It was all looking like perfection when our bus from Montevideo pulled into the station. The sun was shining, the sky was virtually cloudless, there was a slight chill in the breeze and people wandered about the shops, soaked up the suns rays and hung out at ice cream stores. The afternoon couldn’t have been more idyllic.
The December-January period is peak South American summer season in this popular beach town, a brief period when the population swells from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.
For the remaining 11 months of the year, most of the hotels, shops, clubs and restaurants are closed. We could deal with that, on our October visit. A town overrun with humans was the last thing we wanted, so a few days of hanging out at the beach was all that mattered.
We meandered along the boardwalk, checked out the yachts in the marina, had coffee and ice cream. Then, within a couple of hours the weather changed from perfection to cloudy, windy and icy.
And then the rain hit. It poured. It bucketed. It was relentless.
We barely left our hostel as, when we did, we were drenched within seconds in a cyclonic, horizontal downpour that virtually knocked us over. Nobody went outside, it seemed that even more of the shops and restaurants closed their doors. Mother nature was holding us hostage.
Thankfully, for a couple of hours each day the rain eased. This gave us time to explore the town a little more and grab some groceries. We ate in most of the time, as forking out big bucks for a burger, pizza or steak in this town of top shelf prices was a little hard to justify.
Strange place in the off season, this Punta Del Este. Aside from being an expensive ghost town, a lot of its buildings look tired, dilapidated or stuck in some kind of time warp. It does, however, have a certain charm; sterile as it may be.
Waiting for these guys to open at 9am for our morning espresso was worth getting drenched for each day. It’s the only open place in this part of town that does coffee well.
Heading to Okei Deli & Cafe was the highlight of each miserably wet day we had in Punta. Friendly staff, gorgeous fit-out, good coffee and free wifi. Thank god they opened their doors in the off season!
Okei Deli & Cafe, corner Bauprés & Los Meros
The only other place we dropped into is Rustic Resto Bar, a cosy little eatery in the centre of town. There’s an outside deck if you want to take in the ocean breeze – or freezing cold, in our case – or cosy up inside amongst quirky bric-a-brac and feel welcomed as soon as you walk in.
The menu is as varied as the collectibles that fill the walls – salads, quesadillas, pizza, chivitos, milanesa and pasta. They even serve booze.
Our quesadilla de pollo (250) and rustic burger (250) sure hit the right spot, that rainy day.
Rustic Resto-Bar, Las Gaviotas 29
How we got to Punta Del Este from Montevideo.
Regular buses from Terminal Tres Cruces in Montevideo to Punta and take about 2 hours. Costs hover around the 285 peso mark, per person.