Uruguay’s Punta del Este is home to fewer than 10,000 lucky individuals who get to enjoy its beaches and stunning landscape all year long. During the summer, the population swells to around 150,000, mostly with visitors from other cities in Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil — but also with North Americans and Europeans seeking its relaxed and elegant lifestyle.
If you are only spending a few days and cannot do all there is to do in Punta del Este, here are some tips to help you prioritize.
Brava or Mansa?
Punta del Este has two main beaches, one over the Río de la Plata and the other over the Atlantic Ocean. Those preferring calmer waters, such as families with young children, will enjoy the Mansa beaches along the Claudio Williman promenade. Surf enthusiasts and others looking for rougher waves will most likely prefer the Brava beach and its waters that stretch along the Lorenzo Batlle promenade.
Film Festival or Fashion Show?
Film festivals in Montevideo date back to 1951, when Argentinean entrepreneur Mauricio Litman organized the first edition of the Punta del Este International Film Festival at the Cantegril Country Club. Stars like Joan Fontaine, Gèrard Philipe and Silvana Mangano attended the event where films by Robert Bresson, Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman were shown. After a long pause, the festival was reborn a few years ago. It now takes place every year near the end of the summer season, around March.
For those who prefer catwalks and couture to cinema, Punta del Este offers annual fashion shows. Argentinean designers and their Uruguayan counterparts organize outstanding shows, with the most prominent one held at the Conrad Hotel every January.
Celebrities such as Shakira, Zinedine Zidane and Pierre Casiraghi, Prince of Monaco regularly attend shows to see the work of designers like Jorge Ibáñez, Claudio Cosano (Argentina), Karin Coo (Chile), Hernán Zajar (Colombia) or locals Pablo Suárez, Nicolás Osano and Charlotte (Uruguay).
Casapueblo or La Mano?
This question has to do with which spot to choose to best commemorate your stay in Punta del Este. Most tourists choose the monument for the drowned created by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazábal to take a photograph that proves they have spent some time in the most elegant seaside resort in Latin America. The giant sculpture of a hand with fingers emerging from the sand is arguably the most well-known landmark of Punta del Este.
Others choose the famous sunsets at Casapueblo to record their visit. Built by noted Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, the house is a Mediterranean-style citadel sculpture that pays tribute to the artist’s son, one of the 16 survivors of the crash of Flight 571 in 1972. It includes a museum, an art gallery and a hotel.
Seafood or Farm Fare?
Twelve miles from downtown Punta del Este, visitors can enjoy free tours to Tambo El Sosiego, where the famous La Pataia Dulce de Leche is made. The tours show visitors the process of making the favorite dessert in the region. Every summer since 1996, the dairy farm also hosts an International Jazz Festival with artists from around the world playing their melodies surrounded by hills and nature. The farm is an excellent choice for those who enjoy nature, families and music.
However, the most popular gastronomic choice is, by far, the fresh seafood that many restaurants along the Punta del Este harbor offer to those visiting the yachting facility with its breathtaking views of the nearby Gorriti Island.
Gorriti or Lobos?
There are two small islands a few minutes away from the coast, and visitors who want to see them can take short boat rides that leave every day from the port. The tour to Isla de Lobos takes about two hours and offers tourists a glimpse of the largest seal colony in South America. Visitors choosing Isla Gorriti, an island half the size of Isla de Lobos that was home to a prison in the 18th century, can enjoy long, relaxing strolls and a meal at the small restaurant that faces one of the island’s two beaches.The beach is a preferred spot for water sports enthusiasts and is surrounded by thousands of pine trees.
Casting or Clubs?
While it is a fact that Punta del Este is all about sun and beaches, it is also true that the city has a very active nightlife. Bars, lounges and clubs receive thousands of tourists around midnight. La Barra, with its famous undulating bridge and its many clubs, has attracted stars such as Michael Bublè and Naomi Campbell, as well as many other visitors who look to spend a lively night after a relaxing day at the beach.
During the day, the Maldonado Stream is the preferred spot for those looking to cast a line and enjoy a day of saltwater fishing. Fishing enthusiasts can rent a boat or fish off the dock and cast their lines for tuna, anchovies and bluefish.
Those with lots of energy can fish during the day and hit the clubs at night!
Pat Antuña Yarza is a freelance writer and translator based in Montevideo. Mom to three and a relentless juggler, she writes copy for digital agencies and creative studios as well as news and culture magazines. With an MA in Cinema & TV Production and 10-plus years’ experience in translation and advertising, she also runs a team of 30 audiovisual translators and blogs on media & subtitling at www.widdmedia.com. She loves films, advertising, music and parenting. You can follow Pat on Twitter @datcopypat. (This article was first appeared in NSAM’s sister publication Global Delivery Report.)