Best beaches in Uruguay

updated 7/10/2019
fb tw mail_outline

Squeezed between Argentina and Brazil and shaped a bit like a football, Uruguay doesn’t feature on your average South American checklist. But with its progressive politics, sizzling asado culture and some of the best beaches on the continent, we think it should. Keep that in mind as you check out our list of the best beaches in Uruguay.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to South America on a Budget, your essential guide for visiting South America.

From off-grid hippie enclaves (note: cannabis was legalised here in 2014) to chic celebrity hangouts to riotous party towns, there’s a beach here for everyone. It would take a while to cover every stretch of sand along Uruguay’s largely unspoilt 660km coastline, so we’ve selected some beaches in Urugway that we think make this country a strong contender for best beach destination in South America.

If you prefer backpacking and are considering a trip to South America, read our list of tips for backpacking South America.

Cabo Polonio: best for remote relaxation

Without roads or electricity, and with a population of about eighty, Cabo Polonio is the place to go for a proper escape from civilization. The Cabo Polonio experience begins with the journey – whether you pay someone with a rowing boat to take you there, ride a horse along the beach, hike for 7km over the rolling dunes or hop in a 4X4 from the national park entrance.

There are only a few rustic places to stay here and some tin-roofed restaurants fire up the asado during the summer. Don’t expect anything to “do” in Cabo Polonio, other than lie in a hammock, drink beer, and pay a visit to the talkative sea lions who hang out near the 120-year-old lighthouse. The hardest decision you’ll make is whether you should ever leave.

Where to stay in Cabo Polonio:

Find more accommodation options to stay near Playa Cabo Polonio

Sand dunes in Cabo Polonio, Uruguay © Michal Knitl/Shutterstock

La Pedrera: best Uruguay boho chic beach

About a hundred years ago, the Arrarte family built a beach hut on this peaceful stretch of coast – comprising two sandy beaches separated by a rocky headland – and a few of their friends followed suit. Today, this is one of Uruguay’s emerging chic holiday towns, which some compare to what Jose Ignacio was like before it became popular among the holidaying millionaire set.

Expect a gorgeous, wave-lapped beach (with a black, rusted shipwreck – Cathay VIII – on the western side), dusty lanes criss-crossing the town and a few ramshackled bars and restaurants serving fresh grilled seafood.

A trip filled with history, culture and nature spread out over three beautiful and unique countries. Visit some of the most stunning sites, like the Sugar Loaf Mountain, Iguazu Falls and UNESCO World Heritage site Colonia del Sacramento, during this tailor-made 14-day trip across three countries: Brazil, Argentina & Uruguay.

Where to stay in La Pedrera:

Find more accommodation options to stay in La Pedrera

La Pedrera beach, Uruguay © Shutterstock

Playa Brava: Uruguay's most famous beach

If you know somebody who has travelled to Uruguay and likes to party, there’s a fair chance they made a beeline for Punta del Este. Situated on a narrow peninsula, the town nicknamed the “Miami of South America” is the stark opposite of Uruguay’s laidback persona – high-rise, brash and expensive.

Playa Brava considered one of the most popular and busiest among beaches in Uruguay, and is known for its lively atmosphere and wide range of activities and amenities. The beach is located on the peninsula of Punta del Este, and is adjacent to the beach of Playa Mansa.

It's famous for being a place where a lot of celebrities go to, specially during the summer and specially on New Year's Eve. On the beach you can find sunbeds, umbrellas, a playground area, restrooms, lockers and showers. it is also a place where you can find many food trucks, bars and night clubs.

The Hand in the beach La Brava, Punta del Este City, Uruguay © Shutterstock

Playa Mansa: perfect for swimmimg and fishing

Playa Mansa is located next to Playa Brava and is considered a family-friendly beach, with a wide range of amenities, including sun loungers, parasols, showers and restrooms. The beach is also a good spot for watersports such as kayak and paddle.

Playa Mansa also has a variety of restaurants and cafes, perfect for having a bite to eat while enjoying the view of the sea. It is a popular spot especially during the summer months. The two beaches together form one of the most famous places for tourism in the country, and visiting both is a must during your trip to Punta del Este.

If you're in search of a culinary experience in Uruguay, explore our list of the best restaurants in Punta del Este.

Where to stay at Punta del Este:

Find more accommodation options to stay at Punta del Este

Playa Mansa Punta del Este Uruguay © Shutterstock

continued below

Playa Bikini: for an upscale experience

Manantiales is a beach resort located about 20km east of Punta del Este, known for its natural beauty, relaxed atmosphere and wide range of activities. It's a perfect place to spend your holidays and escape the bustle of the city. It's considered a more upscale area compared to other beaches in Uruguay.

One of the most popular beaches in Manantiales is Playa Bikini, a VIP beach which was born as a surfing spot. It soon became one of the top spots in La Barra, where every afternoon young people with high purchasing power, models and celebrities flock.

