When you’re cruising the Atlantic Ocean with MSC Cruises, Punta del Este is the port of call for you in Uruguay. Situated on a narrow peninsula 140km east of Montevideo, Punta del Este is a jungle of high-rise hotels, expensive restaurants, casinos and designer stores bordered by some of the finest beaches on the coast.
Exclusive and luxurious, between this and the nearby towns of La Barra and José Ignacio, this is the place to be seen for many South American celebrities in summer.
The best thing to do in Punta del Este is what everyone else does: go to the beach. Within striking distance and well worth the trip is the whitewashed Casapueblo, a remarkable villa and art gallery. The beaches are what attract most visitors to Punta del Este, and two of the best are on either side of the neck of the peninsula.
Playa Mansa on the bay side is a huge, arcing stretch of sand, with plenty of space for sunbathing and gentle waves, while Playa Brava on the eastern side is where you go if you’re serious about surfing, or simply to compare your height to the fingers of the uncanny Hand in the Sand sculpture, one of Uruguay’s most famous sights. The area’s best sight is Casapueblo, by Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, a vision just waiting to be seen on an MSC South America excursion.
He started the construction himself in the late 1950s, and today it’s an unwieldy yet strangely beautiful villa, restaurant, hotel and art gallery clinging to the side of a craggy peninsula 15km west of Punta del Este. Bright white and lacking any right angles, it’s well worth a visit to see Vilaró’s artwork.