Rio de Janeiro is a must-see city on any first-time trip to Brazil, but the wealth of high-end hotel options in the Marvellous City can be daunting. Bespoke Brazil specialist, Ellie, spent a week in Rio at the Grand Hyatt hotel and here’s what she had to say about it:
The Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro is located in Barra de Tijuca (often shortened to Barra, pronounced ‘Baa-ha’), a neighbourhood approximately 30 minutes outside of the city centre. Its stunning beach stretches for an impressive 18km and is regularly voted the most beautiful beach in Rio. Surfers are drawn to the location for this reason and watching them catch waves in the early morning or evenings is just one of the highlights of staying in this more laid-back area. Barra is also known for its contemporary style, modern malls and fabulous seafood restaurants.
One of the main benefits of being outside the city centre is unquestionably the peace and quiet. Rio is a very large city which can get very busy in peak seasons, meaning traffic builds up daily and the beaches fill up quickly. In Barra de Tijuca, the beaches are never too crammed, and the roads are usually much clearer. Nevertheless, the main areas of the city, such as the iconic Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, are still easy to access by car, taxi or bus.
The Grand Hyatt is located right on the seafront, with its own section of private beach for hotel guests (although the surrounding areas are never too busy either). There are sun loungers laid out everyday and hotel staff there to give out complimentary towels. You can reserve a specific space on the beach if required. While the sea can be rough, and guests are advised to swim at their own risk, the water is lovely and clear, and during the Brazilian summer months – usually very warm too!
The hotel pool is a highlight of any luxury stay and this is the perfect spot to lounge in the Rio sun all day. While not usually too overcrowded, even in peak season from December to March, the hotel gets busier on weekends as Brazilians from further afield also like to come and spend their weekend at the beach. That being said – the area is spacious enough that you will always find a sun lounger by the pool that is big enough to fit plenty.
On the top floor of the hotel there is an executive lounge with a complimentary all you can eat buffet breakfast, snacks throughout the day and drinks and aperitifs in the evening with champagne, caipirinhas, beers and more. Access to the lounge is included in some of the higher-category rooms and can be added on to any other stay for an additional fee. Either side of the inside seating area are two long balconies with outdoor tables and chairs, with fantastic views over either the beach or the Maripendi Lagoon. It is the perfect place to enjoy your breakfast in the morning and cocktails in the evenings, without even having to leave the hotel. I’d certainly recommend making the most of it!
As well as the lounge, there are three restaurants available on-site. The first is a pool-side restaurant called Canto that delivers straight to your lounger and has outdoor as well as indoor seating. Indoor seating is mostly used on rainy days or in the evenings. The food is simple (sandwiches, quesadillas, pastries, etc.) but delicious and done well. The second, Tano, is an exclusive dining area for breakfast for those without upstairs access. It is Italian themed and is a fantastic alternative to the lounge. The final of the three restaurants is an acclaimed sushi restaurant called Shiso. It was named the best Japanese restaurant in Rio by the Veja Rio Comer & Beber guide. Shiso is led by Chef Miriam Moriyama, who was inspired by the fusion of traditional oriental elements with contemporary Brazilian interpretations. Shiso specializes in a sushi, sashimi and yakitori menu.
There are also many restaurants nearby along the beach and in the surrounding area. My favourite was Pesqueiro, a seafood restaurant on the beach a mere 2-minute walk away. They primarily sell enormous loaded sharing platters for the whole table, be it fish, seafood or steak. They also do lovely cocktails and are open throughout the day for a refreshing drink while relaxing on the beach.
The hotel also has well-equipped gym and spa facilities. The gym is open 24/7 and is fully equipped with exercise machines and free weights. Due to the spacious design, it was never too busy, even at peak times in the mornings. The spa, called Atiaia, offers a variation of different massages, including the Atiaia Special which is a dynamic body massage that combines kneading, percussion, effleurage, acupressure and draining techniques together with the exclusive Atiaia oil blend, offering a full-body reinvigoration. While the gym is available to use at no extra cost for all guests, a massage at the spa will cost extra, the prices of which will be given to you in your room.
Lastly, the lagoon behind the hotel offers a unique boat taxi service which stops at the hotel and takes you to any point around the perimeter of the lagoon that you desire. There are big shopping malls and restaurants on other side of the lagoon, so this is a fun alternative to a traditional taxi. There is also lots of wildlife around the hotel too. Big frigate birds fly above the hotel during the day and you can hear the sounds of other tropical birds chirping while having breakfast on the lagoon-side of the hotel.
Perhaps for short stays in Rio, I would recommend staying further towards the centre of town, in bustling neighbourhood such as Copacabana or Ipanema, however, if you have more time in the city, and want to relax by the pool and the beach, then I would certainly recommend this hotel. You can avoid the rush of the city centre, yet still access it easily when desired (just be careful to avoid rush hour!). With great facilities, fantastic food and fabulous beach access – the Grand Hyatt is a wonderful base for your luxury trip to Rio.