Uruguay: The Undiscovered Family Vacation Spot You Need to Visit

While strolling the colorful streets of Cartagena, witnessing the roaring waters of Iguazu Falls or hiking through snow-capped mountains in Patagonia may already be on your family bucket list, Uruguay is the true undiscovered gem of South America. From a bustling capital city lined with art deco buildings and striking colonial homes to upscale beach towns where you can soak up the sun while mingling with A-listers, this country has it all. Start exploring Uruguay with these three kid-friendly cities full of rich culture and exciting activities.

Montevideo

Head to the heart of the city and begin your exploration of Uruguay's capital at Plaza Independencia. The Old Town is full of history and culture from Palacio Salvo to seeing the original walls of the city. Bring your camera along to snap photos of the pastel buildings and ornate balconies.

For even more impressive buildings, head to the upscale neighborhood of Carrasco. Here you'll find visually stunning houses, restaurants and art galleries nestled along quiet, tree-lined streets. The architecture styles range from colonial-esque manors to modern and chic condos. Take a break at Vivero Lavender for tea and sweets in a garden oasis.

For a bigger meal, head to Mercado del Puerto for numerous food stall options. For a quirky dining experience that mixes past and present, take the kids to El Berretin, where you can dine on a glass floor that looks directly down at an escape tunnel from an old jail. If you're in the mood to try some of the steak the area is famous for, Garcia is a must.

Where to Stay:

Located just a few minutes from the historical district, the Sheraton Montevideo offers families an ideal location with plenty of restaurants just a stone's throw away, as well as access to La Rambla where you can walk or bike along the river.

Punta del Este

This celebrity-worthy hot spot in is all about the beach scene. But for a break from the sunshine, head to the stunning Casapueblo, a sprawling hotel, museum and art gallery that spills over the cliffside.

Kids will absolutely love one of the area's most iconic landmark: La Mano en la Arena. The massive hand sculpture juts from the sand at Playa Brava. And yes, you're allowed to clamber up it and leap off.

If your little ones love sea life, take a guided boat tour to nearby Isla de Lobos where you'll come face-to-face with hundreds of thousands of sea lions. Even if you don't end up hopping on a boat tour, it's worth going down to the Yacht Harbor where many of the tours leave from. This glamorous area ripe for people watching is where the rich and tanned go to see and be seen.

For a calmer beach day ideal for young children, hit the golden sands of Playa Mansa.

Where to Stay:

Splurge on the Playa Vik José Ignacio located right on Playa Mansa. It seamlessly blends sleek design with its laid-back atmosphere. The beachfront location can't be beat and the mulit-bedroom casas are ideal for families. Not to mention the game rooms, infinity pool and on-site kayaks and mountain bikes will keep everyone busy.

Colonia del Sacramento

Just a short ferry ride across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires, this historic city is known for its cobblestoned streets and vine-covered shops. A designated UNESCO World Heritage site, the charming city has plenty to offer families. The riverfront area is full of restaurants and an ideal place to take in a dazzling sunset.

Get an up-close history lesson at The Old Town Gate. Originally founded by the Portuguese, the city went back and forth between Spanish and Portuguese rule and you can see the dueling influences throughout the historic old town.

For the best view, climb up the steps to the top of El Faro Lighthouse where you'll be able to take in a panorama of the city and river.

Parents will also want to stop at one of the local breweries for a taste of the region. Barbot is a good option for beer lovers. Choose between 15 different home brews while kids enjoy live music and munching on pizza.

It's easy to spend several hours getting lost along the shady streets and stopping in at cafes and shops that call your name. One street that's particularly fun is Calle de Portugal. Vintage cars can be found parked along many of the streets in Colonia, but here they've been turned into planters with flowers bursting from trunks and climbing up tires.

Where to Stay:

For a truly relaxing getaway, stay just outside the city at the Sheraton Colonia Golf & Spa Resort. Kids and parents can spend a day hanging out under a shady cabana or splashing in the massive indoor-outdoor pool. Or, perfect your swing at the 9-hole golf course. They even offer lessons and a complimentary golf program for juniors.

By Hannah Freedman