Seaside Swells: Brazil + Uruguay

written by | Posted on October 9th, 2013

The Pousada Estrela D'Agua, a Relais and Chateux property in Brazil

The Pousada Estrela D’Agua, a Relais and Chateux property in Brazil

brazil’s coveted beaches

You must have heard the saying, “Life’s a beach.” Well, it’s easy to believe it was penned in Brazil, which boasts close to 5,000 miles of beautiful Atlantic beaches. While we may be quite familiar with Rio’s iconic beach strips of Copacabana and Ipanema, they are only the tip of the sand dune, a starting point for the exploration of Brazil’s 2,000-plus named beaches. Many of the most storied are found in Northeast Brazil, whose gorgeous hideaway resorts with a laid-back luxury style are increasingly drawing the U.S. sun and surf vacationer. However, selling the seaside swells of Brazil has a few caveats, according to two travel companies specializing in South America travel.

Rosita Perez of Ladatco Tours reports that, “We find that the audience for the Brazil beach vacation is predominantly younger, more affluent couples. And while beach vacations in Brazil don’t seem to attract many family travelers from the U.S., they are the perfect pick for honeymooners, who, like everyone else nowadays, benefit from new direct flights from U.S. to the northeastern gateways of Fortaleza, Recife
and Salvador.”

For agents booking high-end clients to Brazil’s seaside resorts, Perez emphasizes that “the most important thing to remember is always request the very best accommodations—

master suite or premier oceanfront—the property has to offer.”

Two of Ladatco’s top beach favorites, one on shore and one offshore, make an interesting dual-beach option. The first
destination is Trancoso, in the state of Bahia. It’s not only a village frequented by the Brazilian elite and Hollywood movie stars, but also named a UNESCO World Heritage site. The heart of the village is the Quadrado, a central plaza adorned with a beautiful church, small colorful houses, and lively little restaurants lit up with lanterns at night.

“This is a fun area for young couples,” says Perez, who particularly likes the sophisticated Pousada Estrela D’Agua on Nativos Beach, a Relais & Chateaux property. Its finest accommodations are in the seven Master Suites, all with ocean views and air conditioning, large sitting room and deck with hammocks, and private pool or jacuzzi, plus rooms with king-size beds and all the usual amenities. Clients will want to step out for caipirinha cocktails and dining by the beach, or to hang by one of two pools. They’ll definitely want to head for the spa where the entry ticket is a foot bath and herb-based drinks, followed by treatments using ingredients from the Amazon and Atlantic forests. Rates for a Master Suite are $692; for Master Duplex Suites it’s $760 per night with breakfast. Special rates are available for 5- and 7-night stays.

Fernando de Noronha, a destination that all Brazilians (and Perez) hold in high regard, offers a totally different beach experience. Floating about 200 miles out in the Atlantic and served by air from Recife and Natal, the 21-island archipelago is both a National Marine Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s home to more than a dozen stunning beaches—three of them, Praia do Sancho, Baia dos Porcos and Praia do Leao, rank among the top 10 in Brazil—that ring the island of Fernando alone. Above all, it is the marine life—200 fish species, dolphins, sea turtles, and sharks—that makes these islands a mecca for scuba divers and snorkelers.

The top-of-the-line resort pick is the effortlessly romantic Pousada Maravilha, which has a stunning location, a Japanese-inspired style and good environmental preservation credentials. Its five bungalows, nestled into the hillside overlooking the ocean, offer privacy, luxurious comfort, and spectacular sunsets. Each comes with air conditioning, king-size, four-poster beds, and even aromatic candles with personalized matches to light them. Bathrooms are spacious with his-and-her sinks and mirrors, and bungalows have a huge deck fitted with hammocks, table, chairs and a hot tub. Guests can also enjoy a small infinity pool, sauna, steam, and massage treatments, a wine cellar and cigar room, and dining room serving fusion dishes with Italian accents. Sporting options such as surfing and windsurfing are available. Deluxe rooms range from $854 to $1,350; bungalows from $999 to $1,526, including breakfast and airport transfers.

