Even though it`s well-known among Uruguayans themselves, as well as Brazilian and Argentinian tourists, there will only be a handful of backpackers that heard about this magical place. It doesn´t come as a surprise as most tourists skip Uruguay all together, in favor of the more popular destinations like Argentina, Brazil, Peru and the upcoming Colombia. Time to make a change. You better schedule this one in your bucket list before its popularity will be its doom.
Built on a peninsula, Cabo Polonio used to be nothing more than a settlement for sea lion hunters. Just some simple wooden huts, no electricity, no running water. Nowadays this is still mainly the case. A peaceful, quite place, on the edge of Cabo Polonio`s National Park. Looking for a place to rest, enjoy nature and good vibes? Cabo Polonio is the place to be.
There`s only 30 inhabitants living all year round. The majority of the village closes down during the winter, because of the harsh wind and lack of tourists to make an extra income. It might sounds unappealing, but winter is actually one of the best times of the year to let the worries blow out of your mind, reconnect with the world and just enjoy what this magical place has to offer.
What`s there to do
Whatever nature has to offer. Surfing can be done all year round, but during winter extra care must be taken due to strong winds and cold temperatures.
For those who like to keep their feet dry, there`s several trails and two beaches where you can roam around endlessly, crossing beaches, forest and picturesque sand dunes.
During summer horseback rides are a popular activity. Ask your cabaña owner or hostel receptionist where to arrange a ride.
Drinks and Food
During summer the place booms with temporary bars and restaurants. During winter only the hard-cores are open. Hostel Lobo Bar is always a good place to socialize and meet other travelers. However, the food is expensive. To fill up an empty stomach it is best to roam around town and ask whoever is open that hour of the day and for what price.
When to visit
Cabo Polonio is amazing all year round. Those eager to enjoy warm sunny weather should visit in summer, but if you really want to get a taste of this surreal place, winter is the time to come. Tourists and seasonal inhabitant have left the place making it a peaceful retreat for those who seek a quiet, natural spot to rest from some hard days of travel.
Where to stay
There is some hostels in town. Most of them are on booking.com and hostelworld.com. Just check out if they have availability and what their current price is. If they`re running out of beds, it might be wise to book something. Lobo hostel bar (http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Lobo-Hostel-Bar/Cabo-Polonio/92992) is recommendable. If there is plenty of space I would recommend to just go with the flow. There might be cabañas (little huts) owners coming to the bus stop and offering you their place for the same price as a dorm in the hostel.
What to bring
Bringing enough cash is main priority. There`s no banks let alone ATM`s in town. So, make a calculation for yourself and top it up with some extra`s, as you made stay longer here than expected (be warned for falling in love with this garden of Eden). Don`t wait with taking cash out until you get into Castillo (the stop over place before you get to Cabo Polonio), there is only one ATM here and most of the time it doesn`t work.
Those who are very picky about their food or want to save money should bring food and drinks as well. There is one local shop in town selling quite a large variety of food, but of course for little more because of its remoteness.
Water or a filter will come in handy. Personally, I drank the water after it was boiled and I was fine, however I`m not too sure what the result will be when drinking it straight out of the tap or from the bucket (as a lot of places don`t have running water).
How to get there
Whether you choose to go hitchhiking (check out the blog: hitchhiking for beginners) or travel by bus. Your stop-over will be Castillos. From Castillos, buses leave regally to the entrance of the park. A one-way ticket costs 37 pesos.
In summer you can also go by Summerbus. A Hop-on Hop-off system which stops at 12 destinations along the Uruguayan coast. Tickets for the whole route are $75 USD. Single trips are also possible. Check out: http://www.summerbus.com/summer_en/
At the entrance of the park you pay 170 Uruguayan pesos which includes transport by truck to and from Cabo Polonio. Remember, the town is inside the national park. The truck leaves about every half an hour or when there`s enough people. When you buy the ticket at the entrance of the park just ask when the next truck leaves. It takes roughly half an hour to get into town. You are not allowed to enter the park with your own transport. Going by foot is the only alternative. This will take around 2 hours.