Uruguay has a population of just three million. During the summer the number doubles. The vast majority of visitors are from Argentina—many who have holiday homes here. Followed by Brazilians who love the safety a holiday in Uruguay offers.
This not a recent phenomenon. Uruguayan beaches have been hugely popular tourist destinations for over a century especially with Argentinians. The Hotel Argentino in Piriápolis was the largest and most glamorous resort in the whole of South America when it was built in the 1920s.
North Americans and Europeans make up just one in ten visitors and you’re in the vanguard. So where are the best beaches in Uruguay? Where should you go for your beach holiday?
The wild, wild beaches of Rocha
The wildest beaches are in the department of Rocha (say ROH-cha) on the Atlantic coast closest to Brazil. These beaches were isolated and frequented solely by locals until a trickle of intrepid Argentinian backpackers started arriving in the 90s. In the last few years Punta del Diablo and La Pedrera have become party towns for younger Argentinians and Brazilians around New Year but there’s almost perfect solitude the rest of the year. The vibe at most Rochense beaches is Uruguayan hippie though this is beginning to slowly change as more sophisticated offerings begin to emerge.
- 5 amazing beaches in Rocha
- Punta del Diablo
- Cabo Polonio National park and outstanding nature cut off from the world
- The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay has 20 more pages of information about beaches in Rocha
The sophisticated beaches of Maldonado
The most well-established beaches with the best infrastructure are in the department of Maldonado. Punta del Este is probably the most famous beach resort in South America after Rio de Janeiro, full of highrises and a frenetic summer scene. La Barra is hipper with surfing competitions and art galleries. Jose Ignacio, a tiny semi-rural peninsula with 28 permanent residents, has become the vacation choice of an international jet-set—think Mark Zuckerberg. If Punta is glitzy and La Barra hippie-chic, Jose Ignacio inclines to the haute-hippie.
- Punta del Este
- 8 things to do in Punta del Este
- José Ignacio
- Why Jose Ignacio, a tiny town, became the world’s summer hottest spot
- The sunset from CasaPueblo – a Punta classic
- Piriapolis and Punta Colorada
- The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay has 25 more pages of information about beaches in Maldonado
The charming beaches of the Costa de Oro
Beaches on the Costa de Oro or Gold Coast in the department of Canelones have a kind of nostalgic fifties summer air to them. Sleepy towns and simple pleasures. Middle-class Uruguayan families own holiday homes here passed from generation to generation. A vacation in these towns feel like you have been transported back to the kind of holidays you might have had when you were a kid.
- The sleepy beaches of Costa de Oro
- The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay has 12 more pages of information about beaches in Canelones
We don’t recommend coming to the capital specifically for a city beach, when there are such outstanding ones very close by. But while you soaking in the culture and gastronomy, the more than ten beaches are definitely worth checking out.
When to visit
Uruguay is a temperate country in the southern hemisphere with four seasons. Summer runs from December to February when the temperature is around the high 20s to early 30s. Temperatures can hit 36 C but that is rare.
Off-season is a great time to visit Uruguay. Autumn (March-May) and Spring (September-November) are particularly lovely times weather-wise. Days are mild, around 20 degrees and there are frequent Indian summers.
- When is the best time to visit
- Whale-watching between June and October in Maldonado and Rocha
- February 2 is Day of the Goddess of the Sea
What else is good to know about beaches in Uruguay
- 5 foods you need to try at the beach
- Uruguay is a whale and dolphin sanctuary
- Shipwrecks See The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay for the chapter on shipwrecks and where to find them
- Understanding the different life-guard flags
Where to stay at the beach
Be prepared to be delighted by choosing a Guru’Guay Top Pick. These are places that we’ve personally vetted and absolutely love. Or if there’s something that’s not 100% perfect, you’ll read about it in our evaluation.
We have visited just a few beaches, but they are all wonderful. White, fine sand and clean, even in Montevideo. The beaches of Pocitos are calm and warm. The beaches all around La Paloma offer great variety: protected in Bahía Grande, open to the ocean both south and north of the center, but all clean and wide. Some spots are better for surfing, ask locally. The two beaches at La Pedrera are quite different. Fewer people and a steeper drop-off north of town, at Playa del Barco. A very long beach that is shallow and busy with a surf school, food stands, and plenty of people at Playa Punta Rubia.
Thank you so much for sharing, Jerry! — Karen
I love the Guide to Montevideo which I purchased this week from Amazon. Sadly it isn’t the 2020 Edition. Never the less I am eager to visit Uruguay this February. I have ordered the companion volume as well.
Hi Ron, oh no! Did you order the first edition of the paperback? We are surprised (and disappointed) that you were able to order that. We understood that Amazon was only selling the newest version. Let us know. Sooo good you ordered the companion Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay: Beaches, Ranches and Wine Country too.. Best, Karen
Thanks to you Karen, we’re just missing La Pedrera which we’ll visit in Fabruary
Hi Valerie, I go into detail about the beaches mentioned in the article, La Pedrera and lots of other lovely beaches in The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay: Beaches, Ranches and Wine Country. I definitely recommend it. All the best, Karen PS. Definitely sign up to our monthly newsletter to find out the latest finds.
I love your site! There is so much helpful information. I was wondering if La Balconada beach was really crowded during the end of February? We are planning a trip and have heard so many awesome things about this area, but I know in the summer months it can get a little crazy.
Hi Kristin, so glad you love the site! February is definitely more chill than January. Beaches will be crowded on weekends but less so during the week. You can also walk a ways away and then will find lovely empty sand with few neighbours. Btw, not sure if you have it, but if you love the site you will ADORE my Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay: Beaches, Ranches & Wine Country. The guides include MUCH more information than the site. Enjoy!