Adam Carter, president of Brazil Nuts Tours, sells luxury beach vacations with a different take. “While life’s indeed a beach in Brazil,” he points out that, “I believe the beach is just one ingredient of a well-mixed Brazilian cocktail of a vacation. A luxury beachside stay must be blended carefully with culture, cuisine, music and nightlife. It’s kind of a one-two punch of beach and the rest.” Hence, Brazil Nuts guides clients to beach resorts that can include some time at nearby cultural centers, such as Recife and Olinda for guests staying at Nannai Beach Resort, or Salvador da Bahia for those choosing Kiaroa Eco-Luxury Resort, part of the Kiwi Collection.

Carter reports that he and his wife recently spent “five delightful days” at Kiaroa Eco-Luxury Resort, situated in the Marau Peninsula eco-sanctuary and just a 30-minute air taxi flight from culturally rich Salvador landing clients right on the resort runway.

The accent is on seclusion and comfort at Kiaroa, a veritable oasis of first-class amenities, offering 25 suites and bungalows, tastefully appointed with art, Egyptian cotton bedding, goose-down pillow and luxury-brand toiletries. The luxury bungalows come with queen beds, air conditioning, verandahs with hammocks and a private pool. Guests dine in the main or beach restaurant on regional and international cuisine, swim in the oceanview pool when not at the beach, and head for the temple-like Spa Armonia by L’Occitane featuring dry/wet saunas, a heated pool gym, whirlpools, massages and therapies. Activities include tennis, snorkeling and surfing, or clients can take one of the resort’s organized jeep and boat trips, or hire one of the three boats for fishing and island-hopping around Camamu Bay. There are good bars and restaurants in Barra Grande, the main village, with about 500 inhabitants. Suite/bungalow rates start at $414.

Another option that combines culture with a seaside stay is spending a day or two in Recife before heading off to the
Nannai Beach Resort, located 33 miles south of Recife near Porto de Galinhas and set on 30 lush acres on Muro Alto Beach, one of the most beautiful in the state of Pernambuco. The hotel, rather a Tahitian-style resort, was conceived with ideals based on preservation of the environment and local culture. The atmosphere and design is very Brazilian, utilizing the best of Brazilian wood and exotic foliage. Nannai receives architectural accolades because of its unique layout and Feng Shui design, with all the bungalows “in” the pool that winds around the property like a giant serpent.

There are 39 independent bungalows featuring verandahs with private plunge pools, while interiors are furnished with sofa, dining table and chairs that blend in with double bedrooms and private bathrooms; amenities include air conditioning and ceiling fans, as well as other customary amenities. The restaurant prides itself on its seafood and regional dishes, prepared with international touches, and there’s a pool with swimming lanes and a jacuzzi area. Also available are kayaks and snorkeling, plus tennis, pitch and putt golf and the Spa by L’Occitane. Further, guests sail out on a jangada raft to nearby reefs to swim and snorkel in the crystalline reef pools or book a full day tour to Olinda with its baroque churches and artisan studios. Bungalows are $750 to $1,300 including breakfast and dinner without beverages.

Playa Vik in Uruguay

Playa Vik in Uruguay

uruguay is making waves

A bit farther down the Atlantic coast, Uruguay’s making waves in the U.S. travel market, surfacing as a top new destination pick by Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic Traveler.

A major attraction are the beaches that stretch south from the Brazilian border to reach Punta del Este, a world-famous resort town that has served for decades as the Hamptons of Latin America, as in January and February it becomes the playground for a glittery mix of international personalities, beautiful people and wealthy South Americans. But for clients visiting Buenos Aires and in need of a grand-finale place in the sun, just across the Rio de la Plata (by plane or hydrofoil) and 12 miles north of the famous beach destination of Punta del Este is San Ignacio, a laid-back bohemian, fishing village that’s now the “go-to” place on the coast.

What to go for is long, wide expanses of sand bordered by white dunes and deep pine forests, plus a low-key luxury lifestyle laced with impressive sunsets, outstanding food and Playa Vik, the newest and most spectacular of luxury seaside properties in the country.

