8 Cool Things You’ll See in Punta del Este, Uruguay
Punta del Este is a beautiful seaside town in Uruguay filled with luxurious skyscrapers, restaurants, shops, natural beauties, and the first green building on Earth that will offer you countless cool things to experience.
The Uruguayan Ministry of Tourism defines Punta del Este as a city where nature and luxury converge. Celebrities like James Hetfield, Shakira, Zinédine Zidane, and Ralph Lauren have chosen Punta del Este as a summer destination.
Join me in this post in order to find out 8 cool things you can do in Punta del Este.
FUN FACT! Punta del Este hosted the Punta del Este ePrix—the first-ever Formula E race in the Americas—in 2014. Beijing hosted the first eRace in the world that same year.
How Can I Get To Punta Del Este?
Punta del Este is a 25 square mi (67 square km) city between the Atlantic Ocean and La Plata River (El río La Plata) in Eastern Uruguay. Punta del Este is 2 hours away from Uruguay ‘s capital, Montevideo, only 80 mi (130 km) separate the two cities.
There is an international airport in the city too, Laguna del Sauce international airport, 12 miles (20 km) or a simple 20-minute drive from the city center.
Argentinians visit Punta del Este quite often too, and that is because Punta del Este is not far from Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. In fact, it’s a seven-hour drive that several Argentinians make every summer. They travel 252 mi (406 km) throughout the General Manuel Oribe Highway, crossing the famous La Plata river through a ferry.
In the map below you can see Uruguay’s political division. In the southeast of the country, that department with three little lakes is Rocha, to the west you can find Maldonado, Punta del Este’s department. Punta del Este is on the little tip all the way to the south of Maldonado.
How ‘s the Weather in Punta Del Este?
The best time to travel to Punta del Este depends on your preference. However, the most popular time for tourists is the beginning of the year, especially between December and February, since these are the summer months in the southern hemisphere.
The average temperature in December is 68 ⁰F (20 ⁰C), in January and February 77 ⁰F (22 ⁰C). Throughout the year it rarely goes above 88 ⁰F (31 ⁰C) and below 37 ⁰F (2.5 ⁰C).
FUN FACT! Punta del Este has around 12,000 inhabitants year-round. In the summer the population increases up to 450,000 people.
1. La Mano de Punta del Este
La Mano (The hand) in Punta del Este has three popular names:
- The Hand (La Mano)
- The Fingers (Los Dedos)
- Man Emerging Into Life (Hombre emergiendo a la vida)
“Man Emerging Into Life” is the official name of this structure. This is a highly popular sculpture by the Chilean artist, Mario Irarrázabal. Irarrázabal finished the hand in February 1982 after only six days! People have reproduced this iconic sculpture throughout the world.
When the Chilean artist completed the hand statue it gave him so much fame that he replicated it in Madrid, Spain, in the Atacama desert, in Chile, and in Venice, Italy, in 1987, 1992, and 1995 respectively. The meaning of this sculpture aludes the influence of mankind in nature, hence the name “Man Emerging Into Life.”
You can get to The Hand by a short walk from the city center. The location of the hand is in Parada 4 in Playa Brava (which means something like, “Angry beach” because of the stronger tides in the Atlantic Ocean). You can get to it in a 5-minute walk from the bus and ferry stops in Punta del Este.
After checking out The Hand, reflecting upon it and taking some cool pictures you can go and rent some paddle boards or surf on the beach or simply lay back, relax and enjoy the Sun.
2. Gorriti Island at Punta del Este
Gorriti Island (La Isla Gorriti) is a tiny, 21-hectare island off the coast of Playa Mansa (literally the Calm Beach, because the tides are not so great since this is La Plata River’s side). If you feel like getting off civilization and spending a whole day on a beautiful island surrounded by palm trees, forests, sand and sun, Gorriti Island is your place in Punta del Este.
You can get there as early as 9 a.m. and can stay until the last boat leaves at sunset at 6:30 p.m. For 7 USD (300 Uruguayan pesos) you’ll be able to visit the island, and the boat trip takes around 15 minutes.
Gorriti Island is part of Uruguay’s national heritage, so you won’t find any buildings there. Since the island is only 1 mile (1.7 km) long, it makes it perfect to stroll around it while enjoying the day since it has a forest in the middle and beaches to the sides.
Setting up a picnic or simply sunbathing all day long at Punta del Este’s skyline would be an amazing and relaxing activity to try out there. You can take your own chairs and food, and set them up pretty much anywhere you want to—you cannot spend the night on the island, though This tiny island is one of the coolest things to see in Punta del Este.
In the Island there are three main spots—all of which you can check out in less than a day.
- Deep Beach (Playa honda)
- Garden Harbor (Puerto jardín)
- Canyon Harbor (Puerto cañón)
3. The Twin Undulating Bridges Connecting La Barra and Punta del Este
“Among water and air, the curved bridge shines.” (Entre agua y aire, brilla el Puente Curvo.) These were the lines from Chilean Nobel Prize, Pablo Neruda, to refer to this peculiar bridge that unites La Barra with Punta del Este.
