Hang out in Rio, stay on the beach in Bahia or explore the Amazonian jungle. We pick the best boutique hotels
Best for the beach
1 Ilha de Toque Toque, Toque-Toque Grande
The only accommodation in a four-mile radius, Ilha de Toque Toque has jaw-dropping ocean views and is 150m from two incredible beaches accessible only by foot. Rustic-chic rooms come with hammocks on their balconies, and the hotel has strong eco credentials. Heated by solar power, all the water comes from a waterfall, and eco-bricks and reclaimed wood have been used in construction. Trekking and mountain biking can be arranged.
Details B&B doubles are from £100 a night (chicretreats.com). Fly to Sao Paulo
2 Butterfly House, Marau Peninsula
The owner Chloe Gibbs gave up a nursing career with the NHS to found this eco-resort, which consists of five jungle villas, four fishermen’s cottages and three suites in the main villa. All are kitted out with antique French ceramics, Moroccan-style rugs and Indian artwork, while the surrounding lakes, beaches and rainforest make it seem gloriously remote. At the heart of the resort is the funky Anna Banana restaurant, named after Chloe’s daughter.
Details B&B doubles are from £100 a night (00 55 31 2511 3011, butterflyhousebahia.com)
3 Casas Brancas, Buzios
The film star Brigitte Bardot put Buzios on the map when she visited in the Sixties, and her statue adorns the quayside in this buzzing beachside town, which is so popular it hosts a branch of the classic Ibiza nightclub Pacha. It’s also home to 26 beaches, and one of them is a stone’s throw from this elegant hotel, with refined rooms, a fabulous pool, three restaurants and yoga classes.
Details A ten-day Highlights of South Brazil package, including four nights at Casas Brancas and flights, is from £2,370pp (020 8546 6222, latinroutes.co.uk)
4 Campo Bahia Hotel, Santo Andre
This stylish hotel in the small fishing village of Santo Andre was built to host Germany’s men’s football team at the 2014 World Cup. Given that they went on to lift the trophy, you can bet you’re on to a winner with a stay. Rooms, spread across 14 villas, combine local craftsmanship and contemporary style, as well as work by German and Brazilian artists. The two restaurants include a beachfront barbecue, and there’s a colonial-style pool bar, aptly named Champions.
Details B&B doubles are from £198 a night (0800 0482314, slh.com/campobahia). Fly to Sao Paulo
5 Uxua Casa Hotel, Trancoso
Made up of old fishermen’s houses, this colourful hotel overlooks Trancoso’s historic Quadrado village square, and is a few minutes’ walk from the beach. The chic casas feature Bahian design with native Indian influences and handmade furniture made in the hotel’s workshop. Alongside the 11 casas, there are tropical grounds, two restaurants and a swimming pool, as well as a beach bar a five-minute walk away. Activities include surfing, sea-kayaking, horse riding and capoeira (Brazilian martial art) classes.
Details B&B doubles are from £303 a night (00 55 73 3668 2277, uxua.com). Fly to Porto Seguro
6 Pousada Brisas do Espelho, Trancoso
A short drive from the trendy town of Trancoso, this small hotel sits in an unspoilt and undiscovered part of south Bahia, five minutes’ walk from the beautiful, pristine beaches of Outeiro, Espelho and Amores. Even better, the beaches can be reached only via the hotel, so guests get miles of white sand to themselves. The hotel has contemporary rooms, a French restaurant and an outdoor pool. Activities include horse riding, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and fishing or diving among coral reefs.
Details B&B doubles are from £155 a night (00 55 11 94126 9292, brisasdoespelho.com.br). Fly to Porto Seguro
Best city stays
7 Casa Mosquito, Rio
This hip hotel is in its own peaceful enclave just out of the main city, sitting on a hillside with sweeping views over Ipanema, Copacabana and Sugarloaf Mountain. The steep approach is not for the faint-hearted on foot, but it’s worth the effort because there is a rooftop terrace with a pool, soft jazz in the background and DJs upping the ante at weekends. There are only nine rooms, with vibrant wallpaper and retro design elements; most have balconies.
Details B&B doubles are from £85 (i-escape.com)
8 Vila Santa Teresa, Rio
Set on the estate of one of Rio’s wealthiest families, the Monteiro de Carvalhos, this stylish hotel has seven rooms marrying antique furnishings and modern amenities. Service is discreet, there’s an honour bar, a grand dining room, and tables on a pool deck with views of Christ the Redeemer. The charming Santa Teresa neighbourhood is a perfect setting for the hotel, thanks to cobbled streets, tramlines, boutique shops and independent cafés.
