Santa Teresa National Park

Located in the rich and diverse landscape of Uruguay, the Santa Teresa National Park invites travelers to immerse themselves in a world where nature, history, and adventure converge. This unique destination offers a variety of natural and cultural attractions, from pristine beaches and trails through lush forests to a historic fortress that tells tales of times gone by. Whether you’re seeking relaxation on the coast, exploring ancient monuments, or venturing into outdoor activities, Santa Teresa National Park promises an unforgettable experience for all. Get ready to discover everything you need to know to plan your visit to this incredible national park.

History of Santa Teresa National Park

Santa Teresa National Park
In 1762, facing the possibility of conflict with Spain, the Portuguese decided to fortify a point known as Castillos Chicos, beginning the construction of the Santa Teresa Fortress. After passing into the hands of the Orientals in 1825, the fortress remained abandoned for a long time until it was rediscovered by historian Horacio Arredondo in 1928. Arredondo began efforts for its reconstruction and proposed the creation of a surrounding park. This park was conceived as a landscaped garden, following the idea of 18th-century English visual artists, where naturalness and irregularity would predominate in the paths, evoking the sensation of unexpected trails and shortcuts.

With its more than 3,000 hectares, Santa Teresa is a site of great historical and natural significance. Founded in the 17th century, it has witnessed numerous conflicts that have shaped the history of Uruguay. Today, it stands as a space dedicated to the preservation of nature and history, welcoming visitors from around the world.

Location and How to Get There

Santa Teresa National Park is a natural reserve located in the department of Rocha, Uruguay. Inside it lies the mighty Santa Teresa Fortress. This park is situated on the Atlantic coast, between the popular resorts of Punta del Diablo and La Coronilla. To access it, take National Route No. 9, specifically at kilometer 302.2. Unlike other national parks, Santa Teresa is under the administration of the National Army of Uruguay and is not part of the National System of Protected Areas.

The park is relatively close to Cabo Polonio National Park, another protected area that, if you have time and enjoy animals, you should visit as it is possible to observe whales, seals, and various marine life.

Nature and Biodiversity

Flora: Main Plant Species

The park harbors a rich diversity of flora, with forests of eucalyptus, pine, and native species creating a vibrant landscape. The conservation of these areas is vital to the local ecosystem. Among the main plant species found in the park are:


Eucalyptus trees are evergreen trees native to Australia, which were introduced to Uruguay for commercial and reforestation purposes. In Santa Teresa, eucalyptus trees form dense forests and provide an important habitat for local fauna.

Pine Trees

Pine trees are also introduced species in Uruguay for forestry purposes. In the park, pine trees create mixed forests along with eucalyptus trees, contributing to the diversity of the landscape and providing shelter and food for various animal species.

Native Species

In addition to introduced species, the park hosts a variety of native plant species adapted to the natural conditions of the region. These include trees, shrubs, herbs, and other native plants that play an important role in the local ecosystem.
Among the most prominent native species of Santa Teresa National Park are:

  • Lapachos: Large trees with striking flowers and high-quality wood.
  • Ceibos: Trees with red flowers and sharp thorns, providing food and shelter for local fauna.
  • Butiás: Native palms that grow in coastal forests and contribute to the distinctive landscape.

These are just some of the many plant species that can be found in the protected area of Santa Teresa in Uruguay. The preservation and protection of this botanical diversity are essential to ensure the health and biodiversity of the ecosystem in this beautiful national park.

Fauna: Characteristic Animals of the Park

Santa Teresa is a sanctuary for a diversity of wildlife, hosting a wide range of species, from birds to mammals such as capybaras and foxes, to name a few, in their natural habitat. Visitors have the opportunity to observe and marvel at the fauna inhabiting this protected natural environment. Among the most prominent animals that can be found in the park are:


  1. Capybaras: These large rodents are a common sight in the swampy and aquatic areas of the park, where they can be seen resting on the banks of lagoons and streams.
  2. Foxes: Foxes are agile and stealthy carnivores that inhabit the forests and open areas of the park. They are known for their ability to adapt to a variety of habitats and for their hunting sharpness.
  3. Axis Deer: These majestic deer are one of the most common deer species in the park. They can be spotted in forests and meadows, especially during the early morning and evening hours.


  1. Southern Lapwing: Also known as the "Southern Tero", this ground bird inhabits open areas and meadows of the park. It is recognizable by its black and white plumage and its striking call.
  2. Herons: Several species of herons, including white and purple herons, are common in the wetlands and coasts of the park, where they feed on fish and crustaceans.
  3. Shorebirds and Flamingos: During certain times of the year, migrations of shorebirds and flamingos can be spotted using the park’s coasts as resting areas during their long migratory journeys.

Ecosystems: Diversity of Natural Environments

Santa Teresa National Park is a mosaic of ecosystems, from beaches and dunes to forests and wetlands, offering a refuge for biodiversity and a natural laboratory for environmental education.