The Bridge ‘s real name is Leonel Viera bridge (Puente Leonel Viera), but Uruguayans refer to it as either The Undulating Bridge (Puente ondulante) or La Barra bridge (El puente de La Barra). It has a length of 492 ft (150m) and it is 32 ft (10m) wide. Uruguayan Leonel Viera was the mastermind behind this bridge, which the Uruguayan government opened in 1965. Uruguayan engineer, Alberto Ponce Delgado, built the original bridge’s twin, only 65 ft (20 m) away from the original one in the year 2000.
The idea behind it wasn’t only aesthetic. It was a genius idea that combined art and safety. Viera thought about the waves on the bridge in order to make drivers reduce their speed—when you drive through it, your stomach will certainly feel it.
Have you ever seen those beautiful aesthetic shots of Santorini in Greece, with all the white houses in front of the sea over uneven terrain? Well, Uruguay has a similar place called Casapueblo.
Uruguayan artist, Carlos Páez Vilaró, started building this complex structure (it’s the only structure that resembles Santorini!) in 1958 without any blueprints! It took him 36 years to finish the 13 floors of it, and he used it as his personal house and workshop. Interestingly enough it has no straight lines inside.
Casapueblo isn’t technically in Punta del Este, but a 15-minute drive away from it, 8 mi (13 km) away from it. This huge house is now a four-star hotel that offers 20 suites and 50 additional apartments. It has a spa, a hot pool, a sauna and a restaurant amongst other amenities. The cheapest price to spend a night there is around 175 USD.
Casapueblo also offers a museum in which you can see Páez Vilaró’s work, with four rooms to check his work out:
- Sala Nicolás Guillén
- Sala Pablo Picasso
- Sala Rafael Squirru
- Sala José Gómez Sicré
FUN FACT! The words casa and pueblo mean “house” and “town” respectively. However, we do not say casapueblo in Spanish to say hometown. We rather say lugar de orígen, which means “place of origin.”
5. The Lighthouse
The Lighthouse (El Faro) is located on 2 de febrero street and 5th street in Punta del Este Peninsula. The 160-year old lighthouse has oriented sailors in the Atlantic Ocean and La Plata River. Tomás Libarena built it and delivered it on November 17th 1860.
This beautiful structure is 147 ft (45m) tall and has 150 stairs to the top. However, this is only a treat for the eyes since you cannot go in and climb the structure—although some visitors claim that you can access it on Uruguayan Heritage Day, which Uruguayans celebrate in October (the date changes every year).
You can reach the lighthouse by walking for 25 minutes from the bus station at Punta del Este. At night the lighthouse emits flashes every eight seconds.
6. The Atlantic Ocean and Río de la Plata
In Punta del Este you can see how the Río de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean unite. The greenish waters of La Plata River lead to the Atlantic Ocean where both water densities and materials mix together to show a peculiar phenomenon, as you can see in NASA’s photo below.
From the land you won’t see it as clearly as in the picture, but you’ll be able to find an Uruguayan flag at the exact position where La Plata River ends. You can see the sunset, do some promenading, or drink some mate while appreciating the place at the very tip of the peninsula.
FUN FACT! Argentinians and Uruguayans call La Plata a river—but formally the water body is an estuary. If it were an official river, it would be the widest river in the world because its maximum width is 137 mi (221 km), that’s 126 miles (202 km) wider than the widest part of the Mississippi river!
7. Sea Lions at Isla de Lobos
Isla de Lobos (Wolves’ Island) is 5 miles (8 km) off the coast of Punta del Este. You can find the biggest colony of sea lions, fur seals, and southern elephant seals. The island currently has more than 180,000 fur seals and 12,500 sea lions.
Besides these impressive numbers, you can find a 193 feet-high (59-meter) lighthouse—Uruguay’s first automatic lighthouse—that you can climb with previous authorization.
You can also swim with the sea lions, and see orcas and whales.
8. The Church of Our Lady of Candelaria
Whether you’re a religious person or not, the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria in Uruguay is an interesting location to visit in Punta del Este. The building hosts an image of Our Lady of Candelaria from Spain and it’s highly appreciated by the locals.
Visit Punta Del Este Already Speaking Spanish
Prepare your visit to Uruguay and to be astonished by the wonders of La Mano, La Isla Gorriti, El Puente de la Barra, Casapueblo, El Faro, La Isla de Lobos, and La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria. Travel more smoothly by breaking the language barrier. Today’s interconnectedness has made becoming bilingual a fun and accessible goal.
What is more, did you know that you can earn an additional 50,000 USD to 125,000 USD by speaking a foreign language alone? And what’s wiser than speaking the fourth most widely spoken language in the world, and second in the US?
Sign up for a free Spanish class today and fuel up your dreams of traveling to Uruguay (or anywhere else in Latin America!) and talking to a certified native Spanish instructor!
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