Casa do Dean

Arraial d'Ajuda, Bahia, Brazil Book from

Reviewed by Meg Baber
New York loft meets Brazilian rainforest in a funky, chunky beach house just a stroll from the sea (sleeps 4-10)
Built as a 21st-century dream house for a celebrity photographer, lapping at the edge of the rainforest yet only a 5-minute stroll from the beach (and a 10-minute stride uphill to the party town of Arraial d'Ajuda), Casa do Dean gets top marks on all counts. The forested valley views are far-reaching, the design is exciting - great swathes of glass open to large wooden verandas on stilts - and the comfort is supreme. Imagine white polished concrete floors, lofty Brazilian hardwood ceilings, 1960s movie posters and Art Deco lamps from Argentina. The décor is full of artistry and light.

Walk in one direction for Brazilian beach action and snorkelling; head in the other for some of the chic-est bars, designer clothes shops, restaurants and nightclubs on the Discovery Coast. The atmosphere is exclusive and laid-back, and you get 5 large bedrooms with ensuite showers, an infinity pool looking out over the jungle, and every little luxury from iPod docks and soft pillows to the daily services of a maid. Casa do Dean is ideal for those who want to escape, without venturing too far from the madding crowd.

Highs

  • You get the luxury of your own architect-designed pad, with incredibly comfortable beds, and the bonus of a daily maid service
  • Secluded yet on the outskirts of one of Bahia´s liveliest coastal tourist towns, and near several beaches
  • There are great views across the rainforest from the decks (one with an infinity pool)
  • The on-call English manager will make sure your visit goes smoothly
  • A car is not essential; you can hire bikes and beach buggies

Lows

  • The nearest beach is crowded with beach bars, hecklers and hassling hippies during high season, so you must stray a kilometre or so further for peace and pristine sands
  • In high season (December to March), the sound of music from beach parties can drift up into the early hours
  • Despite appearances, the house does have a neighbour or two
  • There's a minimum stay of 3 nights (longer in peak season)

Best time to go

The high season in Arraial starts in December and continues until the end of carnival (usually between the end of February and mid-March). There are also brief Brazilian holiday times in July and October. For the rest of the year the small town is a peaceful place; not everywhere is open, but there are always places to eat, listen to music, dance a little or do whatever takes your fancy.

Bahia is virtually always warm (mid-20s to mid-30s C) and, being tropical, there are occasional rains, usually at night. It’s difficult to predict when a downpour will arrive, but it's often a little wetter in June and July.

Our top tips

Soap is provided but you may wish to bring your own toiletries. Also, come with plenty of sun cream (factor 30 or higher), a sunhat, snorkelling/diving equipment if that’s your fancy, and a stock of books to read. The beaches are not wonderful for surfing, but some people do all the same. Don’t pack too many clothes - you’ll spend most of your time in beachwear and flip-flops.

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Villa
  • 5
  • Self-catering (maid to prepare meals on request)
  • Over 11s preferred
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

You rent the whole house: an airy, generous interior that spreads itself over 3 floors and several outdoor decks (plus an extra leisure area on the mezzanine). Perched high in the forest, this light-drenched villa glows with warmth and style: the decoration is contemporary rustic, mixing splashes of colour in textiles and tiles with gleaming chrome touches and original pieces of furniture commissioned from local craftsmen.

On the ground floor is the lofty, white-walled sitting/dining area with a kitchen, off which lies a bedroom with a super-kingsize bed. Glass doors, curtained for privacy, glide serenely open to a huge decked veranda on one side and the living area on the other. A chunky open-tread stair leads to a second double bedroom (again all white, again with a hand-crafted four-poster) and a vast deck on stilts brushed by the leaves of the rainforest; views sweep down across the dense green of the Atlantic Forest.

There are 3 more bedrooms (2 with kingsize beds and one with twin beds), which form part of an extension added in 2010. We have not yet seen these rooms, but we hear they reflect the superb design and quirky detailing found elsewhere in the house.