Tourist Attractions

Viewpoint of Santa Teresa National Park in Uruguay

Santa Teresa Fortress: History and Architecture

Santa Teresa Fortress is one of the main attractions within the National Park, originally erected in 1762 by the Portuguese as a protective measure. Throughout its history, it has witnessed numerous battles and offers visitors the opportunity to take a journey through time. By exploring its interior, visitors can explore various structures such as the Command Building, the powder magazine, the chapel, the cannons arranged in the embrasures of the wall, a blacksmith shop, a hospital, and the troop accommodations, known as "stables". Additionally, tunnels that served as emergency exits during times of war can be observed, along with a kitchen equipped with replicas of utensils used in the 18th and 19th centuries. The site also houses a museum displaying models of different fortresses of Uruguay, a collection of weapons, and another blacksmith shop.

Peña Lagoon

Following some wooden trails, you reach a viewpoint overlooking Peña Lagoon, home to the largest population of capybaras in the region. In addition to these friendly mammals, axis deer, guazubirá, otters, apereá, and a wide variety of birds such as the southern lapwing, white herons, purple herons, coots, among other species, can be spotted.

Greenhouse, Shade Garden, and Rose Garden

The greenhouse, shade garden, and rose garden are three prominent attractions in Santa Teresa National Park. The greenhouse, built in 1939, showcases a varied tropical flora from all five continents. Made of granite and glass capsules, equipped with heating and humidity control systems, it features a small aquarium with freshwater and saltwater species, as well as two large ponds populated by colorful koi carp and a cactus garden that recreates a desert environment.
The shade garden, also built in 1939, is a green space full of vegetation designed to promote the growth of exotic tropical species from around the world. The garden ponds harbor a collection of papyrus, water lilies, and other aquatic plants.

Next to the shade garden is the rose garden, which stands out for its variety of species and gives the park unique characteristics in the country.

La Pajarera Wildlife Refuge

La Pajarera is a facility that includes an aviary and a wildlife reserve, designed to protect and care for endangered birds, as well as other species of mammals and reptiles. Here, assistance is provided to birds during their breeding in captivity, with the aim of later reintegrating them into their natural environment.
Right next to La Pajarera is the wetlands area, which invites visitors to walk along boardwalks and suspension bridges among waterfalls, playgrounds, seating areas, and tables. In this environment, it is possible to observe various species in their natural habitat or in specific enclosures, such as capybaras, otters, wild boars, caimans, deer, turtles, ducks, herons, peacocks, lizards, skunks, rheas, partridges, among others.

Some of these animals, like the peacocks, roam freely among visitors, adding a unique experience to the visit.

El Chorro

El Chorro is a stone-built structure, located in a naturally lush environment. This construction takes advantage of the natural terrain levels to create a natural water pool, ideal for enjoying a refreshing swim on hot days. In the vicinity of this area are the main services of the Park, such as bathrooms, a supermarket, and a restaurant, which facilitates visitor comfort.


Santa Teresa National Park is blessed with a twelve-kilometer coastal stretch that unfolds from Cerro Verde to the charming resort of Punta del Diablo. This vast area of the park offers a multitude of paths and trails to explore.
Virgin beaches in Santa Teresa, Uruguay
The diversity of trees and shrubs creates changing landscapes and new environments on each excursion or hike. Many of these routes eventually lead to one of the four beaches: Playa Grande, which borders Punta del Diablo and is popular among visitors; Playa del Barco, quieter and less crowded; Playa Achiras, easily accessible with good fishing spots; and Playa la Moza, known for its excellent surfing waves, standing out as one of the favorite destinations for this activity in Uruguay.

Recommended Activities

The park has several trails that traverse diverse landscapes, perfect for hiking and nature observation. It’s important to follow safety recommendations and respect park rules.

Green Hill Viewpoint Route

This route leads to a viewpoint located on Green Hill, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the park and its surroundings. The path offers a peaceful and scenic hike through natural landscapes.

Beaches Route

This route covers the beautiful beaches of Santa Teresa National Park, including Playa Grande, Playa del Barco, Playa Achiras, and Playa la Moza. Visitors can enjoy the sea breeze, walk along the coast, swim, or simply relax on the sand.

Wetlands Route

This route traverses the wetlands area of the park, where visitors can walk along boardwalks and suspension bridges among waterfalls and lush vegetation. It’s an ideal spot for birdwatching, as well as for enjoying the tranquility and natural beauty of the surroundings.

Camping and House Rental Route

This route guides visitors through the camping area of the park, which offers a wide range of accommodation options for those wishing to spend the night in close contact with nature. It also includes information on house and cabin rentals within the park.

Birdwatching: Best Places and Species to Observe

Best Places

  1. Wetlands Area: the park’s wetlands are ideal for birdwatching, as they offer a diversity of aquatic and terrestrial habitats that attract a wide variety of species.
  2. Green Hill Viewpoint: this viewpoint offers a panoramic view that allows for observing raptors and migratory birds that use the hill as a lookout and resting point during their migratory journeys.
  3. La Moza Beach: this beach is known for having a population of seabirds, such as seagulls and cormorants, which can be observed while fishing in the sea or resting on nearby rocks.

