There are situations in life we cannot escape. But fortunately, a long cold winter in the U.S. or Canada isn’t one of them. When it’s winter in North America, it’s summer in South America. And there is no better place in South America for a winter respite than the beaches of Uruguay.
Why Uruguay? While there are many countries with beautiful beaches in South America, Uruguay is among the safest countries on the continent. It has the best infrastructure and the least poverty in Latin America. There is also a well-organized hospitality and vacation rental industry.
Uruguay’s 400-mile southern coastline is dotted with beach communities. From the Uruguay River to Punta del Este, the southern coastline fronts the Río de la Plata (River of Silver), a large estuary that opens to the Atlantic. From Punta del Este to the Brazilian border, the southern coastline fronts the blue waters of the Atlantic.
So which Uruguay beach is best for your winter escape? Following are my personal favorites:
Best Urban Beach: Pocitos Beach in Montevideo
Montevideo is Uruguay’s capital city with a population of 1.6 million. Montevideo’s Pocitos neighborhood makes it possible to combine a beach vacation with the dining and cultural opportunities of a major urban center.
Pocitos is the most densely populated area of Montevideo. However, it has large parks, a lighthouse, lots of good restaurants and places to shop…and a long sand beach where you can sunbathe, swim in the Río de la Plata, or play volleyball from December through March.
Best Small Town Beach in Uruguay: Atlántida
Just 30 miles east of Montevideo is the town of Atlántida (population 6,000), on a stretch of coastline known as the Costa de Oro (Gold Coast) that fronts the Río de la Plata. The Atlántida area has lots of trees, and the beaches are wide and roomy.
Besides sunbathing, swimming, and playing volleyball on the beach of Atlántida; you can windsurf, kite surf, or ride a jet-ski-pulled banana boat. After the beach you can stroll on a pedestrian street, buy an ice cream, or go to the petting zoo.
“Punta”–A Collection of Beach Communities
Punta del Este (Point of the East) is the most visited beach area in Uruguay. The beach resort development started on the Punta del Este Peninsula. Over time, the development expanded, and now extends 40 miles along the Uruguayan coast. It is comprised of unique beach communities that are collectively known as “Punta.”
The beaches in Punta attract people from all over the world. There are many things to do in Punta: all kinds of beach sports, water sports, golf, and tennis. For entertainment during January and February, there are polo tournaments, yacht races, fashion shows, and casino events.
The Hippest Beach in Uruguay: La Barra
La Barra is a Punta beach town located 16 miles west of the Punta del Este Peninsula. It looks like a 70s California surf town with surf shops, pizza places, and art galleries.
The hippest beach in the La Barra area is Manantiales. It is a busy place with surfing, beach volleyball, outdoor beach bars, dance parties, and a bikini fashion show.
The nightclubs in La Barra fill to capacity during January and February. You will see crowds of young people out until three or four in the morning.
The Most Sophisticated Beach: José Ignacio
José Ignacio is at Punta’s western edge. It was a picturesque fishing village that caught on with affluent visitors. La Huella, a José Ignacio beach restaurant ranks as one of the best restaurants in South America.
While beach-goers in La Barra go to clubs at night, beach-goers in José Ignacio are more inclined to enjoy a private gathering around a dining table, on the beach, or at one of the many nearby country estates known as chacras.
The Best Beach for Nature Lovers: La Paloma
East of Punta del Este is a region known as Rocha. It is mostly rural with pristine Atlantic beaches. Beach towns in Rocha tend to be on the rustic side. The most developed coastal community in this region is La Paloma.
La Paloma and the nearby town of La Pedrera have some of the best surfing waves in Uruguay. After spending time on the beach, you may want to hike to Laguna de Rocha where there are more than 200 bird varieties, including flamingos.
So, if winter ever starts to get you down, remember, the best beaches in Uruguay await you.
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