For years, Punta del Este was one of those places that travel writers would describe as “sleepy.” With a population of laid-back permanent residents numbering just under 10,000, there wasn't a lot going on in this town in the remote southeastern corner of Uruguay. But then the news got out. Punta del Este began to be referred to as the Hamptons of South America, and—more alluring still—as the continent's own St.-Tropez. In other words, Punta del Este was a gorgeous coast and a safe and moneyed port city: perfect for a vacation. It's the preferred getaway for wealthy Uruguayans and Argentines and many have second homes here. The population swells with these part-time residents and sun-seeking vacationers during the winter, when quiet Punta del Este cedes to its alter ego of glitzy, glamorous resort town. In addition to soaking up sun on the beautiful beaches and swimming in turquoise waters, visitors enjoy shopping at upscale boutiques, exploring the local art scene, trying their luck at a casino and tasting fresh-from-the-sea specialties at Punta del Este's restaurants.