Parque Nacional de Iguaçu, Parana, Brazil
As the only hotel located inside Brazil’s Iguaçu (Iguassu) National Park, Hotel das Cataratas, now an Orient Express property, has an unbeatable location. Views of the falls, a plethora of outdoor activities and a completely renovated look make this property worth the journey.
First opened as a hotel in 1958, the Hotel das Cataratas has one of the most impressive and enviable locations in Brazil—a two-minute walk from views of the world famous Iguassu Falls (known as Iguazú Falls on the Argentine side). It is the only hotel within the national park and is surrounded by nearly four acres of nature. The property is the first hotel in Latin America to qualifty for the Environmental Management certificate in recognition of its ecological operating policies.
Iguassu Falls lies on the border between Brazil and Argentina and a highlight of Hotel das Cataratas is all the outdoor adventure activities that can be booked through the hotel. Also, you have exclusive access to the park each morning, before this UNESCO heritage site opens to the public at 9 a.m. and after the park closes at 5 p.m.
In addition to the great location, the hotel itself feels like a new property thanks to an extensive renovation that touched every room and public area.
Hotel das Cataratas was purchased by the Orient Express group in 2007 and the company spent two years refurbishing the existing grounds and creating plans for expansions. More than two thirds of the rooms had been renovated when I visited at the end of 2009 and all should be completed by November 2010.
The project was designed by French architect Michel Jouannet, who also coordinated the refurbishment of the Copacabana Palace, the other Orient-Express hotel in Brazil.
The main building contains the lobby, but will be home to the Taroba bar, Itaipu formal restaurant, fireplace-heated lounges, and a reading room. A spa located off the main building will open in 2010.
The Itaipu restaurant carries the colonial theme with pale yellow coated walls and traditional Portuguese ceramic plates and paintings adorning the walls. Its biggest draw, however, is the open-air terrace with views of the falls—a better view than is available from the Argentine side. The cuisine focuses on locally sourced produce, fruits, fish, and meats.
If you’re the type of traveler who does not like to spend a long time transferring from the airport to the hotel, this property would appeal to you as it’s located a mere 9 miles from the airport. Once at the hotel, all excursions can be arranged through the in-house tour operator---it’s one-stop shopping at its best.
Since the hotel has been completely renovated, it’s hard to find fault with the rooms or outdoor spaces. The rooms have all been refurbished to create larger bathrooms and a colonial feel inside. Dark wood is used for the floors, wardrobes, and writing tables and it compliments the lighter colored paints on the walls and ceilings (rooms have either a salmon colored design or a pale yellow). Flat screen TVs are mounted on the walls. Bathrooms have blue tile designs that give it a Portuguese feel.
For the ultimate accommodation, request room 1117, the Cataratas suites (note: there are two Cataratas suites but room 1117 has a view of the falls, while the other suite does not). This suite has a balcony, a sitting room, spacious bedroom and large bathroom.
When compared to other Orient Express properties, this hotel has a more casual feel, which my group liked since it blends well with the national parks surroundings. The exterior is a charming pink and white two-story colonial Portuguese style with a large outdoor seating area in the front from which to take in the views of the falls. The feel is simple, yet elegant.
The one drawback to the hotel is that there aren’t more rooms with views of the falls. Of the 193 rooms, 14 in total (six suites and eight deluxe rooms) have fall views, so be sure to request one of those. The other rooms have views of the pools, gardens, and forests. Fortunately the viewing platform in front of the hotel allows for great views of Iguassu from sunrise to sunset.
The excursions offered at the hotel are also a top selling point. The hotel has its own tour operator, Iguassu Experience, that can book activies and help to arrange itineraries for the duration of the stay. Plan to spend several days at the falls in order to take advantage of all the adventure activities including hiking, biking, rafting, bird watching, rappelling, and rock climbing.
Early morning nature walks with a biologist are offered before the park opens, so you have views of the falls without the hordes of tourists.
For those who love nature—and seeing the power of it up close—this hotel is hard to beat.
Website: Hotel Das Cataratas
Total Number of rooms: 193 rooms, including 15 suites
Published rates: $345 to $995 BB
Review and photos by Judy Koutsky.
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