Mick Jagger, Madonna and Brigitte Bardot are all fans of the place. So what makes this little Brazilian peninsula so irresistible?
If you’re planning a trip to Rio de Janeiro to soak up some of that Olympic spirit, be sure to keep a few days up your sleeve to visit Búzios. Only three hours drive from Rio, this cosmopolitan resort town is often referred to as the St. Tropez of Brazil.
It was Brigitte Bardot who first made Búzios cool. When the French actress first arrived in 1964 with her Brazilian boyfriend, she was simply escaping the hordes of paparazzi in Rio. The town didn’t even have electricity back then, but it still swept her off her feet. She publicly declared her love of the town and so began the stream of celebrity visitors, along with Brazil and Argentina’s wealthy elite.
It’s easy to see why Búzios is such a popular tourist destination. The peninsula boasts over 20 beaches and each one feels totally different. Geribá offers the best rolling waves and surfing, with lifeguards and a long stretch of sand. Brava Beach feels secluded and private, apart from the Brava Club on the hill, where you can relax with a cocktail on enormous comfy couches and watch the waves roll in. Olho de Boi is the nudist beach, while João Fernandinho is tranquil with some great bars along the shoreline.
Even though it’s close by, Búzios feels vastly different to Rio. The streets feel much safer – there’s more of a holiday pace without the shadow of poverty looming nearby. For a relatively small town, it’s very gay-friendly, which is something Brazil is famous for. Búzios is also well-known for its impressive array of excellent hotels, bars, restaurants, boutiques and nightlife.
Most of the action takes place in swanky Armação dos Búzios, which is where you’ll find the cobblestoned main street Rua das Pedras, which literally translates as ‘Street of Stones’. At night, this street comes alive with diners, shoppers and on the weekend, clubbers. Pacha is worth checking out – spread over two levels, the club overlooks the water and while it’s fundamentally straight, you’re likely to spot a gay or two on the dancefloor. Be sure to take your ID, as this is the law in Brazil and you won’t get in without it. They also have a tedious wristband system that means not only do you queue to get in, but you also queue to get out! The other big nightclub destination in town is Privilège. Be sure to ask your hotel concierge if they have any discounted tickets to save you forking out for cover charges.
There’s plenty of outdoor activities to keep you entertained, including snorkeling, diving and boat tours. If you’re feeling more adventurous there’s kitesurfing, waterskiing and mountain biking. But one of the most enjoyable activities here is simply lying on the beach, and there is no shortage of opportunities to do that.
When it comes to food, be sure to visit Chez Michou on Rua das Pedras for delicious crêpes. If you’re craving Thai food, Sawasdee is spectacular or for great steak and seafood try the always busy Bar do Zé.
Where to stay?
Villa Balthazar is a peaceful, luxurious sanctuary, tucked away in a quiet cobblestoned street moments away from the beach and the busy centre of Armação dos Búzios.
Consisting of three houses set amongst lush, tranquil gardens, Villa Balthazar offers five beautifully decorated rooms, a sunny, serene swimming pool and one of the finest breakfasts you’ll find anywhere on the peninsula.
While the setting is spectacular, the real magic here comes from the owners Petra and Felix. Originally from Sweden, this young family is finally living their dream of running a gorgeous guesthouse in Brazil and their joy is evident in everything that they do. It’s all about the personal touch and the attention to detail – fresh flowers in the room, a surprise dessert before bedtime, a bag of snacks when it’s time to say goodbye – all of it adds up to a truly memorable stay.
Rooms are bright and spacious, with striking, soothing colour schemes and unique furnishings shipped over from Europe. During the day you can spend time relaxing in the spacious, impeccably decorated living room, or sip cocktails by the pool. A previous career as a mixologist means that Felix’s caipirinhas are spot on. Both Petra and Felix are well-travelled and always on hand to give you advice on the best places to go in Buzios and beyond. Their English is word-perfect too – a rarity in Brazil.
Breakfast in the garden is a truly decadent start to each day with strong coffee, fresh fruit and juices, delicious pastries and handmade preserves. In less than 2 years this guesthouse has become one of Buzios’ most popular properties. If you’re seeking a premium hotel experience in an intimate setting, look no further.
Standard double rooms start at A$167 (R$345), superior double rooms A$186 (R$385) and deluxe double rooms A$210 (R$435), including breakfast. Visit Villa Balthazar’s website.
The highlight of this trendy hotel is its Balinese themed central pool area, which has a generously sized (albeit noisy) jacuzzi, towering palm trees and individual daybeds with sheer white drapes, if you’re after a little privacy. There’s also a poolside bar and staff will come and take your drink orders while you soak. It’s just beautiful. The hotel doesn’t face the ocean, but it’s only a short stroll away, and the pool certainly makes up for this.
Pérola Búzios is located in the buzzing centre of downtown Armação dos Búzios, with all the restaurants, shops, cafés and bars close by. Rooms are quiet, clean and bright, with all white interiors, stone walls and floors, plenty of storage space and power outlets. Bathrooms share a frosted glass wall with the bedrooms, which is a cute touch, unless you’re on holiday with family, then it’s slightly off-putting! While clean, bright and airy, the hotel’s white and orange décor can feel a little dated and overbearing at times. Some of the staff speak English here too, which makes life easier!
Our suite had a private garden and its own outdoor jacuzzi, but unfortunately the water was too hot and the sound of the jets were too loud for the experience to be relaxing.
The buffet breakfast was delicious, but the best thing about breakfast each morning was the people-watching. This hotel seems to attract all types – young families, wealthy twenty-somethings on holiday together, middle-aged couples after a little luxury and romance. If you’re after a trendy hotel in the centre of town, this is a great place to stay.
Rooms start at A$216 (R$446) per day in low season. Visit Pérola Búzios’ website.
Pousada dos Gravatás
This unassuming hotel gets big points for the fact that both breakfast and lunch are included – both were divine. Also, this hotel enjoys one of the most breathtaking locations in Búzios. Upon arrival you could be mistaken for thinking it is just another suburban street, but it’s not until you walk through to the rear of the property that you realise that the rolling waves of Geribá beach are literally in the backyard! When you tire of the perfect water and sand, you can just slip into the pool or lay on the deck chairs. There’s a poolside bar too and the caipirinhas are spot on!
The rooms were rather simple, but comfortable – plenty of space, comfy bed, homely linen, air-conditioning, phone, TV and shutters on the windows. The staff were lovely and helpful, but you’ll need to know a bit of Portuguese to get by!
This pousada is perfect for beach lovers – the bar and restaurant on site mean that once you’re here, you don’t need to leave, except to go swimming! The main shops of Geribá are a bit of a walk, and if you want to visit Armação dos Búzios you’ll need to take a taxi or a bus, but if you’re looking for a beachfront property with nice big waves and plenty of privacy, then this is the place to stay!
Standard rooms start at A$184 (R$380) per day in low season. Visit Pousada dos Gravatás’ website.