The Top Things to See and Do in Punta del Este

The Casapueblo Museum sits on the shores of Punta Ballena
The Casapueblo Museum sits on the shores of Punta Ballena | © R. Lemieszek / Getty
Photo of Milena Fajardo
19 July 2021

Uruguay’s most famous beach resort, Punta del Este, is a glamorous city that faces the rolling South Atlantic waves. Backpackers, honeymooners, families and celebrities all come here to relax on golden sands like Brava Beach, do surf-and-yoga and take in contemporary Latin American culture, from the art at the Ralli Museum to nightlife at the fishing port.

Visit the Casapueblo Museum

Hotel
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Courtesy of Casapueblo Museum / Expedia
Originally the workshop of local Carlos Páez Vilaró (1923–2014), best known for his colorful Afro-Uruguayan paintings, the Casapueblo is now a museum and hotel. The nine-story white building clings to a hillside in Punta Ballena, 8mi (13km) from Punta del Este, and the views of the Atlantic from here are as memorable as the museum. Across five rooms, you’ll learn about the artist’s life and travels, before ending the experience with a beer at the terrace bar.

Stay at the Enjoy Punta del Este Casino and Resort

Casino Hotel
4.3/5 (457 Reviews)
Enjoy Punta del Este_934458ba
Courtesy of Enjoy Punta del Este Casino and Resort / Expedia
From $117 Per night per room
A piece of Las Vegas in Uruguay, this luxury 294-room resort has five restaurants, two pools and a casino that contains three bars. By day, you can lounge around the spa, with its whirlpool and hammam, drink cocktails at the beach club or relax on your balcony (which is a feature of each room). By night, hit the glitzy casino with its 600 slot machines and 75 tables, where you can try your luck at blackjack, poker and roulette.
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See world-famous art at the Ralli Museum

Museum
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Uruguay, Punta del Este, Ralli Museum, sculptures in garden
© SuperStock / Alamy
The neighborhood of Beverly Hills is one of the prettiest in Punta del Este, with its huge houses and even bigger gardens. This gleaming white museum is no exception – but inside is even more exciting. You’ll find Surrealist sculptures by Salvador Dalí, including his melting clock, along with bulbous human figurines by Fernando Botero, and the cartoonish paintings of Beryl Cook. Alongside the European Modernist and Postmodernist work is an incredible collection of Latin American art.

Hang out at Punta del Este's port

Natural Feature
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PUNTA DEL ESTE, URUGUAY, OCTOBER - 2018 - Winter day scene at port in punta del este city, Uruguay
© Daniel Ferreira Leites / Alamy
The wooden docks and boats around the port mark the heart of Punta del Este. Fish markets sell their catches, eager sea lions graze on loose produce, and catamarans set sail under the soaring sun. At night, the whole place takes on a party vibe, with some of the restaurants turning into bars and clubs. Start your evening at Moby Dick – open year-round and regularly hosting DJs and live music, it’s the best place to get the party started.

See the Hand Sculpture at Brava Beach

Art Gallery
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Punta del Este, Maldonado / Uruguay; Jan 1, 2019: The Hand, Fingers or Man Emerging to Life, a popular sculpture of five fingers emerging from the san
© Carolina Jaramillo Castro / Alamy
Another landmark of Punta del Este is The Hand, an ominous sculpture depicting five gigantic fingers coming out of the sand. Designed by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal as an installation on Brava Beach, “the fingers” (as locals call it) have become something of a mini-pilgrimage site and photography destination. This has even led to a small market being set up next to the fingers, where you can buy souvenirs as you wait to take your classic picture sitting on top of the thumb.

Browse the Museum of the Sea

Museum
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This sprawling museum in La Barra contains 5,000 sea-creature specimens – just, not any that are alive. The old bits and bones, including whale skeletons, starfish, sea urchins and turtle shells, are an education in the biology and geography of these Atlantic shores. Even the exhibits unrecognizably bleached by formaldehyde make for fascinating displays. Along with the antique objects related to seafaring and sailing, this is one of the largest museums of its kind in the world.

Eat Uruguay's best pizza in La Barra

Architectural Landmark
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The neighborhood of La Barra bursts with life during the summer – especially on the strip of bars and restaurants a few streets back from the beach. Multicolored picnic tables mark out No Me Olvides, a restaurant that’s perennially popular for its buzzing atmosphere, top-notch pizza (try the goat cheese and caramelized onion option) and frozen cocktails, including strawberry daiquiris.

Surf in Manantiales

Architectural Landmark
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GettyImages-555097945 - La Barra is one of the most popular resorts near Punta del Este. Get people around the world in the summer, to relax, water sports and other activities. The place is valued for its beauty, tranquility and security.
© Leonardo Muniz / Getty

Manantiales has exploded with glamour in recent years, with top-range hotels and moneyed vacationers milling around the beaches. Join the surfers at Bikini Beach, where you can learn how to take on Punta del Este’s famous swells at the surf school – a wooden shack marked with a painted yellow sun. In the deep water out here, you could catch a wave of up to 7ft (2.1m).

See the sculptures of the Pablo Atchugarry Foundation

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Uruguayan contemporary sculptor Pablo Atchugarry is behind this indoor-outdoor art space featuring exhibitions, performances and his own workshop, where the marble monoliths for which he’s famous come to life. The foundation’s highlight is the 74-acre (30ha) sculpture park – Atchugarry curates the park himself, making sure the natural landscape works in harmony with each piece of art. You might even get to speak to the man behind this creative vision.

Walk to the top of José Ignacio lighthouse

Architectural Landmark
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The coast at Jose Ignacio on Uruguay
© Stefan Ember / Alamy
An under-the-radar A-lister vibe exudes from José Ignacio, a town on the outskirts of Punta del Este. Marked by a century-old lighthouse on the rocky headland of the main beach, take the steps up to the top for romantic views of the Atlantic. Earthy spas, yoga studios and contemporary galleries around here cater to the wealthy crowd, who balance out their evenings of cocktails and fine dining with holistic entertainment.
These recommendations were updated on July 19, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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