All 5 bedrooms have ensuite shower rooms and these are an experience in themselves - exotically and lavishly tiled, with all-white fittings and high-pressure showers.

Outside, the decks have cushioned L-shaped seating, funky loungers and luxurious hammocks in vibrant colours; candles in lanterns add magic at night. One deck comes complete with an infinity pool and a pool house.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Barbeque
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Mosquito net
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Swimming pool
  • Terrace
  • Tv
  • Washing machine

Eating

This is a self-catering villa, but if you want to free yourself from domestic chores the rental price includes a spoiling 6 hours of maid service a day. She can prepare breakfast if you like - tropical fruits, cereals, a hot dish; you just pay for the ingredients. The maid will also do as much food shopping from the local market or supermarket as you wish; just bear in mind that she speaks no English!

That said, if you fancy donning your chef's hat, the chunky-wood galley kitchen, with a breakfast bar fronted by chrome stools, looks good and contains all you need to cook simple meals; another kitchen area sits outside in the pool house. There's a daily market in the village where you can buy fresh produce, and the supermarket will deliver your order; you can also walk down to the beach and buy fish fresh from the ocean. If you're too relaxed to cook your catch, request for the maid to do it for you, in the kitchen or on the barbecue (small charge).

A 10-minute walk from the house are a number of restaurants - in the village and on the beach. You're spoilt for choice - just consult the house info guide: there's Bahian, Italian, Japanese (great sushi), Portuguese and, of course, heaps of seafood. Less adventurous eaters can phone for a pizza or pasta dish to be delivered to the house.

Features include:

  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • In house cook
  • Meal delivery service
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity: Arrail Beach

Activities

  • Explore the quaint and colourful former fishing village Arraial d'Ajuda, which now throbs to the Bahia beat. The home of lambada, it was popularised by hippies in the 70s and bounces with boutiques, bars and a huge party scene that peaks in January and February. The rest of the year it's delightfully peaceful. From Casa do Dean, it's a 10-minute amble to the village

  • Chill with a caipirinha - at a beach bar, in the village, or back home in the hammock

  • Visit the beaches (10 minutes downhill from the house), with their soft sands, crystal waters, red cliffs and swaying palms. This coastline - discovered in 1500 by Portuguese explorer Cabral - has some of the best swathes of sand in Bahia. Dive the calm waters of Parracho, slip into the low tide pools of Apago Fogo, go topless at Pitinga or bare all at Taipe

  • Or mix with the beautiful people at Trancoso, a 30-minute drive south, where the shopping and gallery scene is surprisingly chic and the party life runs at full throttle in high season. One beach further on is the remote and charming Caraiva

  • Visit Paradise Water Park in Arraial - it has huge pools with wave machines, 'water toboggans' and a slow river for gentle tube rides

  • Play golf at Terravista, one of the finest courses in Brazil

  • Catch the carnival in Porto Seguro in February/March - it's one of the best-known in Brazil

  • Hire a beach buggy and drive the dirt tracks to the villages inland. Alternatively, rent an air-conditioned car with a knowledgeable guide and explore further afield

  • Discover the history of the towns the Portuguese first colonised: Porto Seguro, Coroa Vermelha and Santa Cruz Cabralia. You can also visit the reservations of the indigenous tribes

  • Trek in the Mata Atlantica with a wildlife guide: parts of the rainforest still have the highest level of biodiversity on Earth - including 2000 species of butterfly

  • Take a schooner from Porto Seguro to the coral reefs at Recife de Fora

  • Wind- or kite-surf, or ride a horse on the beach at low tide

  • Relax with a massage - a therapist can visit the house and provide soothing treatments in your room or out on one of the decks

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Snorkelling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

The railings of the decked terrace upstairs are not particularly high so the house is not ideal for young children. Under 11s may be accepted, but only after discussion with the owner.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

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