Fave Five Boutique Hotels in Uruguay

Uruguay’s reputation as a vacation destination has led to a growing number of small hotels By: Mark Chesnut
Awa Hotel  (c) 2010
Awa Hotel  (c) 2010

Uruguay is a tiny country compared to its South American neighbors. But its reputation as a vacation destination is decidedly outsized, thanks in no small part to the legendary allure of Punta del Este, a jet setter’s summer paradise. In recent years, a growing number of small hotels have sprouted up not just in the so-called “St. Tropez of South America,” but throughout this compact nation, offering unique, upscale getaways in a variety of scenic venues. During a recent trip with Borello Travel & Tours, I had the opportunity to experience several of the best properties firsthand.

Awa Boutique + Design Hotel
Open since 2007, this 48-room property in Punta del Este is pleasingly decorated with clean white walls and colorful original artwork. Just five blocks from the beach, it’s also close to the city’s downtown shopping district. Awa packs in a lot of complimentary amenities into a small space, including an outdoor swimming pool, a small fitness center, a Jacuzzi, property-wide Wi-Fi and even an eight-seat “microcine,” a movie theater with a super-large screen.
www.awahotel.com

Casapueblo
Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez may be known for his contemporary paintings, but the quirky complex of buildings he constructed by the sea is just as unforgettable. Tucked into an oceanfront hill in Punta Ballena, near Punta del Este, Casapueblo’s Gaudi-esque rounded corners house a museum and art gallery, which has a terrace that’s a popular place for watching the sun set. At the 73-room Hotel Casapueblo, clients may extend their enjoyment of the offbeat ambiance and gorgeous vistas.
www.clubhotel.com.ar/cas-eng/index.html

Estancia Vik
Set on rolling hills outside of the small beach town called Jose Ignacio (not far from Punta del Este), Estancia Vik is a sweeping, luxurious ranch set on 4,000 acres. Since its debut in 2009, this stylish getaway — a Spanish colonial-style structure that’s actually a new build — expertly blends old-fashioned estancia living (horseback riding, isolated, sweeping views, freshly prepared cuisine, a great room that serves as a comfortable living room) with contemporary elements (original art in each of the 12 large guestrooms, free Wi-Fi, a small gym, spa, game room and a swimming pool with stunning views). The cuisine is tremendous — I consumed an unmentionable amount of fresh beef and sausage at dinner — and clients may work off some of what they eat while taking polo lessons or canoeing along the peaceful nearby river.
www.estanciavikjoseignacio.com

La Vigna
What was once a private farm and winery established in 1880 has been beautifully converted into a rustic-chic, five-room inn. Set scenically in the countryside between Montevideo and Punta del Este, La Vigna is an inviting place to unwind, with friendly service and great attention to detail that is noticeable in the decor and the cuisine. Homemade gourmet meals use produce grown in the inn’s own garden, and the abundance of cheeses made on the premises are an ideal companion to the large selection of wines available from the cellar. Special events include yoga weekends, live music and art exhibits, and an on-site workshop gives clients the chance to buy high-quality handmade crafts.
www.lavignalifestyle.com

Mantra Resort, Spa, Casino
Clients who prefer the range of amenities available at a larger hotel should consider Mantra, which, with 88 rooms is still petite enough to be a member of The Leading Small Hotels of the World. Located in Barra, a waterfront area adjacent to Punta del Este, this elegant property is within walking distance of a small beach and has a large swimming pool, a spa with 16 treatment rooms, tennis courts, conference facilities, a casino, multiple restaurants, children’s programs and even a large movie theater (admission to the theater is extra). 
www.mantraresort.com
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