By Alison McGowan, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro is perhaps one of the most popular locations for pousadas – a small bed & breakfast guesthouse or inn – due to both the number of large mansions suitable for refurbishment and the bohemian feel of the place. It is an area which is increasingly sought out by travelers who want to avoid mass tourism and feel part of the “real” Brazil.
Perched high on a hill with panoramic views of the city on one side and Sugar Loaf and Guanabara Bay on the other, Santa Teresa is an ideal inner-city hideaway, full of historical character, bars, restaurants and an eclectic music and arts scene.
Santa Teresa boasts many pousadas varying in size and price. However, there are always a select few that manage to stand out from the crowd and offer just that little bit extra in style and hospitality.
Casa Cool Beans is one of them, and not least for its eccentric bright purple exterior. This newly refurbished mansion-pousada was opened in December 2010 by Americans Lance and David and is already a firm favorite for striking just the right balance between a peaceful, intimate and friendly atmosphere while still being right in the heart the action.
Seven beautifully designed suites decorated with local arts and crafts, a communal breakfast on the terrace, and a plunge pool are just some of the special touches that allow visitors to relax and unwind.
Guesthouse Bianca is another stunning find. Owned by native Brazilian Guido Sant’Anna, this is a lovingly refurbished, stained-glassed, 1930s townhouse with a beautiful, antiquated style. The pousada’s three guest suites all offer incredible views, including one right over Sugar Loaf.
The idea here is for guests to be able to chill-out in comfort and peace but also to be part of the local community, and breakfast is taken in the local bar to give visitors a chance to socialize.
British expats Bill and Sue have been running Pousada Um Meia Tres for just a few years and pride themselves on being a small and friendly pousada with the facilities of a boutique hotel. Truly capturing the feel of a “home away from home,” the hosts offer guests whatever they require.
Whether it be throwing an informal barbeque by the pool or accompanying guests to the more hidden parts of Rio in order to explore the nightlife, they definitely go the extra mile for all those that stay with them.
Like many pousadas in Santa Teresa, Castelinho 38 is a beautifully refurbished mansion dating back to 1866. The difference comes in the castellated style of the house, the space, the tranquility and the wonderful welcome from Italian owner Marco.
High ceilings and stylish bedrooms are situated around a grand reception area and gallery space where art exhibitions are regularly held. In the garden you become surrounded by coconut palms, fruit trees and tropical foliage, where it is easy to forget that you are right in the center of the city.
While the celebrated trams are out of action for the next few months, Santa Teresa still has plenty of buses and taxis to take you down into Lapa for dancing and music. Travelers who don’t mind the bumps over the cobbled stones can also use the moto-taxi service down to Gloria at the bottom of the hill, where the metro will whisk you to the beaches and nightlife of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.
What Santa Teresa may lack in not being situated in ‘upscale’ Rio it certainly makes up for in character and wonderful pousadas that offer unique experiences to their visitors.