Emiliano Rio Emile Restaurant

If there’s one market we cover that’s been underserved by luxury hotels, it’s Rio de Janeiro. It was hurting for high-end hotels when we launched more than a decade ago and despite going on to host the Olympics and World Cup, there’s still a shortage of upscale places to stay.

Making the problem worse, most of the hotel managers and owners in Brazil are so focused on the domestic market that we editors in the press are unlikely to even get a returned phone call or e-mail when we try to write about them. The ones that are there seem to prefer being off the radar, perhaps because the supply is so low they’re usually full without trying very hard.

So we have a tough time finding worthy spots to cover in Brazil’s most popular city. With flight connections increasing, however, and the onerous visa process and charges now gone, we expect vacation travel to Brazil to pick up quite a bit in the coming years. We hope to offer you more options in the future, but you can add these two luxury hotels to your consideration list by checking out our reviews from a recent visit.

JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro

Facing the middle of Copacabana Beach in a prime location, the JW Marriott is the most popular upscale hotel with foreign visitors. This is one of the few that gets more international travelers than vacationing Brazilians. It’s the obvious choice for elite members of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program, of course, especially since those travelers will usually get onto the executive level with this view from the lounge:

JW Marriott executive lounge view

There’s also a nice roof deck enjoyed by all that has a small swimming pool and a great drinking and dining area with refined food truck fare and festive cocktails. It’s a happening spot at night when there’s a slight break in the temperatures. There’s a small spa area and a larger, fully equipped fitness center.

The hotel has it’s own chairs and umbrellas set-up on the beach, which is a big plus in the crowded months. English proficiency is very good here and you get the benefit of international-level staff training that puts the service above all but the Copacabana in this city.

See our full review of JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro.

Emiliano Hotel Rio

Rooftop deck and pool at Emiliano Hotel Rio de Janeiro on Copacabana BeachAs in Sao Paulo, Emiliano competes with Fasano to pull in this hip designer crowd and apparently that crowd has plenty of money in Brazil: this property often has the most expensive rates on Copacabana Beach.

Emiliano is a relatively small boutique design hotel, with 90 rooms. More than 40 of those face the ocean and are the obvious choice. It seems kind of disheartening to pay $445 or more per night for a standard that looks to the interior instead. Those facing the ocean have a cool artistic metal screen with the same design you see on that wall to the left, but the screen can open or close.

These are some of the most attractive rooms in town though, filled with designer furniture and artistic touches to please those looking for something less traditional. Expect good lighting, plenty of outlets, robes, fine local toiletries, and a soaking tub in all.

The restaurant and lounge are equally impressive, both from a design standpoint and for what’s going on your plate or in your glass. In an area of the city not known for fine dining, Emile Restaurant (pictured at the top) is a standout.

There’s a good spa on site, a gym with a view, and an attractive roof deck space with a narrow pool. See our full review of Emiliano Rio Hotel.

See other rundowns of the best luxury hotels in Brazil.