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There’s not just one reason that Cabo Polonio, Uruguay, is interesting, it has a whole host of fascinating features that draw visitors in to see what it’s all about. Firstly, this is an off-grid community, meaning that the village is not connected to the nation’s supplies of electricity, gas and water. Houses are small to make them easy to heat, and are usually made out of less-than-sturdy looking building materials, depending on what could be transported across the sand dunes. The locals who live here tend to be both conscientious for the planet’s future and reverent of their ancestors’ past ways of life.
And their ancestors are another interesting point – as Cabo Polonio juts off into the Atlantic Ocean, with sand dunes at its back, the cape became a perfect hideaway village for pirates centuries ago.
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These sand dunes mean that Cabo Polonio is disconnected from the rest of Uruguay (in modern terms!), with no access roads. It’s roughly 4.5 miles (7km) of dune bashing to get to Uruguay’s nearest main road, which only adds to the appeal of getting to Cabo Polonio, Uruguay. As I’ll explain later, you need to get a bumpy 4×4 ride across the sand dunes and the beach to access the off-grid community. With no need for cars in the village, there’s not much in terms of roads in Cabo Polonio, either, with most of them just looking like dusty, slightly worn-down footpaths.
This guide will take you through B&Bs and hostels in Cabo Polonio, things to do, and how to get to Cabo Polonio, Uruguay.
What’s it like to stay in an off-grid community?
Let’s set your expectations here. Cabo Polonio is marketed as totally off-grid, with no running water (water is collected from wells and rain collectors), no electricity and no connectivity.
While all of this is technically true, solar panels and generators mean that living here actually feels no different to living in a connected town. There’s no need for candles or washing in a bucket, and lots of the hostels in Cabo Polonio have WiFi (although some only turn it on for an hour a day).
Being off-grid is something that is enjoyed by locals for its uniqueness and the lesser impact on the environment made by a lifestyle in Cabo Polonio. Uruguay’s government also wishes to protect Cabo Polonio, making sure the national reserve remains free from large buildings and main roads.
How to get to Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
You cannot drive directly to Cabo Polonio since there are no roads, so you have to get one of the mega-4x4s which drive over the sand dunes and beach to the town. This can be picked up from Puerta del Polonio, which is like a tourism centre with a small food shop, tour information, 4×4 ticket counters and toilets.
There are only a few 4×4 departures a day so you need to plan well ahead. Because of this, Cabo Polonio is not the place for a day trip unless you have driven your own car to Puerta del Polonio, and are able to get the earliest 4×4 in and latest out. If coming by bus to Puerta del Polonio, we recommend you arrange some accommodation with one of the B&Bs or hostels in Cabo Polonio.
4x4s leave Puerta del Polonio to get at Cabo Polonio at: 10:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm.
They return from Cabo Polonio to Puerta del Polonio at: 11am, 2pm, 4pm.
Round-trip 4×4 tickets cost 296 Uruguayan pesos ($); just don’t lose your ticket during your stay!
The 4×4 ride can be a little bumpy at times, but if it’s a sunny day and you can handle climbing up, try to nab one of the limited seats on the roof of the 4×4 to Cabo Polonio as the views are incredible.
Getting to Puerta del Polonio to catch a 4×4
Puerta del Polonio is found along the main road, so you can either get the bus there from nearby towns or drive there yourself and pay 250 pesos a day for parking while you enjoy Cabo Polonio.
If you’re coming by bus to Cabo Polonio from Punta del Este, you’ll need to catch the bus to Puerto del Polonio from the main terminal at around 6am in order to be in time to catch the last 4×4 to Cabo Polonio at 3.30pm.
If you’re getting to Cabo Polonio from Punta del Diablo by bus, you can have a bit of a lie-in as the bus only takes a couple of hours with all connections. You’ll need to change buses at a small town called Castillo (which has a cracking crepe house on the same road as the bus station) in order to get to Puerto del Polonio.
If you’ve not yet decided whether to visit Punta del Diablo or Punta del Este first, we recommend Punta del Diablo, from which the bus times are much kinder to the soul.
B&Bs and Hostels in Cabo Polonio
You can choose from a handful of B&Bs and hostels in Cabo Polonio, Uruguay. Though you shouldn’t expect much luxury in an off-grid community, they generally do their best to create cosy, comfortable spaces to stay.
