Not only is this stately hotel in the national park, with views of the smaller falls from the front-side suites, but it also provides the traditional comforts of a colonial-style establishment: large rooms, terraces, vintage furniture, and hammocks. The main building, surrounded by verandas and gardens, is almost 100 years old and is a national historic monument. Although the rooms are comfortable, it's the setting and atmosphere that you pay for—the chance to wander the paths to the falls before and after the hordes of day visitors arrive is priceless. The traditional Brazilian Itaipú restaurant and the Ipê grill near the pool offer all-you-can-eat barbecue and salad buffets.
Apr 10, 2012
Exclusive, Secluded Location Can’t Be Beat! We stayed for three nights from February 12 to 15, 2012 in a Superior Room at the Hotel das Cataratas (owned by Orient-Express) directly through the Orient-Express website. Although this property is part of American Express’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program (through who we booked our stay at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, the perks offered as part of the program did not outweigh the lower
price that we attained by pre-paying/booking 21 days in advance. We did not need the early check-in or late check-out, and breakfast was already included with all room rates at this hotel. (We think the room rate includes breakfast because there is not anywhere else to eat other than the hotel.) The AmEx perk was a one-way airport-hotel transfer, and we figured that the transfer would only apply to the Brazilian airport (not really worth the extra money that we paid in the room rate over the pre-paid rate) but not to the Argentinean airport (which would have been a deal); however, we never actually inquired about it. In retrospect, we should have booked through AmEx; even though the rate was higher, we might have had a chance for a room upgrade, because we ended up receiving exactly the room category that we booked - perfectly acceptable but not exceptional like our room in Rio. This hotel is inside the Brazilian national park adjacent to the falls. It was still necessary to purchase a ticket to the national park in order to gain entrance to the hotel; however, the pass was good for 3 days for a cost of R$40 per person (US$22). The hotel is located a distance from the front gate of the park - several miles at least - but there is a park shuttle that runs during the park’s operating hours (about 9:00 to 17:00), so you can ride on that bus if you want to reach the visitors center, and from there you can catch a local bus to Foz do Iguacu. The town of Foz do Iguacu is located 18 miles from the hotel, which takes about 40 minutes by hotel car, and reportedly costs R$200 round trip (US$100). (The town on the Argentinean side is called Puerto Iguazu.) Because the hotel is located inside the national park, you can hike around whenever you like, even outside of normal operating hours. Take a hike before 9:30 or after 17:00, when the park opens to the public and the large tour groups and buses overtake the serenity. We booked and received a Superior Room, and pleasantly, our request for a balcony was honored. Similarly to the Rio de Janeiro hotel that we had recently left, the Copacabana Palace, this hotel offered no furniture on the terrace, which was unfortunate. It was a nice-sized balcony with plenty of room for a small table and two chairs, and yet it was completely empty. We pulled chairs from the room onto the balcony when we wanted to sit out there. Our room was located in the forest wing; we remember reading reviews prior to our trip about guests complaining because this wing was located so far from the lobby, but we did not feel that way at all. The walk was pleasant, partially indoors and partially beneath a covered walkway (adjacent to the shops). You are walking a lot in the park anyway, so what’s a little more exercise on the way to the bar or restaurants? Our room was a nice size, with a king-size bed, desk and chair, and table and three chairs. Floors were hardwood, and the ceilings were high, giving the room a more spacious feeling. The bathroom, however, was small and cramped, but certainly not the smallest bathroom we’ve ever seen (that honor goes to the Parker House Hilton in Chicago), although the bathroom fortunately featured dual sinks next to the combination tub/shower unit where we could both get ready simultaneously. Granado toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap) were provided. The color of the soap was a little off-putting, a dark green glycerin. (Granado was once the official pharmacy of the Portuguese royal family.) Robes are provided, and each guest receives a complimentary pair of Havaianas (sort of an aqua color) that you can take home with you. If the correct size is not in your room, either ask housekeeping or reception to change them for you. Evening turndown occurs a little too early, in our opinion, between 18:00 and 20:00, a time when most guests are showering and dressing for dinner. Surprisingly, no bottled water is provided at evening turndown, because they make a big deal of the turndown service, placing chocolates and a weather forecast on the bed, and also arranging starched mats adjacent to each bedside atop which they place a pair of Havaianas flip-flops. The hotel has an ATM machine on-site and four small shops: a jewelry kiosk in the lobby, and another larger jewelry store and two souvenir shops between the main wing and the forest wing. The fitness center located in the forest wing is very small - only about five pieces of equipment (one treadmill, one elliptical trainer, one bike, and so on), but you’ll be getting your exercise outdoors anyway. The hotel offers cold ice water flavored with citrus in the lobby near the front desk at all times. We spent about US$550 on food and beverages over our 3-night stay at the Hotel das Cataratas. The guests really are a captive audience because there is nowhere else to eat or drink. We would have spent even more, except that on our day of arrival, we walked to the park snack bar to buy several bottles of water, thinking that they would be less expensive there than in the hotel mini-bar; they were less expensive, although not appreciably so. And we also bought a less-expensive 12-pack of water and a 12-pack of beer one day when we