Insolito

Buzios, Rio de Janeiro Environs, Brazil Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
A slick boutique hotel that's close to buzzy Búzios and its 26 beaches, yet blissfully serene
If the Búzios crowd is Brazil's most hip, the Insolito Hotel is their perfect foil. Beautiful and chic in equal measures, it's as inviting as the town itself, with Mediterranean gardens, 2 swimming pools and sweeping vistas over the peninsula and emerald sea. Once a private villa, it's staggered down a cliff edge, with rooms, suites and shared areas spread over different levels. A roof-level restaurant perches on top, a turquoise pool wraps around the bottom. Snow-white parasols offer respite from the sun and four-poster daybeds line the decking, each romantically draped in gauze.

Inside, the décor is clean-cut and sleek - imagine white walls, parquet flooring and angular white leather chairs. Yet it's by no means stark: navy or lime print cushions and crimson lampshades echo the colourful Brazilian beach vibe, adding a cool edge to what could otherwise feel a tad formulaic. The service is slick but friendly, and to top it all off, Búzios' 20-something beaches and excellent restaurants are within easy reach.

Highs

  • The attractive rooms with top-notch furnishings and private balconies; suites have outdoor Jacuzzis, too
  • A great deal of space and privacy for a small hotel
  • The wonderfully romantic atmosphere in the restaurant at night - and its delicious fusion food
  • Indian massages and tropical fruit treatments in the spa
  • Beautifully tended gardens and exotic fresh flowers collected from Rio's giant flower market overnight
  • Sunset views from almost every part of the hotel

Lows

  • It's surrounded by other holiday homes, and faces west over the horseshoe of busy Ferradura bay, which is packed in high season
  • It's pricey, and there's a 2- to 5-night minimum stay during special events and holidays
  • Although you could walk into town, it's a 1km stroll (not ideal in heels!) so you'll probably rely on the hotel shuttle/taxis at night
  • The restaurant interior is erring on canteen and lacks the superior design of the rest of the hotel - sit outside if you can

Best time to go

We'd recommend low season (March-December) to avoid the crowds and the heat, though not in September when it's extremely windy. 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) and the hectic pace of the surrounding beach and party life will either add to or detract from your experience. It can be quite cool from July to August (usually in the 70sF).

Our top tips

There's a 2 to 3-night minimum stay during special events and holidays and this would fit in perfectly as part of a longer trip to Brazil, with a few days spent in Rio too.

We'd recommend taking a boat trip along the Buziana coast, stopping off en route to swim. Boats leave from Praia da Armação and Ossos and take about 3 hours, finally delivering guests at Buziana restaurant for a seafood lunch.

Great for...

Beach
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 23
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • Children of all ages are welcome
  • 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
Room: Oca

Rooms

There are 5 categories of rooms: Superior, Luxo, Junior Suite (which we're yet to see), Master Suite and Insolito Suite. Kingsize beds are made up with top-quality white sheets and duvets, and the overall theme is calm: a wash of white, with splashes of bright colour or a pleasing pattern that tap into the Brazilian beach vibe... a striped rug here, a floral cushion there.

In keeping with the luxury brief, everything is top-of-the-range. Mattresses are by Sealy; robes by Trussardie; towels are Karsten Zero Twist Towels. You also get a plasma TV, DVD player and free WiFi. The interior designer's eye for detail, down to the delectable toiletries on the stunning glass-tiled sink panels (a different colour in every room) adds to the feeling of privilege. Bathrooms are equally stylish, with rainhead showers.

We liked the Luxo rooms, which have a private slice of garden, but our rooms of choice would be the Insolito Suites (if your budget will stretch to it). These have an outdoor Jacuzzi on the wraparound deck so you get a panoramic sea view as you soak. Inside you'll find a spacious living area, with a cocoon-shaped white leather sofa, a pre-loaded iPod and a smattering of cool art.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Dvd player
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

The restaurant, A Galeria, is on the rooftop of the hotel. Outdoor tables are set side by side along the decking, with a white parasol to keep the sun off by day. Frangipani adorns each setting and the tables are candlelit at night. If the weather is bad (unlikely) you can also eat inside where the room is dominated by a vast mural on one wall. However, during the day, the atmosphere in here is lacking.

