140km (87 miles) E of Montevideo
Few resorts in South America rival Punta del Este for glamour. It might be geographically located in Uruguay, but it's where the glitterati and elite of Buenos Aires make their homes for the summer. As Mar del Plata's reputation downscales, this Uruguayan resort area has become a place to see and be seen
Punta is actually a reference to several towns on a small peninsula where the Río de la Plata meets the Atlantic Ocean. Together they have over 50km (31 miles) of waterfront. The majority of the city's major hotels are on the calmer river side. As a general rule, the farther you get from the center, the less crowded the beaches. Little of historical value is left anymore except a few buildings, such as the faro (lighthouse), churches, schoolhouses, and turn-of-the-20th-century buildings. The port is often jammed with yachts in the summer.
About 10km (6 miles) up from Punta del Este is the small town of La Barra. Many young beachgoers flock here, and it's never quiet in high season. Farther along Ruta 10 is the very exclusive José Ignacio, a small quiet community that's even more expensive than La Barra. Summer season lasts from October to March, but "the Season," as it is known in the area, is a very specific time; from a few days after Christmas through the first 2 weeks of January, the Punta, La Barra, and José Ignacio swell with movie stars and models.