The Brazilian paradise nobody really knows about

[FERNANDO DE NORONHA. BRAZIL] — My sign of a perfect vacation?  Not seeing another American for the whole trip.  Fernando de Noronha is one of those places.  About 200 miles off the Pernambuco coast of Brazil, there’s a small group of volcanic islands rising 13,000ft off the ocean floor that’s Fernando de Noronha.  Its history is a little bit like Alcatraz; it was a Portuguese then Brazilian penal colony and military base for hundreds of years, then they finally found it so amazing, they turned it into a huge nature preserve. About 70% of the island is protected. Everyone in Brazil

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WALKING AROUND SAO PAULO

 

YOU SHOULD EAT HERE IN FERNANDO DE NORONHA

[FERNANDO DE NORONHA, BRAZIL] — As a still developing tourist destination..and only 450 tourists allowed on the island a day… the restaurant scene on Fernando de Noronha still has some ways to go.  But there are some incredible standouts I tried. And am still thinking about. About the most dramatic is Merhulhao, right overlooking the harbor. Perfectly positioned to catch the full length of the island at sunset, you just can’t beat the view….maybe one of the best in the world. Clouds, currents, boats sailing in and out, awesome chill music, extremely nice young couple that runs it. Oh…and the food.

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OFF THE COAST OF BRAZIL, A LUXURY HOTEL THAT’S LIKE BEING IN YOUR OWN BOND FILM

(Fernando de Noronha, Brazil) — Now this place is truly special. On this magical isle is a magical place, Pousada Maravilha.  After doing some online scoping and then staying there and checking out the other top places, this is the nicest place on the island. There are other cool places, but the view and position of this small hotel is outstanding and one of the few that have direct ocean views. The former house of a Brazilian movie star, the pousada is built around the main house, restaurant and pool, sloping down the hill. With some inline rooms at the

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A BREATH OF FRESH AIR…IN A CITY OF 20 MILLION

(Sao Paulo) — Sao Paulo is big. But when you want a break from the concrete, take a taxi to the Parque Ibirapuera, Sao Paulo’s Central Park. Walk among the walkers, with great stops at lakes and mini forests and make sure you duck into the Oscar Niemeyer designed music pavilion.

AN ENTIRE RESTAURANT TUCKED UNDER A 300 YEAR OLD TREE

(Sao Paulo) — Nicely tucked into the leafy Jardins neighborhood is the famous restaurant Figueira Rubaiyat, an outdoor restaurant set under about the biggest tree I’ve ever seen — a 300 year old fig tree. There must be seats for a couple hundred people underneath its limbs, with an ingenious glass canopy built under it all. I first noticed it while taking a short walk from the Fasano, right around the corner and instantly knew I had to come back. I was there over a Monday lunch, and as I sat there a host of SP’s business elite came to

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A HOTEL LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE

(Sao Paulo) — Catching all the buzz in design circles, my excellent SP guide John took me by to see the boat/watermelon-shaped Hotel Unique.  It really is a stunning place, designed by Ruy Ohtake, the lobby bar being my favorite, with a towering, cantilevered bottle display that rises several stories. There’s a rooftop bar and restaurant where you can look out over Sao Paulo’s 20 million residents. Stop by for drink. I didn’t stay here, but Trip Advisor reviews are near perfect at 4 ½ stars. Here’s a great article in Conde Nast Traveler. Here’s a great video on Design Hotels

Like the perfect little black dress, but a hotel

(Sao Paulo) — There’s nothing over-the-top at the Fasano. Just classic, full-on attention to every simple detail — like a classic little black dress. It’s all the intense focus on details that rank it on nearly everyone’s Best Of hotels, not just in Brasil, but all of South America. It’s not opulent, it’s just right. The sleek rooms are roomy and fitted-out like the inside of a BMW. Taught. Necessary. Functional. Good to the touch.  At first, not fancy, but once you’re in there a bit, you realize every thing you see or touch has been well thought-out — from

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EVERY DAY’S A NEW ADVENTURE IN THIS BRAZILIAN PARADISE

[FERNANDO DE NORONHA] — Fernando de Noronha is a true adult Adventureland. The whole island is built around exploring, swimming diving, surfing, snorkeling and beaching. Not to mention chasing wildlife around.  Every day is a new adventure. The beaches are the best, but definitely you should take a boat tour around the island. Everything looks different from the water.  You leave in the morning or afternoon, and they take you on a great tour of all the major beaches. You see things you can’t see from land. And because it’s Brazil, there’s nice music, friendly people, snorkeling stops long the way and

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MILES AND MILES OF PRISTINE BEACHES IN BAHIA

(Trancoso, Brazil) — Bahia is where it’s at. Miles and miles of the most amazing beaches you’ve ever seen. Not clogged with people, just pristine sand, amazingly green water and lots and lots of perfect strolling. Trancoso is in the center of it all. You should go here. I’m not the only one. Check out these great articles from Conde Nast Traveler (which ranked it in the 15 Best Places to See Now, Vogue and Travel & Leisure for details.    

A BOHEMIAN JETSET VILLAGE IN BAHIA

(Trancoso, Brazil) — I’d read about Trancoso for some time, it just kept popping up in the right places. But when I was in a small Uruguayan hotel and met a photographer from Wallpaper and he said it was one of the coolest places he’d been, I knew I had to go. So I did. The peak season around Xmas is nuts all over Brazil, so if you’re thinking of going, book early. When I was there in early March, it was quite empty, but still incredible. A once-isolated fishing village in Bahia, it was “rediscovered” by hippies in the

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YOU SHOULD EAT HERE IN TRANCOSO

(Trancoso, Brazil) — What makes Trancoso special is not just the beauty of the beaches, the nice hotels and people, but also the great food. The whole town is built around the Quadrado, a long square in the center of town with a National Geographic-perfect colonial church at the end. The Quadrado is the center of the village’s activities and nice restaurants, galleries and shops line its periphery.  Each night, the town promenades around the oval road, so sitting at the tables is just fantastic people watching. My favorite restaurants are El Gordo, Restaurante Vitoria and Restaurant da Silvana. El

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400 Thread Count, steps from the beach

(Trancoso, Brazil) — This really is a great hotel, but also one of the most expensive. You can get a bungalow by the beach (but not really on the beach) or they have nice rooms set farther back in the property. (check out the aerial view below).  For about half the money, I’d recommend the regular rooms, each part of a four suite out buildings. Rooms are spotless, well designed and comfortable. All are open shuttered, so a mosquito net is a must, lest you get eaten alive. I had an unusual swarm of junebugs hit a couple of nights,

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A GROOVY HOTEL TERRACE OVERLOOKING BUZIOS BAY

(Buzios, Brazil) — Casas Brancas is the perfect boutique hotel on one of the most perfect bays in Brazil. Within walking distance from downtown, it is perfectly situated on a bluff, facing directly into the setting suns of Buzios.    

AN UPSCALE FISHING VILLAGE

(Buzios, Brazil) — Frommer’s guide. Buzios Online website. A light Wikipedia page. Travel & Leisure’s Buzios Guide.   View Larger Map

A perfectly preserved colonial town

(Paraty, Brazil) — Paraty tourism website    

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