Today, August 25th, marks the 192nd anniversary of Uruguay’s independence! To celebrate my first true-love I’ve rounded up Uruguay’s top 10 beaches. My father is from Rocha, which is home to my favorite playa, La Paloma. In order not to be completely biased and only list beaches in my families states I asked Uruguayan family and friends to share with me their favorite beach spots– including a secret swimming hole that even most locals don’t know about! Uruguay coastal towns are bohemian hubs in the summer months to enjoy lazy days under the sun or water sports, fresh seafood, and local culture. Don’t expect tropical paradise, but instead a bohemian beach vibe. Here are the top 8 beaches in Uruguay!
The best time of year to visit for beach weather in Uruguay is during the summer between November and March. The tourist season peaks over the holidays in December and January. The playas are worth visiting in the offseason as well, as temperatures in Uruguay are quite moderate. Surfers will find the best waves in April and May. A major benefit of visiting in the winter months of June, July, and August is that you will have a high chance of seeing whales just off the Uruguayan coast. Read on to discover eight of the 8 best beaches in Uruguay, in order from south to north.
SWIM IN THE CALM WATERS AT PIRIÁPOLIS
At over 125 years old, Piriápolis is Uruguay’s oldest beach resort. Located on the sparkling banks of the Rio de la Plata, it has smooth waters making it the perfect setting for those who desire long swims in the sea. With many seafront restaurants and shops, it’s also an ideal spot for a family vacation. A hike up the hill offers beautiful views of the coastline and town and Punta Del Este can be seen in the distance on a clear day.
WHALE WATCHING AND SUNSETS AT PUNTA BALLENA
Punta Ballena, which translates to whale point, is a peninsula in the Rio de la Plata near Punta Del Este. It’s super common to see whales here in the winter months. Swimming is dangerous here due to the rock formations in the water that can be hidden during high tide. This is also one of the most beautiful places in the area to watch the sunset dip into the horizon.
EXPLORE THE BEACHES IN PUNTA DEL ESTE
Punta Del Este is home to the most popular tourist beaches along the resort’s peninsula coast. On the Atlantic ocean side, Playa Brava is famous for the hand sculpture which was placed in the sand as a warning to swimmers to be aware of the deep waters and deadly undertow. Be cautious and pay attention to the flag warnings about the water conditions.
On the other side of the peninsula, there’s Playa Mansa, a long strip of beach with calm waters from the Rio de La Plata and home to many delicious seafood eateries. For a unique experience, hire a boat and spend the day at the nearby Isla Goritti to explore wild natural beaches and collect seashells.
SURFING AND PADDLE BOARDING AT LA BARRA’S BIKINI BEACH
La Barra is located just a short drive from Punta Del Este across a wavy bridge. Locals flock here to avoid the tourist crowds and sunbathe at the aptly named Bikini beach. During the high season, drum circles tend to pop-up to celebrate the sunset and vendors can be found strolling the beach selling ice cream, sarongs, jewelry, and more. It is one of the most popular spots in Uruguay for surfers and standup paddle boarding. The festive beach is best for backpackers looking to party by the sea.
TAKE IN THE NATURAL BEAUTY AT JOSE IGNACIO
The coastal bohemian fisherman village, Jose Ignacio, is popular with locals and foreigners due to its long stretches of natural beaches. During high season, an international crowd gathers here to party at a secret beach club situated on a secluded island. Playa Brava is popular with surfers and Mansa beach, on the other side of the peninsula, is the best location to enjoy a stunning Uruguayan sunset with the picturesque lighthouse in the foreground. As an ideal place to relax and enjoy Uruguay’s natural beauty, do as the locals do and enjoy a pitcher of clericot aka white wine sangria as the sun kisses the sea.
SAND DUNE BOARDING AND WATER SPORTS AT LA PALOMA
La Paloma is my favorite beach in Uruguay and the seaside village is in my father’s hometown, Rocha. This beach has only recently become known to western tourists but has maintained its authentic small-town charm. Facing the Atlantic Ocean, the lovely Cabo Santa Maria lighthouse is surrounded by rocky beaches littered with tiny seashells. The beach doesn’t have fine sand but it’s very popular with water sports fans and sand dune boarders. Nearby Bahía Chica and Bahía Grande are better locations for those looking to hang out on smooth sandy bays; they are also family-friendly due to the calm waters.
SAND DUNES GALORE AT CABO POLONIO
Surrounded by nothing but huge sand dunes, Cabo Polonio is a gorgeous wild beach that can only be reached by jeep; an ideal location to enjoy the incredible nature of Uruguay. Just north of Cabo Polonio is the much easier to reach resort of Valizas. From there, head off on a quest to find the secret beach, La Esmeralda, between Cabo Polonio and Punta del Diablo.
LAID-BACK VIBES AT PUNTA DEL DIABLO
Located just 40km from the Brazilian border, Punta del Diablo has been a popular beach destination for locals for many years but has just recently gained traction with tourists. With many local artisans calling the seaside village home, you’ll find unique accommodation and beachfront bars in abundance here. With an incredibly laid-back vibe, discover traditional fishing boats dragged up into the sand, eclectic beach shacks dotted along the shore and sweet-smelling flora adding splashes of color.
Have you been to my precious Uruguay? Is it on your bucket list? Tell me in the comments!