Species to Observe

  1. Southern Lapwing: this large and elegant bird can be spotted in the park’s meadows and wetlands, where it feeds on insects and small animals.
  2. White and Purple Herons: herons are common in the wetlands and beaches of the park, where they feed on fish and crustaceans.
  3. Southern Lapwing: This ground bird, also known as the "southern martin pescador", is easily recognizable by its striking plumage and characteristic call.
  4. Carancho: this raptor bird can be seen flying over open fields in search of carrion or small animals to feed on.
  5. Hummingbirds: some species of hummingbirds are frequent visitors to the park’s flower areas, where they feed on the nectar of plants.
  6. Shorebirds and Flamingos: during certain times of the year, it’s possible to observe migrations of shorebirds and flamingos that use the park’s coasts as resting areas during their long migratory journeys.

Water Activities in Santa Teresa National Park

The extensive coastlines of Santa Teresa National Park offer a wide variety of water activities for visitors to enjoy the marine environment responsibly and sustainably.


  1. La Moza Beach: Known for its excellent waves, La Moza Beach is a popular destination among both local and visiting surfers. Wave conditions are ideal for surfing for much of the year, attracting enthusiasts of this sport.
  2. Grande Beach: Another option for surfers is Grande Beach, which often features good-sized and consistent waves. Here, surfers can enjoy long sessions in the water, taking advantage of favorable conditions.


  1. Barco Beach: This beach is known for being a good spot for coastal fishing. Fishermen can cast their lines from the shore and hope to catch some local species such as croakers, whiting, and rays.
  2. Laguna de Peña: Located inside the park, Laguna de Peña is a popular spot for freshwater fishing. Here, fishermen can find a variety of species, such as tarariras and silversides, while enjoying the tranquility of the natural surroundings.


  1. Kayaking: Both in the ocean waters and in the calm lagoons of the park, visitors can enjoy kayaking, exploring the coast and observing marine life and birdlife from a unique perspective.
  2. Snorkeling and Diving: The crystal-clear waters of some areas of the park are perfect for snorkeling and diving, allowing visitors to observe marine life and explore underwater ecosystems.

Camping Areas and Accommodations

Santa Teresa National Park offers a variety of accommodation options and services to meet the needs of visitors:

  1. Camping Area: Santa Teresa’s camping area has a capacity for 1600 plots, allowing for up to 10,000 people. Plots can be rustic or in areas with services such as electricity and water. Although park entry is free, those wishing to camp must register as campers and pay the corresponding fee.
  2. Houses and Cabins for Rent: Santa Teresa also offers houses and cabins for rent, some of which have ocean views, barbecue grills, and closed garages. It is recommended to make reservations in advance. For more information, it is necessary to contact the park.
  3. Hostel: Within the park, there is a hostel that offers two accommodation options: gender-separated shared dormitories and accommodations for two people.

Plan Your Visit

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Santa Teresa National Park in Uruguay depends on visitors’ individual preferences and the activities they wish to engage in. However, generally, the summer season, spanning from December to February, is often the most popular due to the warm weather and long hours of sunlight. During this period, the beaches are ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying water activities such as surfing and kayaking.

For surfing, the ideal months to visit Santa Teresa’s beaches are September, October, November, March, April, and May.

On the other hand, spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) are also good times to visit the park, as the weather is milder, and there are fewer crowds. These seasons are excellent for hiking along the park’s trails, observing wildlife and flora, and enjoying the tranquility of nature.

Regarding birdwatching, winter (June to August) can be an interesting time, as some migratory bird species pass through the region during this season.

How to Get to Santa Teresa from Uruguay

Access to Santa Teresa National Park is located at kilometer 306 of Route 9. From Montevideo, take the Ruta Interbalnearia until its junction with Route 9 and continue to the entrance of the resort. For those preferring public transport, Cot, Rutas del Sol, and Cynsa offer bus services to the entrance of Santa Teresa. From there, vans provide transportation to the camping area, which is approximately 4 kilometers away.

How to Get to Santa Teresa from Argentina

For visitors coming from Argentina, the most convenient route is through the Gualeguaychú-Fray Bentos crossing. From Fray Bentos, take Route 2 until reaching Route 11 in Florencio Sánchez. Continue on Route 11 to the Interbalnearia and then Route 9, which leads directly to the entrance of Santa Teresa. Another option is to arrive by boat via the Colonia Bridge, then travel by land to Terminal Tres Cruces and take a bus to Santa Teresa.

How to Get to Santa Teresa from Brazil

Santa Teresa Park is just 38 kilometers from the border with Brazil. From Brazil, reach the city of Chuy via BR 471 and then take Route 9 directly to the entrance of Santa Teresa. Buses departing from Chuy to Montevideo via Route 9 pass through the entrance to the Santa Teresa resort.

Entrance Fee

Entry to Santa Teresa National Park is free, meaning there are no costs associated with entering the park area. However, upon reaching the access point, which is controlled by military personnel, you may need to register or undergo some form of control. It’s worth mentioning that the only service for which payment is required is the visit to the interior of the fortress located in the park.

National Park Hours

Santa Teresa National Park is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It’s important to note that the park remains closed on Mondays.