The place we stayed is reportedly one of the only hostels in Cabo Polonio with hot showers, so if you value that check out Viejo Lobo (not to be confused with the also-popular Lobo Hostel). It has a fantastic location in the town’s ‘square’ (image below), right next to the path to the beach, and only a few minutes’ walk to the food store. While the inside is pretty basic, the people running this hostel in Cabo Polonio at are really lovely, which creates good vibes throughout.
A little further South, higher quality accommodation can be found for around the same price at El Fortín del Rubio, which is better suited to families and glampackers.
La Perla del Cabois another top-notch spot that has been decorated beautifully to channel the rustic coastal feel of Cabo Polonio. This is one of the most highly-rated places to stay in the area.
There are also some B&Bs and hostels in Cabo Polonio’s outskirts, which start to feel seriously remote. You’ll go past these as you take the 4×4 across the beach, so tell the driver you want to get off there. Have a look at La Cañadaif you’d like to get further out.
5 awesome things to do in Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
1. Enjoy the peace of the beaches
There are beaches on both sides of the cape, but we prefer the beach to the west of Cabo Polonio as it’s not as close to the sea lions, and you’re therefore less likely to come across any sea lion carcasses.
If you head onto the west-side beach at night, you may be lucky enough to see the bioluminescent plankton making the waves sparkle as they crash. Provides the perfect place for a skinny dip!
We had the beaches to ourselves in the shoulder season (October), but things get a lot busier towards Uruguay’s Summer (December-January).
2. Walk it out
If you like walks and hikes, there are plenty in every direction in Cabo Polonio. You can take a stroll around the cape (there are few property partitions here so you can access the entire area), head into the lushness of the national park, or trek the sand dunes. However, one of the best and most simple walks is towards the lighthouse, where you’ll come across a colony of 100 or so sea lions – one of the largest in South America.
3. Follow the light
For 25 Uruguayan Pesos, and if you’re over 8 years old (which I assume you are, otherwise, sorry for swearing so much on this blog), you can enter the lighthouse and climb the 132 stairs to the top for views of Cabo Polonio, Uruguay. Built in the late 19th century, this is one of the most historical parts of town. Being the lighthouse keeper has been a position given much respect in the village over the generations.
4. Spend the night at Lobo Bar
When it’s not raining, Lobo Bar is a great place to spend a night huddled around a campfire, chatting to other travellers. This is in one of the hostels in Cabo Polonio, and often puts on live shows to create an atmosphere for their guests, and they brew their own beer. If you really love this vibe, you can stay in one of Lobo Hostel’s dorms.
5. Have a gander of the village center
Though there’s not really much going on in the main village, the very centre features a few shacks with artisanal, sometimes a bit hippie, goods to browse, and some teeny restaurants to chill out in.
Cabo Polonio FAQs
Where can I buy food in Cabo Polonio?
There are a smattering of bars and restaurants in the centre of the off-grid community (near where the 4×4 drops you off, but if you’re there in the off-season, these will all be shut. The only ‘convenience store’ (images below) in the town opens just a few hours in the morning and a few hours at night (5pm to 8pm). Therefore, make sure you’ve thought about lunch before midday so you can get to the shop on time.
The food store itself is an incredible experience of going back in time. You can’t just browse the store, you need to request individual items from the shopkeeper behind the counter.
Are there ATMs in Cabo Polonio?
No, there are no ATMs in Cabo Polonio, so you’ll need to stock up before you come. Surprisingly, things aren’t much more expensive than the rest of Uruguay, but always take a little extra just in case you run into some trouble.
If coming to Cabo Polonio by bus from Punta del Diablo, Castillo is the last access you’ll have to an ATM during your journey.
What should I bring to Cabo Polonio, Uruguay?
Though there are certain luxuries afforded by generators in this off-grid village, you might want to give yourself a few extra comforts. A solar-powered charger is fantastic to take with you on any of your travels in South America. You’ll also definitely want a poncho/windbreaker, because when it rains, it pours, but things take a long time to dry off and can get damp in some of the hostels in Cabo Polonio since there’s not much in the way of central heating here.
How long to stay in Cabo Polonio, Uruguay: 2 nights
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