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The phrase “Brazilian beach resort” conjures images of tanned bodies wearing as little as possible and cavorting in the endless tropical sunshine – a forever-young-and-single paradise. But one Brazilian beach resort, Ponta Dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort in the southern state of Santa Catarina, is decidedly more couples-centric, a Zen-like five-star enclave where rustic-chic bungalows and gourmet cuisine satisfy a more subdued and sophisticated appetite for life. That’s not to say a stay here isn’t sexy. Cozy fireplaces, samba CDs and soothing Jacuzzis with sweeping sea views insure that private time is more than memorable, too.
With just 25 bungalows spread over a private peninsula dense with rainforest vegetation and rustling bamboo, this adults-only Relais & Chateaux resort, which opened in 2001, is the kind of place where busy couples check in unable to stop glancing at their BlackBerries or iPhones and check out a few days later unable to stop glancing at each other, their high-tech toys turned off even though the resort is fully Wi-Fi capable. The magic elixir: a combination of stunning setting – a boulder-strewn shoreline lapped by emerald water – culinary innovation and sensual pampering that leaves no sense unstirred.
All meals and non-alcoholic beverages are included in the nightly rates and served whenever you want them, adding to the relaxation quotient. Since March 2010, renowned French chef Laurent Suaudeau, who now lives in Sao Paulo, has revamped the resort’s menus with a focus on fresh local and regional fare prepared using gastronomic techniques. The onsite organic garden provides much of the produce used for salads and side dishes, while nearby waters offer up a trove of fresh seafood—including world-famous Santa Catarina oysters (shown at right).
The healthy indulgence starts with breakfast, served as a 10-course tasting menu that changes daily and features mini versions of everything from a kale, apple, and mint shot to yogurt with strawberries and roses to French toast with chocolate. Savored on the terrace as the brilliant morning light ripples across a bay bobbing with fishermen’s boats, it sets the tone for the haute delights that will follow. Lunch, served in the atmospheric Beach Restaurant, is split between a variety of local Brazilian dishes (such as the delicious Camarao na Moranga – shrimp with local winter pumpkin and rice) and a daily selection of appetizers and entrées with a more international flavor. Twice a week, the grills are fired up at the adjacent terrace garden (shown at left) for a seafood grill of salmon, shrimp, calamari, and swordfish with perfectly marinated and grilled veggies. Washed down with a light Brazilian rosé and capped with a ginger parfait and mango dessert, it is a refreshing interlude that you can linger over for hours.
Dinner, also served in the Beach Restaurant, is a multi-course experience with offerings ranging from delicate sea bass to juicy Argentine beef. Couples seeking privacy can reserve a gazebo on the resort’s private island for a candle-lit six–course menu with wine pairings for an extra fee of about $359. And once a year, in either June or August (Brazil’s winter when subtropical temperatures at the resort range from the low 70s during the day to the low 50s at night), Ponta Dos Ganchos holds a trio of Chef’s Cycle weekends featuring invited Brazilian and international chefs who dazzle guests with two tasting menus. During my stay, the man in the kitchen was Brazilian-born, Europe-trained Renato Carioni and the cuisine was Italian. The highlights: octopus risotto with green olives and duck breast accompanied by rustic polenta with dried fruits, mustard, and honey sauce.
Yes, there is a gym to work off all this caloric indulgence, as well as hiking trails on the property and nearby. But since relaxation is the specialty here, most couples also head for the Spa, a trio of white cabanas set on a cliff overlooking the sea (shown at right). A sunset hot stone massage is the perfect way to wind down into a star- and Champagne-filled night.
Because each of the resort’s bungalows is a spacious haven with a king bed, fireplace, and wine cooler, plus a terrace with a sea view and a hammock, many couples spend lots of time simply enjoying their accommondations. There are seven categories, ranging from Luxo, the smallest at 860 square feet, from $762/night through November 30, to the Special Emerald Villa, the largest at 3,110 square feet with its own Jacuzzi, sauna, plunge pool, and fitness center, from $2,150/night through November 30. My picks for romance are the 1,025-square-foot Super Luxo, which has both a private sauna and outdoor Jacuzzi (shown at left), from $947/night through November 30, and the 2,460-square-foot Emerald Villa, which has a sauna and indoor Jacuzzi with stunning views (shown below at right), plus a large veranda with comfy chaises and an infinity edge plunge pool, from $1,485/night through Nov. 30.
Guests fly into the airport on the nearby island of Florianopolis, with flight times of just 1.5 hours from Rio de Janeiro and two hours from Buenos Aires, making Ponta Dos Ganchos a great resort add-on to either of these dynamic cities. U.S. citizens will need a visa to visit Brazil. Check with the Brazilian Consulate for details.