La Punta offers a wide range of accommodations—big and modern to small and boutique—in town and around its beaches. One favorite with foreign visitors is the Club Hotel Casapueblo, eight miles from town in Punta Balena. Its 70 rooms (many with terraces) are part of a pueblo-style complex of two pools and restaurants—all spilling from the hilltop to the shore like a white Andalusian village. Whether or not clients stay here, Casapueblo itself—the residence and workshop of artist Carlos Paez Vilaro—is an essential visit. Room rates start at $170.
Nowadays, it seems, the smart set is moving on from Punta del Este to calmer spots. First it was the fishing village of La Barra, 15 minutes north. Here, travelers find nice restaurants, good home decor shops and Casa Zinc, with six big airy rooms decorated with vintage furniture and architectural antiques. Room rates start at $140.
Another 15 minutes beyond is the lively village of Jose Ignacio, and five minutes away from its town and beaches is the post-modern, Spanish colonial-style Estancia Vik, not far from the ocean and occupying 4,000 acres of rolling hills, rivers and lakes. There are 12 fresco-decorated suites with grand views of the surrounding countryside and facilities range from a formal dining room lit by candles, to a wine cellar, spa and gym. Guests can play polo on the estancia’s field, or find nearby tennis and golf, as well as canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, and fishing in the lagoons and streams. Room rates start at $500.
In recent years, the town of Garzon—inland and about a 45-minute drive from the Punta airport—has become the new discovery since 2002, when famous Argentine chef Francis Mallmann opened his Garzon Hotel & Restaurant. Both occupy the town’s old general store, and the hotel has five guestrooms with king beds, private bath and wood-burning fireplaces—all opening onto a porch and courtyard where life revolves around a swimming pool. Guests dine sublimely—as could be expected in a Mallmann dining room—and a resident gaucho brings his horses to the hotel for guests who want an early-morning or late-afternoon ride up into the hills. Breakfast and horseback riding are included in the room rate, which start at $480.
For a complete itinerary on a Uruguayan vacation, check with Ladatco Tours, offering a 14-day Uruguay Plus, one of its Pampered Adventure tours that spends the first two nights in Buenos Aires at the Alvear Palace. Highlights in Uruguay are Montevideo, staying at the Belmont Hotel; Punta del Este at Las Cumbres Hotel-Art & Spa; a night at the Garzon Hotel; a stay at Estancia San Pedro de Timote; an overnight in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Colonia at the Plaza Mayor Hotel in the historic district; and four nights in a riverview bungalow at the Four Seasons Carmelo Resort. The tour, with deluxe accommodations, many meals, and private car transport with English-speaking guide, is priced from $6,900 pp dbl.