Details Seven nights’ B&B is from £3,850pp, including flights (020 8682 5030, scottdunn.com)
9 Fasano Rio de Janeiro
Philippe Starck used the heyday of the bossa nova era in the Fifties and Sixties when coming up with the design concept for this luxury hotel in the heart of Ipanema, just a few steps from Copacabana beach. Stylish rooms and suites aside, the hotel is also home to the elegant Fasano al Mare restaurant and serves poolside cocktails on a deck with beach views.
Details B&B doubles are from £333 a night (world-odyssey.com, lata.org)
10 Villa Bahia, Salvador de Bahia
Salvador’s colonial old town is full of lovely converted buildings, but this one manages to stand out because of its private courtyard and individually designed rooms themed on the city’s history. Set over two adjoining buildings, the villa has a chic pool area with hammocks, sunloungers and palm trees, and a French restaurant with tables spilling on to the cobbled streets.
Details Five nights’ B&B is from £525pp; flights to Salvador are extra (0113 262 5329, realworldholidays.co.uk)
11 Casa do Amarelindo, Salvador de Bahia
This property is hard not to fall for; it is set in a 19th-century building in the heart of the Pelourinho district, with its colourful colonial houses, abundant churches and hip bars. The ten rooms have a boho-chic feel, and there’s a rooftop swimming pool with views over Todos os Santos bay.
Details B&B doubles are from £120 a night (casadoamarelindo.com)
12 Hotel Unique, Sao Paulo
It’s not hard to see why this award-winning hotel in the heart of Sao Paulo gave itself a distinctive name. Set in a sleek, boat-shaped building, it sits opposite Ibirapuera Park in upmarket Jardins, and marries elegant decor with high-tech amenities. Rooms have huge round windows to mimic portholes, and suites offer infinity floors that gently slope towards curved walls. On the rooftop terrace there’s a crimson pool with an underwater sound system, and a bar that’s the place to be seen in the city.
Details B&B doubles are from £260 a night (01603 340680, bespokebrazil.com)
13 Guest Urban Hotel, Sao Paulo
The city is Brazil’s thriving, bustling economic hub, and for decent hotels you’re more than likely to pay a small fortune. So a hipster hangout such as Guest Urban Hotel, for less than £50 a night for a double room, is a rarity not to be ignored. In the upscale Pinheiros neighbourhood, and 20 minutes’ walk from the city’s central Avenida Paulista, it has bright rooms with an industrial-chic feel, walls displaying contemporary art and a decent, if basic, breakfast. Bikes are available for hire to explore the surrounding streets.
Details B&B doubles start from £48 a night (00 55 11 3081 5030, guesturbansp.com.br)
Best in the country
14 Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, Iguazu
We know the Belmond Hotel, with 193 rooms, isn’t boutique in terms of size, but we’re including it on this list because of its personalised service and its unique location within Brazil’s Iguazu National Park. It also offers unrivalled views of the famed waterfalls. The Belmond comes with colonial-style rooms, a swimming pool and a gym, as well as fine-dining experiences. A bonus is access to the waterfalls after the national park closes, so you can beat the queues for the amazing views.
Details B&B doubles are from £252 a night (00 55 45 2102 7000, belmond.com)
15 Fazenda Catuçaba, Serra do Mar State Park
For those looking to escape modernity, this boutique guesthouse on a vast organic farm estate has no TVs and no internet access. What you do get are rivers, lakes and mountains spread over 1,100 acres, and chic accommodation in the form of ten rooms and suites in the 1850s colonial farmhouse. Activities include stargazing, hiking, climbing and horse riding.
Details A nine-night Exploring Brazil’s Green Coast package costs from £2,678, including a three-night, all-inclusive stay at Fazenda Catuçaba and flights (020 8546 6222, latinroutes.co.uk)
16 Cristalino Lodge, Southern Amazon
Cristalino Lodge is a biodiversity hotspot owing to its unique location on the border between the southern Amazon and the northern Pantanal. Arguably the only high-end hotel in the Amazon basin, it offers wildlife-spotting opportunities that include more than 600 species of birds and numerous mammals from two 50m observation towers. The estate has mile upon mile of marked trails, a floating deck moored in the Rio Cristalino and accommodation in chic bungalows, some of which offer outside tubs.
Details Eight nights’ B&B in Brazil, including three nights at Cristalino Lodge and international flights, costs from £1,895pp (0113 262 5329, realworldholidays.co.uk)
17 Barra Mansa Lodge, Pantanal
The Rio Negro is widely considered one of the best parts of the Pantanal, and this stylish lodge sits on its banks. Rooms are simple and comfortable, with a maximum occupancy of 17 people, so it never appears to be crowded. The grounds are strung with hammocks, where you can relax after a day’s exploring by foot, on horseback or by boat, and the restaurant is a treat, with specialities including roast wild pig and barbecued pacu fish.
