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The beaches of Rocha are the wildest and most isolated in the country, drawing a mix of surfers, families, hippies and backpackers. Connoisseurs consider them some of the very best beaches in Uruguay.

Though the most popular towns now draw crowds at the height of peak season around New Year, it’s easy to walk a few minutes a way and find a quiet spot. If you go in the off season (March – November) you will have the beaches largely to yourself.

La Paloma

La Paloma is the biggest beach town in Rocha with almost four thousand people living there year round. It’s the only beach in Rocha with any significant infrastructure—there’s a choice of  hotels and restaurants, a small cinema, two casinos and a hospital. However this is not a smaller version of glamour puss Punta del Este. La Paloma is frequented by middle-class Uruguayans, many of whom have holiday homes, and the vibe is decidedly family orientated.

La Paloma
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Cabo Polonio

Cabo Polonio was designated as a national park in 2009. You need to park your car at the visitors centre on the highway and ride the ancient safari — style double — decker truck through five miles of dunes and then a glorious speed over Playa Sur with Cabo Polonio — with its tiny houses clinging to the cape and not a single tree to break the wind — growing ever closer. In the summer you descend from the truck at a grass roundabout in the centre of the village into some kind of parallel hippie universe. The beaches are wild with pristine white sand. Even during the high season there’s always a piece of virgin sand to lie out on. You can cross the whole village in a matter of minutes and explore the whole place in a matter of hours.

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La Pedrera

La Pedrera is perhaps the greenest seaside town in Rocha, perched on a rocky forested balcony overlooking two golden beaches. It used to be known as Punta Rubia, golden point. That’s how sailors hailed its sands. Nowadays it’s named after the six million year old baroque-style rock formations that divide Playa del Barco from Playa Desplayado. The younger set hang out at the Playa del Barco, baptised after a shipwreck. The Desplayado is more family friendly, less busy and with calmer waters. With its rambla (promenade) and white -pillared promenade wall, La Pedrera feels more sophisticated than its homelier neighbor La Paloma. A number of its 200+residents are migre Argentine artists. Just outside of La Pedrera, a twenty -minute walk along the beach to the east lies the new Punta Rubia which is greener and more isolated.

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Santa Teresa

The Parque Nacional Santa Teresa is one of Uruguay’s most beloved protected parks with over two thousand acres of forest and gardens, a well -restored colonial fort in verdant grounds and some of Uruguay’s most spectacular and almost always deserted beaches. During the peak of high season the park is packed with campers. Come pre-peak and savour some of the best beaches in Uruguay all for yourself.

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Punta del Diablo

Punta del Diablo is a fishing town with dirt roads, brightly painted cabins and sweeping unspoiled beaches a few miles from the Brazilian border. The wonderful beaches stretching over six miles of coastline are utterly deserted most of the year. The Playa de los Pescadores (Fisherman’s Beach) and Playa de Rivero are the closest to the centre of the town. The Playa de la Viuda is named after the widow of an Argentine businessman who lived in the mansion at the far end of the beach which was built before the road into town existed. Many of the most ritzy condos overlook the Viuda. The Viuda and Rivero are frequented by surfers.

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To read more about these beaches and other must-visit destinations, see the Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay: Beaches, Ranches and Wine Country.

Photos: La Paloma Marcelo Campi, La Pedrera casaseneleste.

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