Montevideo is a charming city, especially if you have spent time in hectic Buenos Aires. It’s calmer, more laid back, and locals take advantage of the river all year round.
You’ll see kite surfers and families along the river’s ten (yes, ten!) beaches, people heading to the bars and cafes to take in the sunset, and the massive fifteen-mile rambla or boardwalk is perfect for cycling, roller-blading, getting in a run or just walking off all of the fabulous food and drink.
River or sea?
In Montevideo, everyone, absolutely EVERYONE, refers to the river as “el mar”, that is, the sea.
It’s understandable – the river stretches as far as the eye can see and takes over two hours by high speed hydrofoil to get to Buenos Aires on the other side.
So in Montevideo, some days the water looks like the sea (green), other days it looks like a river (brown) and some days you can even see literally stripes of green sea water and browner river water. The water can change in a matter of hours.
Coming to Montevideo? Definitely bring your swim suit!
Saying that, Montevideo’s ten beaches have great quality sand – it’s remarkably fine and powdery and white.
Despite this, don’t think I am recommending you plan to come to Montevideo specifically for a beach holiday.
However with so many neighbourhoods including Parque Rodó, Pocitos, Malvin and Carrasco having their own beaches and any beach is accessible by bike, bus or walking in minutes, it would be crazy not to head down to the playa (or ply-zhah as it sounds with a Uruguayan accent).
Thousands of Uruguayans can’t be wrong.
Playa Ramírez (Parque Rodó)
A broad sandy beach right on the edge of Parque Rodó and two fun fairs, so plenty to do if you get bored of the sand. Very shallow water so ideal for children. Great sunset viewing. Wheelchair accessible. Buses: Any to Parque Rodó.
Playa de los Pocitos
Known locally simply as “Playa Pocitos”, it’s a long wide beach with lovely white sand popular with the middle-class residents. Reasonably deep so good swimming. Bordered by apartment buildings (think Tel Aviv or Nice) which cast a long shadow over most of the sand the last few hours of the day. Several paradores (food stands) selling snacks and cold drinks. There’s a beach football stadium set up during the summer. Wheelchair accessible.
Puerto del Buceo
This little beach looking out towards the marina is not apt for swimming (a water quality issue). I include it here more for the jetty. It makes a pleasant walk from Pocitos.
A wide very flat beach typically used for sports and good for runners. Combine with a visit to the Buceo Cemetery (Montevideo’s undiscovered rival to Buenos Aires’ famous Recoleta Cemetery) which overlooks the water.
A wide very flat beach typically used for sports, especially kite-surfing. A resto-style parador serves meals and drinks. Wheelchair accessible.
Playa Honda (Punta Gorda)
A smallish beach with white sands with deeper waters than others (hence the name honda meaning deep). A petrol station across the road does a roaring trade in cold drinks and snacks. The one beach in Montevideo where a surfer might find occasional waves.
Playa de los Ingleses (Punta Gorda)
Can get very busy during summer and given that it is small, you feel the crowds more than you will elsewhere. The Punta Gorda and Carrasco sports club overlooks the beach and has a restaurant with a large terrace. The Full Sailing Centre attached to the club offers sailing and wind-surfing lessons and boat and board hire at very competitive prices.
A very long beach great for walking. As Carrasco residents are typically the most moneyed of Montevideo with access to private pools, the beach tends to be fairly empty. Off-season unfortunately it becomes covered in debris (and beware the occasional umbanda offerings of dead chickens and such).