Country Uruguay | Dates May 9-11 | Accommodation El Diablo Tranquilo Playa Suites
Punta del Diabo is located off northeast coast of Uruguay, less than 30 minutes from the border with Brazil. In peak season (December/January), this tiny town built on a fishing villages swells from 1,000 to 30,000 people, but in the off season it is very quiet. I preferred it that way – this is my favorite place on this trip so far! Def not as nefarious as the name might imply.
Punta del Diablo: First Look
Upon arrival in Punta del Diablo, we realized we took the bus line that does not enter town. Facing a 35+ minute walk we set off, down what soon turned into sandy/muddy dirt roads without signs. We trekked past housing of all sorts; huts, beach houses, little shacks, condos and even a container house. The vibe was remote and laid back, and our hostel was, too. Right on the beach, we had a deck with an ocean view and the downstairs patio opened oceanfront.
We went for a walk, went shelling and found some amazing ones as shelling is one of my top skills (yes I collected too many and my bag is now heavier) and walked into the downtown.
Most things were closed, but we saw the facades of cute little beachside restaurants, bars and surf schools – mostly wood buildings, painted in bright colors that were slightly peeling, with chalkboard signs and artwork, some even with thatched roofs. There were a few locals about, and a stray dog or 12 roaming about. Sarah was terrified and swung a huge jug of water in front of her to keep the dogs at bay.
The beaches are incredible. Our hostel was located on Playa del Riveria, next to Shellbeach, a beautiful and remote-ish beach close to the boats (Playa de los Pescadoras) and “downtown.” There were few surfers but it was mostly empty.
Day 2 I woke up early for the sun rise (clearly I was already awake an hour before it, while everyone else slept til at least 9). We walked to a more deserted beach with no buildings at all, Playa Grande, to see the sun rise. A perro (dog) accompanied us all the way. He looked sad so I threw a stick for him – HUGE MISTAKE – because then he touched my hand with his mouth in excitement. Rabies scare #2.
The beach was amazing, with slightly more orange sand and a coastline without a building along it whatsoever. We encountered no one; a huge, private deserted beach to ourselves. Later while biking I became hot and quickly swam in my clothes in this beach.
Playa de la Viuda
My final morning I walked past the point, tiny lighthouse, graffiti-ed open air building (abandoned?), to this beach. It was diverse…and breathtaking! Orange sands, dramatic dunes (alliteration alert!) and another deserted coastline that stretched for miles. I walked solo for an hour, making it not even halfway, before turning back for breakfast.
Santa Teresa National Park
On our second day after the hostel breakfast (typical delicious bread and fruits, served on highly-unsanitary plates), we rented bikes to go to more beaches and the national park. Long story short we got lost in the woods on unmarked dirt paths. It was wet so we got stuck, too, and wound up crossing some dunes (bikes in tow) to ride along the beach “shortcut” that was actually not a shortcut. We also saw bloodied dog prints in the dunes, and our wheels kept getting stuck int he not-quite-hard sand. Failure.
We regrouped and tried again, this time sticking to main roads with paving although they were twice as long. We were doing great until the road along the highway abruptly ended in the woods, a wire fence blocking our way. Determined to make it, we biked on the highway beside cars going 70km. Finally we arrived and realized the park was huge and not accessible because it was too late and we were too weak after our journey. The ride back was even more intense, down a not-really-paved road that was hilly, included a lengthy patch of roaming cattle with horns (Sarah was terrified and didn’t want to walk through) and more sand crossings. Later, we both discovered large bruises on our butts.
And Then We Went Surfing…
I had surfed before once, in Costa Rica 3 years ago when I bought cheap lessons off a random man on the beach. But clearly, not an expert. We set out in full wet suits, too big for our bodies so water got in and weighted s down/did not keep us warm. We caught a few waves, never advancing past “position 2” (partial standing) as it began to rain heavily. I am still determined to be a surf superstar some day, though — maybe in another country.
Nightlife + Hostel Happenings
At night we hung at the hostel (the most happening place in town, as it’s open year round), drinking wine, sharing stories, making friends and doing the typical hostel-things with strangers. Many dogs joined us, some of whom lived there some of whom did not (they legit open door handles and sneak in). The staff sang and played music for everyone, and cooked a dinner which looked good but was out of budget.