Colonia del Sacramento is generally the first town you’ll encounter if coming from Argentina into Uruguay and not flying direct into Montevideo.
La Paloma | How we explored this gorgeous coastal region
La Paloma is a small seaside town on the Southwest coast of Uruguay just north of Montevideo. Much smaller than the more widely known beach resort of Punta del Este. La Paloma has a quieter vibe and is perfect for a few days relaxation after the hustle and bustle of the capital city. At the right time of year you can spot dolphins or whales right from the waters edge and there is a wetland full of migratory birds close by to investigate. Below we’ll tell you everything that we got up to on our visit there.
How did we get to La Paloma?
Before visiting this lovely seaside town we had spent a few days in Montevideo the capital city. There are regular bus services throughout the day between Montevideo and La Paloma and the journey takes just over four hrs depending on traffic. The bus station in Montevideo is the Three Crosses (Tres Cruces) bus station and you can easily get there by local bus. Most local buses which travel through the city of Montevideo will be heading in the direction of the main bus station. Just look for Tres Cruces on the font of the bus, pay the driver the small fare, only about 50p, and hey presto you’re at the main bus station without too much hassle or cost. The local buses have areas where you can sit your luggage so if you avoid the rush hour times you can easily take a rucksack or suitcase on the bus.
Where did we stay in La Paloma?
Being a popular seaside resort La Paloma has a variety of accomodation choices from high end hotels and resort spas such as the Sheraton to little rooms in converted shipping containers. We decided to choose a hotel that had a pool and was closest to our budget price range. The Hotel de la Torre fitted the bill perfectly with a reasonable sized room, basic buffet breakfast, a bathroom with good hot water in the shower and a pool area. It wasn’t that close to town but we’d hired bikes so could get about more easily. Being right at the start of the spring season the hotel was fairly empty but that was the case for the whole town actually. Things were just about opening up in preparation for the spring/summer season. That didn’t bother us too much as we were happy with a quieter vibe.
What is there to do in La Paloma?
Explore the beaches of La Paloma
La Balconada is the most popular beach in La Paloma with its wide, clean and soft sand stretching for miles along the Atlantic coast. In the summer months the beach is packed with locals and tourists alike whist in the winter months you can almost have the place to yourself. Its a popular beach with surfers as the waves are perfect for jumping on your board and in the evenings you are almost guaranteed the most spectacular sunsets, weather permitting of course. In the summer, lining the beach behind the sand are sea food shacks selling the freshest of seafood and refreshments to keep the beach lovers entertained. If its relaxing on a beautiful beach that you’re after then you cant go wrong with this one. Its stunning.
Explore the area by bike
As our accomodation was a km or two away from the centre of town we hired some bikes to get us around. In the centre of town there are a couple of bike hire places and we chose one called Bicicleteria Melany. This lady had a bike repair shop and hired bikes out for the day or as in our case three days. The rental cost was around £10 per bike per day and the bikes were fairly basic. Our bikes didn’t have gears however mine did have a basket which was handy when visiting the beach or popping to the supermarket. Chris loved his retro bike and would have taken it home if he could. We were able to get to the laguna and to a nearby town on the bikes as well as around La Paloma, which turned out to be great.
Visit the Laguna Rocha
Just outside the town there is quite a large lake, Rocha Lagoon. Its a protected landscape area and is made up of hills, forest, lake, a costal strip, plains and part of the ocean floor. It is part of Uruguays national park system and is a biosphere area for UNESCO, oh and its beautiful. The lagoon is open periodically to the Atlantic Ocean by a small stretch of land at the mouth of the lake. This drives some species into the lagoon which are vital to the wetland birds that populate the area, such as small shrimp for the flamingos. The lagoon has the largest population of black necked swans in the world and more than 220 bird species, some which are endangered.
We visited the lake on our hired bikes and it was a 45 min cycle from our hotel to the edge of the lagoon where it meets the coast. There is a walking route from the lake down to the beach and sea shore then back again which is clearly signposted on an information board. There are look out points for whales and dolphins, hides to see the birds and the whole area is just stunningly beautiful. On the day we visited it was windy and overcast and that meant the sea was wild and mixed with the whirling sand caused a haze on the shoreline which was quite atmospheric. Its a great place to spend a day but remember to take your binoculars for all the wildlife you’re going to see.
