The Top Things to See and Do in La Paloma, Uruguay

Lighthouse | © Marcelo Campi | Flickr
Lighthouse | © Marcelo Campi | Flickr

This little beach resort blossoms into nightclubby life during the summer months between November and February, but beyond that it’s low season. So, visit outside those months and you’ll find a lovely laid-back vibe: streets lined with quaint surf-style beach homes, and no crowds in sight. Quiet it might be, but La Paloma isn’t short on things to see, do – and eat! Here are the best activities in this beach beauty in Uruguay.

Feria Artesanal de La Paloma

Market
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In a town beloved of elderly snowbirds, overwintering for months, the success of this craft market is self-explanatory: spilling across the town’s central plaza are stalls brimming with thoughtfully created leather goods, silverware, drawings and paintings, among other handicrafts. It’s a friendly spot where locals and visitors chat in halting Spanish and English, bargaining for presents to buy the family, or friends feeding the cats, back home. If you make only one purchase, snap up the gourds for sipping mate. Your pals will love you.

Spot dolphins and whales

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LA PALOMA; URUGUAY - SEPTEMBER 8, 2015:  Signpost marking a whalewatching point in La Paloma, Uruguay.
© Olaf Speier / Alamy

July in Uruguay marks the start of the whale-watching season. This is when cetaceans including southern right whales and dolphins arrive to mate, give birth and nurture their offspring in the mild Atlantic waters of winter-into-spring. You don’t need to shell out for costly boat trips to witness them cavorting in the blue depths. The coastline around here is where they gather en masse, lifting their impressive hulks out of the water to splash back down not even 200m (700ft) from shore.

Lo de Edinson for seafood and sweet pastries

Restaurant, Authentic, $$$
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People of La Paloma flock to this highly rated lunch and dinner spot in the heart of La Paloma for the utterly delicious grilled meats, the seafood-laden paella and the perfectly presented wood-fired pizzas made with faina (the term for a base made using chickpea flour). It’s open from 8am until 11:30pm, and breakfast is always a pleasure, given the care they lavish on their flaky pastries. Order yours with a freshly squeezed orange juice and devour it al fresco in the sun at one of the bright green bench sets.

Surf

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La Paloma has a unique feel about it, as you walk from the bus station through the streets, your first impression is relaxed residential; approaching the center, you see it revolves a lot around the good surf in the area. To the west of the town is Corumbá, with its firm white sands. It can experience mighty swells – which is great news for advanced surfers. When it is calm, the beach is an ideal spot for novices. In the summer, you’ll find a selection of surf schools.

Playa La Balconada

Natural Feature
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Uruguay, La Paloma, Atlantic Ocean resort town, Playa la Balconada beach
© mauritius images GmbH / Alamy

The most popular of all the beaches around here is La Balconada. It’s a picturesque spot, with two rocky promontories on either side of the gently curved sands. To locate them, ask for Cabo Santa María Lighthouse and El Cabito Beach. Sunsets are magnificent, in shades of peach and raspberry streaked across the sky, and in the summer, the nightlife scene heats up like the weather, with a young crowd piling in to enjoy DJ sets. Outside of this time, you’ll find the place more peaceful, with an agreeable restaurant scene – try easygoing Las Rocas for tapas and risottos.

Bahia Chica

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Bahia Chica, with its undemanding shallows and lack of threatening currents, has a firm fan base among families. Stand-up paddle-boarders, too – this is prime learning territory for the tricky activity. Swimmers adore this spot, with its appealing outlook over a small island, La Tuna, and even if you don’t want to take the plunge, you’ll be happy sitting quietly with your feet in the wavelets, perhaps enjoying that chilled bottle of beer you stashed in your rucksack.

Laguna de Castillos en Rocha

Natural Feature
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Just outside La Paloma town proper is this protected area – a place of pure, unspoiled nature radiating tranquility for day-trippers. It’s also a paradise for birdwatchers, with its wetlands a vast mirror of water colonized by some 250 species including storks, blacked-necked swans, teal and spoonbills. If you fancy a dip in the Atlantic, there’s a still lagoon to cool off in before you begin work on your suntan on the sandy beach. There are also opportunities to kayak and horseback ride – inquire in La Paloma before venturing out.

Cabo Santa María Lighthouse

Building
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Lighthouse of Cabo de Santa Maria, an Uruguayan emblematic building declared National Historic Monument, located in La Paloma, Rocha, Uruguay. Sunset
© Carolina Jaramillo Castro / Alamy

When the finishing touches were added to Paloma’s landmark whitewashed lighthouse in 1874, it effectively marked the town’s transformation into a resort. It wasn’t without trial and error – the initial attempt collapsed in a severe storm, killing French and Italian workers, who are buried nearby. Outside is a solar clock that tells the time with shadows cast by the lighthouse. If you’re feeling fit, you can climb the 143 steps to the top to survey the coastal expanses below you, unraveling off into the hazy distance, as far as the eye can see.

Kitesurf

Sports Center
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Gusty La Paloma is heaven for lovers of kitesurfing, and unsurprisingly a healthy trade has sprung up along the town’s broad, breezy beaches. Get in touch with Kiteloop if you fancy trying your hand. It offers a caring steer even for utter novices, with a choice of shores to help you find your feet. You’ll probably need to get accustomed to standing on your board on the beach before you go to battle it out in the water, but you couldn’t be in a better part of the world for ideal conditions.

Bike ride from La Paloma to La Pedrera

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This is a very pleasant way to spend a non-beach-bronzing day – pedaling the 7.5mi (12km) from La Paloma northeast to the exclusive little commune of La Pedrera, where windsurfers twirl in the waves. No need to rush things – simply saddle up with plenty of chilled water and take it at your own pace. There are two ways to do it: either follow the foamy white shallows of the coast, or proceed inland along Ruta 10 where paths allow. If you take the former – and we recommend you do – you’ll have lungfuls of briny air to blow away any nocturnal excesses.

Sunset

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Sunset beach scene, La Paloma, Rocha, Uruguay
© All Canada Photos / Alamy

With southwest-facing beaches, the sunsets, along with the lighthouse, are the most photographed thing in La Paloma. Even if you are in town without a view of the horizon, you can often see the pink, red and orange wispy colors light up the sky, and from one of the beaches, or even the lagoon, it’s beautiful to watch a day end in this fashion.

This is an updated version of an articles originally by Will Lees.

These recommendations were updated on July 27, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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