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Who Knew Punta Del Este Hotels Are All Full Up for New Year's Eve?

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  Site Where: Parada 4, Punta Del Este, Uruguay
November 19, 2009 at 1:35 PM | by | ()

This sea lion waited too long to book a hotel room for New Year's Eve.

Got a hotel question? HotelChatter wants to answer it. Send us your questions and we'll put our team of contributors to the task. Today, Eric Rosen fields a question about hotels in Punta Del Ester, Uruguay.

Last week, we got a question from one of our readers about how to get a hotel reservation in Uruguay’s Riviera-like beach party town, Punta Del Este, for New Year’s. It went a little like this:

I was reading a 2008 article by Matt Chesterton on hotels in La Barra. We are looking to book hotels over the upcoming New Year holiday but every places seems to be booked. Do you have any tips or suggestions on getting a place for this time period? We are two adults so we don’t need a huge space. Also, what is the likelihood that there are hotels available that don’t show up in a Google search?

First things first: Though I have been to Uruguay, I have not been to Punta del Este. Still, I already knew that it is probably the most popular New Year’s destination in South America, and that it would be practically impossible to find something for our reader at this point. It's sort of like the Cancun and/or Vegas for South America--where people come from other (more conservative) South American countries to have fun and let loose. There are tons of hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, and miles and miles of beautiful beaches, but it's not dangerous like Rio.

Yet like the sea lion picture above, you may be sleeping on the beach if you've got your heart set on celebrating New Year's Eve in Punta Del Este and you haven't booked a hotel room.

But I do have a few suggestions for our reader.

I asked a few jetsetter friends who have been down to Punta recently if they had hotel suggestions. One of them, a Paraguayan native named Joaquin (of course), gave me two ideas. One was to check out the Conrad Hotel and Casino, a Hilton property, hoping that the high prices and its membership in an international chain might make it more available.

No such luck. When I called to try to make a reservation, I was told the entire hotel was booked for weeks around New Year’s, and that in the future, it would be a good idea to reserve 6-8 months in advance! If I ever do get a reservation there, though, the rates start at a decent $240 though, so that was good news.

My friend’s second suggestion was a tiny family hotel called The Francia. Here’s where I got clever. Since I couldn't find a web site for the hotel, I Googled for the Francia in Punta del Este, hoping it would lead me to more information and other similar small hotels. That got me to a few different sites, some of them in Spanish, of hotels that you might not get if you just Google alone. Especially because several of the hotels on them don’t have web sites, so you have to make some good old-fashioned phone calls for reservations…and you have to do some extensive internet research to get pictures on some of them.

One useful site with plenty of hotels was this listing site, though you still have to do the heavy lifting yourself. You can get more help at Visit Uruguay, a site that lists not only all the major hotels in the country, but will also help you with reservations depending on your needs, though it can be a little hard to navigate, and you have to wait to hear back from them.

Another Google search I tried was to enter "hoteles" instead of "hotels" in Punta del Este, hoping that by using the Spanish, I would come across some options most tourists skip. Unfortunately, I got all the same results as with an English Google search.

One other option—and call me a Luddite—is just to call up the Uruguay Tourism Ministry and ask if they have suggestions or can help you. You never know what lengths a friendly public servant will go to to ensure that you tell all your American friends to come and visit Uruguay.

Finally, our reader might consider trying to rent an apartment from a reliable source like V.R.B.O., just be sure to take the normal precautions before handing over your financial information.

So, six weeks out from New Year’s, we came up empty in Punta Del Este, but with a little more time and a high-speed internet connection (or a good international calling plan), it might still be possible to find one last room for a southern beach vacation. Otherwise, start planning for 2011!

[Photo: ChrisGold/Jaunted Flickr Pool]

Archived Comments:

Sure...keep waiting!

Punta del Este is now crowded with celebrities and "top" people, mainly from Argentina. It's the hot trendy spot of the moment, however if you rent a car and stay outside the city perhaps you'll find something.