The Monaco of South America, as it is known for good reason, is none other than Punte Del Este – a publicly declared millionaire’s playground for rich Brazilians and other affluent people. In summer, the beaches turn into thumping beach parties, a la Mykonos, with a splash of South Beach Miami.
Ridiculously expensive by any standards, the famous beach has a postcard-perfect harbor, restaurants serving everything from sushi to an Asian-Peruvian fusion of dishes, right down to classic Irish pubs such as Moby Dick’s, and bars/clubs playing Latin grooves all night.
We are here in the off season, and it’s virtually a ghost town. Except for the legion of dedicated surfers blasting Rage Against The Machine from their cars, as they wait to catch the perfect wave (the surf here is excellent), it’s both relaxing and bizarre that this South American symbol of excessive wealth is practically abandoned in April. Apparently prices are a bit cheaper in the off season, so if $28 for four small slices of pizza qualifies as a discount, then surely summer is reserved for some otherworldly social class.
Saying that, the experience of walking the sunny streets, surrounded by colossal apartments that are as built up as the Gold Coast in Australia, is worth the bus ride from Montevideo if for nothing else than to experience a paradisiacal ghost town. Where are the locals? There are cars everywhere, but no people!
The biggest standout here is the giant hand breaking through the sand on the beach, which looks inspiring and fascinating. Mano de Punta Del Este is the structure’s name, and it is found on Brava Beach. Sculpted by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal in 1982, the hand represents drowning as a warning to swimmers, as the waters at La Barra up the beach had rougher waves which were more ideal for surfing rather than swimming. It really does stand out and is great to look at, since it’s so large and imposing – and random – given it’s smack bang in the middle of the sand!