Casas Brancas

Buzios, Rio de Janeiro Environs, Brazil Book from

Reviewed by Nikki Tinto
Stylish and relaxing boutique hotel and spa in the fashionable coastal town of Búzios, near Rio de Janeiro
A 2 and a half hour drive northeast from Rio gets you to Búzios - a peninsula offering some fine coves and a choice of 26 different beaches. Frequented by rich Carioca weekenders and other better-off South Americans seeking an alternative to Rio, Búzios was once a small fishing village put on the map in the 60s by Brigitte Bardot. Today it's more lively, but it still retains some original charm with its cobbled main street and bobbing fishing boats.

We found Casas Brancas, a 5-minute walk from the centre of town, to be the most stylish, welcoming and relaxing place to stay. Set on a hillside overlooking the bay, it’s one of the oldest hotels in Búzios. Owner Amalia de La Maria has given her residence a chic Mediterranean feel. With its billowy white drapes, jumbled mix of 34 individually decorated rooms (many with terraces and hammocks), endless nooks and crannies, and a spa, Casas Brancas is a beautiful place to languish. The alfresco 74 Restaurant is pure romance for those wanting candlelit dinners set before the twinkling lights of the bay and night sky.

Highs

  • A 5-minute walk from the main street with its excellent seafood restaurants, lively bars and chic boutiques
  • Some of the best views of Búzios Bay
  • It has a laid-back and inviting ambiance
  • Imaginative East-meets-West décor
  • Búzios boasts every type of beach you should want and is one of the best beach destinations close to Rio

Lows

  • Not located on a beach, but almost none of the hotels in Búzios are; most are within a 5-10 minute drive - we recommend hiring a beach buggy
  • Bathrooms were simple and some of the fittings somewhat outdated, but the team assure us they have been updated since our visit
  • Watch out for hungry mosquitos
  • Búzios is a developed resort and party town - if you're seeking tranquility and empty beaches avoid high season, or head south of Rio to Parati

Best time to go

Go in low season (March-June and October-December) to avoid the crowds and the heat. It can be quite cool from July to August (usually in the 70sF). The hottest time is from December to February, when temperatures often reach the high 80sF and it can be humid with frequent short bursts of rain. This is also the busiest time of year (New Year is one big party).

Our top tips

Búzios and Rio make a great 2-centre Brazilian holiday. Spend a few days exploring the city, then come to Búzios for anything up to a week to relax and recharge.

Great for...

Beach
Great Outdoors
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 34
  • 2 restaurants and bar (open daily)
  • Over 5s preferred
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: The Suite

Rooms

Casas Brancas has grown slowly over recent decades from a 4-bedroom house to a stylish hotel with individually decorated rooms. Arranged on different levels and reached via secluded plant-filled courtyards and winding staircases, all are charming, airy and comfortable. White walls, ochre-washed arches and paintings of fishing boats give them a Mediterranean feel, while wall hangings, cushions and ornaments brought back from the owners' travels to Asia lend an exotic touch.

We recommend booking one of the Deluxe Rooms or one of the large suites, which all have an ocean view and a balcony or terrace with hammocks overlooking the bay. If you don't want to splash out, go for a smaller Superior Room with an ocean view. The Classic Rooms are similar to the Superior Rooms only situated on the lower level and without a veranda, but they still have views of the sea. The Standard Garden Rooms face the garden, but these are a tad dark. The 2-bedroom apartments are the best choice for families; alternatively, some of the Deluxe Rooms and suites can accommodate an extra person.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Extra beds
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The hotel has 2 restaurants; 74 Restaurant on the terrace, and Deck by the seafront. Start the day with breakfast on your private terrace or in 74 Restaurant. Fresh papaya, watermelon and mango and a selection of breads and pastries washed down with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice will set you up for a day's exploring or pool-lounging.

Come evening time you can chill out to the mellow sounds of Bossa Nova while admiring the breathtaking view of the bay from Deck. The bar here serves a wide range of cocktails - a caipirinha at sunset is a must. If you'd like to eat here, expect a mix of Italian cuisine and local dishes. Alternatively, 74 Restaurant offers tasty international cuisine, as well as typical Brazilian recipes. It's renowned for its seafood, and we opted for delicious salmon marinated with sweet peppers, followed by a large platter of fresh seafood and locally caught fish, simply grilled and served with risotto or a crisp salad. We finished with gooey chocolate cake and homemade sorbet. For lunch we enjoyed healthy salads - chicken with an oriental-style tamarind sauce - and fat club sandwiches.

If you prefer to eat out, it's only a 5-minute walk to some of the town's best restaurants and bars. The hotel can provide recommendations, one of which would undoubtedly be its sister restaurant Rocka, which serves Spanish food by the sea.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • There's a small swimming pool and sun terraces with loungers, hammocks and spectacular views of the bay, free Tai-Chi and yoga lessons are also available

  • The hotel's spa offers a wide range of reasonably-priced pampering treatments, from aromatherapy massages to body scrubs and wraps using lavender and cucumber

  • Spread over a small peninsula, Búzios has 26 beaches and secluded coves to explore. Those on the northern side of the peninsula (João Fernandinho and João Fernandes) are more sheltered and best for snorkelling, while those on the southern side (Geriba) have better surf. All the beaches are easily reached by hiring a beach buggy

  • At extra cost the hotel can arrange for catamaran or schooner trips to many of the tropical islands in the bay

  • The hotel can also help to organise a wide variety of activities: diving excursions and courses, sailing, cycling and riding, as well as a range of water sports

  • There's a tennis court within 2 minute's walk and a golf course nearby

  • Búzios has many excellent restaurants (though expensive by Brazilian standards), bars and boutiques, and the town is particularly lively during the holiday season

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Horse-riding
  • Nightlife
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children over the age of 5 are welcome. Some rooms are adjoining, providing accommodation for up to 4 with a shared bathroom. Alternatively, the Deluxe Rooms and suites have space for an extra bed (charged at 30% of the room rate). There's no children's pool or specific facilities, but babysitters are on call at any time of the day. They can take children on tours and activities, including the trolley bus and biking, depending on the age of the child.

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Kid Friendly: Standard

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
10/
Overall

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