To call Playa Vik a work of art doesn’t begin to describe this stunning property. Designed by Montevideo-born architect Carlos Ott (heralded for his work on Paris’ Opera Bastille), this super-contemporary and super-creative hotel occupies a sculptural glass-and-titanium main building, surrounded by six light-filled, 2- and 3-bedroom casitas—walled in glass and roofed with sea grasses. Within the main building are an additional four suites, and all rooms are decorated with murals or hung with abstract oils; floors are hand-painted; and each item of furniture a work of art including hull-shaped bathtubs of jacaranda wood. Other over-the-top features include a wall of pulsating light by artist James Turrell in a dining area overlooking the beach; a 40-ft. wine cellar; a parrillero dining pit on deck for BBQs; and a 75-ft. cantilevered pool that juts out to the ocean, seemingly meeting Playa Manse below.

Clients will want to venture out of the resort to walk into the village for a seafood lunch or go horseback riding at Estancia Vik, sister property and nearby luxury ranch on 4,000 inland acres. Rates at Playa Vik start at $1,050.

Andaz Papagayo Resort is slated to open in Costa Rica this December.

Andaz Papagayo Resort is slated to open in Costa Rica this December.

getting to uruguay

American Airlines offers nonstop flights to Montevideo, the country’s capital, from Miami.

TAM airlines upgrades comforts on U.S.-brazil services

Everything’s up to date at TAM Airlines, including new nonstop flights connecting the U.S. with more gateways in Brazil and six new 767 aircraft equipped with full, 180-degree, flat-bed seats for business class travelers. These upgraded planes made their debut in August on TAM’s daily flights between New York and Rio. Through November, they will continue to be integrated into the carrier’s flights from Miami to Manaus, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte. With a seating capacity of 221—30 in business and 191 in economy—the new 767s also feature a revamped, state-of-the-art, on-demand entertainment system, as well as a “flavor that makes you feel good” menu, developed by Brazilian chef Bel Coelho.

From New York, Miami and Orlando, TAM connects U.S. travelers to 41 Brazilian destinations. And TAM is now a member of the LATAM airlines group, as a result of its association with LAN Airlines and its affiliates in Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. tam.com.br

a hip and heavenly andaz papagayo resort is heading to costa rica

Slated to make a splash this December is the Andaz Papagayo Resort, opening on Costa Rica’s north coast and representing the first venture into Latin America for the Andaz brand. Located oceanfront on 28 acres, adjacent to Marina Papagayo and overlooking the Bay of Culebra, the resort will feature 153 elegant guestrooms, including 21 luxury suites, four of which will have plunge pools, and a presidential suite with a full-size pool. All rooms and suites promise to have spectacular ocean views, and each will have balconies, complimentary minibars (non-alcoholic beverages and snacks), and bath products by local artisans.

Facilities will include three “concept” restaurants that promise inventive and locally inspired cuisine and an extensive wine-by-the-glass menu. Additionally, the new Andaz will have a marina bar, two pools, a private beach, four meeting rooms, an 11,000-sq.-ft. spa with nine treatment rooms, a state-of-the-art gym, and a dedicated Camp Hyatt for kids.

Andaz Papagayo was designed by Ronald Zurcher, the Costa Rican architect who did the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (check out the onsite in the September 2013 issue) and El Silencio Lodge. His design concept for Andaz taps into Mother Nature for its inspiration, integrating organic forms of the peninsula’s flora and fauna, with buildings described by some as taking the shape of shells and cocoons, by others as stilted armadillo-shaped suites, with more conservative rooms up in the trees.

Double room prices are expected to start at $440. papagayo.andaz.hyatt.com

Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive):
Bogota, Colombia (August 2013)

contact information
Brazil Nuts Tours: (800) 553-9959; brazilnuts.com
Kiaora Eco-Luxury Resort: kiaroa.com.br
Ladatco Tours: (800) 327-6162; ladatco.com
Nannai Resort & Spa: nannai.com.br
Playa Vik: playavik.com
Pousada Estrela D’Agua: estreladagua.com.br
Pousada Maravilha: pousadamaravilha.com.br