If you go
THE BEST WAY TO BRAZIL RESORTS
From LAX, Copa, US Airways, United, American, LATAM and Delta offer connecting service (change of planes) to Rio de Janeiro. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $991, including taxes and fees.
U.S. citizens need a visa to enter Brazil. Skip the countless visa brokers you'll find online and go directly to the Brazilian Consulate website (losangeles.itamaraty.gov.br/en-us/) — an excellent place to test your ability to follow directions and where you can make a visa appointment as well as free yourself of that extra $160 (no cash; U.S. Postal Service money orders only) you've been hiding in your wallet. Make sure you get professional photos taken and be prepared to visit the consulate (at 8484 Wilshire Blvd. , Beverly HIlls) twice —once to drop off your forms and then to pick up your Visa. The good news is that it is valid for a decade.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 55 (country code for Brazil) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY
Pousada da Amendoeira, 7 Praia do Toque, São Miguel dos Milagres; 82-3295-1213. $187 to $283 a night through October; $204-$309 November through February. Rustic yet elegant, this gay-friendly beachfront hotel hosts an international crowd with a mix of couples and families. Wi-Fi is confined to a small area near the front office to ensure you devote your time to body rather than web-surfing. Snorkeling gear, kayaks and mountain bikes are provided free of charge. Leave your watch at home as meal times are wide open. Breakfast is served from 7a.m. to 11a.m.; lunch is available basically all afternoon and dinner starts at 6pm—with a mix of Brazilian, Mediterranean, Indian and Thai flavors.
Hotel Casa do Amarelindo, 6 Rua das Portas do Carmo, Pelourinho, Salvador, 71-3266-8550. Doubles $210 to $315 per night during high season (December through March) and $175 to $265 during low season (April though June 13). On a cobblestone street adjacent to the main plaza of Salvador's historic district, the fully restored 19th century building features a swimming pool, solarium, fitness center and a bar with expansive views of the Baia de Todos os Santos and the famous Bomfim church. Order the Salmão com purê de maracujá (puree of passion fruit) which is almost as much fun to pronounce as it is to eat, at its patio restaurant, Pelô Bistrô. Rooms are spacious and elegant, but the best part is you're steps away from all the action and Salvador's most charismatic sight, Bahian women dressed in their traditional garb of huge bouncy hoop skirts, colorful necklaces, lace shawls and turbans.
Pousada Colibri, 5 Rua do Porto de Cima, Morro de São Paulo; 75-3652-1056. $46-$74 mid-March to December; $60-$98 mid-December to March. "Colibri" means hummingbird in Portuguese, just one of the natural wonders you'll find at this hilltop setting with views interrupted only by the occasional coconut palm frond. Each hut features a hammock and the basics, though owners Helmut and Marga have a BYOS (bring your own soap policy). There's a small but well placed swimming pool, a breakfast that features fruit, cheese and of course, bologna. Don't be fooled by the bar; most of the bottles are empty but Helmut makes a decent caipirinha, which he'll exchange for a kiss on the cheek. Well, maybe that's only on New Year's Eve.
WHERE TO EAT
Foz do Camaragibe, Barra do Camaragibe, (55) 82-3258-5140. Located just to the south of São Miguel in the adjacent hamlet of Barra do Camaragibe, this beachside seafood restaurant is perfect before or after a visit to the secluded Praia Pedra do Cebola. Grab a Bohemia (beer) or Agua de Coco and don't miss the house specialty, octopus in coconut milk. Main courses $10-$17.
Sambass, Second Beach, Morro de São Paulo; 75-8148-9239. If you can get past the name, this café is one of the better options if you're craving seafood or Italian. Located in the middle of all the action on Second Beach, Sambass (not "Sambas") offers music to accompany a variety of grilled fish and lobster and a range of pastas. Best of all, it's owned by an Italian so you won't have to ask for your spaghetti al dente.
Papoula, Rua da Lagoa, 06, Morro de São Paulo; 75-8215-9010, 9111-7380. This is a great option if you're craving vegetables and a respite from the crowded beach scene. "Papoula," which means poppy in English, is one of the few restaurants with vegetarian options. The menu even includes brown rice and a unique cold herbal tea (Chá Energético). Meat eaters, though, should order the moussaka.
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