La Posada del Faro

Jose Ignacio, Punta del Este, Uruguay Book from

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
Aegean-style holiday home turned boutique guesthouse on a sandy bluff overlooking the beach in chic and fashionable Jose Ignacio
Cloth awnings flap like sails in the sea breeze. A stripe of sand beckons beyond the dunes. Smiling staff serve early afternoon breakfast under a bamboo pergola by the pool complete with swim up bar. This unpretentious all-white inn still feels like a private home in the (once sleepy) fishing village of Jose Ignacio complete with historic lighthouse (faro), 35km west of brash Punta del Este. José García-Arocena extended his own family’s summer home to include 15 rooms, all but three with private decks or balconies overlooking the pool and unspoiled beach, 50 metres beyond. Expect rustic-chic cosy comfort - whitewashed walls, plank floors, sheet-draped loveseats, cushioned sun loungers - punctuated with sleek marble bathrooms and occasional splashes of colour.

Charming Jose Ignacio, Punta del Este’s quaint, quirky and deliciously exclusive alter ego, insists on its lack of nightlife and neon, and draws le tout beau monde to restaurants owned by celebrated South American chefs and pristine beaches to west and east of its small peninsula. Surf, shop and dine like there’s no tomorrow.

Highs

  • Just 50 metres from quieter Playa La Mansa with rock pools and bluffs, which faces into the sunset; close to feistier waves on the equally beautiful but busier Playa La Brava
  • Far from (condo-central) Punta, yet an easy drive to its after-hours action if you're so disposed
  • The mellow atmosphere and personalised make-yourself-at-home service
  • All but three rustic-elegant rooms have a private deck or balcony and second-storey rooms have ocean views; some have fireplaces, too
  • The pool has a swim-up bar, and there's a multi-level shaded pool deck with candlelit conversation areas
  • Open year-round: come in the low season for cheaper prices and tranquil empty beaches; make the most of the great Beach Club serving cocktails, drinks, bar snacks in high season

Lows

  • Over Christmas there's a 10-night minimum stay - and it gets booked up many months ahead
  • It's expensive in high season too
  • Noise is restricted post-midnight; if you love partying till dawn, you’ll be happier staying in Punta
  • It's deadly dull off-season (or blessedly peaceful, depending on your perspective) and many restaurants close
  • If you want to explore the coastline you will need a car, although the Posada can book taxis for you and there are regular buses to Punta and beyond

Best time to go

During South America’s summer (November to February), temperatures hover in the 80sF; the village kicks into full swing in late December, when the masses arrive for Christmas. Over Christmas and New Year there's a 10-day minimum stay, beaches are packed with day-trippers, traffic is chaotic, and 4-hour queues form at paradores (glorified beach shacks with world-class chefs). In January, classical music concerts are performed at sunset, followed by rowdier celebrations for the February Carnaval.

The posada is open year-round but sometimes closes on winter weekdays for maintenance. Midwinter (July and August) can be grim, but shoulder season months (April, May, September and October) are delightful and peaceful. Remember that most restaurants and many shops nearby are closed during low season.

Our top tips

Take time to browse Jose Ignacio's shops - you’ll find a small selection of designer jewellery, handbags, clothing, art, local and imported handicrafts, and even furniture. My favourite buy was a calfskin-soft leather purse.

Great for...

Beach
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 15
  • Breakfast + bar; Beach Club December-March
  • Under 1s and over 16s accepted
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Golf carts
Room:

Rooms

Carla García-Arocena let her instincts guide her in designing rooms which she modestly describes as "comfortable, not luxurious". Tucked into a modified V around the pool, the 13 rooms (no 2 identical) share simple lines and elemental New England-style features - whitewashed walls, beamed ceilings and plank floors - in tune with the seaside setting. Inside, crisp white sheets are paired with the occasional exuberant pillow or throw; some have rustic, blackened brick fireplaces, all with sleek marble bathrooms. Outside, the sun slants through bamboo patio covers onto clusters of oval stones and elegant calla lilies.

If romance is your goal - and this is an ideal place for it - choose a larger Superior Room or Special Room with a wood-burning fireplace, an ocean-facing sofa and a spacious private balcony or terrace. Ground-floor Standard Rooms run alongside the pool and have limited views of the gorgeous horizon and no balcony.

In a separate building beside the main hotel, you'll find three suites (one with a kitchenette) with a sitting area with fireplace and a private gravel terrace. However, you’ll trade extra space and privacy for limited views of the water. One of the Standard rooms is also found here.

