Punta del Este is one of the most famous beaches in South America outside of Brazil. The long point of land on the Atlantic Coast fills in the summer months with local Uruguayans, as well as people flooding in from neighbouring Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. It, of course, also plays host to thousands of travellers from outside the region as well. Outside of the summer months Punta del Este is quiet, and there isn’t all too much to do as the small city’s permanent population is only around 10,000. However, if you are in the area in the summer months you should at least plan for a couple days in town if to do nothing else but people watch down on the beach.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: $30-45 a day
Things to do in Punta del Este
- Beaches: Chose your beach based on how busy you like it. The most popular beach is Bikini Beach which is on the busy Playa Brava. If you’re looking to surf a bit there are decent waves off of the pier at Playa Olla. You’ll also find a quieter crowd with more families there. Like most busy beached in the world, there are a number of agents selling para-sailing and jet skiing adventures.
- Tours: Perhaps the only tour that is worth doing is that of Sea Lion Island (Isla de Los Lobos), which is home to a very large – and loud – sea lion colony. There are a number of places in town that offer tours and most charge between $30-40.
- Party: Most hostels organize club crawls which run basically every day of the year in the summer. They are a good value and are a great way to meet people if you are travelling solo. If you want to go out on your own, all the clubs are actually about 10 minutes out of town in a district called La Barra. If you are here in the off-season don’t expect them to be open.
- Shopping: Along the main tourist street in town is where you’ll likely do most of your shopping. You’ll find everything from super highend fashion to cheap knockoffs.
- Sights: The most famous sight in Punta del Este is the hand in the sand. It is nearly a requirement to get your photo taken there when in town.
Where to Eat in Punta del Este
I was on a very tight budget when I was in Punta del Este so I only ate out twice, I did the rest of my eating via the hostel which cooked nightly meals for quite cheap. On a guidebook recommendation I went to a sandwich place called El Greco. The sandwiches were good, but I think that the price was slightly inflated due to the season I was there. I splurge once a week on eating regardless of my budget and my splurge in Punta del Este was on fresh seafood at a place called Starmia. The meal and beer I consumed cost me about $15.
Where to Stay in Punta del Este
I stayed in the same hostel chain in Punta del Este as I did in Montevideo. The El Viajero hostels are always very good. This one was great. I really enjoyed my stay with them and I don’t think there’s any real need to stay anywhere else if you’re looking for a hostel.
Getting out of Town
Buses leave from the main bus terminal in town and will take you to just about anywhere you want. You can catch buses from here to Montevideo every half hour or so, and if you’re looking for international buses such as Florianopolis, Brazil or Buenos Aires, there are also fairly regular buses. If you’re here in the high season I recommend that you book a day or two early if you can.
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