Copacabana and Leme
Only a block from the beach, SESC Copacabana (Rua Domingos Ferreira 160, Copacabana, tel. 21/2548-1088, www.sescrj.com.br, R$89–135 d) is not only the best deal in Copa, but you have the bonus of staying in an architectural landmark designed by Oscar Niemeyer. The bargain prices are due to SESC being a type of union for tradespeople that offers cultural, recreational, and vacation facilities for both members and (at higher, but still unbeatable costs) nonmembers. Rooms are coolly minimalist, and those above the 10th floor offer terrific views of Corcovado.
Hotel Santa Clara (Rua Décio Villares 316, Copacabana, tel. 21/2256-2650, www.hotelsantaclara.com.br, R$153–168 d) occupies a pretty, whitewashed house with blue shutters that feels more like a home than a hotel. Try for a room on the top floor, which are the brightest and breeziest. Although five blocks from the beach, it is also nicely removed from Copa’s bustle.
Another quiet and affordable alternative to Copa’s mega chains is the Hotel Toledo (Rua Domingos Ferreira 71, Copacabana, tel. 21/2257-1990, www.hoteltoledo.com.br, R$165 d), located on an attractive leafy street only a block from the beach. Rooms are small, but clean and fairly pleasant. This is one of Copa’s best bargains.
For those Eagles fans who’ve always dreamed of living it up at the Hotel California, your fantasy can come true when you check into the Othon California (Av. Atlântica 2616, Copacabana, tel. 21/2132-1900, R$210 d). Well sort of. The original trappings of the once-grand 1940s hotel are on splendid display in the lobby and dining areas and barely apparent in the comfortable though nondescript rooms.
The Dayrell Ouroverde (Av. Atlântica 1456, Copacabana, tel. 21/2543-4123, www.dayrell.com.br, R$250–310 d) has been a favorite with Brazilians ever since it opened its doors in 1950. Both public and private rooms are classy and understated with elegant original furnishings and an airy spaciousness enhanced by views of the Atlantic. Rooms at the back provide glimpses of Corcovado.
Opened in 2003, the Portinari Design Hotel (Rua Francisco Sá 17, Copacabana, tel. 21/3222-8800, www.portinaridesignhotel.com.br, R$270 d) had the guts to be daring by inviting a handful of leading Brazilian architects and decorators to design each of the hotel’s 11 floors. The overall results are mostly inspired—although there are some misses along with the hits. For this reason, you should check out the photos on the hotel website to select a room whose colors and accessories mesh with your personal preferences. Aesthetics aside, all rooms are very well outfitted, with amenities ranging from broadband and flatscreen TVs to complimentary flip-flops. The fitness center includes a spa with a sauna and whirlpool. The hotel is only half a block from the beach.
One of the most legendary hotels in the world and a national landmark, the
Copacabana Palace (Av. Atlântica 1702, Copacabana, tel. 21/2548-7070, www.copacabanapalace.com.br, R$820–1,230 d) is as famous as the beach it sits upon. In fact, when this dazzling white wedding cake of a hotel was constructed in 1923, Copacabana was little more than an unspoiled strip of sand surrounded by mountains. A decade later, the Palace played a prominent role in the RKO classic Flying Down to Rio, the first film to pair Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Since then, it has attracted a nonstop cavalcade of international stars, jet-setters, heads-of-state, and royalty. When not holed up in the luxury of their poshly furnished rooms, they can often be spotted lounging around the Olympic-sized turquoise pool, playing a few sets on the rooftop tennis court, or dining in one of the two highly reputed restaurants, Cipriani and Pergula. The hotel recently added a full-service spa to its long list of pampering services.
The Copacabana Palace’s most serious rival is the Sofitel Rio de Janeiro (Av. Atlântica 4240, Copacabana, tel. 21/2525-1232, www.sofitel.com.br, R$900–1,250 d). What this ultramodern, somewhat overpriced hotel lacks in terms of charm and pedigree, it tries to make up for with a dazzling array of enticing extras. The swanky rooms are outfitted with plasma TVs, extra large and comfortable beds, and balconies from which you can eat breakfast or sip cocktails while staring at the entire length of Copacabana beach. Moreover, there are two rooftop pools (the better with which to catch both the sun’s morning and afternoon rays). The hotel restaurant, Le Pré Catalan, is considered one of Rio’s top French restaurants. The location—on the frontier between Copa and Ipanema—is unbeatable.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition