Fathom editorial director Jeralyn Gerba can't stop dreaming about her trip to Iguassu Falls, the incredibly powerful series of 275 waterfalls she had all to herself — thanks to privileges given to guests of the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas in Brazil.
A Portuguese-Colonial beauty in tropicalia pink, the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas is the only hotel located inside the Brazilian Iguassu National Park. A heritage building from the early twentieth century, it faces the stunning Iguassu Falls, an overwhelmingly beautiful (and powerful) cascade of water that spans nearly two miles along the Brazil-Argentine border.
Claim to Fame
Tourist buses unload tons of people all day long on the path to the falls between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Otherwise it's everybody out of the park — except guests of the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas. And this is the single most amazing reason to stay here: You have the opportunity to experience the falls in silence and without obstruction. On a few early mornings and evenings I had Iguassu completely to myself. No annoying, selfie-taking tourists obscuring my perfect views. Not one human sound killing my all-natural buzz. In one spot on the path that juts into the center of a huge horsehoe of falls, I laid on my back and blissed-out for a good 20 minutes, just taking in the thunderous roar. Incredible. And impossible to pull off if you're not a guest.
In the Room
Rooms have plantation-style grandeur: dark woods, colonial furnishings, palm prints. The Granado toiletries from the storied Rio apothecary are meant to be hoarded. WiFi is strong, beds are comfortable, air is cool, and sunlight streams in from huge windows. It's lovely and old-fashioned in the best kind of way.
Room with a View
Throw open the shutters in the master suite for sights of the falls beyond the front lawn. Other rooms have big windows facing the pool and gardens or grounds, where sightings of toucans, monkeys, and pumas are more common than you'd think. Everyone can access the tower on top of the hotel for incredible sunset views.
What’s on Site
There's a nice pool, tons of chaise loungers and umbrellas, a charming little spa, and two restaurants — a formal dining room and an airy solarium adjacent to the pool. There's a parlor and a nice bar stocked with a variety of cachaça, the sugarcane spirit native to Brazil (and the head bartender's passion). The spirit replaces tequila in smooth margaritas and is served, martini-style, with aromatic bitters in a drink called Bossa Nova. It tastes great with savory snacks and a round of cards on a drizzly evening.
Chef Fabio Delantonio is charming, gregarious, and wonderfully articulate about his menu. He recognizes that he has to cater to an undeniably touristy locale, and the menu, at first glance, seems deceptively simple. But the chef's fresh perspective can be fully appreciated in the Brazilian specialities and changing menus. For example, a traditional Brazilian lunch called feijoada (a stew of beans, beef, pork, rice, and vegetables) is served by the pool every Saturday afternoon. It's an aromatic blend of Portuguese and African cooking, and the mix-and-match accompaniments, like collard greens, orange segments, and tomato vinagrette, make the meal feel really festive.
This Place Is Perfect For
Those who will make the most of the special access to Iguassu. Anyone looking for a mental/spiritual refresh. The falls are truly irresistible.
But Not So Perfect For ....
Anyone unimpressed by Mother Nature's offerings and people who do not like to get their hair wet.
The Brazilian side is known for the crazy views. The Argentinian side is known for the interior hikes. If you have time, try both.
What to Do Nearby
Spend a few hours at the lush bird habitat, part of the Atlantic Rainforest biome (one of the most threatened in the world). Catch sights of jays, thrushes, parrots, and toucans. At some points, inevitably, it will feel like a zoo. But it's pretty cool to get up close and personal with tropical birds.
Another popular excursion is riding a rubber boat into the falls, which feels exactly like an amusement park ride, so just be ready for it. Big kids will love it because the boat drivers are crazy, creating wakes and ramming into cascading waters again and again. Put your iPhone in a Ziploc and wear a bathing suit.
Kayaking the Banana Trail is a more low-key way to get a nice view of the flora and fauna in the park. All activites, including rafting, heli rides, and full-moon walking tours can be arranged through the hotel.
Good to Know
In order to preserve the park's ecosystem, personal cars are not allowed inside the gates. The hotel and visitor center provide transport between the gates (where rental cars are parked) and the hotel 24 hours a day. You don't necessarily need a car though. You can arrange pick-up and drop-offs at all the major attractions in the area. You can fly into and out of Foz do Iguassu / Cataratas International Airport (IGU) on Latam Airlines. The airport is nine miles from the hotel on the road to the falls.
Rates start at $400. Click here for reservations.