There’s a place in South America that I imagine is how a U.S. seashore town in the 1950s must have looked: Long sandy beaches, calm waters and an attractive seafront. Imposing brick buildings, a waterfront boardwalk and grand hotels that feel like they’re from a bygone era.
An hour from Montevideo, Piriapolis was founded in 1893 and is Uruguay’s first seashore resort. It is filled with bathers and sun-worshipers for the entire summer. Year-round, people come from all over Uruguay to enjoy its fine seafood restaurants, casinos, cafés, and local museums.
It has a large marina with affordable berths—one of the few marinas on the entire coast. Sailing enthusiasts frequently enjoy the three-hour voyage to Punta del Este (or the day-long one to Buenos Aires). Piriapolis, however, is small. Unlike Montevideo, it has a small-town, neighborly feel. Everyone knows everyone.
Francisco Piro owned, master planned and built much of what is Piriapolis today. When he finished building his own house in 1897, he went about building grand hotels, then selling lots to home owners and hoteliers. His Argentino Hotel, built in the 1920s, was one of the biggest hotels in South America at the time.
In Piriapolis, $145,000 could by you a 745-square-foot condo in a 4-year-old building 100 meters from the beach.
Uruguay is stable and safe. The infrastructure and public amenities are good. It feels First Worldly. You can drink water from the tap. Roads are good. Wifi is widely available…even on some buses.
And because people don’t feel the need to hide behind big gates in resort communities, it has a charming and eclectic collection of beach towns.
Following the coast from Piriapolis and past Punta del Este (half an hour from Piriapolis) is the province that stretches to the border with Brazil: Rocha.
Uruguay’s best beaches are here. White sands stretch for miles. Beaches are backed by grassy dunes.
The beach towns in Rocha have a quiet charm and less of the old grandeur of Piriapolis.
La Paloma is the area’s biggest and most vibrant. You could buy a two-bedroom duplex for $139,000. You have ocean views from the terrace and are a short stroll to the beach.
Close to La Paloma, $31,900 buys you a half-acre lot in a new gated community back from one of the best stretches of beach. Planned amenities include tennis and nine holes of golf.
La Pedrera has a more upscale ambiance. For $140,000 you can buy a large home, 100 meters from the sea. (For $220,000 you could buy a new home with a pool on its own acre of land in a private community.)
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