Dec 31, 2008
The best hotels in Leblon, Rio
The best hotels in Ipanema, Rio
Hotel Fasano Rio, the best in town
The best hotels in Copacabana, Rio
The best hotels in Santa Teresa, Rio
The best hotels in Barra da Tijuca, Rio
The hotel Santa Teresa, in Santa Teresa, Rio: a full report with photos
The spa at the Sheraton Barra, in Barra da Tijuca, Rio
Spas are booming in Rio. Top-notch newcomers include the spas at the Copacabana Palace and Santa Teresa hotels. And now Barra da Tijuca also has a luxury spa to call its own: the Vila Spa, at the Sheraton.
Treatments include all those you'd expect at such a posh spa, like baths, massages and beauty sessions to rejuvenate skin. All done in a beautiful setting, with lots of water flowing and wood passerelles. Beauty products are by L'Occitaine.
Av. Lúcio Costa, 3150, Barra da Tijuca
Tel. (21) 3139-8000
Hotel Santa Teresa
This new hotel, as soon as it opened in late 2008, became the best in the neighbourhood. To read a full report and see photos, please click here.
Hotel Mama Ruisa
One of many beautiful inns owned and run by a French expat - in this case, Jean Michel Ruis, who worked for Le Meridien and Concorde hotels. This lovely house with large pool and sweeping views has only 7 rooms. They're filled with art and photography and the owner's collection of Brazilian religious sculptures. Soft music can be heard in the common areas, and is played from old vynil records.
Deluxe rooms cost 230 Euros.
Junior suite is 330 Euros.
Airport transfers are available, at 100 reais (one-way only).
Rua Santa Cristina, 132
Solar de Santa
The first upscale inn of Santa Teresa, the Solar, also known as Relais Solar, was opened by the Canadian cultrural producer Gwenael Allan, who had previously lived in Paris, London and New York. It only has five rooms, but an expansion and addition of a spa are in the near future plans. Allan also organized so-called favela tours - trips to nearby favelas, or shantytowns, so that tourists can see how the poorer cariocas live and play.
Ladeira dos Meirelles, 32
Cama e Café
This isn't an actual inn, but rather, a network of approximately 50 private homes where residents rent out a room or two. Rates start at 95 reais.
To read an article on this published by London's The Times, click here.
Laurent Gelis’ Casa Amarelo is a five-room inn occupying a beautiful historic mansion originally built in 1904 by an architect from Europe (to see photos provided by the hotel, click on the image below). It blends old-fashioned charm and modern fixtures. Breakfast can be served either on the terrace overlooking the city or in one of the sitting rooms. The house boasts very high ceilings, an elevator and stunning antique chandeliers. Most of the soft furnishings are by Robert le Héros, a French brand that is owned by Gelis.
Rates are quoted in Euros and start at € 200 per night, with a 3-night minimum requirement. Breakfast and lunch are included in the rates, as are the airport transfers.
Casa Amarelo: Rua Joaquim Murtinho, 569, Santa Teresa, Tel. (55-21) 8886-4314
Interactive map of Santa Teresa with highlighted links to hotels and attractions
Excellent article by Sara Wheeler for London's The Times describing Santa Teresa and its inns
A while back, I read a terribly written and researched story published by Bloomberg about Rio restaurants. It was disappointing. That's why I was very glad that soon thereafter a second story in English was published about the Rio dining scene, this time in National Geographic Traveler, based on tips given by local experts.
It includes some Rio classics such as Olympe, Roberta Sudbrack and Antiquarius – which incredibly enough were absent from the Bloombert piece – and other restaurants that I am not familiar with, recommended by the pro Ricardo Castanho, editor of Guia Quatro Rodas, such as Quinta, in Vargem Grande. The piece says it serves “delicious baked mallard with seasonal fruit jelly, caramelized sweet potato, red cabbage, and apple and mango chutney.”and is a "comfortable tree-surrounded house, 45 minutes from Copacabana. Watch for sagüis (small monkeys) and exotic birds from porch; peaceful beaches close by". Sounds lovely.
Another praised restaurant is the Galani, at the hotel Caesar Park, which, on top of having great panoramic views, offers “the most civilized way to try Rio’s famous feijoada (black bean and pork stew).”Great spot to take foreigners.
This article is a definite must read. Here's the link again.
Rio's newest hote, the Hotel Santa Teresa, is also one of the best.
