Small Town Beach Life in Uruguay

I first came to Uruguay on vacation, in 2004, expecting a Third-World adventure. But what I found was a European corner of Latin America that I didn’t know existed.

I moved to Uruguay full-time in 2006. And since then I’ve explored more than a dozen different countries, from Spain to Argentina. I’ve lived in Brazil, have a second home in Colombia, and bought property in Nicaragua. Yet Uruguay is where I call home; and I can’t think of a better place to be right now. The lifestyle is unbeatable, and the cost of living and of properties is reasonable.

When I first came here, Uruguay was completely off the expat radar. Today, expats are arriving in record numbers, with new residents from North America tripling in number last year.

People have traditionally been drawn here to experience some of the world’s best beaches…where you can explore miles of golden sands bordering deep blue seas, offering everything from small villages to South America’s most popular resort.

I’m three blocks from the ocean, about two miles outside famous Punta del Este, South America’s premier seaside resort. During summer (November to January in Uruguay)  the permanent population of around 19,000—me included—swells with more than 500,000 visitors.

From miles away, you’ll see the sparkling high rises set against the deep blue ocean. But as you get up close, you’ll discover the high-end shops, a multitude of world-class restaurants, artisan fairs, and upscale marina facilities.

Visitors and residents alike enjoy walking the miles-long boardwalk, watching the boat traffic, the beachgoers, or stopping to enjoy a fresh seafood dinner or a glass of wine on the waterfront. In the evenings, many will take in a show, featuring the likes of Ricky Martin, Bob Dylan, or Tom Jones.

But here on the edge of town, our beach never fills up, and the quiet gravel roads don’t see many cars. But as the part-year neighbors show up to enjoy the summer, I do see people walking by on their way to the beach, and notice the homey smell of wood smoke as everyone fires up their nightly barbecue on the parrilla.

To me, it’s a perfect setting. We’ve got miles of beaches at the end of our street…a sleepy residential neighborhood…and all the high-end resort amenities minutes away.

I think Punta del Este offers the highest quality of life for the money in Uruguay.

It’s also the most expensive town in Uruguay…yet you can live here reasonably if you want to. My friend Mary lives in the heart of downtown, within walking distance to everything…yet she lives on a Social Security check of $1,424 per month. And that includes not just food, utilities, and entertainment, but also her rent, health insurance, and all co-payments.

Properties in Punta del Este rose 80% between mid-2007 and the end of 2010…a period that included the “Great Recession.” Last year, property transactions in this small town reached an amazing $7.2 million…per day.

You can buy an apartment for over $7 million. But I also found a completely-furnished home for sale in the La Barra area, with almost 1,100 square feet, including four bedrooms and three baths—in a completely walkable location—for an asking price of $140,000.

And I saw a furnished brick home in my neighborhood—Rincón del Indio—with two bedrooms and two baths, three blocks from the beach, for $180,000.

In downtown Punta del Este, an 807-square-foot apartment with two bedrooms and two baths is on offer for $150,000. And there is much more seashore to discover outside of Punta del Este.

Between Punta and Montevideo, you can still find a nice waterfront home for around $75,000. And going the other way toward Brazil, you’ll find Uruguay’s most beautiful beaches, on vast stretches of undeveloped coastline.

If you’re looking for a beach lifestyle, there will be a perfect option for you in Uruguay.

For my full report, including contacts, see the October issue of International Living magazine. You can instantly access it on through the online archives when you subscribe with this link.