Boutique hotel Playa Vik José Ignacio teams beach-town bohemianism with swooping concrete curves, bold interiors and artworks worthy of Uruguay’s national gallery. Perched on the lawn-covered dunes of placid La Mansa beach, this modernist design hotel has one of the best beachfront spots in José Ignacio, Uruguay’s hippest beach town. Owners and seasoned hoteliers Alex and Carrie Vik have kept the laid-back atmosphere and effusive friendliness that first put the town on the map, but they’ve swapped out thatch-roofed beach shacks for gleaming titanium, angled plate glass and artworks by such luminaries as James Turrell, Zaha Hadid and Anselm Kiefer.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £352.53 ($454).
Rates usually include breakfast, a buffet of homemade bread and pastries along with cereals, fresh fruit, local cheeses and freshly-ground coffee; the kitchen also whip up waffles and eggs to order. Guests can use the hotel’s mountain bikes and kayaks for
Guests get access to all the facilities at Bahia Vik, just 500m down the coast, and Estancia Vik, a 15-minute drive away. Some activities do incur extra charges, but many are free for Vik guests.
The hotel is closed from 1 May until 30 September.
At the hotel
Beach; spa; gym; free WiFi throughout; laundry. In rooms: iPod dock; minibar; tea- and coffee-making kit; free bottled water; eco-friendly bath products made for the hotel.
Our favourite rooms
If it’s just the two of you, you can’t do better than the 80sq m Valentina Suite, strewn with sultry red furniture and commanding a sweeping view across the ocean. If you’re travelling with children, go for one of the casas, all of which have two or three bedrooms.
Built of smooth concrete and tiled in black granite, the 22m cantilevered infinity pool sits on sloping ground – once you’re in it, the perspective makes it seem as if you could swim straight out to sea. As if that weren’t transportive enough, it’s also covered in small lights that map out the stars visible from the southern hemisphere, making after-hours dips an otherworldly experience. There are large decked areas on either side with several sun loungers.
Head to the stylish two-room spa for reflexology treatments, various massages and hydrating facials. The hotel also has a small gym where yoga, pilates and other fitness classes are held (at an extra cost). If you’d rather go it alone, the fitness balls, yoga mats and treadmill are free to use.
Anything bold, bright and avant garde – the art collection and individual design will complement a certain playfulness.
All common areas are wheelchair accessible and the casas can be reached by lift, but there are no specially adapted rooms.
All ages are welcome, and with a fully stocked games room, a beach and a host of activities, there’s plenty to keep them occupied. The casas are perfect for families, and accomodate buggies with ease. Babysitting is available from US$40 an hour.
The hotel uses solar power, sources food locally and has its own kitchen garden. All of the bath products in the rooms are eco-friendly.
The views are spectacular from every table, but the open-sided terrace is hard to beat.
The hotel's modernist looks and laid-back atmosphere chime well with casual Scandi threads.
At Cielomar, you’re set for a memorable experience no matter where you sit. In the dining room, the inclined floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the dark-stone pool; on the ocean-facing terrace, you’ll get some of the best sunset views anywhere on Uruguay's Atlantic coast. Or, if you’re after something really intimate, settle into the sofas surrounding the fire pit, where a glass of Vik’s own Millahue comes alive in the firelight. Menus are created by executive chef Marcelo Betancourt, who’s committed to keeping things local – not hard when the produce available is this good. Grass-fed beef and fresh fish come from nearby farms and fisherman, and the organic fruit and veg comes straight from sister property Estancia Vik, just 15 minutes up the road. Be sure to try the barbecued seafood (the selection changes almost daily).
Part of Cielomar, the bar serves choice South American wines and classic cocktails like pisco sours, caipirinhas and espresso martinis.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am, lunch from 12.30pm to 3pm, and dinner from 8pm to 11pm.
The full menu is available as room service during restaurant hours.
The hotel is just outside José Ignacio, a placid beach town on Uruguay’s south east coast.
The closest airport is Punta del Este. You’ll probably 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 hop on 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 all your flights and transfers for you.
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
Make use of the adept concierges, who go out of their way to make sure guests get the most out of the local area and the hotel’s sister properties. They can point out some of the best routes for a mountain bike tour, for example, or arrange visits to the region’s wilder areas, where an expert guide will point out a huge variety of indigenous wildlife. If you’re one for the active life, there’s also surfing, kite surfing, water skiing and sailing on offer. Looking to enlist a little horsepower? Hop over to ranch hotel Estancia Vik, where you’ll have 1,500 acres to play with. If that’s whet your appetite Haras Godiva run horse riding tours along the Atlantic coastline, giving you the chance to fulfil any childhood fantasies of galloping along a pristine beach. If you’re looking for something really romantic, go for one of their full moon rides. Grape devotees shouldn’t miss a trip to Bodega Garzón, a state-of-the art winery with a fine-dining restaurant, helicopter landing pad and even their own hot air balloon. There’s a range of tours on offer, some with a gourmet lunch and a tasting of their olive oils and cheeses throw in.
Few restaurants are more in tune with José Ignacio’s bohemian leanings than Marismo, where simple wooden tables are 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 is Parador La Huella, who’ve also made a name for themselves with their first-rate seafood – try the sea bass or the corvina, which are two of the most in-demand dishes on the menu. Another place that hits the mark is Juana, a deceptively simple-looking beach-shack serving delectable mod-Uruguayan dishes and choices South American wines. As you might have guessed, fish is a big feature, but the locally-sourced meat and vegetables are equally worthy of attention.
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 design hotel in José Ignacio and unpacked their bottles of wine from the Vik estate, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Playa Vik José Ignacio in Uruguay…
With a sculptural building of gleaming titanium and a stone-lined pool that juts towards the South Atlantic, Playa Vik José Ignacio’s strikingly modern good looks don’t immediately call to mind the character of a bohemian beach town. In fact, once you add in the curved concrete roofs, inclined plate-glass windows and bold works by world-famous artists, it soon becomes clear that the hotel isn’t like anywhere else in town (except, perhaps, sister property Bahia Vik). After a day spent galloping along the beach or negotiating the surf in a sea kayak, dine on tender grass-fed beef and fine Uruguayan wines from Vik’s own estate. But for all their impressive art works and world-class wine lists, owners Alex and Carrie Vik have still stayed true to the town’s bohemian soul, eschewing all stuffiness in favour of the kind of service that makes it feel like you’ve been invited into the home of some very well-heeled friends.
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