Uruguay is known for the beaches that run the entire length of its coast. The best-value stretch of this coast is the Costa de Oro--30 miles of uninterrupted golden sand. This area is not only beautiful and more affordable than Uruguay's more developed coastal offerings, but it is also dotted with a string of coastal communities that offer a very appealing opportunity for full-time retirement living.
The Costa de Oro is anchored by two towns, Atlántida and La Floresta. La Floresta developed first, but Atlántida ultimately grew bigger and has more full-time residents.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, summertime Atlántida is an upbeat, bustling seaside town that is popular among local residents, vacationers, and day travelers from Montevideo. The beaches are golden and sandy as they follow the curves of the shoreline around the point. The sheltered waters are typically calm, with light wave action and little undertow. Atlántida's sidewalk cafés and restaurants are especially busy on the weekends, when they fill the air with smoke from their open wood fires grilling steaks, chorizo, chicken, and vegetables.
Atlántida is reminiscent of a bygone era, with the charm and character of a seaside resort from the 1950s. This is partly due to the stately, larger homes that have been here for so long. It's also thanks to landmark historic buildings that still stand, like the boat-shaped Edificio El Planeta, formerly the Planeta Palace Hotel, built by one of the city's founders.
Atlántida is self-sufficient, with a local movie theater, several hardware, drug, and grocery stores, as well as churches, a country club, and clinics. Its modern supermarket, Tienda Inglesa (English store), is complete with everything you could want, including many hard-to-get imported items, hardware, and electronics.
One important thing that sets Atlántida apart from other more popular towns on the Uruguayan coast, such as Punta del Este and Piriápolis, is the trees. Driving into town, the first impression is of tall, mature shade trees lining the town's streets. Lush and green, they frame the large, stately homes downtown. Still more trees line the shady, beachfront parks that conceal cafés and outdoor barbeques and allow only glimpses of the popular beaches beyond.
Atlántida continues to evolve for the better. Today, residents enjoy more restaurants, outdoor cafés, and tasteful shops than they did just a few years ago. You can now shop along a new pedestrian walkway in Atlántida's downtown, and there's even wheelchair access to the beach.
Uruguay sees four distinct seasons, all gentle. Average summertime high temperatures run to about 82 degrees, with lows in the mid-60s. In the winter, highs usually approach 60 degrees, while lows can occasionally go down into the 30s. Thanks to pleasant sea breezes, most people don't use air conditioning in the summer, but most people want heat in the winter.
In the winter, things quiet down in Atlántida. Some shops and restaurants close for the season, while some others open only on weekends. Atlántida doesn't become a ghost town, as do some resorts along Uruguay's coast, but you certainly won't find the same level of activity as you would between the summer months of December and February.
This is not an area of high-rises. There are only a few apartment buildings over four stories on the entire Costa de Oro. Primarily, your choices for a residence are houses, rather than condos. The good news is that property along this coast remains inexpensive, with a nice selection available for less than $100,000. A retired couple interested in settling here should allow $1,500 per month if you own your own home and $2,200 per month if you rent.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas--Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.
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