It is very strange to say that Spring break was last weekend. I mean, it’s September! A much appreciated four day weekend inspired a rental car trip to the neighboring beach town of Punta del Este. This is a very posh area of Uruguay where all the celebrities and wealthy families vacation during warmer months. Let’s put it this way, there are plans for a new Trump tower.
This Spring Break was an opportunity for me to practice my manual driving, while also enjoying a nice ladies weekend with Ana and Katie (the two bravest enough to drive with me). I rented a Hyundai i10 and off we set. I only stalled twice (both at toll booths), but we made it nonetheless. Side story, at the first toll I freaked out so badly about multitasking that I stalled two feet from the window. I was trying to turn the car back on while screaming estoy aprendiendo over and over. Katie was laughing the entire time, which then gave me the giggles. The poor toll booth operator definitely had a story to tell at the dinner table that night.
We pulled into Punta del Este on a super dreary day. It was majorly overcast and threatened serious rain. However, we were determined to make the most out of the situation. I parked (yeah!) and we checked into our hostel. Ana was popping her hostel cherry and was a little skeptical at first, but warmed to the idea after a while. We dropped our belongings and headed for some comida. A warning to those traveling in winter…Punta del Este is a ghost town. Shops and restaurants are closed and construction is everywhere getting the town ready for the spring and summer months. So finding lunch on a Thursday on the first day of spring is a challenge. We ended up walking a few blocks before settling on a restaurant that looked open and less expensive than the fancy ones overlooking the sea. We met a super kind waiter who gave us some pointers on food, ate our fill of pasta and fries with mushrooms (Ana’s specialty) and headed back to the hostel for a much needed nap. Let me tell you, manual driving is exhausting!
A few hours later, we awoke with newfound energy, so we headed out the the common area and ordered a few beers. Then we discussed our next move. And in walked James (more on him later). Our night and next day was filled with food, photographs, and walks along the beach. Despite the chilly and rainy weather, I am glad that we went to Punta during the off season for the first time. There is something to be said about exploring a town without the hustle of crowds. Plus the minimal traffic was much easier for me to navigate my first time taking a car out of the city.
Punta Del Este is so close to Montevideo, that you must make sure you take the time to make the trek. It is beautiful and well worth it. Some take aways from Punta that I highly recommend no matter what time of year you go:
- Stay in a hostel. Our hostel Tas D Vieja was AMAZING! So warm and welcoming and fun! In the summer months, it will only get better. Not only was this an economical option, but hostel communities always make for great additions to your friend group.
- Take pictures with the dedos. It is a very strange piece of art in the middle of the sand, but well worth the funny pictures. I highly recommend standing on the thumb.
- Be sure to walk down towards Conrad hotel. There is a lovely boardwalk and some yummy restaurants. It is also a great place for pictures.
- If things are closed, go towards the port. You will find many more options for eating and shopping.
- If you want good fish, head to Leonardo Etxea. They have a bit more flavor than you will typically find in Uruguay. Their pastas are really good, too. And they give you a shot of lemoncello at the end of the meal!
- And a must must must is Casa del Pueblo, roughly 17 km from Punta going towards Montevideo. (More on this later).
- Look for whales. You may get lucky at some of the points along the coast from September to February.
Punta del Este was a nice little respite from Montevideo. We will definitely go back soon. But we will probably wait for it to get a little warmer so we can really take advantage of the beaches.