Whether you’re backpacking, flashpacking or lux travelling through South America, we tend to turn our attention to the popular destinations: Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. There are some countries that aren’t even considered due to their political and/or economic turmoil resulting in safety concerns. Bolivia, is a popular destination for those wanting to see Salar de Uyuni but generally a pass-through country and from what I have heard, you either love it or hate it.
This year I planned my trip around discovering Uruguay, as I wanted to visit Punta del Diablo because it looked like a perfect place for me to kick back and relax by the beach. The country has a population of 3 million people and over half of which live in the country’s capital, Montevideo. In comparison to the rest of South America, Suriname is the only country that is smaller than Uruguay.
From speaking with locals, it seems that most travellers end up going to the 3 most popular cities: Colonia del Sacremento (1 hr boat ride away from Buenos Aires), Montevideo and the infamous, Punta del Este. However, travellers are always encouraged to go further up the coast to discover more of this beautiful, coastal country.
If you plan on visiting keep in mind that buses are limited, only 2 a day, from Punta del Este and there are a few more routes at the San Carlos station (30 mins by local bus).
Punta del Diablo is small fishermen’s town 3 hours east from Punta del Este. A perfect place for those who are trying to escape from the cheesy Miami-esque, resort-town vibe and hoards of tourists.
This sweet town, just like its ~750 residents, welcomes you to a place of real and raw charm of simplicity. Dirt roads, local shops and of course, the relaxed beach town vibes. Of course, during high season there is more people traffic given that it is summer vacation for most people in South America.
White sand beaches accompanied by the turquoise Atlantic is perfect for any beach bum. However, be warned that the ozone layer is thinner in Uruguay and no joke, you need to frequently coat yourself in sunscreen 50+ (at one point, I had SPF80). Two hours out in the sun, I got my first burn and I have only been burned 2 other times in my entire life. The nice cool breeze of the wind offsets the heat, so it’s quite easy to get one hell of a burn on your first couple of days.
The local restaurants are inexpensive and if you’re lucky, you can find a sweet hammock to chill out on with a nice ice cold beer. Even their local wine is pretty good, I have a bit of regret not bringing a bottle of Tannat home. 🙁
For activity seekers, boogie board or surf in the afternoon as conditions are pretty unpredictable and change in a quick moment. Definitely go for the sunset horseback riding, the horses are well taken care of and you go through rougher trails, through Santa Theresa National Park and then, gallop your way on the beach.
If you’re in Uruguay, I highly recommend that you spend some time in Punta del Diablo. If you don’t fall in love with this charming town, you’ll fall in love with your higher state of relaxation 😉
Punta del Diablo Travel Tips
How to get there: Buy your ticket via COT at the Punta del Este bus station. If you can purchase it in advance of leaving, I’d advise it so you can ensure a spot on the bus to Punta del Diablo (~3 hrs). Buses leave on time, so get there early. 4:30pm bus means the bus is pulling out at 4:30pm; I love and appreciate the efficiency but others may not be so keen on it 😉
For those who are flying, the closest airport (PDP) is about 30-40 mins away from Punta del Este. Take the shuttle it’s about US$8 – $10.
Accommodations: El Diablo Tranquilo Hostel (get a collectivo, it’s a 30-40 min walk from the bus station)
Lunch Spot: Beach Bar at the sister hostel (best burger with a great view of the beach)
Cocktails/Dinner Spot: Deja Vu Bar
Best time to go: December to Mid-Feb (South America’s summer)