Part Hamptons, part Cote d'Azur, part South Beach (with a dash of Vegas tossed in for good measure), Punta del Este is a flashy destination. "Punta"—five minutes here and you'll shorten the name just as everyone else does—and the handful of surrounding beachfront communities are, famously, jet-set resorts—places where lounging on golden sand and browsing designer boutiques constitute
the day's most demanding activities. The resort takes its name from the "east point" marking the division of the Río de la Plata on the west from the Atlantic Ocean to the east. It also lends its name to the broader region encompassing the nearby communities of Punta Ballena and La Barra de Maldonado.Punta celebrated its centennial in 2007, but little more than a half a century ago it was a fishing village nearly covered by dunes. Its shores were first discovered by sunseekers escaping winter in Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America. South Americans were soon to follow—more than 100,000 Argentines flock to its beaches each January.