Sheraton Barra Hotel & Suites, Rio de Janeiro $$$$
Barra da Tijuca
Rio de Janeiro
Tel: 55 21 3139 8000
Concierge.com's insider take:
Shaped like a pair of gigantic white tubular pinecones, this Sheraton opened in 2003 and has major prosand cons. Barra is the fastest-growing neighborhood in the city, with vast malls (one has its own monorail), condo complexes, and theme parks, and it's where much of Rio's new money has settled. But it's a major schlep into Leblon and Ipanema, costing a bundle in cab fare (there's no metro). On the bright side, the endless beach (ten miles long) is fine and pristine, and you're right on it. (You'll see many surfers and kite surfers here.) Also, each bulge of the "pinecone" represents an ocean-view balconyall 292 rooms have them. And the rooms are big and quite glam in a corporate way, with their beige and rust palette, curvy built-in wooden furniture, and super-connectivity (something you can't take for granted in Rio). The pools are great, the gym is bigger than average, and there's even a squash court. Finally, the rates are super-low for the quality, especially for travelers with Starwood points to spend. Another Sheraton property, the Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort, actually sits on the sand and is closer to Leblon and Ipanema. The small beach is a pleasure, but its setting, below a favelaor shantytownis iffy.