The number one place to visit in 2013 is Rio De Janeiro, Brazil according to the New York Times. However, the number one place to visit in 2013 is not a hotbed of Starwood activity. While it will be the host of the next Olympics and World Cup, other hotels have a much stronger presence in this market.
With only two hotels in this large market, if you want to stay at a Starwood property, you are quite limited in your selection. Fortunately (or unfortunately) if you are using points, they are both Category 5 properties that will cost you the same 12,000-16,000 points per night. One must be warned, both properties are not close to all of Rio De Janieiro’s attractions and events.
The first option is the Sheraton Barra Hotel & Suites, and while it appears to be generous to Platinum members, it appears to be a little far from the traditional Brazilian atmosphere. From the local attractions, it is much more situated for the corporate/business traveller than the tourist looking to soak up some sun and culture. Also, there have been some complaints about the local traffic during the week in the peak rush hours (complaints not seen with the Sheraton Rio).
The second option (and the better Starwood property) is the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort. Key word here is beach. This property offers a (almost) private beach and provides the luxury that one would expect from a Brazilian resort. While not Thai level of service, the scene is quite beautiful.
The private beach provides amazing views from many of the hotel’s rooms. Lately the rooms have shown some age, but if one wishes to stay in a Starwood property for their beach getaway, this is the place to reserve.
According to Platinum members, this hotel can be generous with suite upgrades and is not as stingy as Starwood’s American brethren. Many say the club lounge at this location is one of the best in the system.
For a great non-Starwood option (albeit quite expensive), a traveller should check out the Copacabana Palace Hotel. I will let this single image do the talking:
General Rio Tips
1. If you are traveling here, you must plan ahead and be ready to spend money. It now costs $160 for the entry visa. However, if you plan to visit Brazil a lot, it isn’t a terrible deal as it is valid for 10 years.
2. Don’t forget, the language is Portuguese – not Spanish- and you should know enough of it to get around as not everybody knows English.
3. Rio businesses are tourist friendly and credit card acceptance (especially Visa/Mastercard) is widespread – even more so than some parts of America.
4. The timezone is UTC -3, or in layman terms, three hours ahead of the EST.
5. The weather patterns are:
Top 3 Attractions to Visit
1. Cristo Redentor (Statue of Christ the Redeemer)
2. Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar)
3. Copacabana Beach