Check out the old railway station
Overlooking the town beach in La Paloma is an old historic railway station. The station, when operating, was the end of the line for visitors coming for the day or longer from the capital city, Montevideo. The train service no longer runs but serves as a reminder of travel in the 1900’s. At the site you will find some old abandoned railway lines, an engine and other weathered railway ironwork. In the old station house you will find a museum which charts the history of the train service in Uruguay and this area in particular and has loads of exhibits on show. In the high season the museum is open all day from 8am until 8pm and is free to enter. Its a fabulous glimpse into the past.
Explore the lighthouse of La Paloma
A great recommended walk in La Paloma is to the Cabo Santa Maria lighthouse which dominates the landscape near the centre of town. This lighthouse was initially inaugurated when it reached 30mtrs in 1832 but it collapsed in on itself just before the inauguration killing the workers inside. The lighthouse was rebuilt and was re-inagurated in 1872 after it being deemed structurally sound and stands to this day.
The Cabo Santa María Lighthouse can be visited every day throughout the year from 10 am to 12:40 pm and from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm. The cost of the ticket is 25.00 Uruguayan pesos per person. The entry of children under eight is prohibited and the maximum stay on the balcony is twenty minutes. Unfortunately when we visited the lighthouse was closed for maintenance so we didn’t get the chance to visit.
Keep a lookout for Whales & Dolphins
This coastline is a massive draw for people who love the ocean and especially the wildlife to be found there. The main whale watching season is from July until October. The Southern Right Whale comes up from Antartica to breed and raise its young in the calm and more temperate waters. The beauty of this particular part of the coast is that whales can be seen close up, right from the beach, launching themselves out of the water when present. All along the coastline there are look out points. Raised platforms with benches where you can sit and watch for these majestic creatures. The southern right whale has two exclusive characteristics: the first is the mode of exhalation of air in the form of “V” that can reach four meters high. And the second is the presence of calluses, areas of thickened skin, located in different parts of the head. These two particularities will make your search for whales easier. It is also advisable to use binoculars. Dolphins are also popular on this coast and you can frequently see pods ducking and diving through the surf as they make their way up and down the coast.
During the whale watching season you can take a boat trip from La Paloma out into the ocean to see the whales up close, if they’re around on that particular day. We unfortunately visited just after the whale season and they had all left so there were no boat trips running so not able to advise on the cost.
Visit one of the nearby towns
The closest town to La Paloma, that is worth a visit, is La Aguada. This town, like La Paloma, has a lovely beach and is a big attraction for locals and visitors alike. Its a few km’s up the coast from La Paloma. An easy cycle which took about 20 mins or you could walk along the coastal path which would take a bit longer but you can always keep your eyes peeled for some ocean life.
Another popular seaside town which is a little bit bigger than La Paloma and has more in the way of bars, restaurants and amenities is La Pedera. You can get here by taking the bus from La Paloma into Rocha and then the bus from Rocha up the coast to La Pedera. The buses run frequently throughout the day. There is also the capital of the region Rocha where you can access the mountain trails, horseback riding and kayaking on the river. All of these activities are available in the high season and less so when the resorts are quiet.
Learn to surf
La Paloma and the surrounding coastline is one of the best places in Uruguay for surfing and surf lessons. The number of breaks around La Paloma beaches means crowded surfing isn’t a big problem and for those in pursuit of the dream of empty waves on a lonely beach, this Atlantic coastline still has some unexplored treasures. All of La Paloma’s beaches have surf schools and you can find advertisements along the shoreline or in town as to where you can get lessons. The surfing lessons usually will include use of the board, wetsuit and about 1 hr of lessons or you can get a learn to surf package which gives you a bit longer. If you’re not interested in learning but just want to play in the waves then there are hire shops where you can hire the equipment and have a go yourself.
As I mentioned above we visited La Paloma out of season. Many restaurants, activities and things to do were closed. I’m sure that in the hight of season this place is a vibrant little town with loads of things going on. Being out of season still meant we had loads to do and we really enjoyed our stay here. The beach was superb and the people were lovely.
Booking resources for your visit to La Paloma
Tours & Tickets
You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site. Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.
For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.
Some of the links on this page contain affiliate marketing links, which means we may get paid commission on sales of those products or services we write about. You will never be charged a fee for shopping through one of our affiliate links. You may even get a discounted rate and we will make a small commission. Our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships.
Montevideo is one of the smallest capital cities in the world with under 1.4million inhabitants but its considered to be one of the safest.