Rambla is the equivalent of promenade, a walkway or pedestrian pathway that would be called the ‘strand’ if it was in Southern California. The Uruguayan version was created by popular vote back in the 1950’s, when the other choice on the ballot was building two battleships for the navy. Needless to say, the people made the right choice.
The kite surfing at Malvin beach is full blast
This long stretch of coastline on the Rio Plata is an ecological treasure trove, with miles of undeveloped areas separating the dozens of beaches. Birds are the principal residents, and it’s a superb rarity to have so much wild terrain so close to a major city. In many other countries this coastline would be relentlessly developed and overrun with businesses, but in Uruguay, virtually every bit is open to the public. Many of the residents consider it the number one feature and attraction of Montevideo, and the entire length is bikeable in a day, an extraordinary activity.
For all practical purposes, the Rambla starts at the edge of the massive port of Montevideo in Ciudad Vieja. Sarandi is the heart of the old town, bustling with tourists, cafes and sidewalk vendors, and it’s western end extends out onto the kilometer long jetty that frames one side of the harbor.
Nice smooth surface on this stretch of the Rambla through Barrio Sur
This is kilometer zero as the Rambla stretches east and is just a few blocks from Puerto Mercado and the heart of the old town’s commercial center. Here the surface is grainy light brown granite slabs, smooth and durable, and this part of the slab is mostly empty except for fishermen and locals. there are many sites of interest, like the ‘the stack’, a tall brick chimney atop an ancient oven just above the waterline. This first landmark is just 300 meters from the point zero jetty. Another 400 meters on is a staircase down to a broad shelf of rocks and a popular sunbathing spot.
Rising up over a short slope here, the surface is more irregular and beat up, but passing the fort evens out again and is smooth enough to skate. This surface of large diagonal slabs lasts for miles now heading east. at 2800 is another large platform shelf below the Rambla on the river, affording easy access for swimmers and fishermen.
The Rambla wraps around Playa Ramirez in across from Parque Rodo
Across the road is a large grassy area with a statue of the liberator of South America, Simon Bolivar, astride his horse. 3300 is the site of another stone plaza platform beneath the Rambla, and at 3600 sits the ugliest embassy of all in Montevideo, that of the US. This imposing structure overlooks its own plaza, and is adjacent to Tinkal, renowned for tremendous chivitos, the national sandwich. Two more grassy plazas follow, the second of which is presided over by Yemanja, the celebrated Yoruba and Santeria goddess of mothers and the sea.
At 4600 meters is a sensational viewpoint and famous statue on the left beneath the college of engineering. Teatro Verano, a sublime outdoor concert venue is situated at 4700 across from the other end of Ramirez beach.
Saw the Black Keys here at the Teatro Verano on a rainy night…excellent
4800 marks the entrance to the Paseo de los Pescaderos that can be ridden with special care and offers more fine views and benches, along with four different fishing clubs with their own restaurants. Just past this is a wall directly above the water and another prime fishing location. Across the road the far eastern edge of Parque Rodo is visible with a pretty lagoon, some cliffs and paths. this area borders the magnificent Golf Club of Uruguay, designed by the legendary Alistar McKenzie in 1928. Parts of the course are visible through the border vegetation along the fence. It’s a classic track.
Number 14 has the only water hazard on the course, Golf Club of Uruguay
6300 is where the Ancap gas station is situated, at the bottom of Avenida Artigas, one of the major thoroughfares in the city. Just beyond is the road that goes out to the lighthouse at Punta Carretas, with a huge parking area and a popular restaurant. The turnoff is overlooked by a statue of Juan Zorilla San Martin. Immediately past the road on the right sits a newer addition to the features, a striking huge stone and steel sculpture which is even more interesting from the water side. More grass fields follow, some used for rugby and soccer games. Across the street is the Zorrilla Museum tucked between the tall buildings and this neighborhood holds some of the best hotels and restaurants in the city. At the end of the fields a barely marked path leads out to an old concrete jetty that is very popular as a swim spot.
Pocitos beach is frequently very crowded and care should be taken passing along this stretch of the Rambla. At the far eastern end the sidewalk narrows to just a few feet wide, and this choke point can be a concern on busy days. At 8400 meters pretty Gomensoro Plaza sits just across the road, a serene oasis surrounded by tall buildings. 100 meters further is the major intersection where Boulevar Espana and Avenida Brasil converge at the beach, both super busy traffic arteries.
The wide Rambla at Pocitos Beach can get a lot fuller than this, believe me
A little east of here the Rambla veers to the right around a skatepark and follows the coast past a large parking area before meeting the jetty at this end of Buceo harbor. Here the path loops back to the main road, past the Montevideo yacht club and the complex of fish markets next to El Italiano restaurant, a Sunday tradition in these parts. Buceo harbor is full of boats, and though bikes aren’t allowed on the jetty, usually the security guard will keep an eye on them so you can walk out to the end and look around.
After a really big storm a few years ago, several boats were thrown out of the water
14300 is where a grassy point is marked by an old stone monument which divides this fine beach into two sections, and just beyond a rock and grassy area favored by surfcasters and secluded sun worshippers. This next rocky point separates Malvin Beach from it’s eastern neighbor Playa Honda, where, as the name implies, the drop off from the shore is more abrupt, which attracts those that enjoy deeper water close by.
Here a small cafe on the Rambla is the last place to get food or drinks for a while. Near 15000 the surface briefly switches back to the nice smooth red and white pebble finish for a short distance before reverting back to the concrete blocks all the way past Punta Gorda.
Slow down here at Playa Mulata to buy some fish or drink a cold beer
17000 marks the beginning of Playa Verde, a favorite of many, separated from the Rambla by taller coastal pines and grassy dunes. Soon the surface changes again to a small red tile effect, and the sidewalk gets tight as it passes two seafood markets and restaurants directly on the Rambla. These actually sit on Playa Mulata, bordering Playa Verde to the east, and just as pretty. Just beyond 18000 the surface once again changes to the best surface of all, a golden pebbletech that runs all the way past Carrasco Casino. Here is the Rambla at its’ best; very smooth, even, and wide as it parallels long Carrasco beach.
19500 marks the magnificent Carrasco hotel and casino, the center point of downtown Carrasco, Across the road the Rambla runs by a nice paved plaza, again with exercise equipment and a meeting place for many. Shortly past here the surface reverts back to smaller concrete squares but is still smooth and easy rolling . Carrasco beach is big with both surfcasters and kite surfers, dog walkers, and beach people looking for a little more elbow room that those to the west. Once again the vegetation changes somewhat, with lots of Tamarisk trees, small, broadleaf bushes, and heaps of coastal pine trees. The dunes that separate the Rambla from the beach flower gloriously in the spring.
Montevideans always gather to watch a good sunset
21000 is the site of the naval school across the road and along here Playa Carrasco becomes Playa Miramar with no visible difference between the two, just fewer people the further east one goes. Long needle short pines predominate here, and 22000 marks almost the absolute end of the Rambla as it crosses Carrasco River. This is the turn around point to head back west and enjoy it all from the other angle, and it seems different heading in the other direction. When the weather is good, the Rambla is calling.