Punta del Este
Punta del Este is a beach resort town in Uruguay complete with casinos, beaches, yachts and lots of tourists. Many of these tourists come from the other side of the Rio de la Plata from Argentina to get some nice fun in the sun on a beach away from the brown waters of the Rio de la Plata.
Punta del Este is known for its beaches, surfing, beautiful people and an ardent night scene. It is expensive, usually about 50% more expensive than other areas of Uruguay, if not more. There are many travel sights, including the amazing restaurants. It's been called the Monaco of South America. In the past several years the area has become extremely urbanized with several highrises, and often recieves mixed reviews from tourists. Tourist season varies wildly from totally deserted in the winter to very very crowded in the summer, unusual for a city this size.
Punta del Este is linked to Montevideo by a well-maintained four-lane divided highway called the Ruta Interbalnearia. It is a toll road maintained by the Highway Corporation of Uruguay. The toll plazas are near Solis and Pando and charge 55 pesos per automobile (larger vehicles pay more), to vehicles traveling in both directions.
If you rent a car in Montevideo, you must budget at least 220 pesos round trip (about $11 USD as of 2012) and include the time necessary to stop at toll plazas four times (twice in each direction) in your trip planning.
If you want a hotel room you can see 360° virtual tours of the best hotels of Punta del Este, and online book here: http://hoteles.uruguay360.com.uy
Regular buses come back and forth from Montevideo, making Punta del Este a convenient day trip (two hours by bus, see the timetable ). If you accidentally get off the bus at Maldonado Terminal which is a few kilometers north of Punta del Este you can easily catch a local bus(marked "Punta del Este" in top front) at the stop just behind the bus terminal for 14 Uruguayan Pesos(US$.60) which you pay to the driver.
There are several ferry companies that offer services to and from Buenos Aires. A ferry takes you from BA to Colonia, then you take a bus to Punta Del Este. The return trip takes the same path. The journey is a bit long at 7-8 hours, but is not obscenely expensive when compared to air travel and significantly shorter than the overland option.
If you need a transfer from airport,you can do it by: Bus, taxi or remises Airport Transfer Uruguay. Bus it is very cheep but it not confortable because you have to trip with your bags , Taxis are located in front of airport, rates in taxi it is very expensive, so you can pre book online a remise or private transfer, rates start at U$S 250. Most used: Remises B&B , Airport Transfer Uruguay If you are in Buenos Aires, you can take a short direct flight (less than 1 hour) to Punta del Este. Alternatively, you can take the ferry (about 3 hours) from Buenos Aires to Montevideo. Montevideo is approximately two hours (by car) away from the Peninsula of Punta del Este also you can do it a transfer from port in taxi or remise, same rates from airport.
220 pesos from Montevideo to Punta del Este on the bus. Buses are frequent.
The bulk of Punta del Este is on a peninsula jutting into the ocean. The perimeter of this peninsula can easily be traversed by foot.
To get to La Barra o José Ignacio you had better have a means of transport like a car (renting a car is always going to be the best way to visit all the places). Buses are not very frequent and public transport like taxis usually has to be called over the phone (very expensive compared to standards of the rest of Uruguay). Hitchhiking is common for young people since night clubs are far from each other and people may be staying in places far from the clubs. If you have a car, be kind; pick up someone (especially in the morning, after the clubs have closed). Remember that Punta del Este is very safe, but normal precautions should always be taken.
You can rent a moped (scooter) for US$10/hour or US$45/day at several places.
The beautiful sunsets in the port of Punta del Este, La Barra or Jose Ignacio are other spots not too far away (by car), from Punta del Este itself. Go to the beaches, being a peninsula you have two coastlines, one of them is pretty quiet and calm (called "mansa"), and the other one is windy, with some surf spots (called "brava"). Famous beaches includes: "La playa de los Dedos" (The finger beach"), which is near the main street in Punta del Este, close to a surf spot, and it has a giant hand emerging from the sand. In La Barra the Bikini Beach is famous because of the models and famous people that go there. The endless beaches, beautiful seaside mansions, tree-lined streets, chic boutiques, stylish people.
Punta del Este is a very important tourist port. The upper crust has its yachts there and if you want to rent a boat, this is the place to ask.
Tanning is a popular activity on Punta del Este's famous beaches. You can choose from beaches on the calm side of the peninsula where you can rent jet skis or banana boat trips, or on the other, windier side. Punta del Este has some good surfing spots, not as good as La Paloma (150km up to the north of Punta del Este), but it gets pretty decent in good days. You can also rent sea bikes, windsurf and kite-surfing equipment, and surf boards.
Punta del Este has an island nearby, that is called the Isla Gorriti. It is protected because of its nature so there are no great buildings or anything like that. You can take a 20 minute ferry at the port that will drop you off at the island where you can enjoy the fun atmosphere, paradisaical beach, and good food at the restaurant. It is also possible to take private yachts, speedboats, or sailboats to the island and anchor by the shore. Renting a boat is nice in good weather. Isla de Lobos is another island that is also protected because of its sea lion population.
Seafood in Punta del Este is delicious. Chivitos (steak sandwiches) and asado (steak) are the locals' favourite dishes. Aside from that, pretty much any type of food can be found: sushi, Indian, Italian, French cuisine, etc.
Local and imported wines (especially Argentinian and european vineyards). There's a famous drink in all Uruguay called "medio y medio" (half and half) which is a mix of sweet sparkling wine, and dry white wine.
Punta del Este is famous for its clubbing scene. Most parties start very late, between midnight and 3AM and end around dawn. You cannot name a specific club because it's probably going to change its name or its location the next year. Don't worry, they do good marketing, so you will find out very easily.
Every year the night life changes, so you never know which is going to be place that will hit the summer in Punta del Este. Most of the clubs are away from the peninsula of Punta del Este, mainly in La Barra. But the fashion places changes, it depends on the year.
You can expect high prices for club entries in late December and early January, and specially in the weekends. After the 15 of January the prices go down (this includes most of the things), and altought there may be still a lot of people in Punta del Este, it is not going to be as crowded. Anyway, expect a lot of movement in the clubs at weekends.
Book ahead between Christmas and carnival, when most every bed is taken. Staying in the peninsula of Punta del Este is probably the best option if you don't have a car, as buses are few, cabs and remise are expensive and also are few. Keep in mind that beds here are among the most costly on the continent.
Nearby beach towns in Uruguay make for convenient day trips or nice overnight escapes from the crowds of Punta.