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Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
The vibe: Slow, happy, and inexpensive
Picture this: Located in the northeast of Brazil, Salvador lies between green tropical hills and broad beaches along the bay of Todos os Santos. Originally a slave port city, the delicious melting pot of African and Brazilian cultures and foods draws a particular brand of sensual-minded traveler. Expect pounding drums as background music and the heady smell of palm cooking oil in the air.
The crowd: Shirtless athletic men practicing the martial art–cum-dance of capoeira on the beach; slinky Bahian women with dark skin and green eyes drinking cold bottled beer in the umbrella-covered beach bars.
The sundowner: Classic caipirinhas are so last year. The hippest joints serve caipirinhas mixed with sake for a more delicate (and disguised) kick.
Come to bed: The hotel scene hasn't quite caught up to the ever-more-cosmo feel of the city, but the Bahia Othon Palace turns its '70s-era tower into a kitschy plus. Sitting between the main drag of Avenida Oceânica and the ocean in the upscale neighborhood of Ondina, all guest rooms have a view of the water, and the alfresco deck bar is a lively evening scene. This is also the place to stay for Carnaval—the scene is much bigger (and wilder) than Rio's.
Bahia Othon Palace
Tel: 55 71 2103 7100
Doubles from $115