Rio de Janeiro's Best Hotels Feature Beach Views and Tropical Gardens

Synonymous with beaches and beautiful people, Rio de Janeiro is unarguably one of the most glamorous destinations in the world and our top pick - Copacabana Palace - remains the most famous hotel in South America.

But while the famous sands continue to attract the crowds, savvy travelers are also making a beeline for the breezy, bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa and its many stylish boutique hotels and welcoming guest houses, such as the funky Casa Cool Beans.  For the ultimate romantic escape, book a room at La Suite Rio - high on a clifftop in a super-exclusive enclave, this chic spot is a favorite of international fashion photographers.

In Centro, Copacabana and Ipanema, large chain hotels with all mod cons attract business travelers, while the grande dame of South American hotels, Copacabana Palace, continues to be the destination of choice for A-listers - rivaled in the glamour stakes only by Ipanema's sleek, Phillipe Starck-designed, Fasano Rio.

Budget travelers will need to plan ahead when heading to Rio - lodgings here are expensive even by Western standards, but the weakened Brazilian currency means that dollars, euros and other currencies stretch a lot further now than they did in recent years, and there are some good deals to be found if you book well in advance. A modest travel budget can be stretched further by self-catering facilities, and there is an excellent hostel scene in Rio, with many spots offering comfortable doubles as well as dorms. 

Up in the jungle-clad hills, the colorful, characterful neighborhood of Santa Teresa is packed with small guest houses, at prices that compare extremely favorably with beachfront locations. 


Hotel Arpoador
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

Okay, it's not bargain-basement cheap, but prices at Arpoador Inn are extremely favorable in comparison with other beachfront lodgings. The location - right on the sands at the point where Copacabana meets Ipanema - is unbeatable for sunseekers and surfers, and transport links to the lively nightlife of Lapa are good. While rooms with a beachfront view are by far the most desirable, it goes without saying that they command a higher price than those with views of the back streets. Prices here drop considerably outside of peak tourist season, but it's likely to be out of the price range of budget travellers during New Year and Carnival.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Arpoador Inn scores major points for its beachfront location close to both Ipanema and Copacabana.

Read more about Hotel Arpoador →

Rio de Janeiro may be synonymous with beaches, but savvy visitors to the city are increasingly venturing inland and up into the hills of Santa Teresa. This luxury hotel, complete with palm-fringed pool and acclaimed French restaurant, cemented Santa Teresa's reputation as a major tourist destination when it opened in 2009, and gained worldwide attention when Amy Winehouse made her base here during her 2011 tour of Brazil. It's now managed by Sofitel, but maintains a boutique feel. The artsy neighborhood is chock full of handicrafts stores and vintage clothing outlets, and its drinking and dining scene is one of the most celebrated in the city.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Hotel Santa Teresa offers five-star luxury in one of Rio's most picturesque neighborhoods.

Read more about Santa Teresa Hotel RJ MGallery by Sofitel →

Copacabana beachfront is not known for its good value lodgings or its personal service, which makes this welcoming guest house such a find. The English-speaking owner Marta Miller offers personal tips and advice to all her guests, and the vast shared living spaces are decked out with artsy aplomb. Rooms are less spectacular, but the guesthouse scores serious brownie points for the large balcony with views right out over Copacabana. It's just steps from the beach, and right at the Western edge, where 'Copa' meets Ipanema, making it handy for restaurants, shopping and nightlife as well as for varying your beach setting.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: This friendly Copacabana guesthouse provides a personal touch that is lacking in many beachfront lodgings, and the beach views from the balcony are stunning.

Read more about Marta Rio Guesthouse →


A seriously stylish accommodation option in the well-heeled, largely residential neighborhood of Gavea, La Maison Boutique Guest House has featured in the pages of style magazines in Brazil and overseas. The setting - a fabulous colonial building set among fruit trees - is stunning in itself, and the French owners have injected a dose of Parisian boudoir indulgence to the interiors, which are nothing if not sensual. Deep red walls and supremely soft beds abound, and the five suites each have large balconies overlooking an inviting swimming pool. For visitors looking to escape the rush and crush of Rio beachfront this is an excellent option, and there are plenty of good drinking and dining options nearby.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: The personalized service and lovely setting make La Maison a top boutique option in Rio.

