Punta del Este, Uruguay, has two long beaches – the Brava and the Mansa – lined with high rises. It’s the centre of glamour magazines and cheesy TV shows during the summer and heaving with tourists in January and February.
Argentinians and Brazilians go crazy for “Punta”.
Personally I avoid Punta at all costs during the summer time but I confess to enjoying its charm off-season.
Off-season Punta del Este has a very special charm
Have a wander around that old part of peninsula above the port – it’s a very different Punta from the highrise lined rest of the coast. By “old” I mean solid inter-war buildings, nothing colonial.
There the buildings are mainly houses and some low-rise apartment blocks. The port is also charming with a yacht club and several restaurants.
Walk to the port and walk along the piers to see the local fish sellers working and huge seals basking next to the yachts.
Punta del Este is a great vantage point for whale-watching. You can take a boat out to view Isla Gorriti, packed with seals.
Buses go from Tres Cruces every half an hour. Catch the ones that take 2 hours. You might want to check out my guide to reading bus timetables in Uruguay. If you have a car drive around including on to chic Jose Ignacio or stay closer just going to La Barra which has a really fun bridge to drive across.
If you speak Spanish or Portuguese I highly recommend the tours offered by Ximena and Javier at TurismoTop. They run a four-hour tour which includes all of Punta del Este and Punta Ballena. It finishes at sunset with a ceremony to the sun in Casa Pueblo in Punta Ballena which sounds totally charming to me!
The start of the tour varies depending on the time of year. In summer they tend to set off at 5.30pm and in winter at 2pm. This gives you plenty of time to do some independent sight-seeing, sunbathing and have lunch before you start.
Contact Ximena via the TurismoTop website or call her the day before you plan to take the tour on 4224 9495.
The tour costs 32 USD (including entrance to Casa Pueblo, which is 8 USD). They’ll drop you off back at the bus terminal to come back to Montevideo. A good place to pick up the tour is outside a restaurant at the port called Virazón.
Unfortunately English speakers have to take a private tour which naturally costs quite a bit more. But it is still worth finding out about.
Coming to Punta del Este by yourself and then taking the tour is way cheaper than arranging a tour to Punta from Montevideo — The Guru
Let me explain my aversion to Punta
I lived in Argentina several decades ago and was completely turned off by the endless summer TV coverage of the beach scene in “Punta”.
I heard the word “cola-less” for the first time. A term for a tiny buttock-bearing g-string, seemingly obligatory beach wear for any female Argentine celeb or wannabe.
Cola means “bum” to us British. In a cola-less the bum is actually what is MOST on display.
The TV coverage gave me the impression that Punta del Este was part of Argentina. I thought it was — until I had a look at a map.