It's been nearly 15-years since we first discovered Punta del Este, the high-rise focal point of what has since emerged as the Uruguayan Riviera that stretches from Punta Ballena to La Barra, Jose Ignacio and Rocha. Every year right about now, its sleepy coastal highway goes from deserted to bumper-to-bumper with just a few more buildings, restaurants and playas defined by the latest beach club pop-up. This year it's Bagatelle making a splash, in a showy new clubhouse midway between La Barra and Manantiales that in previous incarnations was home to the Mantra Beach Club and later Moby Dick. Its best incarnation to date, Bagatelle recruits Argentine chef Gastón Dabove from its starry St. Tropez eatery for a sexy, day club with mattress service, champagne showers and preening pool for the many local show-offs.
For anyone arriving to Punta del Este for the first time, you might as well close your eyes until you're in La Barra that’s home to a beach installment of Paul, one of BA's top home design stores, and Trading Post with its nearby Casa Zinc by antiquarian Aaron Hojmann. Nearby, vertical sprawl like the upcoming Trump Tower as well as endless shopping developments threaten everything we love about this region - to possibly be ruined by its own success would prove tragic at best. In Manantiales, Fish Market and La Linda remain divine culinary destinations with yet more development on the town's outskirts that make us somewhat fearful of this surf town's future.
In Jose Ignacio, progress has been all at the hands of Vik Hotels with its three local properties that include Bahia Vik, Playa Vik and Estancia Vik. Arguably Uruguay's top hoteliers, Vik Hotels curates a series of bespoke design resorts lacking a truly local feel even if their location and architectural pedigree is on point. More preferable for us, if perhaps not beachfront, is Fasano Punta del Este with its more stylish Brazilian architecture, cool crowds and restaurants that get better each year. It’s also close to Narbona - one of our favorite restaurants in the region. Back in Jose Ignacio, dinners are still best at Marismo, where they take credit card these days. La Choza del Mar (pictured) is the latest beach club that offers a stylish and sandy address for DJ-fueled sundowners below Posada del Faro. And nearby, Anastasio Beach Bar does a boutique bar off-shoot along Jose Ignacio's Playa Mansa that’s currently the place to be seen for burgeoning Argentine models and their boho boyfriends on summer break.