UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa

Trancoso, Bahia, Brazil Book from

Reviewed by Meg Baber
Eleven cool casas concealed in a glorious tropical garden, overlooking trendy Trancoso's village green, and 10 minutes from the beach
When Dutchman Wilbert Das first came to Trancoso in 2004, he immediately knew he wanted to settle in Bahia's most colourful and bohemian paradise. His initial, rather humble plan, was to transform one of the 15th-century fishermen’s cottages overlooking the village square into a private retreat. But, as you'd expect from the creative director of Diesel, this quickly became more ambitious. Das realised he could help preserve historic Trancoso by expanding his project to include 3 more Quadrado-facing houses and several other buildings scattered nearby, most recently a treehouse and a garden hideaway with a rooftop pool. And his insistence on recycled materials, and tenacity in the sourcing of Brazilian vintage furniture, was fundamental to keeping the project in harmony with the local environment.

The end result? A discreet and quintessentially Trancosan hotel: just 11 casas with the opportunity to self-cater or be given the 5-star treatment. Artists seeking a working retreat, celebs seeking seclusion, a family seeking a cultural seaside getaway or lovers seeking a haven will all be fans. UXUA - pronounced ooosh-uw-a - is fab.

Highs

  • Enchanting location, right on the Quadrado village green, steps from Trancoso's restaurants and boutiques
  • The happy spirit of the place
  • Ethical tourism: this is a genuine eco resort thanks to its organic construction and celebration of all things recycled, vintage and local
  • The stunning pool is clad in aquamarine aventurine gemstones, which are believed to have healing powers
  • The UXUA beach bar, in a dream spot on one of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches

Lows

  • It's expensive - you could probably hire a private beachhouse for a similar price, but UXUA is super hip, and its location priceless
  • The service was impeccable but a bit too keen - understandable given they had just opened the previous week. We’re sure staff have relaxed into Trancoso’s sleepy pace
  • The beach bar is a 10-minute walk down the hill - a struggle indeed!
  • It requires effort to get to Trancoso: a domestic flight to Porto Seguro, then a drive or bus and ferry (it's best combined with a stay in Rio or Salvador)

Best time to go

Any time of year - December through to mid-March is the busiest season in Trancoso. Temperatures vary slightly from month to month but it's warm all year round with average highs ranging from 80-90F; evenings are cooler from June to September. It can rain at anytime, but April-July are usually the wettest months.

Our top tips

Stay for 3 or 4 nights at least (or a week if possible) - it can be a bit of a trek getting to Trancoso and it's good to have plenty of time to relax after your journey. Hire a car for a couple of days so you can explore the coast (there's no need for 4WD unless its rainy season), and don't forget your iPod for the in-room dock.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 11
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily) + self-catering
  • 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
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

The apartments and 1- to 3-bedroom casas are scattered around the sprawling gardens, affording ample privacy and shade. All have custom-made and locally sourced furniture and antiques, Bahian artwork and décor.

Accommodation varies in price according to size, attributes and season, but all have indoor/outdoor living rooms and bathrooms, kingsize beds, mosquito nets, top-notch linens, iPod docks and free WiFi. There are TVs but nature and local life are ample entertainment. All except Casa da Arvore have kitchens or kitchenettes, giving guests the choice of self-catering, being catered for or a combination of each. Bathrooms (some open-air) have power showers and luxurious toiletries from Natura (a Brazilian eco brand). The carpentry, fittings and finishing are rustic yet flawless throughout.

Each casa is fantastic, so preference for one over the other will be subjective. However, the original houses facing onto the Quadrado would be our favourite. Of these, Gulab Mahal - the 2-bedroom home of the previous owners - is a real treat, thanks to its original features, airiness and ‘meditation’ mezzanine. Couples who are into all things pink and spacious will love Seu Pedrinho (all 135sqm of it). Zé e Zilda is fab for families or 3 couples happy to share, but the bedrooms in this are a little smaller than most, a shortcoming more than compensated for by the seating area right on the Quadrado. Added more recently, Seu Irenio is a 1-bedroom casa, painted bright blue on the outside, with a calming white interior and a secluded garden beyond the outside bathroom.

Nozinho, situated at the opposite end of the garden, is another favourite. Its slick white and cream paintwork makes this the brightest, sunniest casa, plus it has its own lawn with a private gate leading to the beach. Seu João, set a sunny corner, is also lovely with an indoor/outdoor seating and eating area, a private plunge pool, an outdoor shower and a small pergola. We’re yet to see Terraço do Céu, hidden among the foliage, but its rooftop terrace with a plunge pool and views of the rainforest and ocean looks spectacular.

