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January 23, 2013 / JustinKays Porter

A Day in Punta del Este (is all you need!)

A trip to the beaches of Uruguay would not be complete without a day trip to Punta del Este. We had to see what all the fuss was about! We hoped on a three dollar, 45 minute bus ride up the coast and watched the high rises of Punta get closer and closer. We had heard stories of celebrity sightings, the beautiful yachts in the Punta harbor, the hand in the sand, and the waves of Playa Brava (sometimes worthy of a surfboard rental). We traveled to Punta to see what the fabled beach city had in store for us.

When we got off the bus, our first stop was (somewhat by accident) the Hand in the Sand. This sculpture was designed and created in the 1980s, and, as the winner of an art competition, remained as Punta's version of public art. The sculpture is literally a giant hand, complete with finger nails and knuckle wrinkles, emerging from the sand. A favorite photo op spot, we thought we would have to wait awhile to get a few good pictures. But as soon as we approached the hand, it was like the crowds parted to the let the crazy Americans through. Everyone disappeared for about three minutes, we snapped a bunch of pictures, and then the crowds returned. It was quite strange, but the hand, the white sand, and the beautiful blue sky do make for some nice photos!

Justin evaluated the waves at Playa Brava after our photo op and deemed them unsuitable for surfing, even though there were multiple surf lessons going on. We decided to wander around the city and its beaches before returning to Playa Brava for a lounging session (for Kay) and a body surfing session (for Justin).

We walked out to the end of the peninsula that Punta del Este inhabits. Think of the Uruguay coastline as your outstretched arm and hand. Now, stick your thumb out perpendicular to your arm/hand. Your thumb is Punta. It just sticks out there, and we walked all the way round the thumb! The beaches on the north side (where Playa Brava and the hand in the sand are) have a lot more wind and waves, while the beaches on the south side (where the yacht harbor is) are calm and hot.

The yacht harbor is pretty impressive. There are some very big, very clean, very expensive boats in Punta. And the high rises of the city make a nice backdrop! The local fisherman sold the day's catch in the yacht harbor, tossing fish guts and other unmentionables into the water for a few sea lions who had strayed from the local colony.

Our overall impression of Punta: it's nice, but… we don't get it. Granted, we didn't stay long enough to experience the famed nightlife, but we both liked the beaches at Piriapolis better. We didn't see any celebrities (not that we particularly cared or looked very hard). I guess we just had bigger hopes for Punta. We had a lot of fun and are glad we made the journey, but considering the cost of things in Punta, one day was enough for us!


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