We stayed for 3 enjoyable nights at Hotel Das Cararatas in Iguassu, Brazil in March 2010 while we were touring around South America. This was a special place! I found it after reviewing options on Trip Advisor (where it received top marks) - and I just couldn't resist. We flew directly into Iguassu airport and then it was about a 30 minute easy drive from the airport to the hotel.
We booked this hotel via the internet using the hotels own comprehensive web site (www.hoteldascataratas.com) which is very easy to use and also contains a lot of information related to the hotel and the local area.
"Why stay here?"
While the hotel within itself is a very nice luxury hotel, the main reason for staying here is the absolutely perfect and breathtaking location of the hotel. Seriously, it's all about location, location, location!!
Das Cararatas is the only hotel which is situated within the actual boundaries of the Iguassu National Park in Brazil - and is within meters of the world renowned Iguassu Falls. In my opinion, Iguassu Falls (Foz Do Iguacu) is a wonder of the world that really has to be seen to be believed - and this hotel allows you to view the falls at any time day or night. It is a real advantage being allowed within the park when the park is actually closed to other visitors other than hotel guests as it essentially means that you have the falls to yourself and that is a powerful and even overwhelming experience. This exclusive access is the best argument to stay at Das Cataratas and, I have to say, if you have the economic means, I would urge anyone to stay here.
As well as the location, this is a top quality hotel that is part of the Orient Express Hotel chain and is at the top end of hotels by South American standards. During my travels in South America, this was the best hotel we stayed in - and it was also in the best location.
The rooms are to a high standard and I are comfortable, clean and nicely designed in a Portugese style. We had a Deluxe Room which was large enough and en suite. The room contained a double bed which was very comfortable - and there were a choice of pillows should you have a specific preference. There was air-conditioning within the room - but actually we preferred to have the window open and allow the breeze to come in and the thunderous sound of the falls which is present day and night! There is a well-stocked (but expensive!) mini-bar, a LCD TV (which we never even turned on!) `and free WiFi. The bathroom had a nice shower with a selection of quality shampoo, shower gel and conditioner. If you wanted anything extra from reception then you could just ring and they would arrange delivery. Maid service comes every day and is discrete and efficient and they keep the rooms to a high standard.
The best thing about the room (again!) was the view from the window which was directly out onto the falls and the continuous sound of the falls that actually energized me when I woke up in the morning.
"The Pool Area and Gardens"
The hotel is in a courtyard style with rich lush gardens situated in the courtyard insides of the hotel grounds. The gardens are incredibly well maintained and really beautiful to just wander around or to sit and have a drink. The gardens are not extensive, but they do seem to be an extension of the main park itself - which is part of why I think this hotel works so well. There are wild orchids and other tropical plants that grow in abundance - and the only problem is that it does tend to attract mozzies in the early evening.
There is a large swimming pool in the centre of the garden next to one of the main restaurants - and it has pool lounge chairs dotted around the patio area. The pool is clean and warm (solar heated) and never very crowded. There are also showers and toilet facilities around the pool. There is a nice snack bar which serves good dishes, soft drinks and cocktails, but there is not a wide menu choice and service can be a little slow.
"Food & Drink"
There are some choices from where to eat and drink when staying at the hotel - all of which are good, but I wouldn't say outstanding. All restaurants have menus in english and spanish - and waiters will give explanations when requested. I would say the dishes are largely mainstream and not particularly adventurous, but the dishes there are are generally favourites of the masses and the menu has a strong emphasis on meat, especially beef.
The Ipe Grill is by the pool and serves breakfast and dinner in buffet style (this is where you eat if your on the adventure package). The breakfast is good, but pretty standard, giving you a choice of hot and cold dishes from the buffet - including bacon, eggs, fruit, cereals, pastries etc. It's good quality and very edible. In the evening, they do a Brazillian style BBQ which is also in a buffet style - and is good - but not outstanding. You have the choice of eating inside or outside, but if you want to eat outside you really need to book. The ambience is nice, casual, relaxed and kind of family style with good service. It is where we ate for 2 of the 3 nights we were there.
The Itaipu Restaurant is in the main hotel building and has an a la carte menu which has a good but not extensive choice of cuisine. The ambience of the restaurant is more romantic and quiet and a little more exclusive - and it was nice to have at least one meal here during out stay.
There is a pool side restaurant (as mentioned above) which is good for lunch and does dishes such as club sandwich and burger.
Bar Taroba is situated in the main hotel building. It is traditionally decorated and does have some live piano music between 7pm and around 10pm - and service is table service. As most people that visit Brazil, I did become addicted to caipirinha - and this bar makes a good fresh caipirinha. To be honest though, this bar area was just too quiet and didn't seem to be used by many guests and so we tended to have a couple of drinks here before dinner each night, and that was about it.
Service at the hotel is attentive but inconspicuous and we were treated very well right through from check in to check out. Everything we wanted was organized for us with minimal hassle to ourselves. Check in (and check out) was quick and efficient. We had arranged transfers to and from the airport, and when we got to the airport, the driver was waiting for us and drove us direct to the hotel in an luxury air conditioned car. All of our check in forms were ready when we arrived at the reception and we literally just had to sign to confirm the details as we sipped our welcome drink. Check out (we had to leave a 5.30 am to get out flight) was just as efficient - and they packed a breakfast for us as we had to leave before breakfast was served.