visited the Argentinean side of the falls. Drinking from the mini-bar or ordering room service at the Cataratas was the same price as eating in the restaurants or drinking in the bars. The snack bars inside the national park do not serve beer in cans or bottles, however, so you are limited to making non-alcoholic purchases only. The formal restaurant Porto das Canoas at the far interior of the park, as well as the snack bar adjacent to it, serve both draught beer, and although we saw bottled beer at the formal restaurant Porto das Canoas, we do not know if they would permit you to “carry out”. The hotel features several dining options. The more formal Restaurante Itaipu is open for dinner only from 19:30 to 23:00, but is closed Sunday and Monday. Unfortunately, those were two of the three nights that we stayed at the Cataratas. We had e-mailed the hotel about operating hours of Itaipu before we arrived so that we could make reservations, but they discouraged us from doing that, stating that we needed to look at the menu first before reserving. No one mentioned that the restaurant was not open daily. Restaurante Itapiu offers indoor and outdoor seating. We did not eat at this formal restaurant despite thinking prior to our trip that we would be dining there every night. We enjoy good food, unique ingredients, and interesting presentations, and generally avoid buffets, so this restaurant seemed to be the place for us. But with the restaurant closed two of the three nights we stayed, even after perusing the menu, we decided to forgo it on the third night as well. Other reviewers have said that the prices were high, but we did not find the prices quoted to be much more than the buffet dinner in the Ipe Grill; the difference was that you would be served a few courses rather than all-that-you-cared-to-eat. The Ipe Grill serves a buffet breakfast from 6:30 to 10:00 (included in every room rate), and a buffet dinner from 19:30 to 23:00. The Ipe Grill also serves a la carte options for dinner in addition to the buffet, at least on Sunday and Monday nights when the Itaipu Restaurant is closed. Although we ate dinner at the Ipe Grill intending to order from the a la carte menu, the menu options were a smaller sampling of what was offered in the Itaipu Restaurant and at the same cost, yet in less formal surroundings. The dinner buffet was extensive and nicely presented, but the cost was a bit high at R$120 per person (US$65), not including drinks (the price did not even include a glass of water). The Ipe Grill has both indoor and outdoor seating, and reservations are essential if you want to dine outdoors by the pool, which is very lovely under the starry sky. (We made the mistake of not reserving a table for dinner in advance, thinking that because we were visiting in the height of the summer that it would be too hot and/or buggy to eat outside, which was not the case. We also had no idea what time we would be ready to eat dinner, and had we booked from home, we never would have expected to eat dinner as late as we did on this trip. We had no problem eating outdoors at breakfast-time, however.) Bar Taroba serves drinks and snacks from 17:00 to 23:30 daily. It supposedly features live music from 19:00 to 23:00, although we saw live music only on one night of our stay. Bar Taroba offers indoor and outdoor seating. Do not worry about the section on the menu that states that sandwiches are available only until 18:00; it is possible to order from that section of the menu anytime that the bar is open. In Bar Taroba, we would not recommend the tuna sandwiches; the tuna salad really was not good, nor was the dark-brown bread on which it was served. It came with a “rocket salad”, which was only one piece of romaine lettuce with a bit of dressing. We also do not recommend the dumplings and empanadas, both of which were fried beyond recognition and a few were disappointingly empty of ingredients/fillings. The club sandwich and steak sandwich are better choices. Sandwiches cost about US$25, which is a bit steep, but there is no competition. Cans of beer and soda ran about US$7 each, whether from the mini-bar or in one of the restaurants or the bar. The pool operates officially from 8:00 to 20:00 (but you can use it anytime if you are quiet), and attendants provide towels and fresh fruit to the guests (supposedly also cold water and cold towels, but we did not experience those amenities); one review we read said that these items were offered every 30 minutes or so, but we sat by the pool for about 4 hours one afternoon and they only came around once with fruit, and never with water or cold towels, so it may depend on the day, how busy it is, the weather and/or temperature. You can order drinks and food directly to your pool lounge chair, or there is a small bar and a few tables set up if you would prefer a more traditional place to eat. The pool is large and well-maintained, and there are plenty of lounge chairs available. Actually, the number of lounge chairs is not so many, however, it never seemed that anyone was unable to be seated. Guests are staying at the property to be close to the scenery, not necessarily to swim in the pool, so the number of guests relaxing at any one time is not overwhelming. The pool is large and nicely shaped, but the depth is a bit odd. The bottom of the pool was designed in three varying depths, but only the highest level is usable; the lower two levels are too deep for anyone to stand (and we are tall people!). The spa is open from 2:00 to 22:00 and provides a relaxing place for a massage or other treatment. We did not have any services done at the hotel spa, but we asked for a tour, and the steam rooms (they called them steam “tables”, which made me think of a food buffet!) and relaxation areas were clean and attractive. Prices for a 60-minute massage seemed reasonable for a resort at R$200 (US$110.) Iguassu Experiences is located off the main lobby of the hotel, and is open primarily during daytime hours. You can book several excursions with them, including the Macuco safari, bird park, Itaipu hydroelectric plant, rafting, canopy tour/zip-line, rappeling, trips to the Argentinean National Park, abseiling, rafting, and rock/tree climbing. Several walking tours are also offered; if you are visiting the hotel during the full moon, there is an evening walking tour to see the lunar rainbow.