Eugênia is the most spacious, with a vast living room leading onto an indoor/outdoor kitchen and terrace; perfect for dinner parties. The private garden with a spa tub crafted from a fallen tree trunk and the antique wrought-iron tub in the master suite upstairs are fabulous extras. Casa da Arvore is every 9 year old's fantasy tree house, a romantic and fun place to stay if you don’t want to self-cater and like the idea of swing seats under your house and a garden at the rear with a hot tub. But it may not suit arachnophobes or people who like lots of natural light.

Finally we have Estudio and Quintal da Glória, situated in the middle of the property. What these lack in terms of seclusion, they make up for with smooth interior design and their proximity to the main pool.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

UXUA offers the best of both worlds when it comes to eating: cook or be cooked for. Each casa (except Casa da Arvore) has a kitchen or kitchenette and a dining area, and self-catering for a few meals at least is a popular option, especially for families. There's a decent range of crockery and gadgets in each casa, and a couple of grocery stores on the Quadrado.

Restaurant meals are served throughout the day, either in your own accommodation or in the poolside dining area (all at extra cost). Breakfast was a gargantuan feast. Just when we thought the waiter had brought the last dish out, he'd reappear with yet another: fresh fruits, juices, cereals, cold meats, cheeses, eggs, fried bananas and cakes...

With regards to lunch and dinner, guests are spoilt for choice. The in-house Bahian menu includes honey-glazed jumbo prawns, mozzarella and tomato salad encased in pastry, and grilled tuna and courgette medallions sprinkled with berries. Alternatively, reception can arrange for a chef to cook a private meal in your kitchen. Friends staying elsewhere in Trancoso can be invited to UXUA for lunch or dinner parties at your casa if reception is forewarned of their visit.

Delicious cocktails can be ordered all day and evening from the bar, and served by the pool or in your casa. But we'd recommend heading down to the beach if you fancy a drink: UXUA's fabulous beach bar, 10 minutes' walk away, has a lively atmosphere, with a DJ mixing from a fishing boat.

You'll want to eat out at least once during your visit: Trancoso offers one of Brazil's top selections of international restaurants. A dozen of the best places are listed in your casa, including traditional Bahian, Italian, French and Asian cuisine. All are a 2- to 5-minute stroll across or around the magical Quadrado.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Chef on request
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Private chef on request
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Dining area
Activity: Spa and gym

Activities

  • Saunter down the hill to bliss out at UXUA's beach bar (great tunes, white sands, turquoise seas), or to play beach volleyball. The atmosphere here is cool, with a wooden gym and a capoeira platform built into the design, "to make sure the beach will always attract local people and not just travellers"
  • Mountain-biking and kayaking adventures, arranged by UXUA, are not for the unfit - we did the 4-hour excursion which started with a 15km bike ride and ended with a 3km paddle down the river. Excellent but exhausting! They can arrange trekking and horse riding, too
  • Soak up Trancoso's atmosphere: the Quadrado is a large grassy rectangle dominated at one end by a simple white colonial church overlooking the cliffs to the ocean. Instead of traffic, you find horses grazing in the shade of trees, locals playing football and practising capoeira, and candles and torches providing street lighting in the evening. Lining the Quadrado are colourful 1-storey dwellings; once fishermen's houses, they've recently 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 - remarkably, you'll find some of Brazil's very best clothes in this simple setting. Better still, as the shops don’t open until 4pm, day-trippers are discouraged. Surrounding the grassy square are 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) and Osklen (for eco-chic beachwear)
  • 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; snorkelling is excellent off most, with the reefs close to shore
  • From August to December, the northeast winds are perfect for kite and windsurfing, you can hire equipment nearby
  • Choose which beach you'd like to fish, or take an organised tour on a fishing boat; bring your catch home for dinner
  • These waters are ideal for diving, with reefs teeming with coral, crustaceans and fish
  • Trancoso has 4 tennis courts; you can rent rackets
  • Terravista Golf Course (12km from town) is considered to be the most challenging in South America
  • Call reception and ask for a manicurist or masseuse to pamper you at your casa
  • Relax in the Almescar Spa Bahia’s first and only Vichy treatment suite. It features five water jets flowing from carved eucalyptus trunks, designed by Das, in a tropical wet room overlooking the treetops. Additionally there is a fitness centre for yoga, personal training and one-on-one sessions where guests may learn the art of capoeira , a Brazilian sport which mixes martial arts with dance. Treatments include Hot Stone Massage, Reflexology and Facials using fresh ingredients including 100% virgin coconut oil, shea butter, Brazil nuts, pitanga and dark cocoa grown in the gardens

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome - but to be honest, the hotel is not particularly geared towards them.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement.

Baby listening:

Baby listening/monitors available on request.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request, as is an electronic nanny.

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

Children's meals:

A kids menu is available on request.

Families Should Know:

UXUA was not designed with children in mind and at check-in, parents must complete a form which states they are fully responsible for each of their children.

Kid Friendly:

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