All rooms have queensize beds, some of which can be separated into twins, as well as heating, air conditioning, ceiling fans, safes, minibars, tea- and coffee-making facilities and WiFi. European-style bathrooms have hairdryers, bathrobes, bidets and rain showerheads; some have both a shower and a tub. At turndown you get cookies and a weather forecast.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is served anywhere, anytime. In addition to a tall flask of freshly squeezed orange juice, a basket of breads with butter and jam, sliced fresh fruit and coffee or tea, you’re welcome to order eggs or anything else you’d prefer at no charge. Linger over room service or chat with other guests by the pool.

A variety of simple sandwiches, such as ham and cheese on a baguette, and other snacks are available in the afternoon; you can order tea and cakes until midnight. You're free to mix yourself a cocktail or pour an aperitif at the small honour bar in the dining room at any time. "The house is yours," José says, "just leave me a note". There’s also a swim-up bar in the pool, with cocktail prices listed on a blackboard.

In high season (December - March) the Posada runs a Beach Club with bar, bar menu and waiter service, 50 metres away on west-facing Playa La Mansa; as a hotel resident you are guaranteed beach beds, loungers, chairs and an umbrella. We spent as much time as possible here, loving the fresh pejerrey simply pan-fried with lemon, as well as the sea bass, not to mention the fine caipirinhas and fresh fruit smoothies, leaving only after the last rays of sun had disappeared behind the distant condo towers of Punta del Este.

Note that during low season (when most restaurants in town close), you may want to do a trip to Punta del Este to eat out.

In season, Jose Ignacio’s restaurants run the gamut, from world-class destinations to walk-in diners. La Huella, on Playa La Brava, is a regular stomping ground for local celebrities, and definitely the place to be seen - we loved their fresh fish. You could also try Marismo for Mediterranean-inspired fare. At the other end of the spectrum, Popeye is a friendly diner serving local specialties such as seaweed ravioli and chivito (beef loin topped with lettuce, tomato, green olives and hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise, on a thin muffin-like bun). José, Martin and Carla are happy to make other recommendations.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Relax at the hotel. "Aqui sólo corre el viento" - “Here only the winds rushes” - says a sign in the centre of town. So nap; enjoy your massage for booking through i-escape (if staying in a Special room for 3 nights); read a book; hang with friends in the main living room or under the pergola; stroll the beach; and toast the sunset from your private balcony or deck

  • Play tennis. Book a court at the tennis club 200m from the hotel

  • Sunbathe, surf, windsurf or kite-surf. Calm, pristine Playa La Mansa is 50 metres from your room, and the (high season only) Beach Club makes life very civilised indeed here. Playa La Brava (a short walk across town) has a surf school. Kite-surfing gear is available for rent in town and there's a windsurfing school at San José del Garzón Lagoon, 7.5km east of the village

  • Explore Jose Ignacio. Only 40 blocks, the village "of castle and shacks" is a delight to roam by mountain bike or rented golf cart. Shop at upscale clothing boutiques (El Canuto is a must), wine shops (try Tierra y Vino) and galleries (we liked Deco Almacén), and climb to the top of the 1877 lighthouse

  • Pamper your palate. Two of South America’s best chefs spend their summer (November-February) here, so the cuisine is amazing; local specialties range from seaweed omelettes to divine artisan ice cream

  • Commune with nature. Surrounded by 4,000 hectares of lagoons, Jose Ignacio is a paradise for bird-watchers (the streets are named after local birds), fishing enthusiasts (try off-shore, coastal and underwater fishing), equestrians (there's great riding along the beaches) and whale-watchers (you can see and hear right whales from the shore between March and October)

  • Commute to the party. If you tire of untamed beaches, virgin sand dunes and perfect sunsets, then sailing, golf (3 courses) and round-the-clock parties await in Punta del Este, half an hour away by car

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Sailing
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Tennis coaching
  • Whalewatching
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Babies under 12 months are welcome, and cots can be provided. As a rule, no other kids under 16 are allowed to stay, though those over 8 may be accepted by special arrangement during low season. “Guests are paying for the peace,” says José. There's a small supermarket in Jose Ignacio which sells nappies/diapers and other baby sundries.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities nearby:

Playa La Mansa is perfect for families, and the Beach Club (high season only) is delightful for new parents who can then relax, drink in hand, while baby explores the muslin draped double beach beds

Families Should Know:

The pool is unfenced and unheated

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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