When Brazil's premier hospitality group decided to open its first property abroad, the coastal town of Punta del Este seemed like a natural choice. "Ever since I came to know it, I've been fascinated by this place," says restaurateur and hotelier Rogério Fasano. "Punta del Este has a unique setting that combines Tuscany and the English countryside, all of it close to the sea." Globetrotters have long known about Uruguay's sandy beaches and bikini-clad beauties, yet Mr. Fasano focused on the destination's more bucolic charms, acquiring a 1,000-acre estancia with unspoiled meadows, rocky hills, timber forests, and river streams. He tapped celebrated modernist architect Isay Weinfeld to create a subtly futuristic property that harmonizes with the gorgeous surroundings. A series of low-slung buildings clad in concrete, wood, and glass, many with "floating" cantilevered terraces, look like they have peacefully landed on the terrain's large boulders and rolling pastures.
On the shores of the Maldonado River, a biodiverse waterway that runs through the hotel, guests can hop on a kayak and paddle past white herons, swallows, austral flamingos, and other rare regional birds.
Guest quarters—including independent bungalows and suites tucked into a new hilltop wing called Locanda—feature a neutral-colored combination of rusticity and glamour. But what really sets this hotel apart are a series of dazzling common areas. The century-old farmstead of this former working ranch was preserved and turned into a clubhouse of sorts, with a seasonal restaurant and various living rooms decorated with fabulously oversized sofas, thick wool rugs, and polished wooden shelves stacked with books. A few steep steps away, up on a peak with sweeping vistas, is Fasano Restaurant, a leather-clad space where South American movers and shakers savor Italian specialties like gnocchi with gorgonzola and veal milanese.
There may be absolutely no need to leave the Fasano—the interior design is utterly inviting, the views are idyllic, the food is delicious, and there are amenities to spare, including a sweeping concrete-clad spa—yet this corner of Uruguay offers an alluring mix of coastal and rural attractions. In the summertime, Atlantic beaches beckon travelers into a hedonistic scene. Ten minutes away from the hotel, Bikini Beach, a wide swath of sand favored by surfers and models, buzzes with live DJ's and alfresco cocktail bars. Nearby, the boho-chic neighborhood of La Barra is filled with boutiques, art galleries, sidewalk cafés, and gelato stands. But once the weather begins to cool and the suntanned crowds disperse, a different mood sets in, one of tranquility and communion with nature. On the shores of the Maldonado River, a biodiverse waterway that runs through the hotel, guests can hop on a kayak and paddle past white herons, swallows, austral flamingos, and other rare regional birds. And at the hotel’s own horse stables, expert horsemen are ready to lead groups through leisurely countryside rides, stopping for an olive oil tasting at a nearby mill, and then a picnic lunch surrounded by acacias and pines. These off-the-beaten path adventures reveal the real spirit of Uruguay, a place of timeless pleasures and earthly delights.