Living up to its reputation as the “French Riviera of South America,” Punta del Este is Uruguay’s flagship beach resort town, famous for sun-soaked shores, sandy beaches, and luxury hotels. Whether you’re on a day trip from Montevideo or cruising over from Buenos Aires in Argentina, here are the best beaches.
This beach looks out across the Rio de la Plata on the western side of town, and its gentle waves make it a popular spot for families. Neighboring Las Delicias is a quieter choice for those seeking relief from the busy city beaches. Swimming, snorkeling, and jet skiing are popular activities at Playa Mansa in high season.
One of the most beautiful beaches in Punta del Este, Playa Brava is often nicknamed Playa de los Dedos (Beach of the Fingers) for its much-photographed sculpture, La Mano (The Hand) by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal, which depicts five gigantic human fingers protruding from the sand. With its high Atlantic winds and huge waves, it’s also a hot spot for surfing, windsurfing, and other water sports. For an overview take a guided tour that includes time to eat and shop and a trip to Casapueblo, a nearby 9-story Mediterranean-style villa.
Bikini Beach in La Barra is Punta del Este’s principal party beach, lined with lively beach bars, nightclubs, and food stalls. Live entertainment, beachside fashion shows, endless cocktails, and DJs pumping music into the early hours make this the place to drink and dance the night away, and celebrity sightings are common.
Just up the coast from Punta del Este, the coastal village of José Ignacio is surrounded by gorgeous sandy beaches, and its bohemian vibe makes it a laid-back alternative to the more elegant Punta del Este. The beaches are better suited for surfing and sunbathing than swimming, while the village itself holds a number of attractions including a handicrafts market and Sea Museum.