The Atlantic Coast of Uruguay stretches for 220kms/136 milles from the border with Brazil in the north to Punta del Este in the south. This may not sound like a great distance, but this coastline impresses with spectacular beaches, rocky outcroppings, sweeping sand dunes, rivers, lagoons, forests and pastures that reach to the sea. Sprinkled along the way are small fishing villages, vacation complexes, hotels and resorts. Recently, we spent a long weekend in Punta del Diablo, located about a 4 hour drive from Montevideo on the northern part of Uruguay's Atlantic coast in the department (state) of Rocha, just 40km from Brazil.
This former fishing village is now better described as a hip beach town with a very laid-back vibe. During the summer months (December - February), the town fills with tourists from Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Catering to a lower-budget crowd, there are plenty of hostels and campgrounds. The area along the beach is filled with restaurants, bars, and small shops. During the rest of the year, the pace of life slows dramatically. A handful of accommodations and services remain open - just enough to meet the needs of travelers seeking a relaxing getaway.
We visited in May, at the start of the winter season, when the weather can be cool, rainy and stormy. However, we had great luck and enjoyed warm dry days and refreshing cool nights. We stayed at a wonderful small hotel - Posada Lune de Miel (French for Honeymoon), which offers fully-equipped units clustered around a small pool and garden area, in a style reminiscent of caribbean cottages. The hotel is located four blocks from the beach and far enough away from the hussle of the main touristy area to ensure some peace and quiet during the high season. The owners go out of their way to make you feel at home - Bringing us fresh bread, and at one point taking us in their private vehicle to pick up rented bicycles. If you do rent bicycles, be sure the asked about the "secret" path to the adjacent Santa Teresa National Park.
Speaking of Santa Teresa National Park, if you are in the area do not skip a visit to this gem. In fact, for some people the park is a destination on its own, offering camping during the summer season, cottages for rent, botanical gardens, a zoo, great beaches, and of course the historic fort of Santa Teresa (constructed in the 1760s). This is a great opportunity to get an overview of the flora, fauna, geography and history of the region. We had a wonderful time riding our bikes through the nearly empty park. They say the campgrounds can be overly crowded during January and February, so plan ahead or make other arrangements.