“Intimate rustic-chic hotel in the heart of Trancoso, one of Brazil's hippest villages, with fabulous unspoilt beaches nearby”
Created by the charismatic owners Andre Zanonato and Corrado Tini (from the world of Italian fashion and design), it gels with immaculate taste, attention to detail and a personal touch. Its heart is the stylish bar-restaurant: imagine white cushions, rattan armchairs on pale polished concrete floors, a light breeze wafting through white drapes, and the blue pool before you. There's a certain understated sophistication to Etnia (or Etnia Pousada & Boutique as they have now dubbed it). No wonder it's a favourite for fashion shoots, design journals and people who want something a bit different.
- The cool open-air bar-restaurant serves a delicious breakfast
- It's affordable and stylish; interesting design features abound
- The owners are warm, gregarious and highly knowledgeable
- Trancoso's charming "Quadrado" - a grassy rectangle lined with boutiques and friendly laid-back restaurants - is just round the corner
- Massages and watsu water therapy are available at the small on-site treatment centre
- The beach is a 10-20-minute walk away
- The shaded forest setting means there are some mosquitoes, but nets are provided in the rooms
- It requires a bit of effort to get to Trancoso - a domestic flight to Porto Seguro and then a taxi-ride or a bus and ferry (it's best combined with a stay in Rio or Salvador)
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- Breakfast (+ light meals on request)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
Follow the winding woodland path past enticing hammocks strung up between trees and you find a clutch of themed rooms carefully built to preserve the natural setting. Each presents a different world style depicted by their own fabrics, furnishings and artwork. Tribal has African-inspired art, animal prints and dark wood accents. By contrast Cottage feels more light and airy, with its minimalist décor in pale shades of cream and white and its limewashed woodwork. Goa is hippy dippy India, while Kyoto has a pared-down Japanese style. If you want something with more of a local feel, go for Trancoso with its colourful naïve murals of the village.
For a bit more space and a little more money, check into one of the Master Suites, which have sitting areas with room for an extra bed. Mediterranean has a nautical theme with a model wooden boat, 2 double beds and blue and white cushions. Gypsy is more whimsical, with funky floral fabrics, brightly painted feature walls and a kitsch madonna statue.
Sinc our visit, Etnia has added 4 Villas: Ibó, Alafiá Ojulé and Ebatí. These names came from Ioruba language, meaning a sacred place, home and temple to relax in. Each one contains a large kitchen, a living room, a dining room, a laundry room, kingsize and queensize beds and a balcony privileged view to a tropical garden. Perfect for families, couples, or group of friends wanting hotel service with an added sense of autonomy.
Most rooms have four-poster beds romantically draped with mosquito nets (Kyoto has a futon bed); all have crisp white bedlinen from Italy, feather pillows from Sweden and smooth polished concrete floors (you're encouraged to go barefoot in the rooms). We found some of the window and door fittings to be a bit flimsy, but this is a minor quibble. Bathrooms come with large walk-in showers and small indoor gardens. You also get a TV (cable in the Master Suites), a minibar, a phone, air conditioning and a shaded wooden veranda with 2 chairs.
- Air conditioning
- Internet access
- Mosquito net
- Safe box
Meals and drinks are served in the funky open-sided bar-restaurant by the pool. Stylish contemporary furnishings, white tablecloths, chilled music and friendly helpful staff make it feel chic yet relaxed. Each table’s place settings are unique, thanks to the owners’ passion for crockery and the seemingly endless collection of table-ware gathered from their travels (Andre trained in ceramics and design in Italy). Everyday it’s changed for something different.
Breakfast itself is a tour de force, with endless little dishes constantly being laid out on the bar to tempt you. There’s sufficient food to last you all day. You can expect the usual juices, fruit salad, yoghurt, granola, ham, cheese and eggs, but there's lots more too. We loved the fried bananas, the tapioca pancakes filled with ricotta, the French toast with cinnamon, the warm pan de quejo, the homemade madeira and chocolate cakes, and the cookies hot from the oven. It was one of the best breakfasts we've had in Brazil.
During the day, light snacks and drinks can be ordered from the poolside but in the evening guests usually dine out. There are several good restaurants in the village. We recommend Cacau, which offers Bahian cooking with an oriental twist (try the passion seafood salad with garlic bread, or the fish with saffron, white wine, mash and kale), and Capim Santo, which has delicious grilled fish dishes and a candlelit garden. Both are on the Quadrado, a 5-10-minute walk from the hotel.
- Lunch by arrangement
- Restaurants nearby
- Soak up Trancoso's atmosphere. Its historic centre is the Quadrado - a large grassy rectangle dominated at one end by a simple white colonial church overlooking the cliffs to the ocean. Instead of traffic, you'll find horses grazing in the shade of trees and locals playing football and practising capoeira, with candles and torches providing street lighting in the evening. Lining the Quadrado are colourful one-storey dwellings; once fishermen's houses, they've been turned into interesting shops, galleries and intimate restaurants. Although Brazil's super fashionable and famous now own holiday villas here, smiling locals still form the backbone of the community, guarding its heritage and laid-back vibe
- Go shopping. It’s remarkable that in this simple setting you'll find some of the very best clothes in all of Brazil. Better still, as the shops don’t open until 4pm, day trippers are discouraged. Surrounding the grassy square, you'll find a host of chi-chi boutiques selling hot Brazilian labels rather than global designer names. Don't miss Rosa Cha (for colourful bikinis and wraps), Richard's (for men's casual wear), Osklen (for men's T-shirts) and of course Etnia's own store, which sells Osklen, Jo de Mer, jewellery by Syomara Crespi and a selection of natural cosmetics
- Head to the beach. Trancoso has some of the best beaches in Brazil, some within walking distance (10-20 minutes away), some worth a drive to (up to 2 hours away). Itaporoca, Curuipe and Espelho (20km away) are all highly recommended
- There is a gym just in front the hotel which offers good discounts for Etnia guests
- Relax with a variety of massages (think Tuina, Ayurvedic, hot stone, reiki) available on offer in your room, then take a dip in the pool or have a snooze in one of the hammocks strung up in the woodland
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Horse riding
- Museums / galleries
- Plantlife / flora
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being