The food is delicious fusion - European with a Brazilian twist. Think catch of the day with sweet banana, salmon and caviar with fennel carpaccio and Sicilian lemon or perhaps foie gras to start; lobster and quinoa risotto, rump of young bull with truffles and mashed olives, or catch of the day with cashew nuts for mains; a trio of chocolate mousses or cupuaçu and vanilla crème brûlée for dessert.

Breakfast is a buffet of meats, cheeses, homemade bread, croissants and cakes, followed by eggs or pancakes cooked to order - the chefs are incredibly friendly. Tea, coffee and 4 types of fresh juice are available to wash it down.

Lunches and snacks are available all day from the bar menu - shrimp tempura, crayfish with gasipaes (palm hearts), bagels or burgers. There's also a range of delicious ice creams (try banana with yoghurt and caramel; coconut; or pineapple sorbet).

Another option, is Insolito's own Eden Beach Lounge, a laid-back restaurant below the hotel. Open from 11am to late, it serves a snacky menu accompanied by live DJ music.

For a bit of variety, there's a wealth of excellent eateries in town. Buziana offers good seafood and salads for very reasonable prices. It's very touristy though, so expect it to be packed. Satyricon is a good Italian; Chez Brigitte is low-key but sophisticated, serving delicious seafood in its little courtyard garden. Bar do Ze is another popular choice, overlooking the Bardot beachfront; try the imaginative risottos (shrimp with brie or asparagus and truffle oil).

If you find the beating heart of Búzios' tourist town a little overcrowded and tacky (as we did), head to the lesser known 'Centro Gastronimico' in Porta da Barra, a 15-minute taxi drive away. One street back from the sea you'll find a cluster of good bars and restaurants, serving all types of cuisine.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Amazingly, there are 26 beaches to explore around the peninsula - last time we visited there were 23, but hey, that's inflation! Hire yourself a beach buggy and head to the more remote coves (try Forno or Azedinha) to find your own slice of paradise; the hotel can prepare picnic lunches
  • For swimming and sunbathing, go to the beautifully calm west coast beaches; if you're a watersports enthusiast, the eastern beaches offer waterskiing, wakeboarding and canoeing. Azeda has clear turquoise shallow waters for ideal windsurfing conditions while Geriba is the place to learn to surf. It's also the main spot to promenade or people watch, depending on your level of confidence!
  • Hidden around a corner at the eastern end of Geriba are beautiful little twin bays called Praia Lagoa Azul and Praia dos Amores. Lagoa Azul is great for a sunset beer and a basic but tasty dish of seafood and rice (10 minutes' drive from Insolito)
  • Go diving: the beautifully clear water makes for excellent visibility and there are several dive shops offering tuition or equipment hire. Ilha da Ancora is the main hotspot; expect to see turtles, barracuda and jewel-bright corals
  • If snorkelling is more your thing, head for the beaches of João Fernandes and João Fernandinho, Lagoinha, Forno, Azeda and Azedinha, where you can flipper around the headlands
  • Explore Búzios town. By day, max out your Amex in the trendy boutiques on Rua das Pedras, stopping for a chocolate crêpe at the open-air Chez Michou en route. Then, as the sun goes down, have a caipirinha at Ponto or Anexo's, head for dinner at Bar do Ze then hit the clubs. Zapata is packed at the weekends, while Privilege is an all-night-long venue
  • Hire a mountain bike or go walking in the surrounding countryside, or play golf at the town's 18-hole course
  • Back at the hotel, swim in one of the deep infinity pools (1 freshwater, 1 saltwater), have a private yoga class, or stretch out on a lounger and soak up the fabulous views
  • The hotel spa is said to be excellent; choose from a range of heavenly treatments, carried out on a private section of the terrace, with the sounds of the sea in the background. We'd be tempted by the tropical fruit masque and facial, lymphatic drainage or an indulgent Ayurvedic massage

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Nightlife
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome but there are no special amenities or extra beds. Over 14s are charged as adults.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
6/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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Rates for Insolito