Punta del Este is the epitome of modern luxury in Uruguay. It’s a bustling resort town where celebrities mingle and party and vacation-goers bask in the sun and catch the strong waves surging at incredible beaches like Playa Brava and Bikini Beach. As a stop on a South America cruise, the town of Punta del Este strikes a delicate balance of fun and historic, upscale and beachy.
On your Punta del Este cruise, take a photo op with La Mano, a massive, modern sculpture in the shape of a hand that now personifies the entire town and warns surfers of strong currents. For intellectual travel, check out Casapueblo or the Ralli Museum to discover key pieces of Uruguay’s history. Get your fill of shopping along Avenida Gorlero, or head to La Barra for romantic, low-key nightlife.
Magnificent white stone pops against the Uruguayan hillside at Casapueblo. Head to the romantic hotel and museum here for a look at life in Punta del Este, featuring seaside Atlantic Ocean views, high-quality hotel restaurants, and plenty of history to see in the museum. Take a dip in the club’s pool overlooking the sea.
For a striking viewpoint into Latin American contemporary art, the Ralli Museum in Punta del Este’s Beverly Hills is one of the most beautiful sites in the whole city. Walk through the sculpture garden, where you’ll find works by Dali and Chagall, among others. For art enthusiasts, the Ralli Museum is a must-see during your Punta del Este cruise.
This massive installation of a hand reaching out from the sand of Brava Beach is one of Uruguay’s most famous sights. Get Instagram ready for a perfect shot with this Punta del Este landmark in the background, but beware of heavy foot traffic at this famous spot.
One of Punta del Este’s top sights is the Pablo Atchugarry Foundation, dedicated to the world-renowned contemporary Uruguayan artist of the same name. After the Ralli Museum, continue your art tour of Punta del Este here, which includes a massive green space and sculpture garden.
On your cruise to Punta del Este, Uruguay, the main drag for shopping is along Avenida Gorlero, which is essentially Uruguay’s equivalent to California’s Rodeo Drive. Galleries, boutiques, and high-end shops selling clothing, jewelry, and handbags line the windowsills at this shopper’s paradise. When you’re done, grab lunch at one of the cafes along the avenue.
The climate of Uruguay makes it an ideal spot for olive trees and grapes to thrive, and the Punta del Este region offers locally sourced and produced olive oils and wines from their farms and vineyards. On our Punta del Este cruise, tour a plantation or vineyard outside the city where you can sample and imbibe.
Drive outside Punta del Este on the Puente de La Barra suspension bridge to explore the fun neighborhood of La Barra, where beaches and bars await. Slightly more relaxed than the scene in downtown Punta del Este, La Barra attracts celebrities looking to unwind.
Surfers from all over the world come here for the gnarly surf and adventurous wave patterns, making the area a haven for water sports. Catch a wave yourself or learn to surf the rough waves of Playa Brava with an instructor during your cruise to Punta del Este, Uruguay.
Kids and families will love an afternoon at Aqua Splash Park during the hot Uruguay summer. Water slides, lazy rivers, and all-inclusive adventure make a day at Aqua Splash Park an active alternative to beach-going.
Address: 29 Las Gaviotas, 20100 Punta del Este, Departamento de Maldonado, Uruguay
For fresh seafood and strong cocktails, head to Restaurant Rustic for an evening out. It has a surprising variety of vegetarian and vegan options, including a vegetarian lasagna. You’ll find class Uruguayan dishes here at a reasonable price point, too.
Address: 21 La Galerna, 20100 Punta del Este, Departamento de Maldonado, Uruguay
Seafood and Mediterranean are the specialties at Isidora, which boasts some of the best waterfront views in Punta del Este. Watch the ships sail by on a sunny day. They also offer a great selection of Uruguayan wine.
No Me Olvides
Address: Manantiales, Punta del Este, 20002, Uruguay
You’ve had Italian pizza and probably a New York slice, but what about Uruguayan pizza? Here, the pizzas come in a rectangular shape—no triangular pieces here. Top with the standards like olive and tomato for a casual lunch in a cozy setting.
Address: Ave Pedragosa Sierra, Punta del Este, 20100, Uruguay
If you’re looking for an upscale French dinner while on a Punta del Este cruise, La Bourgogne is an authentic spot ideal for birthdays, anniversaries, and other reservation-required special occasions. They pride themselves on their gourmet takes on French classics. Start with a charcuterie board, then fill up on mains with exciting spins on octopus, salmon, rib eye, and more.
Colonization from Europeans in Punta del Este dates back to the 16th century when the Spanish arrived in the region, but indigenous peoples lived in the area for thousands of years before that. Eventually, the settler Francisco Aguilar came to Punta del Este and invested his riches in building up the city during the 19th century, but Punta del Este didn’t get the name we use today until 1843.
Today, Punta is known as the French Riviera of Uruguay, balancing both glamour and outdoor appeal. It’s known as a port city that values beauty, and the culture here is both relaxing for beach-goers and bustling for nightlife lovers along La Barra. Fashion and rare animal sightings are two main draws for visitors to the area as well.
The port of Punta del Este is visually appealing with its picturesque fishermen’s boats lined along the port area. The port comes with modest features that you’d expect, like restaurants and restrooms for passengers en route to downtown, which is only a 10 to 15-minute walk away.
Taxis are a common mode of transportation in Punta del Este, and the city’s bus system caters to the beach crowd. The bus terminal will take you to various beaches throughout Punta del Este. Of course, for a more flexible Punta del Este cruise experience, you can head off on your own. Find rental car offices at the airport and along Gorlero street as well.
You’ll want to stroll around the cruise port for its scenic beauty and photogenic ships docked in port, but there’s not too much shopping immediately available when your cruise ship arrives. Instead, the main shopping mall of Punta del Este, called Punta Shopping, is a short 15-minute car ride away from the port facilities. This indoor shopping mall has the standard shops and department stores for picking up local fashion or miscellaneous things you might need.
More shopping is readily available down the bustling Avenida Gorlero, which opens in the evenings to sell high-end, locally-made leather goods, bags, clothes, and more. There’s also a popular artisan market where vendors sell fish, organic fruits and vegetables, and plenty of souvenirs.
The official currency is the Uruguayan peso ($U). Be sure to check the exchange rate before you travel for the most up-to-date information. ATMs can be found along Gorlero, which is one of the main drags of the town. Tipping is considered polite in Uruguay, where you should tip restaurant servers 10% of the bill, and tip taxi drivers according to distance and your own discretion based on the service.