Huge rolling hills of silky, tawny sand, as fine as spun sugar…here and there a tuft of grass blowing in the wind…and blue, blue water capped with lusciously foamy white waves as far as the eye can see. Best of all, nary another human in sight.
To truly get away from it all, head east along the coast of Uruguay to the department of Rocha. Here you’ll find some of South America’s most beautiful…and last, vast stretches… of undeveloped beaches.
Yet you’re still within three hours of the international airport in Montevideo. And you’re just an hour, mas o menos, from trendy, celeb-friendly Punta del Este with its all-night discos and sparkling casinos.
Rocha, Uruguay: Where and When to Go
There are, of course, some notable destinations along this coast. You just can’t keep a good thing to yourself these days, and more and more summer vacationers are coming to Rocha every year.
The largest towns of note are La Paloma and La Pedrera—and they’re but a few blocks of shops and restaurants. And the farther-flung hamlets of Barra de Valizas, Aguas Dulce, and Punta del Diablo attract a crowd looking for an even-more laid-back experience, with a bohemian informality that’s distinctly South American. (Uruguayans have an easy charm and a knack for low-budget creativity, and Rocha’s villages are so nonchalantly thrown together, in fact, that part-time chefs open restaurants in garages, lean-tos or on the front porches of village homes.)
Summertime—January and February in particular—is definitely where it’s at. In Punta del Diablo, especially, young people of all nationalities throng the tiny village center with its hostels and makeshift cafes. To finance their travels, some sell jewelry, wind chimes and smoking paraphernalia or take performance art to the limits. (One acrobatically inclined fellow spent hours balancing on his head on a wooden box atop a spindly chair.)
Temporary nightclubs that spring up here and there don’t even open until 3.00 a.m. and party-goers straggle home long after the sun comes up. Handwritten posters advertise trips to nearby Cabo Polonia and its sea lion colonies, about half a mile off the point.
If you were to live in Uruguay in one of these small towns, it might be a lonely winter, although some people, like expat Brian Meissner, who built and operates the most popular boutique hostal (my room has a private bath, fireplace and balcony) in Punta del Diablo, says winter is a good time to stoke the fireplace and take long walks on a beach you have all to yourself.
“You can pretty much do what you want to do in the winter,” he says, “because nobody else is really around.”
Affordable Rental Prices in Rocha, Uruguay
By the way, should you want to give it a test-drive, rental prices in Rocha are very affordable. As elsewhere along the coast, you’ll pay less during the low season and you can negotiate a low year-long lease. A good house, with two or three bedrooms should go for $600 to $700 a month on a long-term lease. A contract for several months just for the low season can be negotiated for even less.
And should you want to buy, you’ll find prices more affordable in Rocha than any other part of coastal Uruguay. I found a 6,000-square-foot lot positioned in such a way that you get wowsa views of the ocean from both front and back, priced at just $48,000.
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