Brazil is colourful, carnivalesque and continental in scale. Your best resort base in the largest country in South America is right here.
Coral-sand beaches lapped by gentle waves, Afro-Brazilians practicing the whirl-and-swirl martial art-dance of capoeira in quiet back streets, baroque bell towers and rococo interiors glittering with saints, skyscraper-studded metropolises, samba, football, sequin-glittering Mardi Gras… Brazil’s best places to stay also deliver verve and variety – from stylish chic-shack beach retreats to plush business towers with crisp, designer-suited concierges.
The Emiliano embodies Rio’s luxury lifestyle – think Armani sunglasses, designer bikinis and diamond-studded flip-flops. Like royalty hidden from view behind screens, Brazilian supermodels and soap stars soak up the Copacabana beach-and sea-views from rooms secluded behind giant Art Deco metal shutters. All are simple cubes exquisitely furnished with Eames chairs and embracing cotton sheets; all have marble-lined ensuites with mirrors big enough for Narcissus. The spa and Damien Montecer’s Emile restaurant rank up there among South America’s best.
What’s great about the Yoo2? Value with a view. You can see both Sugarloaf and the towering statue of Christ over the rim of your caipirinha as you idle in the rooftop bar. You can even have from-your-bed views of either one. And the rooms are great to look at, too – decked out in modish light greys and creams, with huge windows that flood with warm sunlight morning and afternoon, and funky floors and cushions patterned like Portuguese paving.
Paraty village is, if you will, a South American version of Cornwall’s St Ives. Picture narrow streets of Portuguese rococo churches; whitewashed cottages squeezed between forested mountains and a bay of tropical islands; boutiquey craft shops and galleries; wrigglingly fresh seafood restaurants; even an annual arts festival. The Casa Turquesa sits at its heart, right on the waterfront, in a 17th-century colonial mansion. Bright, airy rooms reveal whitewash and rich tropical blues. Huge breakfasts are served next to the pool in a hummingbird-filled garden courtyard. And ebullient host Tete is on hand to recommend the best local beaches, boat tours and on-the-doorstep restaurants.
“Rio is a beauty” said Marlene Dietrich, “but São Paulo is a city”; with neon-blinking skyscrapers stretching to every horizon. Tivoli sits in the midst of them. The rooms to book are the Deluxe Plus, on the upper floors, with science-fiction-skyline views at the foot of your bed through a wall of windows; you can expect ample fit-for-business workspaces and black marble bathrooms. The best restaurant and shopping district of the city is all yours, immediately beyond the lobby.
Rooms in this converted townhouse are simple affairs: raw brick, light pinks and creams on the walls, distressed-wood floors, and fuss-free furnishings. But São Paulo locations don’t get much better, especially at this price. The swish Jardins district (with the cream of the city’s best boutiques and restaurants) is on the doorstep, and the city’s best nightlife (in Vila Madalena) is a 10-minute cab ride away.
A stay on a Brazilian beach? It doesn’t have to be in Bahia or Rio. Pipa village in the northeast state of Rio Grande do Norte sits in cicada-serenaded Atlantic coastal rainforest – behind seemingly endless stretches of honey-coloured sand and crumbling, caramel-coloured cliffs. With a fabulous sculpted pool, the Toca’s luxurious bungalows dot the forest garden – low lit, with big beds made for intimacy, draped in mosquito nets, chunky wooden furniture and buriti-palm rugs. Here you’ll also find one of the best restaurants in northeast Brazil.
Just off the fashionable main square in tiny Trancoso village, the Capim Santo blends carefully-crafted Mykonos minimalism (curving whitewashed walls pocked with art-filled niches) and tropical vibrance (a heliconia-filled garden, rugs and cushions in brilliant yellows and blues). Avoid the dingy rooms in the main building and book a garden villa. They’re twice the price but twice the size. With sea-and-forest views, Adirondack sunchairs and outdoor baths hewn from a single tree trunk, they’re also more than twice as nice.
It’s in the name. “A Mar e Lindo”, means “the sea is beautiful” – and it is, seen from the Deluxe Balcony Bay View rooms of this colonial-era townhouse, on a bluff above Salvador’s Bay of All Saints. Breakfasts are a treat – the warm morning sun streaming through the trees in the garden patio, the feasts of tropical fruit, cakes and eggs done every which way. The Unesco-listed historic centre is right outside the front door and during Mardi Gras so, too, are the best street-carnival parades.