The coast of the adjoining states Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo is one of the finest in Brazil, dotted with small tropical islands, beautiful bays, wonderful golden sandy beaches, and backed by mountains covered with virgin Atlantic rain forest. Most of it is still unknown to international tourists, yet this is where residents of Rio and São Paulo (Brazil’s two largest cities, with a joint population of over 30 million) come to relax, party and feel that tropical paradise vibe. It’s not the cheapest part of Brazil, but these 10 pousadas (Brazilian B&Bs) offer good value out of the December to February high season.
RIO DE JANEIRO STATE
Villa Balthazar, Buzios
From fishing village turned playground of French starlet Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s, to its current reincarnation as "Buzios Aires" – nicknamed as such for the influx of Argentinian sun worshippers – the coastal resort of Buzios has seen prices rise accordingly. The wonderful Villa Balthazar is run by Swedish couple Petra and Felix, who have turned their home in the tropics into a dreamy retreat on Praia do Canto beach. Spread among three separate houses, the rooms showcase Petra’s flare for restrained interior design, adorned with antique knick-knacks. You’re 400m from the cobblestones of the main drag and just 50m from the sea.
• +55 22 2623 6680, villabalthazar.com.br. Doubles from R$295 a night (around £82), B&B
Pousada Vivenda, Paraty
As soon as you set foot in historic Paraty – one of Brazil’s most photogenic colonial towns – accommodation prices become eye-watering. One exception is this shabby-chic pousada run by Yorkshireman John Hudson. Its two whitewashed, self-catering bungalows are just steps from the historic cobblestones but far enough away to give a sense of isolation while you lounge around in poolside in hammocks surrounded by manicured tropical gardens. It’s just off the Perequê-Açu river, about a 10-minute walk from the action.
• +55 24 3371 4272, vivendaparaty.com. Doubles from £84, B&B
Le Gite d’Indaiatiba, near Paraty
Paraty has one of Brazil’s most astonishing settings, where rainforest-covered peaks spill down to bay after beautiful blue bay, so why not back off the historic centre a bit and make your way into the lush surroundings of the Serra do Bocaina mountains? Set among nearly 100 acres of forest, these five rooms, 10 miles from Paraty proper, range from luxurious lofts to simpler rooms with fireplaces and verandas looking out over the trees. The Franco-Brazilian restaurant is another big draw, self-billed as one of the only French restaurants in the world where you can swim in a waterfall while you wait for your belle meunière.
• +55 24 3371 7174, legitedindaiatiba.com.br. Doubles from £38, B&B
Pousada Pilar, Arraial do Cabo
Some consider Arraial do Cabo to be the anti-Buzios – the way the buzzy beach getaway was 30 years ago. Sitting on a cape that juts out into the Atlantic, 100 miles north-east of Rio, Arraial is, indeed, quiet by comparison. This eight-room pousada, less than 300m from Praia dos Anjos (Angel’s Beach, pictured), reflects the vision of architect Marta Solferini; all old tiles and stained glass, and tropical gardens throughout. Liberal use of demolition materials and recycled noble woods give a nod to environmentally responsible tourism, while rooms remain simple, rustic bases from which to emerge to some 24 miles of stunning beach and some of Brazil’s best diving.
• +55 22 2622 1992, pousadapilar.com.br. Doubles from £74, B&B
Pousada Naturalia, Ilha Grande
While the exclusive private islands that dot the sea around Ihla Grande are more associated with celebrity hobnobbing and magazine photo shoots, Abraão, the island’s main village, some 93 miles south-west of the city of Rio, boasts a cluster of more humble abodes. These 12 suites at this pousada combine native hardwoods and tropical colours set against a backdrop of Crayola-green rainforest and deep cerulean sea. Tack on the sustainable edge (recycled eucalyptus pillars throughout, solar-heated showers, self-contained waste disposal); and catch a glimpse of those stunning views, and little doubt remains you’ve arrived in Brazil’s version of Hollywood. You’ll be hard-pressed to find this much pleasure for such little outlay on Rio’s coast.
• +55 24 3361 9583, pousadanaturalia.net. Doubles from £47, B&B
SÃO PAULO STATE
Na Mata Suites, Ilhabela
Flush with gourmet restaurants and chic pousadas, the appropriately named Ilhabela (Beautiful Island) is well documented as the weekend getaway of choice for movers and shakers from São Paulo city – the wealthiest city in South America – but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. This Anglo-Brazilian affair offers the best of both worlds: four rustic bungalows hidden away in rainforest, near a handful of easily accessed beaches. Linger over breakfast on your private terrace amid coconut, banana and cashew trees, before heading down to the beach for the day. The hands-on hospitality is a bonus.
• +55 12 3895 8771, namatasuites.com.br. Doubles from £33, B&B
Pousada Canto Bravo, Ilhabela
Accessible only by foot or boat, Canto Bravo sits, illuminated mostly by candlelight, on the isolated beach of Bonete (pictured), regarded as one of Brazil’s finest. You’ll share the sand here with village fisherman and determined surfers. Sea views and private patios with hammocks are available at the higher end of the 10 rooms on offer; and low season rates are extraordinarily good. Dining usually involves local catch cooked in spices from the organic gardens. It’s the kind of spot you plant yourself for the duration – venturing beyond Bonete would be unnecessary when you’ve already arrived in your own private paradise.
• no phone, pousadacantobravo.com.br. Doubles from £35, B&B
Casa Paraiso, Barra do Sahy
São Paulo’s north coast is a favourite escape for hard-working, harder-playing Paulistanos (residents from the city) – and the beautiful beaches of Maresias, Baleia, Juquehy, and Camburi are just a few of those that are relatively accessible from the southern hemisphere’s biggest metropolis. Nearest to Camburi and swimming distance from Praia Preta (Black Beach), this discerning, four-suite luxury home in Barra do Sahy is overseen by a Texan, who has stomped her Big-Oil-Meets-Brazil footprint all over it. The real draw here, besides the privacy of your own beach home, is the expansive, dual-level hardwood deck with a sea-facing pool, hot tub and sauna.
• +55 12 3863 2941, casaparaiso.net. Doubles from £92, B&B
Casa Mila, Ubatuba
Two architects, Mila and Rafael, designed their dream lodgings 150m above Almada beach in Ubatuba, where outstanding sea views are the order of the day. Fewer than 150 people call this village home, so isolation and immersion in local life are considerable draws. Down at the beach, there’s always a canoe arriving on shore with fresh fish; or you can hide yourself way in the pousada’s meditation lounge, content with a soundtrack of tropical birds.
• +55 12 3832 9021, casamila.com.br. Doubles from £56, B&B
Hotel Solar das Águas Cantantes, Ubatuba, São Paulo
Set in verdant grounds on a winding stretch of coast and backed by postcard-perfect peaks, this colonial affair offers 20 austere rooms wrapped around a leafy courtyard. A rustic elegance pervades, with high ceilings detracting from the sometimes cramped quarters. The son of the original Austrian owner runs everything with strict efficiency and the hotel’s renowned restaurant (mains for two, from £22 to £44), famed for its moqueca, a rich Bahian seafood stew, is justification alone for checking in.
• +55 12 3842 0178, solardasaguascantantes.com.br. Doubles from £52, B&B