There are some destinations and overall experiences that are enhanced – or even made entirely – by the hotel that you select. In major cities, we usually try to find the best value; not necessarily the cheapest property, but the place that offers the most in terms of location and amenities for the overall price.
There are certain destinations though where the hotel is half the draw if not the attraction in and of itself. This is the case with Belmond properties generally for me. Their locations are incredibly well-chosen and their properties generally do such an enchantingly good job of capturing the spirit of the old world and essence of a place that I write off the extra expense as something experiential, not just purely accommodation costs (I’ve seen one exception to this, but generally find their properties to be consistently great).
For us, Hotel das Cataratas was the draw. We essentially based our entire trip around this property, knowing only that we wanted to do something extra special for Scott’s milestone birthday and that Central or South America could be a good fit for our focus this year. The hotel consistently gets ranked amongst the top resorts in South America and our experiences at other Belmond (formerly Orient-Express) properties in Peru during our honeymoon solidified our love for this brand broadly. Knowing that we wanted to stay here, we added on Rio de Janeiro to stick with the Brazil train, and crafted an entire itinerary that included three nights at Iguassu Falls followed by a longer stint in Rio.
Hotel das Cataratas is the only hotel within Brazil’s Iguassu National Park system which means not only do guests have unparalleled views of the falls from the hotel (or from the room in some instances!), they also benefit from early access to the falls before outside visitors are allowed through the gates. I seriously cannot emphasize the value of this enough (read my top 5 experiences at Iguassu Falls for more) – the feeling of being alone in the park is truly magical.
Unlike the Sanctuary Lodge at Machu Picchu where we stayed for a night during our honeymoon, we found this place to represent insanely good value. Now, I’m not saying it’s cheap – it’s not, but when you consider the added value of having early access to the park and having an incredible complimentary daily breakfast (an amazing spread as is the case with all Belmond properties we’ve experienced) the pricing seems more and more justified. The hotel also boasts a tower that represents the highest point in the park for great views of the falls. Add to that the no-expense-spared approach to all of the linens, towels and amenities (they even give you a free pair of Havaianas!), plus arguably the best customer service I’ve ever experienced and it becomes a bit of a no brainer.
One of the things that I found notably excellent was the food and beverage scene here. Let’s be honest: they have you captive. The food doesn’t have to be excellent and the bar doesn’t have to serve 19 types of cachaça in a build your own caipirinha offering. The pricing could be exorbitant. It’s not. On the restaurant front, we had three very different experiences during our three days on property: one night at their fine dining a la carte restaurant which was superb, one night in the bar where we ordered a series of appetizers that left us more than impressed (their octopus bruschetta is an absolute must), and one night at their Brazilian BBQ buffet that leaves no man hungry. All were great, all were very different, and all were very reasonably priced for the offering.
The bar, which became a nightly ritual for us, is all kinds of swanky perfection. This is my perfect bar. Dark wood, a grand piano in the corner with a pianist playing old school tunes in the evening, and all drinks served up with a side of olives and nuts to ensure that your mid-afternoon caipirinha doesn’t get to you too much.
Our drinks translated into $8 – $10 each (R$23 – 35 depending on the cachaça chosen), less than I’d pay in any major US city and definitely less than I pay in Anguilla at far less spectacular places. Plus, each drink comes with the cutest souvenir stirrer that falls in line with their bird themed bar space (after three days I brought home a small collection to use in our own bar). With 19 cachaças on offer, you can try your caipirinha with any type that you fancy, plus mix it up with a passionfruit or kiwi variety if the regular limey cocktail has run its course (is that possible?). Ask the bartender for a tasting and they’ll happily bring out a few cachaças for a bit of edification on the lesser-known liquor.
All in all, I left this hotel impressed beyond belief. We talked with another young couple about our age that, much like us, had chosen Brazil over Argentina specifically because they wanted to experience this hotel. Another lovely couple that we met from Iran followed the same schedule as us: three days in Iguassu followed by time in Rio. On the day that we left Iguassu Falls (on the same flight even), they mentioned to us how sad they were to leave and how special this hotel had felt. ‘Is that weird?’, the wife asked me. ‘I should be excited to go to Rio, but I’m sad to leave this place.’
I agreed. And even after experiencing Rio which was another gorgeous wonder, I look back on our entire time in Brazil with extra fond memories of not just Iguassu Falls, but also of Hotel das Cataratas. To say that this is the best hotel and best service that I’ve ever experienced would not be a stretch.
A big thank you to the team at Hotel das Cataratas for the exceptional service and indelibly memorable stay. As much as I’d like to think we had an extra special experience, I would venture to guess that every guest leaves their property feeling like royalty.
Location: Rodovia Br 469, S/n, Foz do Iguaçu – PR, 85863-000, Brazil
Belmond Hotel das Cataratas is located on the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls, within the park gates for added guest benefit. Guests have early access to the park grounds, perfect for waterfall viewing sans crowds!
Great For: Outdoor Enthusiasts, Romantic Getaways, Great Bar Scene
Rooms: The rooms are beautifully appointed with all of the luxe amenities (with local flair) that travelers typically associate with Belmond properties. Travelers can choose between standard rooms and uber-luxe suites, but if you’re looking for great value, the Deluxe Falls View Rooms offer a happy medium: stunning views of the falls without having to splurge on a suite.
Eating: If you’re staying at Hotel das Cataratas, you’ll more than likely be eating on site since there are few viable options nearby. That being said, we found the bar scene at Bar Tarobá to be the absolute highlight from our stay! You can enjoy small bites at the bar while sipping on a cairpinha hand crafted to order. In terms of vibe, it was the winner for us – casual and cool with a cozy atmosphere that was perfect for striking up a conversation with fellow travelers. Itaipu Restaurant, their on-site fine dining restaurant offers a high-end option with a white glove feel to match. Food is great but expect a more chichi ambiance. Near the pool, Ipê Grill offers a ‘gaucho’ style Brazilian barbecue that meat lovers will adore. If you’re not a meat eater, you can still indulge your carnivorous counterparts: there’s a hearty range of veg-friendly sides to choose from.
Top 3 Highlights: The ability to experience the park before other visitors for an incredible Jurassic Park-inspired experience; evenings at Bar Taroba for the best caipirinhas in Brazil and incredible service from the bar staff; the unexpected in-room touches like complimentary Havaianas for guests and complimentary laundry service, perfect for your wet clothes after an up-close visit with Iguassu Falls!
xo from Brazil,