As soon as I got there I couldn't help but to think... WOW! It was much different (and better) than I could have imagined. All is done with impeccable taste. Take the pool, for instance:
What impressed me the most was the choice of natural and recycled materials in the decoration of the property. Examples: eucalyptus branches tied together form a rustic-yet-lovely space divider. The burnt ciment flooring was brushed with reclaimed truck oil, giving it a sepia-toned worn look. The lobby, spa, apartments and restaurants follow a sober colour palette: white (whitewashed walls), brown and bege. And that's all. A rustic-chic look which immediately reminded me of one of my favourite places in Brazil, the tiny Jacaré do Brasil Casas, in Trancoso.
The spa is open to the public. It is bright, airy and has two egg-shaped free-standing tubs and several chaise longues overlooking the rooftops of Santa Teresa. They use Natura products, a high-end Brazilian brand.
The Bar dos Descasados is the only colourful part of the hotel: playful, fun, with cute artisanal chandeliers and tiled floors.
I also ate at the Thérèse restaurant, but I'll save that report for another post...
Hotel Santa Teresa: Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 660, next to the Largo dos Guimarães, tel. (21) 2221-1406,
Leblon, for those who don’t know, is the Southern half of the same beach which, to the North, is called Ipanema. They’re separated by a narrow canal.
Leblon is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Rio, because not only it the beach great but it also has great boutiques, tranquil residential streets, some of the best casual bars in town (such as the ultra-famous Bracarense) and a street called Dias Ferreira where several of the top restaurants of Rio are located (more on that in a later post).
Here are the best places to stay in Leblon:
Rua Delfim Moreira, 630
This is run by the same owners as the Marina All Suites and is just across the street, also facing the ocean.
Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva, 1280
Tel. (55-21) 2540-4940
Marina All Suites
Avenida Delfim Moreira, 696
This is considered the hippest hotel in town by many. Rooms are actually on the small side, except for the oceanfront suites named after precious gems, each decorated in a different style by famous local designers. There’s a pool on the rooftop, a very nice business center/internet room and a cool restaurant/bar called Bar d’Hotel, which is hopping most nights. My tip? Go there for drinks and to take in the ambiance, but not for dinner: the food is not great but very pretentious. As their site says, “Options include medium rare filet mignon with foie gras and balsamic, salt flower, apples and caramelized potatoes; Duck confit with hoissin sauce and shitake pasta; Fig ravioli with tomato and thyme sauce, and Goat cheese ravioli with pesto rugula sauce and almonds. All deserts are mouthwatering: Hot apple Tarte Tartin with cinnamon ice cream, Nutella crepe and creme Brullé to mention a few.”
The Bar d’Hotel is also where the generous yet not-so-great-tasting breakfast buffet is served.
Dec 30, 2008
Much has been written about the Fasano Rio, the new hotel in Ipanema that set a new standard in luxury accomodation in Rio (to see the photos above full size, just click on them). The hotel won countless awards, made it onto Condé Nast Traveler's Hot List and was praised in articles in most of the world's top travel magazines.
So at the risk of sounding redundant, I've got to say there's no hotel like it in Rio. It's not the biggest nor the one with the best infra-structure, but rather the funnest and most stylish. It was co-designed by owner Rogério Fasano - the Ian Schrager of Brazil - and Philippe Starck. You can see additional photos by my friend and travel guru Ricardo Freire (just click here).
When I arrived, I felt I'd been there before, since I'd already seen a million photos and read a million articles about it. There was the gigantic tree trunk that doubles as the front desk, where ultra-polished young women in brown dresses checked me in.
The most important thing to know about the Fasano Rio is that if you can afford it, an oceanview suite is the way to go. The back rooms facing residential buildings have no view and much less light and simply do not compare.
I wasn't all that impressed by the luxuries I've already come to expect of five stars, such as the king-size bed sheathed in high-thread-count cotton sheets, or the oversize white marble shower and whirpool bath, or the two impecably ironed bath robes and Havaianas flip flops (in lieu of slippers, fittingly).
What really struck me wasn't the ample sitting area with a stainless-topped bar and a flat-screen TV, either. Rather, it was the vastness of the space - bedroom separated from the lounge by a billowy white curtain that, when pulled back, gave it the feel of a seaside loft. The free-standing bed itself seems to float in the room, with only tree-stub bedside tables as anchors.