Playa José Ignacio: best for glitz and glamour

Equally as chic as neighbouring Punta del Este, only without the behemoth tower blocks that line the beach there, Jose Ignacio has recently transformed from a humble fishing village to become one of the most fashionable holidaying destinations in Latin America.

In the summer months you’ll be sunbathing on the sandy beach alongside bronzed millionaires, supermodels and celebrities – and you’ll pay for the privilege to stay in one of the elegant guesthouses or the futuristic, waterfront Vik Hotel.

Still, the village retains hints of its old charm and is a good option for a day trip, if you can find a parking spot alongside the sports cars.

Where to stay near Playa José Ignacio:

Find more accommodation options to stay near Playa José Ignacio

Beach in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay © Shutterstock

Punta del Diablo: one of the best beaches in Uruguay for surfing

Its name translates as “Devil’s Point”, but there’s nothing frightening about this remote surfing town near the Brazilian border. During the low season, this has a similar somnolent vibe to Cabo Polonio – populated by dreadlocked locals and knackered dogs – and offers reliably great surfing throughout the year on the central Playa Pescadores.

During the summer months the 1500-strong population bulges to 20,000 as backpackers and a hedonistic student party crowd descends – mostly from Brazil and Argentina – onto the wide, sun-drenched beaches.

Find more beach South American destination with our guide to the best beaches in Argentina.

Punta del Diablo - one of the best beaches in Uruguay, Uruguay © Ksenia Ragozina/Shutterstock

Playa del Rivero: best for families

Playa del Rivero can be considered as a small bay in Punta del Diablo, it is the last beach north of the charming village of artisans and fishermen. It is located a few blocks away from the artisans' fair, between Los Pescadores beach and the boundary between Punta del Diablo and Santa Teresa, marked by large rocks from where the panoramic view is spectacular.

Just like on Punta del Diablo, the waves on the south side of the beach are ideal for surfing all year round. It's also a family-friendly beach that's perfect for families. Its dry and wet sand makes it possible to play sports such as football or beach tennis, as well as games such as shuffleboard, in designated areas.

Where to stay at Punta del Diablo:

Find more accommodation options to stay at Punta del Diablo

Punta del Diablo, View over Rivero Beach - Uruguay © Shutterstock

Playa de los Pocitos: for swimming and sunbathing

Playa de los Pocitos is a beach located in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay. It is one of the most popular beaches in Uruguay and is located on the coast of the Río de la Plata. The beach is known for its wide and long stretch of fine golden sand and gentle waves, which make it an ideal spot for swimming and sunbathing.

On the weekends and during holidays, the beach gets quite crowded with locals, tourists and many families. It also have a bike lane and skatepark in the area. During the summer months, it's usually packed with people, and you can find a variety of activities and events happening on the beach.

Mercosur Parliament Building, Los Pocitos beach, Montevideo, Uruguay © Shutterstock

Playa del Carrasco: for sailing, windsurfing and kite-surfing

Playa de Carrasco, is a beach located in the neighborhood of Carrasco in the city of Montevideo.The beach has a promenade that runs parallel to the shoreline, which is a popular spot for strolling, jogging and biking. Along the promenade, you will find benches to sit and relax, and also some food vendors selling traditional Uruguayan snacks.

Playa del Carrasco is also a good spot for sailing, windsurfing and kite-surfing, and has a clubhouse for the practice. On the beach, you will find showers and restrooms, as well as a playground and a skatepark nearby. The beach is located in a residential area, which is known for its upscale and affluent neighborhood, therefore the beach tends to be a bit quieter than some other beaches in Uruguay.

Carrasco empty beach in Montevideo city, Uruguay © Shutterstock

Playa Ramirez: for running and cycling

Playa Ramirez is located on the coast of the Rio de la Plata, in the Barrio Parque Rodó of Montevideo. The beach is situated on the Rambla Presidente Wilson, which is a popular spot for running, biking, and walking. It's a good spot for enjoying the sun and the sea, and also for doing some sports like running and cycling. Along the Rambla you will also find some food vendors, cafes and restaurants.

Where to stay in Montevideo:

Find more accommodation options to stay in Montevideo

Beach Playa Ramirez located at Rio de la Plata in Montevideo, Uruguay © Shutterstock

Uruguay is undoubtedly a rather exotic destination. If that's what you're after, also check out our guide to the most exotic places to travel in the world.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to the Uruguay without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

Visiting Uruguay is a trully unforgetable expirience. For more inspirational travel tips check our Rough Guide books.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image: Oceania de Polonio beach © abriendomundo/Shutterstock

author photo
updated 7/10/2019
fb tw mail_outline

Planning on your own? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Ready to discover
tailor-made travel?
Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels