Punta del Este may be Uruguay's most famous beach resort, but the South Beach-meets-South America feel of the place hardly screams, "Off the beaten path."
Ask an Uruguayan to point you in the direction of a beach after his or her own heart, and you can bet it will be located in the laid-back department of Rocha.
Situated a few miles off the highway, the tiny peninsula village of Cabo Polonio is accessed by 4-wheel drive trucks or horseback, which transport visitors over the dunes to a hidden beach.
Electricity and running water - only delivered to a few places by rainwater and the odd generator - are rare commodities here. There are a few posadas(rustic motels), and most of the block-style vacation bungalows dotting the dunes are lit with candles at night. The long, sandy beach - popular with windsurfers from around the world - is rugged and totally undeveloped. On one side of the peninsula the ocean pounds the shore, while the other side offers a sheltered crescent of beach more suited to swimming.
STAY: Rent your own private beach bungalow for a few nights or by the week. Most online information about rentals online is in Spanish, so consider contacting the country's Ministry of Tourism for assistance with bookings. The oceanfront rooms at Posadoy Parador La Canada have hot-water showers, and there's a communal kitchen.
EAT: There are a few restaurants in Cabo Polonio, but most folks cook in (bungalows are usually equipped with gas burners or outdoor grills). There's a small grocery store with very limited supplies, so it's best to bring the bulk of your food with you.