Here is a video I made of my suite:
It seemed like a Soho l0ft owned by a millionaire artist or designer with exquisite taste, rather than a hotel room. But it had a huge advantage over any Soho loft: from the confort of the bed one could look out onto the Ipanema sand and sea, through the glass wall.
The rooftop pool is not only beautiful but also quite a scene: local celebs and models are often spotted on the chaise longues or having drinks at the poolside bar.
The hotel's restaurant, the Fasano Al Mare, has been gathering momentum and positive reviews, and is now considered the top fish and seafood restaurant in town.
I went back last October and stayed in a simpler room, facing the back, but still had an amazing time. Who was a constant at the pool? Diana Krall, recording a DVD...
Welcome gift: a plate of cashews...
Ice-cold beers at the pool...
And more Diana Krall...
Now, zoomed in:
The pool, like a mirror...
Tulip chairs, poolside:
Down below, Ipanema beach...
and the Arpoador...
The Iguaçu Falls are located at the border of Brazil and Argentina. Although the greater part of the falls are on the Argentinean side, the view is much better from the Brazilian side. There are a total of 275 falls, lined up along no less than 2.7 km. The mammoth flow of whitewater crash onto a half-moon-shaped canyon from a height of 60 meters. The best spot to take in the spectacle is right in front of the Garganta do Diabo, or Devil's Throat, where there is a walkway and belvedere. Here is a 360 panorama of the falls:
According to Brazil's Ministry of Tourism, "Foz do Iguaçu offers other attractions, such as the Iguaçu National Park, one of the most beautiful ecological reserves in the world, with 225 thousand hectares and recognized by UNESCO as a Natural Heritage of Humanity. It also has a Visitor’s Center, an electric bus and the Canoas Port, an area with souvenir shops and a panoramic restaurant."
- Curitiba: 640 km
São Paulo: 1050 km
Rio de Janeiro: 1470 km
Brasília: 1646 km
- Accommodation / Restaurants
- The attractions and a good many of the hotels are on Cataratas Avenue, which connects the city of Foz do Iguaçu and the Park.
- How to get there
- By Air: there are flights to Foz do Iguaçu from any Brazilian city, most with connections.
By Highway: from Curitiba, access is over the BR-227 (Curitiba - Assuncion) highway. There are 632 km of highway. Foz do Iguaçu is in the extreme west of Paraná, 640 km from Curitiba. Bus transportation is also available from all of the most important cities in the country.
Dec 27, 2008
Avenida Vieira Souto, 80, Ipanema
Tel. (55-21) 3202-4000
This is by far - very far! - the best hotel not only in Ipanema, but in all of Rio. It's got it all: great location, top-notch service, very stylish décor with black-and-white retro photos of Rio blown up and pasted onto doors and walls. Best features are the rooftop infinity pool (shown here) and the Al Mare restaurant.
To read a full report and see lots of photos, please click here.
hotel Caesar Park
Avenida Vieira Souto, 460, Ipanema
hotel Ipanema Plaza
Rua Farme de Amoedo, 34, Ipanema
hotel Best Western Sol Ipanema
Avenida Vieira Souto, 320 ( Ipanema
hotel Praia Ipanema
Avenida Vieira Souto, 706, Ipanema
Rua Prudente de Morais, 1050, Ipanema
Mercure Apartments Queen Elizabeth
Avenida Rainha Elizabeth, 440, Ipanema
hotel Mar Ipanema
Rua Visc. de Pirajá, 539, Ipanema
hotel Everest Rio
Rua Prudente de Morais, 1117, Ipanema
hotel Everest Park
Rua Maria Quitéria, 19, Ipanema
hotel Ipanema Inn
Rua Maria Quitéria, 27, Ipanema
Dec 24, 2008
Avenida Atlântica, 1702, Copacabana
Without a doubt, the nicest and classiest hotel in Copacabana. It has two very different sections: the original one, which feels much older, and the newer anexo, where the room décor seems fresher. The Italian restaurant, called Cipriani, is very formal and expensive but doesn't usually deliver. The Copa now has a state-of-the-art spa.
Sofitel Rio de Janeiro
Avenida Atlântica, 4240, Copacabana
Hidden at the Southern tip of Copacabana beach, the Sofitel is all you'd expect from a... Sofitel! It has a panoramic elevator that takes guests and locals alike to the famed Le Pré Catalan restaurant (at right), which is considered by many the best in town and serves contemporary French cuisine with a Brazilian touch.
