Decked with avant garde artworks and designed so that no two suites are alike, boutique hotel Bahia Vik José Ignacio is the perfect complement to Uruguay's most bohemian beach town. Housed in long, low bungalows clad in smart grey slate and plate glass, the stylish suites offer something for all tastes: some are fairly minimalist, featuring a few scribblings on white walls; others are swirled with colour or decked with larger-than-life nudes. Hotel restaurant El Zodiaco has an astrology-themed mural covering the entire ceiling, but it’s the quality of the ingredients that steal the show, drawn from prized local farms and fishmongers. Having lunched on grass-fed beef and sipped wine from the hotel's own vineyards, spend the rest of your day on the dunes, lounging by one of the four ocean-facing infinity pools.
With artwork and furnishings that cycle through a spectrum of styles, each room is as individual as the next, so selecting a favourite is a matter of taste. The important thing is to make sure you’ve got one that makes the most of the dune-framed ocean view.
There are four large infinity pools set into the dunes in front of the hotel, all with uninterrupted views of the ocean. Each is lined with dark stone, giving them a mirror-like quality at sunrise and sunset. Sunloungers with parasols are arranged on raised decks overhanging the water, and there are tables for alfresco dining nearby on the lawns.
With a gallery’s worth of local artwork and a beachfront location, this is the place to break out your most bohemian attire.
The common areas are all wheelchair accessible, but there are no specially adapted rooms.
All ages are welcome at the hotel. Babysitting is available for $40 an hour; a day’s notice is required when booking.
The hotel has an eco-friendly outlook, making use of solar power and a water recycling system. The majority of the restaurant's ingredients are locally-sourced, too.
We’re always partial to open-air dining, but at El Zodiaco, you can see the ocean (and dine beneath stars) when you’re sitting inside too.
Opt for an all-white outfit to achieve a striking contrast with your paint-swirled surroundings.
Uruguayan-Mediterranean bistro El Zodiaco has enough windows to ensure you can see the ocean from every table, but you’re as likely to have your eye drawn heavenwards by Carlos Musso’s ceiling mural, which depicts the zodiac signs and various mythological muses against a deep blue background. You can also dine alfresco, taking your pick from the tables on the terrace or those set up by the pools. When it comes to the food, executive chef Marcelo Betancourt likes to keep things local, using grass-fed beef from nearby ranches, fish caught just off the coast, and organic fruit and vegetables grown at sister property Estancia Vik. Not content with supplying half their own produce, the Vik group also have their own wine, made at their Chilean property in Millahue. Try a glass with the grilled baby squid with kidney beans or the braised lamb with broccoli, asparagus and gremolata – both are something of a speciality here.
Part of El Zodiaco, the bar serves hand-picked Uruguayan wines (including those from the Vik group’s own vineyards) and cooling classics like caipirinhas and frozen daiquiris.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am; lunch from 1pm to 4pm; and dinner from 8pm to 11pm. The bar is open until 1am, but you won’t be shooed away if you’re still finishing your last round of drinks.
The full restaurant menu is available as room service from noon to 1am.
The hotel sits just outside José Ignacio, a laid-back beach town on Uruguay’s south east coast.
The closest airport is Punta del Este. International visitors will need to fly into Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE) in Buenos Aires, then transfer to the city’s domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (AEP), where you can catch a direct flight to Punta del Este. From there, it’s a 40-minute drive to the hotel. The other option is to fly into Montevideo, a two-and-a-half hour drive from José Ignacio. The Smith24 team can arrange your flights and transfers; call anytime, day or night.
José Ignacio is a compact town, but taxis can be scarce and there’s not much in the way of public transport, so a car will come in handy. The Smith24 team can arrange hire from either Montevideo or Punta del Este.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s nothing quite like starting a day with a dip in the ocean, and it would seem almost rude not to when it’s made as easy as it is here, where you can roll out of bed, open your terrace door and stroll to water’s edge in under a minute. Beyond swimming, you can also take to the water on a sea kayak, catch your first waves on a surfboard or get airborne during a kiteboarding lesson. Experts in the local area, the concierge can also point you towards the most scenic routes for a bike tour or arrange for a private guide to take you into some of the region’s wilder landscapes, which are teeming with all manner of indigenous wildlife. Haras Godiva offer horse riding tours along the Atlantic coast, giving you the chance to fulfil any film-fueled fantasies of galloping along a pristine strip of beach – for added romance, opt for one of their full moon rides. Those looking to sample the local should pay a visit to Bodega Garzón, a sophisticated winery with a fine-dining restaurant, helicopter landing pad and even their own hot air balloon. A range of tours are available, with some including a full gourmet lunch and a tasting of their own olive oils and cheeses.
Few restaurants are more in tune with José Ignacio’s boho leanings than Marismo, a beach-shack-style restaurant with simple wooden tables set out on the sand, surrounded by thick greenery and open-pit fires. Many come for the fish and steaks, which are sourced locally and grilled over charcoal or roasted in the wood-fired brick oven. Another beachside favourite isParador La Huella, who’ve also made a name for themselves with their grilled fish; the sea bass and corvina are in particularly high demand. Right next door to the hotel is La Susana, another Vik creation. Quickly earning a reputation as the Uruguayan answer to Club 55 in St. Tropez, this cabana-covered restaurant has become the a José Ignacio hotspot thanks to the quality of the food – anything from the vast grill is a safe bet – and it’s creative cocktails.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique stay in Uruguay and unpacked their local crafts bought from the hotel’s chic gift shop, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Bahia Vik José Ignacio in Uruguay…
When it comes to emerging destinations, the founders of Vik Retreats – Alexander and Carrie Vik – aren’t a pair to miss the boat. Noticing that the in-crowd were beginning to shift their gaze from Uruguay’s coastal party town, Punta Del Este, to the tiny fishing village of José Ignacio 20 kilometers up the coast, they quickly set about creating a fitting home from home. With backgrounds in art and finance, they’re part of a discerning crowd, and this sleek, single-storey property delivers plenty of luxury with its stone-lined swimming pools, suite-only accommodation and a location as close to the ocean as you can get. And yet, they’ve also managed to stay true to the town’s bohemian soul, inviting artists from home and abroad to create vibrant pieces throughout the hotel, giving every suite a unique character and adding a touch of avant garde appeal.
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