Things to Do in Punta del Este
Gorlero Avenue, or Avenida Gorlero, is the main street in the Punta del Este region of Uruguay. It was named after the first mayor of Maldonado, Juan Gorlero, and is the only street in the area that got its name from a person. All other streets are referenced by street number, while avenues are known by their order from 5000 on.
Here you will find a bulk of Punta del Este’s prime tourist businesses, including cafes, restaurants, bars, art galleries, cinemas and casinos. In addition, there are a number of banks and exchange houses. During the summer tourist season, Gorlero Avenue is noted for its numerous live performers and artisans. Look for the “living statues,” jugglers, photographers and various handicraft artists set up along the avenue.
The street was remodeled in 1998 to make it friendlier to pedestrian traffic, so today its sidewalks are wider and lighting and seating are ample.
Mansa Beach, or Playa Mansa, is a popular spot on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast in the southeastern part of the country. Although the area sees a very residential population, the influx of summer tourists definitely keeps the beach booming, where there are two types of coastline: brava (fierce) and mansa (tame).
Mansa Beach extends from the Chilean Beach up to the Port of Punta del Este. The bay is quiet with very calm waters and thick sand, while the water goes from deep to shallow as you approach Punta del Este Port. At the beach you’ll find a fishing club and a nearby wooden bridge to cross for beautiful views of the bay, Gorriti Island and the peninsula.
Artigas Square, or Plaza Artigas, is the spot to hit in Punta del Este if you have an interest in arts and crafts, as it plays host to the arts and crafts fair, where a number of artisans and painters showcase their work.
Typically you will find anywhere between 150 and 200 stalls with Uruguayan artists exhibiting a variety of items for sale. It’s the ideal spot for visitors to learn more about Uruguayan culture and for artisans to showcase their work to inquisitive travelers.
Vendor offerings at Artigas Square cover everything from clothing to cartoon drawings, while some of the most popular items include leather goods, textiles, paintings, woodwork and sculptures. Also look for valuable jewelry made from gold, silver and semi-precious stones found in the northern part of Uruguay.
Located in Punta Ballena near Punta del Este, Casapueblo is the house of famous Uruguayan artist, Carlos Paez Vilaro. On October 13, 1972, a chartered flight carrying 45 people crashed in the Andes Mountains, killing all but 16 people. One of the survivors was Carlitos Paez, Carlos Paez Vilaro’s son. The citadal-style Casapueblo is the artist’s tribute to him, and features a hotel, cafe, museum and art gallery, where you can learn about Uruguayan culture. For something truly beautiful, stay until sunset and enjoy the breathtaking ocean views from the balcony with a champagne toast.
More Things to Do in Punta del Este
Because Punta del Este is known as the “Monaco of South America,” it would only make sense to visit the city’s famous Punta del Este Yacht Club. While a bit pricey, the restaurant here will really make you feel like you’re living the high life. Mix the classy ambiance and delicious food with a glass of pinot, a bit of jazz music and a multi-colored sunset, and you’ll truly be experiencing the best Punta del Este has to offer.
The balcony offers great ocean views, and you can watch the many yachts and sailboats as they dock and set sail. The staff at the yacht club are very welcoming to visiting sailors, and several regattas, including the Rolex Cup, are hosted here throughout the year.
Brava Beach, with the colloquial name Playa de los Dedos, or Beach of the Fingers, is a beautiful beach that attracts a mostly young crowd. With warm golden sand, mouth-watering food stands and rough Atlantic waters, many people who come here choose to relax on the beach instead of getting wet. However, those who enjoy surfing can’t get enough of the beach-break waves. Moreover, it’s a popular place to watch the sunrise.
The beach gets its unique name from the enormous sculpture of five cement fingers that appear to be rising from under the sand, most commonly called La Mano or The Hand. However, because the piece of art resembles a sleeping giant awakening from a long underground slumber, the official title of the piece is actually Hombre Emergiendo a la Vida, or Man Emerging to Life. The piece was meant as a signal for help from a drowning swimmer, as well as a reminder to be careful in the rough sea, giving the piece of art another name, El Monumento al Ahogado.
A small fishing town about six miles north of the Punta del Este peninsula, La Barra has been converted into a tourist area with colorful houses, flea markets and antique shops. Despite its popularity with the younger crowd in search of nightlife, La Barra attracts a number of wealthy visitors, including movie stars and models.
Punta del Este has plenty of notable beaches, and La Barra is no exception. Don’t miss Bikini Beach or the popular Montoya, Manantiales, Punta Piedras and El Chorro beaches nearby. Visitors also seek out La Barra’s hot nightlife. The area gets quite busy after dinner, especially around 2 a.m., when the younger crowd hits La Barra to check out the various pubs and discos.
La Barra also has a number of good restaurants if you’re looking to dine in the area and not stay out until sunrise. Choose from traditional Uruguayan eats, sushi places and even Italian restaurants.
Punta del Este is a sophisticated and fashionable beach resort reminiscent of the French Riviera. Impressive mansions line the coast and wealthy tourists come from all over South America to enjoy the beaches and nightlife.
Once your cruise ship docks, you will be taken ashore by tenders. The city centre is about 10 blocks from the pier. Taxis may be hard to come by, so you may need to be prepared to walk into town if your ship doesn’t offer transportation.
Without a doubt, the main attraction in Punta del Este are the outstanding beaches. Mansa Beach, Brava Beach and Gorriti Island are some of the most popular and many visitors simply spend their time in Punta del Este enjoying the surf and sun. Brava Beach is ideal for surfing, while Gorriti Island is great for windsurfing and diving. Bikini Beach is the place to go if you’re trying to spot a celebrity or two.
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