Avenida Atlântica, 2600, Copacabana
Pestana Rio Atlântica
Avenida Atlântica, 2964, Copacabana
Rua Duvivier, 82, Copacabana,
Porto Bay Rio Internacional
Avenida Atlântica, 1500, Copacabana
Windsor Excelsior Copacabana
Avenida Atlântica, 1800, Copacabana
Windsor Plaza Copacabana
Avenida Princ. Isabel, 263 (Copacabana)
Rio Othon Palace
Avenida Atlântica, 3264, Copacabana
Mercure Apartments Arpoador
Rua Francisco Otaviano, 61, Copacabana
Rua Francisco Sá, 17, Copacabana
Flat Princess Copacabana
Rua Xavier da Silveira, 58, Copacabana
Rua Rodolfo Dantas, 86, Copacabana
Golden Tulip Regente
Avenida Atlântica, 3716, Copacabana
Olinda Othon Classic
Avenida Atlântica, 2230 , Copacabana
Right smack in the middle of the famed Quadrado - Trancoso's main square - Il Mercato is the prettiest restaurant in town. A tiny façade hides a sprawling multi-level interior, on levels descending towards the sea. The different rooms are filled with oversize pillows and Moroccan lanterns. The open patio at the end is the best spot for breezy, boozy dinners, and has three niches separated by billowy curtains. Lamb risotto is cooked to al dente perfection, while the Caprese fetuccini, crowned with plump, soft cubes of buffalo mozzarella, is one of the top sellers.
Tel. (073) 2668-2250
Rua do Beco, next to the Quadrado
One of the first restaurants of Trancoso, this classic sits at the entrance of the eponymous pousada and is a perennial favorite. It specializes in fish and seafood with typically Brazilian ingredients, such as mango, coconut and farofa. The best tables are the outdoor ones.
Praça S. João (Quadrado)
Right on the Quadrado, Silvana’s tables on the grass are perfect for people watching. Simple restaurant serving huge moquecas which are considered the best in town, and other hearty fish and seafood dishes.
Praça S. João (Quadrado)
Hip and loungey restaurant serving pricey and ambitious food. Tables have ocen views and are squeezed on a patio next to this pousada’s pool. Menu is out of touch with the Trancoso vibe: dishes include rack of lamb with Dijon and honey sauce (65 reais), grilled salmon (55 reais), duck breast with caramelized apple (40 reais), risotto with lobster and aspargus (60 reais). Note: dishes and prices were accurate in February of 2008 and may have changed.
Rua Carlos Alberto Parracho
Beautiful pizzeria with high ceilings and a wood-fired oven in the center of the room. Terracota roof tiles and bird prints on the wall give it a colonial feel. Frequented by posh paulistas and cariocas who flock here to see and be seen during high season. Great thin-crust pizzas – make sure to try the one topped with arugula, a specialty. Best draft beer in town.
Rua do Telégrafo
Praça S. João (Quadrado)
The place to go when in a hurry or very hungry. A small colonial house on the quadrado has been converted into this hugely popular restaurant where an obscene amount of food is placed on a buffet and sold “por quilo”, or by weight. The typically Brazilian dishes – think rice, beans, farofa, picadinho, etc. – are quite good considering they sit on a hot buffet for hours. A true bargain.
Pé na Praia
My absolute favourite place to eat on the beach in Trancoso. It doesn't really have an address. Simply walk down from the Quadrado to the beach and when you hit the sand turn right and walk for about 30 minutes until you're at the end of the praia do Rio Verde. Or, if you're lazy, get in a cab and say "eu vou no Peh na Praia, no rio Verde". Done.
There, you can grab a wooden table right on the sand, or a hammock. Service is fast and efficient, and the beer always served perfectly chilled. Great rice and beans, great chicken and beef skewers.
Praça S. João (Quadrado)
Very famous restaurant with pleasant tropical-looking ambiance. Overpriced and overrated in my opinion. Annoyingly innefficient service.
Dec 22, 2008
Here is a comprehensive listing of hotels and pousadas:
Gorgeous mansion for rent in the Terravista gated development
While Trancoso has dozens of small pousadas - or inns - many in-the-know paulistas prefer renting luxury homes so they can have a full staff at their service and lots of room to entertain. One of the most gorgeous houses I've ever seen in Trancoso, in the Terravista gated development, is often up for rent. Overlooking the eponymous golf course, the house has a wopping 6 bedrooms, decorated with colonial-style furniture and bird prints with the help of neighbour and friend Sig Bergamin, one of Brazil's top interior designers. The mansion keeps it casual with whitewashed walls and boasts a beautifully landscaped inner courtyard. Wide verandahs with plus patio furniture face the gardens and pool.
