From rustic jungle lodges in the middle of the world's largest tropical rain forest to luxury beach homes on the sunburnt sands of Bahia, Brazil's lodging options are as diverse as its landscapes. Those that appreciate upscale digs should keep an eye out for the Roteiros de Charme logo -- Brazil's answer to Relais & Chateaux. But even if you're on a budget, Brazil has you covered. Here's a rundown of the country's best lodging options.
Brazil knows a thing or two about opulence, but you won't find an endless choice of luxury hotels here. Generally speaking, things skew more business than Bulgari, and true luxury hotels are more or less limited to the country's biggest metropolitan areas: Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
One of Brazil's most luxurious options is Rio's recently madeover Copacabana Palace Hotel, a heritage hotel designed by French architect Joseph Gire that has stood as Copacabana Beach's grand dame since its opening in 1923. Sao Paulo's Emiliano is a modern tower hotel that walks the thin lines between luxury, refinement and trendiness with aplomb on the most luxurious street in the country, Rua Oscar Freire.
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This is where Brazil truly shines. Strictly speaking, pousada is the Portuguese word for inn, but it's really a catch-all phrase for any sort of small, often family-run accommodation full of personalized service, local character and unique decor. It's not that they don't exist elsewhere, but Brazil does them best.
Pousadas usually offer no more than 20 rooms (often fewer than 10) and can run the gamut from a humble fisherman's abode to some of the most luxurious and striking lodging in the country, such as Pousada Maravilha in Fernando de Noronha or Toca da Coruja in Praia da Pipa. Though pousadas are most often located on or very near the beach, you can also find them tucked away in the mountains, deep inside national parks and embedded in Brazil's bustling cityscapes.Pousadas pride themselves on offering intimate and unique experiences -- especially at breakfast, which is always included and taken as seriously as soccer in some cases -- and they often show off Brazilian hospitality at its finest.
If you're looking for a step up in services from a pousada, Brazil certainly devotes a fair share of its real estate to beach resorts. How could it not? We are talking about a country with bragging rights to 4,654 miles of coastline, much of it home to some of the world's most beautiful and memorable beaches.
Brazilian beach resorts on the whole are very much the choice of Brazilian families, but you will also find some of the country's most refined accommodations in this category. Ponta dos Ganchos, near Florianopolis, is considered the finest resort in Brazil.
The all-inclusive concept isn't as widespread as it is in the Caribbean, but there are a few places where you can hide away for a week and not worry about a single decision. Though there are notable exceptions, compared with pousadas, beach resorts can sometimes come off a bit cookie-cutter in Brazil and would be an odd choice for most visitors save those desperate for distractions for their kids. Note that English won't always be as present as it is in more well-to-do pousadas.
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Over the last few years, Brazil has become a very expensive country to visit. Tourists don't often think about it, but sometimes renting an entire home is more economical than a resort or pousada depending on how many people are in your group or how many rooms you might be looking for. And Brazilian beach homes are most often where the country's architecture and style hog the spotlight in extraordinary fashion.
The advantage of a private home is two-fold. Obviously, you are paying for a far more private and intimate experience, and homes are often located in far more remote areas to really give you a sense of getting away from it all (take a look at Casa Cairucu near Paraty, for example). And let's not forget the best part: A private home will often come with a personal maid and chef included in the price!
Vacation Rental Resources:
While you can visit the Amazon in Peru and Colombia, the bulk of the world's largest tropical rain forest is in Brazil, and it is here where jungle infrastructure is the most advanced. Rustic jungle lodges like Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge inside the Mamiraua Reserve or the stilted high-end jungle bungalows at Juma Lodge offer some of Brazil's most special experiences, and most set excellent examples in sustainability as well. There's no better way to access less trampled paths of the Amazon, where you can spot plentiful wildlife, rare birds and exotic flora. There is something to be said both for falling asleep and waking up to nothing but the sounds of the jungle. You can also spend the night on an Amazon riverboat (for more details, see Getting Around Brazil).
Matuete is a travel specialist that can help organize custom jungle trips for folks who are uneasy about booking their own lodge (particularly those who might not be into the idea of roughing it with mosquitoes and hammocks).
Jungle Lodge Resources:
Brazil's interior is chock-full of rural accommodations that can make for a beautiful stay, most notably on coffee plantations in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais states, and on working farms in the Pantanal, the world's largest freshwater swamp. In both cases, the Brazilian word for ranch is used: fazenda. These often-opulent vestiges of colonial times are extremely well preserved in Brazil and are sometimes available as traditional agritourism options, more often as remote and cozy countryside experiences in historical, renovated-for-tourism lodging.
Pousada Fazenda Ponte Alta, an original 1830s coffee plantation that was abandoned after Brazilian slavery abolition in 1888, and Fazenda Catucaba, offering 10 rooms in a traditional 1850s farmhouse, are just two examples of former coffee baron playgrounds newly restored to their former glory.
If you are coming to Brazil on business or spending a considerable amount of time in metropolitan areas, renting an apartment instead of staying in a hotel can be an economical option. Most are located in high-rise apartment buildings, often with beach views, and provide 24-hour security, a pool, fitness center, playgrounds for kids and larger indoor recreational rooms. It's not the sexiest accommodation Brazil has to offer, but it wins accolades for practicality and functionality.
Most people don't think of Brazil as a wine country, and, of course, it goes without saying that there is no comparison to the juice produced in neighboring Argentina and Chile. But deep in the Brazilian south, especially around Vale dos Vinhedos and Pinto Bandeira, Brazil does produce some pretty drinkable stuff in some gorgeous areas.
The idea of wine tourism is still in its infancy here, but you can sleep in the middle of the vines at wineries like Casa Valduga and Don Giovanni or wine-centric hotels on winery grounds like Hotel & Spa do Vinho Caudalie. Who knew there was a little piece of Tuscany in Brazil?
Winery Accommodation Resources:
--written by Kevin Raub