Welcome to Checking In, our monthly column in which our lifestyle editor-at-large, Monica Mendal, shares the best in hotels and other luxury destinations. Comprising the latest and greatest before everyone else is talking about them, the chic locations you'll discover here belong at the top of your travel bucket list.
South America is well-known for its rustic charms and picturesque coastlines. But what makes Uruguay’s most beloved beach town, José Ignacio, so unique extends beyond its bohemian charms: it has become an epicenter for modern design. Known to most as the Montauk of South America, the small beach town has a knack for fusing high and low aesthetics, and has thus attracted an eclectic blend of Argentine, Brazilian, and international travelers. There's no socioeconomic discrimination; the ultra-rich and the young bohemians coexist in harmony as there’s something here for everyone.
While the beach town’s laid-back comforts are the main draw, José Ignacio taps into a higher-end aspect of South America's barefoot luxury that remains relatively unknown to many travelers. From design to food to service, everything seems to be a notch above average. Below, we've rounded up the 7 best design hotels to stay in José Ignacio.
Posada Paradiso is centrally located, just steps from José Ignacio’s main square. The posada itself lends itself to a community atmosphere– cozy rustic nooks and lounge areas are adorned with the owner’s personal art and book collection, which can be perused during a homemade breakfast each morning. The rooms are in their own category of simple comfort. To be sure, Posada Paradiso is not glamorous, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the subtle details that make everything feel just right: the fresh flowers by the nightstand next to a bowl of fresh fruit, art by local artists above the bed, bamboo shutters on the windows, and the afternoon light that casts an orange tint into the stark white bedroom. It’s a special place that reminds us it’s the simple things that make us feel at home.
Posada del Faro has an uncomplicated elegance. On the pebbled driveway in front of the main reception are bikes and golf carts available for guests to cruise the main town and beaches of José Ignacio. The living spaces make you feel like you’re a guest at your very stylish friend’s Hamptons beach house. In the library, there’s a bar stocked with almost every spirit you can imagine where you can help yourself throughout the day. The rooms are designed with that same level of polished comfort and cleverness. When you wake up, be sure to order a continental breakfast to enjoy in bed or anywhere on the property. The backyard pool is the biggest draw and is best experienced at happy hour, where you can pour yourself a drink from the library bar and take in the sunset from the backyard.
If you were to dream up your perfect beach house, it would likely look a lot like Casa Chic. This stylish boutique hotel sits steps away from José Ignacio’s best beachside restaurant, La Huella, and the quiet beaches by the Posada del Faro lighthouse, but that’s not the only reason to book your stay. Casa Chic features six modern villas, each with their own kitchenettes and balconies or outdoor patios. The decor is mostly white with pops of woody neutrals and nautical stripes. The pool is surrounded by striped daybeds adding to the beachy allure of the property.
The most sought-after hotel in José Ignacio is Alex and Carrie Vik’s Bahia Vik. From the hotel’s beachside restaurant, La Susana, to its yoga and wellness studio, The Shack, Bahia Vik has become the center of attraction for José Ignacio’s gypset crowd and celebrity clientele. It has also become an epicenter of contemporary design, which immediately draws you in with a colorful ceiling mural by Uruguayan artist Carlos Musso in the main living area. Respectively, each room also echoes Uruguay’s artful, bohemian spirit, with no two rooms designed the same. When crowds aren’t practicing yoga, dining at La Susana, or posting up by the beach, they can be found lounging at the various pools around the property or enjoying a grilled feast atop the dunes.
If you need a break from the beach, head 15 minutes inland from the center of José Ignacio to Estancia Vik for a lesson in restorative isolation. There, you can enjoy activities like kayaking, horseback riding, and other outdoor pursuits. Don’t miss the Uruguayan barbecue (even if you’re staying at another Vik property, you’ll want to make the trip to Estancia Vik for this). The rooms and the spaces themselves are vast and filled with contemporary art in true Vik form. Each has sweeping views of the land, which can also be enjoyed in the mornings at breakfast. Civilization might feel far, but the luxuries of farm life paired with the attentive staff makes you feel like you have everything you need right at your fingertips.
Unlike Bahia Vik’s thatched roofs and beachy bungalows, Playa Vik is a more exclusive and private modernist dream home, containing artwork by James Turrell and Zaha Hadid. The silver titanium main building, designed by Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, contains the pool (known for its sunset glow up) which sits perched overlooking La Mansa beach. While the sculpture of the main building alone is an architectural triumph, each of Playa Vik’s casitas and suites are works of art in themselves, filled with a collection of pieces by local and international artists.
This new real estate development is for the one-percenters looking to own a slice of coastal Uruguay without crowds. Fortunately for travelers, these bungalows are also available for rent for short- or long-term stays. Located on the Rocha coast, just minutes from José Ignacio, the development is situated over 21 acres of UNESCO biosphere reserve. It offers access to a large stretch of exclusive beach and features onsite amenities including a pool, a beach club, and a natural grass tennis court. Each estate rests on a two-acre lot, and the modern bungalows contain over 2,000 square feet of living space oozing with coastal elegance.