Now that World Cup frenzy is over and the summer swelter is past, there’s never been a better time to take in the glories of Rio de Janeiro
During the mad dash of media coverage, marketing scrums, and $4 billion facilities preparation that accompanied the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, then witnessing the no fewer than 3.5 million people predicted to attend the events through the final in Rio de Janeiro’s Estádio do Maracanã, one thought kept occurring to us during editorial meetings.
“Why else would anybody go there at this time of year?”
As with any oversized public event on this scale, associated urban facilities are strained, hotel accommodations nonexistent, restaurants stuffed, and the general attitude among service people in an otherwise relatively easy-going place could best be characterized as…taxed.
No, the time to go is actually now. Even the finest of the hotels in Rio are in a slightly more solicitous mood as far as offering deals is concerned, you can basically take your pick of the wondrous eateries that line the The Avenida Rio Branco, and best of all, the suffocating heat is over. “Winter” has set in for the city of 6.3 million by September, a season marked by limited rainfall, average high temperatures of about 75°F, and a preponderance of sunny days. Now, that is a season to get used to.
So, in planning your late summer or early fall trip to Rio, please don’t take any heat about being behind the curve. Instead, take credit for being cost-conscious, climate savvy, and having significantly more interest in stellar service and relaxed café living than in world event bragging rights.
What follows is a selection of glorious Rio accommodations, both new and old, that will get you started on the South American trip of a lifetime.
Sofitel Copacabana Luxury Hotel
Av. Atlântica / 4240 – Copacabana / 55 21 7833-4475 / sofitel.com
If it sounds hackneyed to begin our investigations in the 2.5-mile stretch of beach hugging the south zone of the city, from Princesa Isabel Avenue to the Posto Seis (a.k.a. the Copacabana), you simply need to open the doors of the Imperial Suite at this gorgeous oceanside resort to change your mind. The 388-room, French aesthetic infused hotel is on the Copacabana’s world-famous Ipanema Beach, and directly under the city’s commanding Sugarloaf Mountain. With access to a private stretch of sand, even the Sofitel’s most reasonable rooms—priced at approximately $300 for September—are remarkable, but the Imperial is stunning. This 2368 square-foot mini mansion has no fewer than eight balconies, private nightclub access, a 24-hour butler, and your own private lounge and business center. It will run you approximately $6,000, but the best is the best!
Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro
Av. Vieira Souto / 80 – Ipanema / 55 21 3202-4000 / fasano.com.br
Bragging rights for the most enviable view are a hard-fought commodity in the city, as picturesque as it is, but the rooftop pool and bar area at the Fasano is completely ridiculous—a movie set you get to occupy indefinitely. Interior design is courtesy of no less than Philipp Starck, and not surprisingly, the result is approachable modernity—cool, welcoming, and uncluttered. People looking for thrift might consider casting their gaze elsewhere, as this is pretty much the Plaza Hotel equivalent on the beach, but from the complimentary massage and cocktail welcome to a proffered lounge chair, umbrella, towels, and cold water during your stay at the private stretch of beach, this place is an adventure in excess, and just might make you forget to leave its elaborate compounds. Prices start at approximately $650, but expect to pay $1,000 for something with a commanding ocean view and private balcony, or of course you could go completely berserk and reserve a deluxe oceanfront suite for approximately $2,000.
Belmond Copacabana Palace
Avenida Atlantica 1702
44-1-41-41-61-511 / belmond.com
Even to those for whom Rio is an undiscovered dream, mention the Belmond and they’ll likely offer knowing, wide-eyed stares. Its very spacious rooms (this is a tight-quartered city, after all, and hotel rooms are often…cozy) are individually decorated with English antique furniture and original artwork, all have king-size beds, marble bathrooms, and many sport private balconies with panoramic city or ocean views. The suites are wonders within wonders—designed by the Orient-Express French designer Michel Jouannet—and feature two balconies and Trussardi bed linen. Those who miss NYC Italian will find bliss at the in-house Cipriani restaurant, but we prefer to start our night at the Copacabana Piano Bar, then shimmer over to Pérgula restaurant, which offers Brazilian specialties and fresh seafood from the bay. In the morning, just have the hangover massaged away at the wellness spa. From $500 per night, Suites start at $1,000.
Hotel Santa Teresa – Relais & Chateaux
Rua Almirante Alexandrino 660 / 55 21 3380-0200
Rio is a city that exists in precarious balance. There are luxury amenities that almost defy description close to the ocean, but the further one investigates its interior, the closer one gets to the already huge and expanding favelas, or slums. In short, interior adventures need to be handled skillfully, though the downtown area has incredible things to offer, not least the only Relais & Chateaux hotel in the entire country. Set on a former coffee plantation, this 44-room, truly boutique escape is placed high above the urban core, with a view from swimming pool and bar that will have even seasoned poets clamoring for better modifiers. Somehow, its neighborhood manages to seem small and approachable as well, and includes fantastic antique shops, bars, and other distractions. Better yet, its Le Spa is, quite possibly, the most wonderful and service-attentive such facility in the city. $500 per night.