By Cathy Brown
The main areas to know about, from south to north, are Punta Ballena, Punta del Este, La Barra, and the super-elite Jose Ignacio. Punta Ballena is a short 10-minute drive from Punta, is a small peninsula with both a “Brava” and “Mansa” side (rough and calm, basically), and offers whale watching and spectacular sunsets. Punta del Este is of course the largest, most happening option that houses a large casino, nightlife, shopping and restaurants galore, but it also happens to be where most of the tourists go. You can see that as a plus or as a negative.
La Barra is slightly north of Punta, and offers more of a barrio, neighborhood vibe, while it still has nightlife. Jose Ignacio, 25 miles north of Punta, is a small fishing village which has converted itself into some of the most expensive real estate in Latin America. Insiders know that this and the nearby surrounding areas are where most of the real players are investing because of its always-in-demand exclusivity. It is the playground of everyone from Gisele Bundchen to Naomi Campbell to Lacoste, who throws his ultra-exclusive annual party there. It is a tiny pueblo on a peninsula about 8 blocks long, so supply is very limited and demand is ever-present.
Uruguay Oceanfront for a Few Million Bucks
An example of a Jose Ignacio opportunity would be the home dubbed by everyone in the pueblo as “Mr. Fox”. It is a one story vacation house with a thatched roof right on the Brava side of the beach. It has 3 bedrooms plus a private maid’s quarters with separate bathroom and entrance for the service help. It has a large pool overlooking the ocean, and a huge patio for entertaining. For indoor entertainment options, look no further than the movie room. The house is a little more than 4000 square feet and goes for $2.9 million.
If a condo unit closer to the happenings of Punta del Este is more what you are looking for, Acqua Manor is a must-see. Designed by New York-based Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, located just in front of the El Golf beaches, there is jaw-droppingly beautiful 5 bedroom unit for sale for $7 million. You have over 7300 square feet of exquisite decadence inside, (including a 2100 square feet dining room), four Jacuzzis, two private entrances with 24 hour central surveillance system, customizable heating and cooling in every individual space in the condo, home theater, fully computerized lighting throughout, and private elevators with digital access control. Outside you have another 7000 square feet of private space to enjoy, which includes a huge terrace and your own infinity pool.
An option for someone looking for more diverse entertainment options would be to invest in the Laguna Blanca country club in La Barra. This exclusive country club has it all. While it is immersed in an ancient forest on the shores of the White Lagoon, it also faces the Atlantic Ocean. It has 10 tennis courts, a state-of-the-art gym, a kid’s club, a mini soccer field, 2 ecological reserves, 2 swimming pools, and a chapel. La Reve is a stunning house for sale just in front of the beautiful beaches of Manantiales, and features 7 bedrooms (and an additional 2 bedrooms for service staff). The house is designed so that most of its suites have uninterrupted ocean views. There is a huge heated pool, which blends with the ocean from the large all-glass walls of the main living room. The house is a little more than 10,000 square feet, and comes at an asking price of $4.75 million.
If you prefer to be a little more outside of town, Villa de Piedra is a charming property just a 5-minute drive away, but that’s enough to put you in a much more rural zone. This property can be used as a private residence or as a small boutique hotel, as the house is conveniently divided into 3 separate buildings all made of stone. One building is set up for living, eating, and entertainment, and the other two are designed for sleeping. The house in total has 7 bedrooms, and boasts a heated pool and Jacuzzi. No detail was spared in interior design here – this house has even been featured in Elle magazine recently. For 8000 square feet of living space and around 13 acres of property, the asking price is $2 million.
In La Barra, $3.8 million can get you 108 acres of property set up for Arabian horses and a 6000 square-foot 5-bedroom, 5-bath house called La Madrugada that has a heated outdoor pool. You can enjoy the beaches of Punta during the day 20 minutes away, and come back to your own Uruguayan countryside retreat at night.
Lastly, if you have a cool $15 million you are looking to put someplace, why not invest it in one of the rare pieces of undeveloped property in Jose Ignacio? These opportunities do not come up often, and they tend to get snatched up right away no matter what the asking price. This particular property is prime, a whopping 51 acres (2,400 ft of frontage) on Jose Ignacio’s Brava beach coast, with unobstructed ocean views.
If you have interest in any of these exclusive properties or want more information about investing in the Punta area, you should contact Henry Arguello at [email protected] He is also a great resource (super well-connected in the international high-end travel world) to help you rent out your property in the times when you are not there. It should be noted that prime properties can rent for upwards of $100,000 a week in the peak season of late December to early February, making it possible to bring in more-than-decent income from your investment in high season.
So while Punta may boast some of the highest property prices in Latin America, remember that it’s always all about supply and demand. Between the gorgeous beachfront and the secure banking haven that Uruguay has set up, prices in exclusive Punta del Este only look to continue to rise. There are investors from multiple continents clamoring to enter this exclusive world of glamorous yet laid-back beach living.
Story by Cathy Brown, Photos by the author, agent, and developers.