-season jaunt in Uruguayan beach town Punta del Este
The “Riviera of the South” is no secret—as a visit to Punta del Este during February’s high season will prove. But what still might be news is that this Uruguayan resort’s charms are better enjoyed during sleepy April and May. Take an off-season trip for lower prices, fewer people and still gloriously sunny days—and don’t miss these spots.
When Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró arrived in Punta del Este—more specifically, its western tip known as Punta Ballena—there were just lonely fishermen and the occasional whale to keep him company. But the well-travelled Vilaró was determined to build his own liveable castle on his favourite spot. Today, his gargantuan, bone-coloured sandcastle is at Casapueblo, and functions as hotel, restaurant, bar and museum. After browsing the enormous collection of artwork the maestro amassed and created until the day he died, find a spot on the terrace overlooking the ocean. Order a “clericó” (white wine cocktail with fruit) and settle in for the town’s most breathtaking sunset view.
Sitting on a patch of sand overlooking the ocean, this beachclub-restaurant is frequently placed on lists of South America’s best restaurants. But you won’t find complex concoctions here—La Huella, meaning “footprint”, is all about keeping it simple, with the best and freshest ingredients. The menu features Uruguayan staples like local beef "milanesas" with veggies from the garden, and fresh-caught sea bass. The world-famous dulce de leche volcano with banana ice cream is a gooey affair made for sharing during a drawn-out lunch session.
FUNDACIÓN PABLO ATCHUGARRY
This epic museum and sculpture garden set above Ruta 104 might be single-handedly responsible for bringing high culture to the rural areas of Punta del Este. The Fundación Pablo Atchugarry includes a large-scale sculpture garden best enjoyed during dusk hours. In addition, an indoor gallery houses work from local and regional artists as well as from the Italian-Uruguayan artist himself—whose towering marble creations have appeared in some of the world’s most ambitious collections. Check the programme for events like music festivals and the occasional itinerant show, such as a recent exhibition of Le Corbusier’s early drawings and sketches.
LA POSTA DEL CANGREJO
Depending on what time of year you come, you might have to elbow your way through the crowds for a space to plant your umbrella at La Posta del Cangrejo. Or you could have the shore to yourself to choose where to splay out. In any case, this is one of the resort’s best destinations when it comes to hitting the shore. A long, shallow walk into the sea makes it kid-friendly; while a convenient sandbank that causes killer waves fit for beginner or advanced surfers. La Posta has something for all. Even a beachside hotel offering drinks and nibbles all day long—under umbrellas.
OLIVE AND VINE
The magic of Punta del Este is that it’s as much about the ocean and towering dunes as it’s rolling hills and forests of pine, palms and eucalyptus. A night in the teeming countryside will offer world-beating views of the Milky Way, and a serenade by the local weeping frogs, a very vocal set of amphibians. For further treats among the nature, celebrated local producers of olive oil and wine Bodegas Garzón have their shiny new headquarters right here. Book a guided tour through the campo ending in a private “asado” beneath the trees, or just trek up for a glass of wine overlooking the plantations—there’s no way to do it wrong. Just don’t forget to bring a bottle of the good stuff back.