For prices and more information, call (55-11) 3889-0019
Jacaré do Brasil
Pça. São João, 9 (Quadrado)
Best location at the oceanside edge of the Quadrado, best ocean views, best vibe. Only a few rooms, all with their own kitchen. Incredible design. Absolutely unbeatable.
To read a full post about this pousada and to see photos, please click here.
Just opened, also at Praça São João, which is the Quadrado's official name.
To read a full post on it click here.
Pousada Estrela d'Água
Estrada do Arraial (Praia dos Nativos), 1,5 km
By far the best-known pousada of all, it's also a favourite beach hangout for Brazilian socialites: the beach bar serves food and drinks on the beach (above). The pool area is reserved for guests only (below). The hotel is a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux association.
The location is far from perfect: it's on a busy and unattractive section of the cobbled main thoroughfare. But once inside it becomes clear why this is a favourite of Europeans: the Italian owners have designed each bungalow in a different theme, to stunning effect. Breakfast is served on a breezy pavillion overlooking the pool and gardens.
El Gordo Pousada
The Achiles heel of this overpriced pousada is the fact that its pool (at left) is crammed between the restaurant-lounge (shown below) and the reception, offering zero privacy to sunbathing guests. Great location, spacious rooms, tastefully decorated.
Mata N'ativa Pousada
Estr. do Arraial (Praia dos Nativos)
Cute pousada very near the Nativos beach (not the best beach). Down a steep hill - hence walking distance - from the Quadrado.
Pousada Capim Santo
Rua do Beco, Pça. S. João (Quadrado)
Where I always stay. Love the airy bathrooms (at left). Enough said.
Hotel da Praça
Pça. S. João (Quadrado)
Lovely airy lounge area and restaurant facing lush gardens make up (almost) for the cramped rooms and lack of pool. Great location, right on the Quadrado.
Fazenda Taípe, Estrada Municipal, km 18 (Praia de Taípe), 8 km
This is actually not in Trancoso, but a bit North of it, in Arraial d'Ajuda. The pros are the unbeatable infrastructure (especially for families) and the Terravista golf. The cons are being isolated and far from the action of the Quadrado, which is a 20 minute cab ride away, and having to walk down a million steps to the beach, since the hotel sits on a high bluff (photo below).
Puerto Bananas, a.k.a. Porto Bananas
Quadrado, Tel. (55-73) 3668-1017
Cute little pousada right on the Quadrado and next door to Cacau, one of the better restaurants of Trancoso. No pool, but lots of gardens. Best rooms are on the second floor of the bungalows - airier, better view, less noise. Very popular with the São Paulo crowd.
Villas de Trancoso
Estr. do Arraial (Praia dos Nativos), 2 km
Owned by an American and very pricey.
Bahia Bonita Club
Rio Verde beach, Tel. (55-73) 3668-1565
Set right on the best beach there is, so perfect for those who like to lounge by the sea all day long. Great feel, thanks to, among other things, full integration with the surrounding greenery plus a "floorless" lounge area set right on the sand. Some suites have A/C, others use fans and ocean breezes for cooling. During the high season (Christmas until after Carnival) the beach turns into a "beach club", serving pricey food and drinks and playing ounge music.
Pousada Mundo Verde
R. do Telégrafo, 43
Slightly tacky for my taste, but very clean and proper little rooms with balconies. The pool (at right) has ugly plastic chaises but gorgeous views of the sea below. Secluded and quiet yet only a 5-minute walk from the Quadrado.
R. Joao Vieira de Jesus
Rua Jovelino Rodrigues Vieira, 100
Praça S. João (Quadrado)
Alameda dos Colibris
Small pool, lush tropical gardens, only half a km from the Quadrado.
Pousada do Bosque
Rua Bom Jesus (Caminho da Praia)
Rua Bom Jesus
Pousada Jardim das Margaridas
R. Jovelino Rodrigues Vieira, 230
Pousada Quarto Crescente
Pousada Som do Mar
Estr. do Arraial (Praia dos Nativos), 1 km
The location, right by the Nativos beach, is not great.