In just a few short years, Punta del Diablo (or Devilâ€™s Point, so-named due to the peninsula that pierces the Atlantic) has quickly become very popular with young Uruguayans and Brazilians wishing to relax by the beach for the summer. It is now also seen by many travelers as a must-visit on their way to or from Brazil, making it a memorable first or last stop in Uruguay for virtually everybody.
It is incredible to think that it was not too long ago when this was just a small, quiet fishing town; even in the mid-Noughties, there were no hostels or cabaÃ±as in sight. These days, though the permanent, year-round population may be only around 600, this explodes to over 30,000 during the summer months, peaking in January.
Although fishing remains an important industry here, the rise of tourism has brought further economic opportunities, particularly in construction and property management. Yet even in the height of summer, it is perfectly possible to be in Punta del Diablo and consider it fairly empty and peaceful. However, unlike nearby off-grid Cabo Polonio, the growth in tourism is not being regulated here, which means it is expanding fast; go now if you want to experience it while it remains a bohemian, artsy hang-out, before it is too late. This said, it seems unlikely that it will develop to the commercialism and high-rises of Punta del Este any time soon, so for this we can be very thankful.
Located five kilometers (3.1 mi) eastward off the Ruta 9, the focus of the town is its three spectacular beaches, as well as the cluster of shops and restaurants that pack its central area near the peninsula, between Playa de la Viuda and Playa de los Pescadores. Everywhere else in town, including most of the hostels and hotels, has expanded outward from here.
When attempting to navigate yourself around Punta del Diablo, the best thing to do is not pay too much attention to any map or road signs, as they are incomplete, inconsistent and generally fairly useless. Instead, every hotel, hostel and restaurant has frequent hand-made signs stuck onto virtually every streetlight, so follow these and you should manage to find where you are going. Otherwise, ask around for directions. If you are somebody who cannot survive being in a new place without a map, head to Franca restaurant and pick up its flyer, as that has the most reliable one available.
Upon arrival, the town appears quite rustic, but you will quickly discover that there is much here that is surprisingly upmarket and chic. While you are here, once you have had your dayâ€™s fill of sun-worshipping and shopping at the open air Feria de los Artesanos, you can watch the sunset from astride a horse that is pounding along the dunes, or simply gaze at the stunningly clear night sky. Punta del Diablo is also an excellent spot to take surf lessons or just rent a board and give it a go yourself. As well as this, allow at least an additional day in order to visit the nearby Santa Teresa National Park and its magnificent 18th-century fort. Try also not to miss the beautifully peaceful Laguna Negra, in which you can take a relaxing dip.
(Tel. code 4477; altitude 0 m/0 ft; pop. 600)
Emma Jones, 30, is from London, and recently spent nine months enjoying travelling and writing in South America.ï¿½Her favourite...