Read more about La Maison by Dussol →

Mama Ruisa
Photo courtesy of Aforondo/Flickr

French chic meets Brazilian cool at this super-stylish hillside hideaway in Santa Teresa. The vast colonial mansion sits in verdant gardens complete with large swimming pool, and the French owners have upped the wow factor still further with interiors that have more than a dash of panache. Each of the suites is unique in layout and decor, and the lavish breakfasts served outside under the trees are something to be savored for as long as possible. With a poolside setting this beautiful, you may find yourself spending a lot less time on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana than you had imagined.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: This sleek boutique pousada is a refreshing alternative to bland apartment blocks on the beachfront.

Read more about Mama Ruisa →

Quinta Azul Boutique Pousada
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

A relatively new addition to the ever-increasing boutique hotel scene in the scenic, historic hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa, Quina Azul Boutique enjoys a prime location just a few seconds´ easy stroll from the neighborhood´s main square - Largo de Guimaraes - and the strip of lively bars and excellent restaurants that surrounds it. The location is just part of the charm of this beautiful guest house - the swimming pool, leafy gardens and attention to detail in the indoor and outdoor decor all make this a pleasant option for a stay in Rio. While not right at the top end of the accommodation options, it´s prices compare extremely favorably with many less charming options along the beachfront.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Gorgeous gardens and chic decor make this a lovely hideaway in the hills of Santa Teresa.

Read more about Quinta Azul Boutique Pousada →

Another fine example of Santa Teresa's impressive guest house scene, Casa Cool Beans attracts a mix of young backpackers and older travelers keen to share stories of the road over a few caipirinhas in the leafy garden. Housed in a handsome colonial-era buildings, Casa Cool Beans is a refreshing alternative to impersonal chain hotels, and its location in bustling Santa Teresa means that scores of bars and restaurants are within easy reach. Meanwhile, the lively nightlife of Lapa is just a hop, skip and a jump (or a quick bus ride) away.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: The attention to detail at Casa Cool Beans make it a standout on Rio's Lodging scene.

Read more about Casa Cool Beans B&B Santa Teresa →

The grande dame of Rio de Janeiro's hotels, the 1920s-built Copacabana Palace is still a byword for luxury and lavish living in the Cidade Maravilhosa. The hotel of choice for A-listers visiting Rio, Copacabana Palace had welcomed such celebrated guests as Madonna, Will Smith and the Obamas, and the service is as attentive as one would expect. The hotel's two restaurants are among the best in the city, while the addition of an upmarket nightclub and luxury spa have brought Copacabana Palace bang up to date.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Copacabana Palace is the hotel of choice for A-listers visiting Rio.

Read more about Belmond Copacabana Palace →

The first hotel to rival Copacabana Palace in the glamour stakes, Fasano Rio's prime spot on Ipanema beachfront makes it an ideal base for those with cash to splash. The discreet facade masks a wealthy of quirky design details - crafted by French designer Phillipe Starck, the interior blends cool white minimalism with playful details such as candy-striped pod chairs on each corridor. The hotel's crowning glory is the rooftop infinity pool - order a cocktail at the poolside bar, sink into the warm waters and enjoy the views over Ipanema beach. If you really want to feel fabulous in Rio, this is the place.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro offers sleek design and attentive service.

Read more about Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro →

Truly off the beaten tourist track, this hilltop hotel is located in Joatinga - a super-exclusive neighborhood known as the Beverley Hills of Rio. Each of the suites is unique,and all feature luxurious touches such as vast double showers and spacious dressing rooms. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic ocean and Rio's magnificently verdant mountains, the hotel's infinity pool has views that will truly take your breath away. The hotel is a favorite with the international fashion press, who regularly use it for photo shoots. Almost next door, a tiny beach is so secluded that couples will almost feel they have it to themselves.

Recommended for Best Hotels because: These are smart, well-located apartments that offer more independence than your standard hotel.

Read more about La Suite by Dussol →


Meet Lucy Bryson

Lucy is a British freelance writer living in Rio de Janeiro since 2007. While there are some things she misses about her home country, the lure of year-round sunshine has proved too powerful to resist.