Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas, Iguazu Falls, Brazil review: Location, location, location

Our rating

5 out of 5

It would be hard to find a better place to stay while being awed by the spectacular surroundings, writes Craig Platt.

The place

Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas, Iguazu Falls, Brazil

The location

The Hotel Das Cataratas​ must lay claim to one of the greatest locations in the world, sitting on the border of Brazil and Argentina and overlooking the spectacular Iguazu Falls. The falls are the largest in the world, by many definitions (competitors are North America's Niagara, which has the largest waterflow, and Africa's Victoria, which has the longest continuous curtain). But records aside, Iguazu is the most stunning of the big three, split into 275 separate cascades and islands spread across 2.7 kilometres. Besides the falls, the hotel sits in a rainforest setting filled with exotic wildlife.

The space

The striking pink building is built in a traditional Portuguese style, giving it a colonial feel. The hotel front faces the falls, with a series of rooms offering views of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Built in 1958, the hotel comprises a main building and two further wings, which were added in 1971 and 1982. These wings envelop an interior courtyard where the pool and main restaurant are located, with views out to the surrounding jungle. There's a total of 193 rooms, including 15 suites.

The falls themselves are literally across the road - the hotel sits adjacent to one of the best viewing spots on the Brazilian side. It is the only hotel in the national park on this side of the border and guests have access to the falls when the park is closed to other visitors. This makes for a good opportunity to enjoy the natural wonder at times when the tourists, who arrive in droves by coach, are gone.

Because of this location, access to the hotel is via a gatehouse on the edge of the park, from which a hotel van transfers guests.

The room

My ground-floor junior suite does not have a view of the falls (only 21 rooms have this) but makes up for it in style and comfort. The room features a queen-sized bed, couch, desk, a spacious bathroom and a large walk-in robe. In here I discover a pair of Havaiana​ thongs - a gift for all guests. The staffer showing me to my room checks the size and finds they are slightly too small and a new pair is brought soon after. I put them on to enjoy the sunshine in the small private garden - another feature of the room. My only minor quibble is the alcove containing the minibar and tea and coffee facilities is a bit small, so access to the kettle and making tea a little difficult.

The attention to detail and service cannot be faulted. For example, when I ask for my bags to be collected upon check-out, the bellman refuses to knock on my door because I've forgotten to remove the "do not disturb" sign. Instead, he returns to the front desk and gets them to call me to ensure it's OK for him to knock. After my room is serviced, I find my phone charger neatly rolled up and placed on a bedside table. It's small touches like this that separate the best hotels from the pack.

The food

As the hotel is fairly isolated in the national park, dining options are essentially limited to the hotel's two restaurants (or, during the day, the touristy cafeterias along the waterfall trail). Itaipu is a Brazilian-fusion fine-dining restaurant with limited seating, so reservations are advised. The Ipe Grill offers a vast and diverse buffet, with a particular focus on that Brazilian favourite: meat. There are, in fact, 12 different meats available from the grill, pulled from the flames by sword - it's best to go with a big appetite as the buffet is not cheap.

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It strikes me that the staff, who are attentive to a fault, may have been trained in the art of conversation, so good are they at making friendly small talk in a language that isn't their first.

Stepping out

One of the natural wonders of the world is on your doorstep, but there's more to it than just what's on offer near the hotel. While the Brazilian side of Iguazu offers a great overview of the falls, the Argentinian side allows you to have more close-up interaction. So large is the Argentinian national park, in fact, you'll probably require an entire day to experience it all. (Word of warning: If you intend to take one of the boat trips that get you up close with the falls, leave it until the end of the day. No matter what precautions you take, you'll be soaked.)

VIDEO: The majesty of Iguazu Falls

The verdict

Hotel Das Cataratas not only lays claim to an extraordinary locale, it's also home to exceptional service and beautiful rooms. Even without its proximity to the falls, this would be a hotel worthy of a splurge for a special occasion.

How to get there

LAN flies from Sydney to Santiago via Auckland with connections to Iguazu Falls. lan.com.

See + Do

The South America Travel Centre can create tailor-made itineraries including accommodation, transfers, activities and domestic travel across the continent, including guided tours of Iguazu Falls. See southamericatravelcentre.com.au.

Essentials

Rooms at the Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas start from $409 a night for a superior room, including breakfast (minimum two-night stay). My junior suite starts from $631. belmond.com/hotel-das-cataratas-iguassu-falls.

Phone 1800 217 568

The writer travelled as a guest of the South America Travel Centre and LAN.