Private José Ignacio luxury travel

A 20-mile drive east of flashy Punta del Este is José Ignacio, where visitors slip into a uniform of saltwater hair, sandy feet, and a tan.  

Embraced by a sandy shore on three sides, the fishing village-turned-beach enclave is a blend of haute-boho, an esthetic depicted by the architect-designed summer homes that mingle next to minimalist, rustic cabins, and surf shacks. Accommodations run from hip hotels (where it’s totally fine to walk through the lobby barefoot) to premier modernist boutique resorts like Playa Vik—one of South America’s top-ranked resorts.—and sister property Bahia Vik. The best and most joyful way to travel between beach bars, yoga studios, and surf spots is by bicycle.

José Ignacio reaches back from the Atlantic Ocean and hugs a span of rolling countryside dotted with historic estancias. Less touristic than those found near Buenos Aires, they offer a guest ranch experience enveloped by picture-pretty pampas. Estancia Vik, set on 4,000 green acres and home to a stable of polo ponies, is our top choice. (Guests have access to the oceanfront Vik properties’ amenities.) Horseback riding across the pampas with a gaucho guide is a can’t-miss experience. 

Though it may be a bit off the beaten path, José Ignacio is hardly a secret. The destination maintains a guest book with A-list entries that include rockstars and supermodels. Countless creatives and world-class talent have left their mark. José Ignacio is home to one of just a few James Turrell Skyspaces in the world. (Ta Khut was installed in 2021 on the grounds of Posada Ayana, a boutique hotel.) It’s also the playground of Francis Mallmann. The acclaimed Argentine chef opened his beachfront, open-flame restaurant, Chiringuito Francis Mallmann, crafted from a series of dreamy tents with handsome striped fabric, folding sling chairs, and low wooden tables sunk right on the sand—it’s the peak embodiment of the José Ignacio social vibe.

A destination that restores the soul with a prescription of sun, sand, and saltwater, José Ignacio is also a place to nourish the body and tantalize the palate. Dine in at rustic Cruz del Sur Farm for pulled-fresh-from-the-ocean fish and produce grown at a nearby ranch. Head to Parador La Huella on Brava Beach, the place to see and be seen during the brunch hours. Or, pull up a seat at La Olada for a gourmet, lantern-lit dinner.

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