As the first travel writer to review the new Hilton Barra, I felt a great responsibility to paint an accurate picture for my readers. After all, this is Hilton's very first hotel in all of Rio de Janeiro.
When arriving to the hotel, I was very excited, but also a little apprehensive about what exactly to expect. Quite often when a new property first opens, it takes time to work out all of the kinks and to properly train staff. However, I am pleased to say this was not even remotely the case with my stay. In fact, my time spent there was nothing short of amazing.
I had an incredible experience at the Hilton Barra. This two-month old hotel (which is still receiving the final touches) is located in Barra da Tijuca, just down the road from the future site of the 2016 Olympic Games. Barra is a part of Rio that is tucked away from much of the city's madness. It is home to a beach and several shopping centers, including the largest shopping center in all of South America.
Though the hotel seemed rather empty (it is low season for tourism since South America is currently at the height of their winter), I was more than happy to enjoy the hotel sans large groups of people.
Here are my Top 10 Reasons to Fall in Love with the Hilton Barra
1. The Pool
The rooftop infinity pool and hot tub feature a modern and sophisticated design. The rooftop also boasts a bar complete with incredible views of the mountains. The space is absolutely lovely and makes for a perfect way to spend some time as the sun goes down with a Caipirinha (the drink of Brazil) and a dip in the pool or hot tub while taking in the stunning scenery. Which leads me to #2...
2. The Views
The views here are spectacular. The view of the mountains can be seen from both the rooftop pool and executive lounge, as well as many of the guest rooms. Looking at the mountains, there is no doubt that you are definitley in Rio.
3. The Executive Lounge
This Executive lounge has a vibe unlike any other Hilton property lounge that I have seen. I have noticed that generally guests keep to themselves during the evening hours when snacks and drinks are offered, but not here. At the Hilton Barra Executive Lounge, guests all seem to mingle and trade stories from their day or week of adventures in Rio. I even met two lovely girls that came with me to dinner and then out to a Samba club in Lapa! This lounge is a place to make friends. Additionally, the concierge is often seen spending time talking to guests and making suggestions, further adding to an atmosphere full of conversations with individuals from all over the world.
Lastly, the food is actually really really good. The breakfast in the lounge provides 4 choices of fresh squeezed tropical fruit juices, eggs, all types of breads, espresso, tropical fruit platters, yogurts and more. However, the best part is the snacks and desserts in the evening. The desserts are excellent! The staff is so accommodating that they specially made a selection of desserts for me at request of the concierge, who wanted me to have an opportunity to try all the traditional Brazilian treats that Rio has to offer.
The Hilton Barra is very affordable, especially for the quality of the hotel and the amazing hospitality and service received.
During the low season (winter in South America), the rates start as low as $99/night. That is one heck of a bargain! Additionally, one bedroom king suites can be found for $209/night during the low season.
5. Its Brand New
No matter how nice or well kept a hotel is, nothing can beat brand-spanking new. New chairs, new linens, new carpet, new Nespresso's (which will lead me to #6), new showers. The entire property just seems so clean and fresh.
Somehow, I cannot explain the excitement of sitting on the hotel room floor squeezing my clothes into my suitcase while packing up to leave, thinking "Wow, I don't even mind sitting on this hotel carpet. It's so clean and new and fresh..." Usually, I don't even want my feet to touch the carpets, but this time, I didn't seem to mind.
6. Nespresso's in Rooms
A jet-lagged traveler's best friend in the mornings is always a great big cup of coffee. There are places to go and things to be seen and people to meet, so lets be honest--caffeine is practically a requirement to get through a long day. Usually this means finding the nearest local cafe or cappuccinos at the hotel's breakfast. I never have the desire to use the in-room coffee makers, but a Nespresso... well that is a different story altogether. I enjoyed this machine so much during my stay in Rio that I've been thinking of purchasing my own and giving my Keurig and K-cups the boot.
7. The Incredible Staff and Concierges
The more I travel and experience, the more difficult I find it for hotels to really "WOW" me, or be able to stand out from a crowd on amenities alone, which is why people and service are such a crucial part for me. I can not say enough about the hospitality I received while at the hotel. The staff know each guest by name. I was greeted with a "Hello Miss Wilson" every time I encountered staff, and I wasn't the only one. Other guests I spoke with also noticed this and it really helped to make this property stand out above the rest as far as hospitality goes.
Both of the concierges, Nicolas and Thamyris were equally incredible. Their recommendations were superb and they truly care about the quality of each guest's experience while in Rio.
Based off of their recommendations, I had two amazing nights out at Samba bars in Lapa, and the most incredible meal of my trip.
Nicolas was fantastic, as he emailed me after hours on information regarding hang gliding and SCUBA diving. Thamyris was incredible as well. Can you believe that she went to the store to pick me up Pacoquita, a Brazilian sweet treat that she said I absolutely had to try? In addition, she also called up to the Executive Lounge and requested certain traditional desserts to be served that night to ensure I tried the best of what Brazil has to offer regarding sugar intake. How many places offer you service like that? I have stayed in some fine hotels and resorts, but never has anyone taken such measures to ensure I take in all that local culture has to offer. This was well noted and very much appreciated.
8. L'Occitane Bath Products
Hands down, L'Occitane (from Provence, France) has the best quality bath and body products. Their lotions are super rich and luscious and their body washes are divine (these are the products I splurge on in my own home). They are also fairly expensive, so to see these incredible products at a Hilton was a pleasant surprise.
9. Shuttle Transportation
Free Shuttles are offered by the hotel to go to three places, the shopping center, the beach and the downtown area of Barra. Shuttles leave every hour, and will also pick you back up. No need for taxis.
10. Complimentary Havaianas!
To help guests achieve the signature Brazilian look, each room comes with a pair of complimentary Havaianas. They have various sizes available, so if they don't fit, the staff will bring you a pair that will. How cool is that!?