After a day of socializing and swimming at the beach, you're walking to your home in the La Aguada community in La Paloma, Uruguay, with your beach chair and umbrella. The sky is blue, and the sun is warm. You feel relaxed from head to toe.
Like your lifestyle here, your home is simple and pleasant—a two-bedroom single-family place with brick trim and a lawn—just three blocks from the beach. It's got tile floors, hardwood door and window frames, and a little upstairs balcony. The carport doubles as a covered BBQ area. And the price—just $110,000.
That's just a taste of what you'll find in La Paloma (population 3,500) which is the largest beach town in Uruguay's Department of Rocha—a region with 112 miles of Atlantic coastline. Here, smooth sand beaches, some with dunes, stretch for miles between rugged capes and peninsulas. It's a rural area with palm-tree-speckled grazing pastures, large lagoons, and forests.
La Paloma's downtown shares a cape with a lighthouse and large bay.
On each side of the cape are miles of inviting beaches and beach communities. Popular outdoor activities in La Paloma include walking on the beach, cycling, fishing, and board surfing. Just to the west of town is a 45-square-mile lagoon where you'll see geese, swans, and flamingos.
Rocha has long been a popular summer vacation destination for backpackers and budget travelers. Rocha's beaches also draw surfers. And in recent years the region is attracting a growing number of affluent travelers who appreciate Rocha's natural environment and low-key lifestyle.
With a full-time population of 3,500, La Paloma is the most populated and developed coastal town in Rocha.
During the Southern Hemisphere summer months of January and February, La Paloma's population jumps 700% to close to 25,000 when the summer vacationers arrive. During this time, a two-bedroom single-family home may rent for $100 per night.
Aside from summer rental rates, the cost of living in La Paloma is relatively low. Property sale prices, restaurant meals, and the things you buy at the grocery store are less expensive than more polished and promoted beach towns like Punta del Este, 62 miles to the west.
Even though La Paloma has a small year-round population, you'll find what you need for everyday living including a grocery market, small hospital, bank, gas station, pharmacy, and some restaurants. Additional restaurants and the movie theater open during the summer.
One of Rocha's top attractions is the 2,595-acre Santa Teresa National Park, a 90-minute drive east of La Paloma. Between the park grounds and the large stone-and-glass greenhouse, you'll find more than 100 plant varieties from five continents.
Miles of trails and roads throughout Santa Teresa make it ideal for hiking and cycling. When the conditions are right, Santa Teresa's beaches attract surfers from both Uruguay and southern Brazil. (It's just a 30-minute drive from the Brazil/Uruguay border to Santa Teresa.)
In addition to the availability of low-key, affordable homes, the Department of Rocha is a good place to shop for building lots for investment or a future home site. Front-line and second-line lots with views in La Paloma range from $80,000 to $150,000. Lots two to five blocks from the beach list for between $40,000 and $75,000. If you go inland six or more blocks, you'll find lots for $30,000. Many lots are between 5,300 and 6,300 square feet in size.
Rocha is also a good place to look for a true beachfront home. In Uruguay, all beaches are public. Along most of Uruguay's coast, the beach and front-line homes are separated by a road. You'll find some exceptions to this—with the most exceptions in Rocha. So, if you want a home where you can walk directly from your porch onto the sand of the beach, Rocha is a good place to look.
I found a two-level, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home right on the beach listed for sale in La Paloma. You look out of the window or from the rooftop terrace to an unobstructed view of the sand and the sea. To the side is a view of the La Paloma lighthouse. It's listed for $300,000.
So if you're in the market for an affordable home or investment lot in a down-to-earth beach community; or you're looking for a home built right on the beach, consider Uruguay's Department of Rocha.