The upcoming Olympics mean all eyes are on the jungle-clad hills, white-sand beaches and vibrant cities of Brazil. Abi Dare, Deputy Editor of boutique accommodation website i-escape (www.i-escape.com), shares some of her favourite places to stay…
Casa Mosquito, Rio de Janeiro
Perched above iconic Ipanema and Copacabana, close to beaches, bars and restaurants, this chic Franco-Brazilian retreat makes the perfect Rio base. White curtains billow on verandas, jazz plays softly in the background, and delicious food is served up in the leafy courtyard. The nine vintage-chic rooms mix eclectic art with nods to the 50s and 60s, and many have palm-potted balconies looking out over the city. The cherry on top is the rooftop terrace, with its sparkling pool, sweeping Sugarloaf views and weekend DJs – just the spot to unwind over a passionfruit caipirinha after a day on the sand.
Txai Resort, Bahia
Located steps from a near-empty beach on Bahia’s undeveloped Cacoa Coast, this eco-friendly resort mixes rustic simplicity with a hefty dose of luxury. The 40 elegant guest rooms are scattered across a coconut grove, and some take the form of individual thatched bungalows with wraparound terraces; there’s also a choice of restaurants serving organic food, plus open-air salas backed by swaying palms. Wake to ocean views, then take your pick from surf lessons, a bit of pampering in the hill-top spa, or a dip in one of three cobalt-blue pools. End your day dining on the freshest of fish beneath a star-splattered sky as waves lap onto the sand beyond.
Fasano Hotel, São Paulo
South America’s largest metropolis is packed with top-notch restaurants, hip bars and glam boutiques, and this discreetly stylish hotel is one of its most sought-after spots. Set in the city’s upscale shopping district, it blends 1930s-inspired design with plenty of modern-day luxury. The 60 rooms and suites have dark wooden furniture, leather armchairs and smart brass lamps, and the service throughout is impeccable. The on-site Fasano Restaurant is one of Brazil’s best Italian eateries, and there’s also a jazz bar that attracts international musicians as well as local talent. It’s all crowned by a top-floor pool and spa, with incredible views out over São Paulo’s forest of skyscrapers.
Pousada Casa de Paraty, Paraty
Set mid-way between Rio and São Paulo, the colonial town of Paraty is one of Brazil’s must-sees: a jumble of whitewashed houses trimmed with colour, with brightly painted fishing boats and cobbled streets that are washed by the sea at high tide. At its heart is this gem of a guesthouse, which has been beautifully resorted by welcoming owner Jô Pellozo. It has just three suites, all with vintage furniture, drenching rain showers and vibrant artwork, plus a lounge where bountiful breakfasts are served each morning. Outside is a flower-fringed patio with a plunge pool, and Paraty’s multitude of restaurants and bars are on the doorstep.
Ponta dos Ganchos, Santa Catarina
If you’re seeking romance and seclusion then you’ll love adults-only Ponta dos Ganchos, which is set on a private peninsula near the southern city of Florianópolis. Sandwiched between a ridge of Atlantic rainforest and an emerald-coloured bay are 25 contemporary cabanas, some with infinity pools or Jacuzzis, and all with magnificent ocean-view decks. The restaurant sits a few metres from the water’s edge, or you can paddle across to an island bar that’s lit by torches at night. Snorkelling, diving, canoeing and sailing are all on offer, but most guests choose to spend their time idling on the powder-soft sand, reclining in the on-site cinema, and ambling over to the spa for massages.
La Suite by Dussol, Rio de Janeiro
This glamorous clifftop guesthouse is hidden above the secret surfers’ beach of Joatinga, a 20-minute taxi ride from Rio’s centre. The glass-walled lounge and seven suites (all with private balconies) are decorated in a vibrant fusion of 1970s furniture, gilded mirrors and Warhol prints, and the gardens are alive with hummingbirds. There are also two pools, plus a terrace where you can indulge in multi-course breakfasts and evening cocktails. But the main draw is the view, which is one of the best in the city: a 180-degree vista of the plunging coastline, which sparkles with lights after dark.
UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa, Bahia
Concealed in tropical gardens in the trendy Bahian village of Trancoso, these 11 casas are decked out in salvaged wood and vintage furniture; each is different, and one even takes the form of a treehouse with swing seats suspended underneath. Most have kitchens, so you can choose between self-catering or dining on local specialities (think grilled tuna and honey-glazed jumbo prawns) by the stunning pool, which is clad in dazzling aquamarine gemstones. It’s tempting to while away your days alternating between the shaded daybeds, the Jacuzzi and massages in the on-site spa, but when you want to venture out, UXUA’s beach bar with its white sand and extensive cocktail list is a lazy saunter down the hill.
Once the preserve of pirates and fishermen, buzzing Búzios (2.5 hours south of Rio) is now one of Brazil’s chicest coastal resorts. Just outside town is this slick boutique hotel, which sits in lush gardens brimming with exotic flowers. It’s staggered down a cliff edge, with a roof-level restaurant up top, an ocean-view pool that wraps around the bottom, and 23 spacious rooms and suites spread over the floors in between. Inside, the décor is a clean-cut blend of white walls and angular chairs, offset by pops of colour in the cushions, bedspreads and lampshades. Best of all, Búzios’ 26 (yes, 26!) beaches are all within easy reach.
Pousada Picinguaba, near Paraty
Hidden above the tiny fishing village of Picinguaba, this colourful hideaway sits in perfect harmony with its natural surroundings. Behind, jungle-covered peaks soar into the sky; below, vast expanses of white beach stretch out in every direction. The 10 rooms and 3-bedroom villa are decorated in a chic rustic style, with whitewashed walls, potted orchids and four-poster beds draped in mosquito nets, and meals are feasts of local produce served in the candlelit garden. Guides can take you hiking through the rainforest, sailing on a private schooner and swimming beneath crystal-clear waterfalls, but if you fancy being lazy you can loll by the infinity pool and gaze out over the turquoise bay to the velvet-green islands beyond.
Fazenda Catucaba, near São Luis do Paraitinga
Adventurous travellers will adore this rural 1850s farmhouse, which forms part of a working 450ha estate a few hours east of São Paulo. It’s been described as a Brazilian version of Gone with the Wind, and there’s certainly a colonial feel to the wooden floors, antique gramophones and white sash windows. But it’s not all as old as it looks: on the slopes above, owner Emmanuel has cleverly added new ‘villas’ which house 13 stylish but simple rooms and suites, and the grounds are dotted with contemporary sculptures. Delicious meals are cooked up by women from the nearby village, and many of the ingredients are grown in the organic vegetable garden. As for activities, there’s plenty to choose from, including horse riding, river rafting and guided nature walks into the hills.