From Beachfront to Hilltop: Best Luxury Hotels in Rio



Thanks largely to a currrency that has dramatically dropped in value since 2014, Rio de Janeiro is no longer the prohibitively expensive destination it was just a short time ago. And while luxury lodgings in the city are by no means cheap, you'll no longer need an A-lister budget to stay there,  and those who want to splurge on luxury lodgings in Rio will be well rewarded at any of our cherry-picked spots.

From lavish beachfront hotels such as our number one pick, Fasano Rio to hilltop hideaways in boho-chic areas such as artsy Santa Teresa or leafy, laidback Gavea, there are ample options to choose from for those to whom price is no object.

Now owned by Orient Express, the Copacabana Palace remains a byword for glamor and glitz in Rio de Janeiro, and those who can stump up for a seafront view at New Year will find themselves with a prime spot for enjoying the midnight fireworks spectacular.

Rio de Janeiro is a favorite hangout for celebrities, so don´t be surprised to find yourself sharing hotel corridors with the likes of Madonna, Will Smith, the Obamas, the Rolling Stones or any number of Brazilian soccer stars.

Book ahead, and you may even be able to find a great bargain on a luxury Rio hotel room - although be warned that Rio de Janeiro has recently been named as the city with the most expensive hotels in the world and, at peak times such as New Year and February´s carnival, prices spiral higher still.



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Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen is one of several big name regulars at this chic hotel on Leblon beachfront, and it´s not hard to see what attracts the A-listers to the hotel. While most of Rio de Janeiro´s boutique lodging options are to be found some way from the beaches, in leafy neighborhoods such as Santa Teresa and Gavea, Marina All Suites sits right in front of the beach in upscale Leblon. Each of the Design Suites has been signed by a different interior designer, and each features luxuries such as surround sound stereo systems and spacious lounge areas. A private cinema and bar can be reserved by guests, while the public bar-restaurant Bar d´Hotel is a hotspot for Rio´s young, rich and beautiful.


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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.


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Visitors to Rio de Janeiro often overlook the well-to-do residential neighborhood of Gavea in favor of more famous locations such as Ipanema and Copacabana, but anyone who values space, tranquility and proximity to nature over a famous postcode would be well advised to check out some of the accommodation options in this scenic part of the city. While there are fewer hotels here than in the beach neighborhoods, there are a number of stylish options to choose from, with Boutique Hotel Gavea Tropical being among the best of the bunch thanks to its leafy grounds, stylish decor, friendly service and abundant breakfasts.


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Sofitel Rio de Janeiro Copacabana
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


 

Anchoring one end of Copacabana Beach, Sofitel Rio de Janeiro Copacabana is a favorite among business travelers and politicians visiting Rio. Although less luxurious than it once was, the hotel still offers smart, modern facilities and front-facing rooms have spectacular views. The in house hotel, Le Pre-Catalan, is considered one of the best spots in the city for fine dining, while the Horse's Neck bar is a nice place to grab a cocktail and try to spot a famous face - actors, models, musicians and sports stars have been known to hang out here. The attentive service is another plus.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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 befits a hotel whose staff are accustomed to attending the whims of the very rich and very famous. 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.


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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.


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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 magnificent panoramic views over Ipanema beach, out to sea and up into the twinkling lights of the hillside favelas.


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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.

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