The willowy models strolling the strands of Punta del Este, Uruguay’s coastal hub, are hardly billboards for good eating. But continue another 20 miles east to José Ignacio
, and you’ll find a series of beachfront restaurants where tables stuck in the sand encourage daylong noshing.
“José Ignacio is to Uruguayans as the Hamptons are to New Yorkers,” says Caroline Wallace, a Virtuoso advisor from Richmond, Virginia, who’s visited the town six times in the past five years. “It’s known as a chic retreat from the city, with a barefoot elegance and killer restaurants where time doesn’t matter. You go for a late lunch and stay through sunset cocktails.”
It’s also just 20 miles away from the inland village of Garzón, where Bodega Garzón
(Route 9, kilometer 175 ), from global vintner Alejandro Bulgheroni, recently added a 170,000-square-foot winery and an eatery overseen by the celebrated Argentine chef Francis Mallmann. Sample the winery’s bold tannat, Uruguay’s rich, signature red, then head into the village for a meal at Mallmann’s flagship, El Garzón
(Costa José Ignacio, 20401). “It’s amazing and the place to dine,” says Wallace.
While on the shore, order the grilled catch of the day at casually hip Parador La Huella
(Playa Brava), the town’s best-known beach camp-cum-restaurant. Nearby, watch the sunset at La Susana
(20402 José Ignacio, Maldonado Department) over whitefish ceviche and a Moroccan mojito made with green tea.
Estancia Vik José Ignacio
offers 4,000 acres on which to roam and ride horseback. Each of its 12 suites is decorated by a Uruguayan artist, and the boutique retreat features its own traditional parrilla, or barbecue restaurant.