A 40-minute drive east of Punta del Este but a world away from its high-rise development is the small peninsula of Jose Ignacio and the stylish Playa Brava beach. Former fishing village set around a rocky promontory, its most prominent landmark is Faro Jose Ignacio, a century-old lighthouse where surfers catch waves at sunset. The area draws a boho-chic crowd that gathers for house parties, dines in restaurants tucked into beachside pine groves, and feasts on the day’s catch, sipping wines from nearby vineyards. The vibe in this laid-back, off-the-radar getaway is like summer camp with celebrities, soccer stars, and their supermodel friends.
La Posada del Faro sits on a hilltop perch, overlooking Jose Ignacio Bay. Many of the whitewashed rooms have ocean views and balconies, while the pool is a favourite spot for people-watching. Afternoons, everyone gathers at Parador La Huella, on Playa Brava. The informal gourmet spot, with tables on a deck that opens the sandy beach, offer fresh fish and local wines. Or brave the sandy road winding through the pines to find Namm, where just-caught seafood and grilled beef are prepared with an Asian flair. It’s so well hidden that many call it “the tree house,” but it’s well wort the quest.
A working cattle ranch with an ocean view is no oxymoron at Estancia Vik, offering the ultimate in privacy and luxury on Laguna Jose Ignacio. Surrounded by 4,000 acres of rolling plains, its 12 rooms range from simple quarters to cutting-edge suites, each uniquely designed with artwork by Uruguayan and international artistic. Lounge by the granite pool or ride horses down to the estancia’s new sister property Playa Vik, at the beach. The dusty town of Garzon took on a new sophistication when celebrity chef Francis Mallamann transformed the old general store into an inn and candlelit restaurant, where magic happens every night. He splits his time between the dining room here and 1884, his restaurant in Argentine wine country.
WHERE: 25 miles/ 35 km north of Punta del Este.
BEST TIME: Nov – mid-Dec and Feb –Apr for warm weather and fewest crowds.