Brazilian resort family guide

Traveling is one of my passions and because of my background in the hospitality industry and innate curiosity and ongoing research, I must say that my expectations are probably higher than that of most families looking for a resort vacation.  Having said that, I also see things that the average guest may not see or notice.  I do enjoy a good hotel and restaurant critique and therefore compiled a short list of my favorite Brazilian family resorts.

As a background tip  for those who have not traveled in Brazil, despite some of the top family resorts in Brazil are classified as 5-star hotels and their costs are comparable to a Four Seasons, Ritz or Kempinski resort, please keep in mind that 5-star resorts in Brazil can be amazing but are very different to what you will experience at 5-star resorts abroad.  The overall ambience, facilities and service are a lot more rustic and informal and standards are also quite different to those ruling 5 star resorts abroad.  Having said that, many provide experiences which you will find hard to replicate elsewhere such as luxury farm resorts in picturesque stunning country settings with refined organic homemade food and colonial architecture; or coming across a family of turtles on your morning walk along a breathtaking white sandy beach.

In order to compile my list of top beach and farm resorts (locally known as “hotéis fazenda”), I considered: overall decor, location, comfort of rooms and facilities, amenities, food, service, and range and quality of kids activities.  All of the resorts listed have specific children’s programs which I believe are good or excellent.  Please make sure you always double check if kids programs are available when you book a resort since a couple of them only run their programs during holidays and high season or weekends.  Since I surely haven’t tried and tested all top resorts in Brazil I have listed a few resorts which I have not tried yet though are on my list based on friends and family’s recommendations.  I intend on visiting some of these in the near future so please check back as I post more reviews.

Hotel Fazenda Dona Carolina

This beautiful and historic coffee plantation farmhouse resort is located in Itatiba, SP which is easily accessible from the city of São Paulo (about 84 km) and is a fantastic option for the whole family.  The rooms are spacious and comfortable despite still keeping the period architecture; food is delicious, well prepared, and varied; service is very attentive; kids program is fantastic, and there is a wide range of activities including horse riding (full riding center on property), zip-lining, cachaça and coffeetasting, historic tours, tennis, biking, fishing, farm animal visits, and a decent spa. The facilities are beautifully preserved and upgraded, the pool is big and very pleasant, and the grounds are stunning.

Hotel Fazenda Toriba

This is our family’s all time favorite… This hotel is located in the sought after winter destination town of Campos do Jordão, in the state of São Paulo (about 172 km from the city).  The surrounding region is known for its wide range of outdoors activities such as hiking trails with lots to see and do and stunning views all around.  We love it year round since during summer it’s an ideal destination to escape from the oppressive heat and beach crowds and not nearly busy as during the winter season.

Despite Toriba is much smaller than Dona Carolina, and not exactly what you would call a farm hotel, it does have the most stunning and best looking petting farm I’ve ever seen with amazing animals that seem to be trained somehow.  Kids of all ages (and I mean ALL ages…) love the farm and enjoy the old style super long swings hanging from the trees.  The hotel activity staff, takes you on a great ‘hike’/walk through forest trails (which belong to the hotel) leading you into the farm and on the way back they send a hotel van to collect the group since the hike up can be a little hard for the smaller ones.  In addition to the farm, Toriba is nestled at the top of breathtaking mountains surrounded by green and exotic flora.  The hotel has a beautiful and relaxing modern pool with a fabulous L’Occitane spa, 2 wonderful restaurants, one of which specializes in the most delicious fondues, great kids activities and guides who are truly dedicated to the kids, a beautiful outdoor playground as well as a brand new indoor play area, amazing stand alone chalets for the family with 1/2 bedrooms, a large living room and kitchen as well as a wide range of rooms (some have been renovated and some in need of renovation).  The food is excellent and so is the service and you very quickly feel at home and utterly relaxed.  Even though many people would go to Campos do Jordão to explore the town and local area, we always find it hard to leave the hotel!

Hotel Costa Verde Tabatinga

Tabatinga is 334 km from the city of São Paulo, located in the famous Green Coast which stretches between the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and includes other famous beach resorts such as Angra dos Reis and Paraty (in Rio), Ubatuba and Ilhabella (in SP).  As an introduction to beach resorts in Brazil, for most parts, (as is the case of Angra dos Reis and Ubatuba) the actual beach resort towns are not the place to be and many of them you actually want to keep away from…  When booking a hotel, make sure you are on the coastal beaches, not the towns…which is a completely different experience!

We have stayed at a few beach resorts on the Green Coast and Tabatinga is by far the best  family resort we have stayed so far.  The hotel is modern and tastefully decorated, the rooms are spacious and comfortable, the service is better than comparable hotels and very friendly, the kids’ monitors are very attentive, and the food is delicious despite extremely expensive.  The pool is fabulous and has the coolest water loungers and the beach is amazing, somewhat private and very calm, and great for walking or jogging.  Most of the days were spent between the pool and the beach and we really enjoyed the super comfortable restaurant and à la carte menu with dining options changing daily.  Tabatinga is a great option for hassle free beach holidays with the family!

Tivoli Eco Resort Praia do Forte

Praia do Forte, outside Salvador in the State of Bahia, is probably rated as one of the top beaches in Brazil.  It is a stunning long curved white sandy beach lined with coconut trees and the habitat of hundreds of sea turtles.  The water is turquoise, warm and quite calm for an Atlantic beach.  The resort is surrounded by Atlantic forest and there are rivers and trails suitable for all sorts of outdoor activities.  The resort itself is beautiful and very well kept though we did find that the rooms were quite below 5-star standards.  However, you spend very little time in the rooms since there is no shortage of things to see and do for the entire family.  There is a wide range of activities for children and adults and the kids club runs amazing programs for all age groups from morning to late evening allowing parents to enjoy their evening too!

The resort is huge with many pools directly across from the beach, multi sport courts, a big Asian inspired spa, a wide range of group classes and activities, delicious food, and very attentive and friendly service plus daily musical and evening entertainment.  In case you feel the urge to leave the resort there is a lovely fisherman village within walking distance with great places to eat, drink, nice typical stores with plenty of souvenirs as well as more high end boutiques.  Projeto Tamar museum and aquarium is another main attraction at the village and is a wonderful family outing. Projeto Tamar  is a wonderful non-profit organization that studies and protects sea turtles around Brazil.

Here are a few more resorts worth trying based on excellent feedback from friends and family and on my own thorough research.

Hotel Transamérica Comandatuba

Fazenda Capoava

Grande Hotel Campos do Jordão

I hope to add to this post with other near future trips we have planned so please check back and let me know about other top family resorts in Brazil!