After spending over a week on the beach in Punta del Diablo near the border with Brazil, I decided to stop in Cabo Polonio, Uruguay. As usually happens to me, I learned about Cabo Polonio from meeting other travelers who all told me I had to go there. This is the beauty about not having a plan while traveling. You just hear about cool places and go.
Travelling back in time in Uruguay
Cabo Polonio is on a remote peninsula on the Uruguay coast about 6km from the main highway. There are no roads to get there, only paths through sand dunes. As a result, the only way to get to Cabo Polonio is by one of the official giant modified trucks to carry people there or by walking through the sand.
I arrived to the bus station at night time and waited to take the next scheduled truck ride. The truck showed up and everybody piled in. There were some seats on the roof above the driver, so I immediately climbed the ladder and sat down. It’s not very often you get to sit on the roof of your transport.
After about half an hour of rolling through the sand at a crawl, we reached the hamlet of Cabo Polonio in total darkness. There is no electricity or street lights, so at night time the entire place goes completely dark. The only luminescence comes from the glow of a few fires and lights powered by solar panels.
I had no idea where I was going to stay, but I met a Brazilian girl on the truck ride who told me to check out the hostel she was going to stay at, Viejo Lobo. Luckily I got the last bed.
The place was reggae themed and rudimentary with strict limits on showers (Cabo Polonio also has no running water). The dorm rooms were very tightly packed. There were some picnic tables and fire pits out back for everybody to huddle around at night as it did get a wee bit cold.
Cabo Polonio felt like a place stuck in the past. With no cars, electricity (except for scant solar & wind power), wifi, ATM’s or places that take credit cards, you feel completely isolated from the outside world. In the two days, I spent there I could feel myself descending back into the 90s.
The first and only full day I had I spent exploring Cabo Polonio with my new friends from the hostel. There were only a few streets filled with odd shops, hippie trinkets and psychedelic street art. Most of the houses were scattered about the peninsula on large grassy lots.
All the houses had their own little quirks and some with strange builds.
At the point on the peninsula was a lighthouse, which I believe was probably the main reason Cabo Polonio came into existence.
We climbed to the top of the lighthouse to take in a view of the entire hamlet and both it’s beaches to the south-west and to the north.
At the bottom of the lighthouse near some rocks, a whole squadron of seals just laid there in extreme chill mode.
For the rest of the day, we hung out at the main south-west beach. It was a huge expanse that went on for miles.
I saw a few people surfing and a shop that was renting boards, but it mostly looked like closeouts as is usually the problem with beach breaks. We could also see the giant shuttle trucks rolling down the beach towards us to drop off more tourists from the bus station.
At night, because of the obvious lack of light pollution, we went stargazing on the smaller beach towards the north. To our surprise, we could see some bioluminescence in the water.
The next day I left Cabo Polonio on foot with all my bags. I had lost my return truck ticket to the bus station and wasn’t willing to spend roughly 20CAD to buy another one. I travel light so I only was lugging around about 12kg of stuff, so the walk wasn’t too difficult and the best part was I got to do it barefoot in the sand.
Cabo Polonio in was an interesting place where life obviously runs slower. It was one of the most unique places I’ve visited in South America. The next time I find myself in Uruguay I will surely return.