Details B&B doubles are from £291 a night (world-odyssey.com, lata.org)
18 Caiman Ecological Refuge, Pantanal
On a cattle ranch in the southern Pantanal, Caiman Ecological Refuge is home to two lodges with 11 rooms between them. Baiazinha has a traditional ranch-style feel, while Cordilheira offers a more contemporary decor. Each has its own swimming pool, and there’s a restaurant using local ingredients, including freshwater fish, meat and fruit. Twice a week there are barbecue nights, where the local delicacy, oreada (meat dried overnight), is a highlight.
Details Seven nights’ full-board, including activities, flights and private transfers, costs from £5,830pp (020 8682 5030, scottdunn.com)
19 Reserva do Ibitipoca, Lima Durante
Reserva do Ibitipoca feels like staying at a friend’s house — that’s if your friend owns an 8,000-acre wildlife haven and allows you to bed down in their restored 1715 farmhouse. Accommodation is in stylish rooms and cottages, and there’s a wraparound balcony with hammocks and rocking chairs. The estate allows you to explore its surrounds on the back of Mangalarga and Anglo-Arabian horses, on guided hikes or on electric mountain bikes.
Details All-inclusive doubles are from £260 a night (00 55 32 98421 9139, reservadoibitipoca.com.br). Fly to Rio de Janeiro
20 Pousada Vivenda, Paraty
Staying in the colonial town of Paraty can be eye-wateringly expensive. However, this rustic-chic pousada, with its two whitewashed bungalows, is the exception. It’s about ten minutes’ stroll along the Perequê-Açu River from the historic centre of Paraty, and being a little away from the action has its advantages. The pousada is tranquil, and the bungalows have small verandas — where breakfast is served — overlooking the secluded swimming pool.
Details B&B doubles are from £88 (00 55 24 3371 4272, vivendaparaty.com)
Five great Brazilian breaks
From the beating pulse of Rio to the wild Amazonian rainforest, delve into Brazil on this two-week tour taking in the country’s highlights. In Rio, climb Corcovado Mountain, home to the Christ the Redeemer statue. Head to the roaring Iguazu Falls to get within touching distance of the cascading water, before joining a boat tour on the Amazon. The trip finishes in the city of Salvador, where a visit to the colonial river port of Cachoeira is a must.
Details Two weeks’ B&B is from £3,713pp, including all flights, transfers and guides (020 3582 8754, journeylatinamerica.co.uk)
Wildlife and rainforests
With roaring jaguars, giant otters and magnificent eagles, Brazil’s dense tropical rainforests are alive with wildlife. This 14-day adventure heads from the Amazon to the wetlands of the Transpantaneira Highway, home to some of the country’s best flora and fauna, and on to the Iguazu Falls. There are day and night excursions that travel deep into the jungle, plus a canoeing expedition.
Details Two weeks’ full-board is from £4,255pp, including flights (020 3051 8098, theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk)
Rio’s glittering carnival in February is the world’s biggest, with a staggering two million people partying on the streets each day. Spend a night at Rio’s famous Sambadrome, where 60,000 performers take to the stage, and relax the next day by sipping caipirinhas on Copacabana beach. For a smaller, more traditional parade, start up the coast in the city of Recife — dubbed the Venice of Brazil. It’s still a spectacle, with huge papier-mâché statues of folklore legends parading through the streets.
Details Eight nights’ B&B is from £3,230pp, including flights leaving on February 23 (01252 883761, explore.co.uk)
Amazon river cruise
Spot river dolphins and search for pirarucu — the largest scaled fish in the world — on an Amazonian river cruise. The Jacare-Acu riverboat sleeps 16, and has a permit to explore some of the most remote parts of the river. The seven-day cruise includes a canoe expedition, fishing, rainforest hikes and a trip to a village. There’s also the chance to spend a night under the stars in a hammock.
Details A week’s cruise is from £1,629pp, including all meals (rainforestcruises.com). Departures are on September 10, October 15, November 19 and December 3. Latam (latam.com) has returns to Manaus, via Sao Paulo, from about £900
Wildlife in the Pantanal
Wildlife buffs should head for the Pantanal wetlands to spy the best of Brazil’s flora and fauna. Four nights are spent on the banks of the Cuiaba River aboard the Jaguar Flotel, from where it’s possible to watch the big cats roaming in the shrubbery, as well as giant otters. Then head to the Iguazu National Park to see the famous waterfalls.
Details A two-week tour is from £4,885pp, including internal flights, activities and some meals (0800 1953385, wildfoottravel.com). Latam has returns to Cuiaba, via Sao Paulo, from about £850