All service in the restaurants and bar area was of a high standard and what I would expect from a luxury hotel.
There was a small concierge office which was open for set hours per day (something like 9 -7) and the concierge was really helpful and informative. He made suggestions and offered opinions on what to do (which always turned out to be accurate) - and would make all arrangements and bookings on our behalf. He would provide maps and guides - and even drew a map for us when we required something he didn't have in printed form.
All of the staff spoke good english, but were from the local area. All documents and information was written in english and spanish as this seemed to be the main languages spoken by guests.
"What can you do here?'
As I said, the main reason for staying here is the location within the Iguassu National Park (on the Brazillian side) and the hotel's proximity to the falls themselves. Most of the experiences are focussed on activities around the falls.
There are several walks you can do direct from the hotel that takes you along the falls along the Brazillian side of the Falls but looking at the Argentinian side. Having viewed the falls from both sides, I would say that this affords the best view. Directly in front of the hotel is a viewing platform which gives a spectacular view of a long portion of the falls. To the left of this platform, there is a walk which takes about an hour to walk slowly - which takes you alongside the river and I can assure you gives you some photo opportunities that you will never forget.
If you time these walks to start once the park is closed (the park closes about 5.30pm and it doesn't get dark until about 10pm) you can walk this trail pretty much alone. You may pass one or two people but that's about it. We walked along the trail slowly - and when you get to the end there is a barrier that goes out across the river in front of a powerful section of falls in which the sheer power of the water was something to be believed. We walked along here as the sun was starting to go down and the colours in the sky and reflected on the falls was just beautiful. On your way back along the trail (you can walk along the trail or the road), aim to get back to the viewing platform for sunset.
* Macuco Safari
is a tour which was part of our adventure package - but can be taken independently. You are picked up in a buggy and driven to an organised site (run by the park authorities) where you board a small train which drives you into the jungle by the river - and affords you a very short walk (about 600m) through the jungle if you wish. When you get to the end of this trail, you are given life jackets and then get into large inflatable rafts - and the fun begins. You are taken on a fun and wet raft ride which at times travels at high speed along the falls - and sometimes into the falls. You get to see two parts of the falls (the Great Horseshoe and the Devil's Throat) very close up. It is fun - and loved by all of the kids and adults that were on our boat. It's really refreshing to get soaked by the fresh water falls when it's 40 degrees outside! Although this is a really touristy thing to do, I really do recommend it.
*Go to the Argentinian Side of the Falls
The views from the other side are probably more extensive - but I would argue not as breathtaking. Having said that, it is worth a visit if you have time - but you need a full day. You will be taken from the hotel by car over to the Argentinian side and then the driver waits while you spend as long there as you like. We were there about 6 hours and had a great day. Getting to the other side is a bit of a pain because you have to cross the border - and anyone who has ever crossed a road border in South America will tell you what absolute chaos it is! We actually just had to sit in the car and our driver did everything for us - but it took around an hour to just get past the border - and about 1.5 hours from hotel to the other side of the park in total. The other side is much more touristy and structured, with properly built wooden trails, refreshment stands, attractions etc. and millions of people.....but some of the sights are worth seeing, especially the Devil's Throat which we stood and gawped at for about 45 minutes.
There are also some wild animals around which give a lot of entertainment, including the gorgeous coati (a small wild mongoose that run around everywhere in groups - but hold on to your lunch and ice creams because they will pinch it!), some beautiful tropical birds, and loads of monkeys playing around in the trees close to the trail.
* The Bird Park:
There is a bird park which is within 20 minutes or so of the hotel - and if you have spare time its worth going, but you really only need about an hour unless you are a real bird enthusiast.
* Helicopter rides over the falls:
You are picked up from your hotel and travel to the heli-pad about 20 minutes from the hotel (this is weather dependent so you have to phone to check they are flying). We did do this simply because it was there to do - but you are really only in the air about 10 minutes and it costs about £40 per person for that 10 minute trip. To be honest, unless you just want an experience of flying in a helicopter, I would say not to bother because the views you get from the river side are just as good (if not better) as those you get from the air.
* Just chill out:
There are nice areas around the hotel to just chill out and actually in the heat of the day, sometimes this really is the best thing to do. All activities are best in the early morning or late afternoon - but inbetween times it's actually nice just to lie around and enjoy the surroundings.
'The bottom line: How much does it cost?'
Staying at this hotel is, not surprisingly, expensive. Having said that, in world terms I really don't think it is over the top, but when you compare it to prices in the rest of South America, it is very much at the extreme end. To stay on a room only basis, it costs about £320 per room per night. However, I opted for the Das Cataratas Adventure option which included the room, a breakfast buffet, dinner in the Ipe Grill, a safari boat tour, a hike, and airport transfers - which cost around £430 per room per night. As I said, it's expensive - but it was something that I felt was worth it for a special experience. We stayed for 3 nights and we got a slight discount, paying around £1050 for the 3 nights.
This is a top class hotel in an area of outstanding beauty - and for the views alone, I would recommend that anyone stay here.