Many global explorers have traveled the world but never experienced a truly luxurious hotel. 5-star properties can seem out of reach for many reasons. For some it’s the price tag, for others it’s considered a frivolous expense, and for many, it’s not their travel style. I have run the gambit from living in a hostel room, camping in Africa, and sleeping on sailboats, to staying in luxury hotel suites. In this article, I explore when it’s worth it to splurge and what it’s like when you do, with one specific example of my favourite hotel experience.
Thanks to my career in travel I have switched from hostels to nice hotels. I have also aged a decade, so that is a factor too! Unfortunately, I have become quite accustomed to quality. The problem is that I don’t always have the budget for it and have to be discerning with my choices. When I travel on my own time there are instances when it’s worth it to indulge and times when it isn’t.
Splurge on properties in stunning settings
I believe the best investments are luxury properties that highlight a beautiful natural environment. After a long day snowboarding, it is truly something to come back to the cozy mountain decor of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Take a dip in one of their outdoor hot pools and soothe your muscles with a mountain view and a cold beer. Then move inside to the bustling Mallard lounge to enjoy some live music and mulled wine. Open your blinds the next morning to look out on the mountains you are about to enjoy. Essentially, location is everything.
Belmond Hotel das Cataratas Iguassu Falls
The best example of a 5-star hotel that I experienced is the Belmond overlooking Iguassu Falls. It’s the only hotel on the Brazilian side inside the national park. We only stayed for one night because it set us back $500 USD. It was the best decision I made on our 6-week trip!
After a 10 minute drive through dense jungle, we pulled up outside the pink princess, to panoramic views of Iguassu. It makes for a powerful first impression. We arrived at 11 am, and to our delight, were checked in right away by the loveliest man, Eduardo. It was one of the kindest check-in experiences I’ve had, Eduardo even walked us to our room, pointing out features of the Belmond on our way. Our room was large with high ceilings, a mahogany four-poster king-sized bed, and french doors that opened out onto a balcony. The design was classic and stylish with modern twists. We dropped our bags and went promptly to the falls to enjoy one of the most stunning sights on the planet. Having already visited the Argentinian side, we were struck by the difference of the view from the Brazilian vantage point. The falls are closer and there are fewer people to battle.
Once we were suitably soaked and had taken a million photos we came back to the hotel for a swim. The pool was perfect, the service impeccable, and the drinks cold. We then happened upon a free wine tasting at the hotel wine store where we were treated to a complimentary wine and cheese pairing. After that surprise, we dashed off for the best part of our stay. The main draw to the Belmond is that guests are entitled to 24 hours access to Iguassu when the crowds are long gone. We nipped down to the falls with our wine glasses and a bottle of bubbles and posted up for sunset. There were only a handful of other guests around to witness the sky turn pink with the falls in the foreground. It was so beautiful I could have cried. We found a secluded spot on a balcony and cheers’ed to the incredible evening, with water thundering around us.
After sunset we dined at the premier restaurant at the Belmond. With wooden floors and yellow walls, Itaipu is a stylish affair with top-notch food. A mixture of creative Brazilian dishes and choice wine, the meal could not be faulted. After dinner, I treated myself to a soak in the gorgeous bathroom that had been set up with rose petals and equipped with bath salts and candles. Heaven on earth.
We woke early and bolted out of bed for sunrise over Iguassu. This time there were only 2 other guests with the same idea, and we were treated to another private display of nature at its finest. We followed that by the most delicious breakfast I have ever had. It was the breakfast buffet that never ended, complete with a champagne cart and made to order food stations. After eating enough to skip lunch, we did more lounging by the pool before making our sad departure from paradise.
What made our stay so special comes down to quality and location. Staying inside Iguassu Falls national park was special, one of those hard to beat, once in a lifetime adventures. The proximity to the falls is what makes the hotel so incredible yet it’s the service, quality and small details that elevates the Belmond. Many hotels would rest on their laurels with a location like that. Not the Belmond, they offer exceptional service and cutting edge design from the bathrooms, to the cocktail lounge, to the pool. Plus the culinary experience would satisfy even the most discerning foodie! I also enjoyed how much the Belmond respects the natural environment. It isn’t some monolith that towers over the park, like an obvious imposition on nature. It seems to strangely complement it through its thoughtful colonial architecture and stylish tropical decor.
When I think about the value here, I can’t fault it. Mark and I would have paid $300 per person for a private champagne sunset viewing of Iguassu, and yet that was just one small part of our stay, included as a byproduct of the location. Now, this is a hotel that you splurge on.
Tips for booking a quality hotel:
- Make the most of your time by arriving early, if your room isn’t ready, leave your bags with the concierge and enjoy the grounds. You can also request a late check-out.
- Pay extra for a view or superior room. If the price difference isn’t huge, it’s worth it to pay a bit more to further elevate your stay.
- Do your research and look for unique properties that stand out from the rest; because of their location, design or inclusions.
- Be flexible with your dates and see if there are seasonal price differences. By avoiding high season, luxury properties become more affordable.
- Look for long stay discounts, some hotels will offer deals such as 7 nights for the price of 5.
- Book in advance as last-minute bookings are generally at a premium.
- Book a refundable rate and watch to see if the rate changes and see if you can cancel and re-book at a lower price.