From our helicopter, hovering over a hilly peninsula in southern Brazil, I peer down at where our villa is supposed to be.
I can see nothing but lush rainforest, small sandy beaches and the Atlantic Ocean. Soon we descend into a tiny clearing and are whisked by golf cart to Ponta dos Ganchos resort. It’s then that I realise why I couldn’t see the villa from above. Built hanging over the hillside, its roof is covered with native plants and flowers.
Stepping through our front door, we’re greeted by Ibiza-esque grooves, a vast lounging sofa and floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside is a huge terrace overlooking a teal blue bay and mountains beyond. As my husband flops on the bed, I check out our very own mini-spa – sauna, vast hot tub and cushioned loungers for massages or relaxing, all with sea views. Oh yes, this is going to be a good trip. And when it gets too hot in the sauna, the infinity-edged plunge pool on the terrace will cool us down.
We quickly change into swimwear and take the short walk along the peaceful, rainforest-lined road to the beach. Ponta dos Ganchos – an hour outside Florianópolis, in southern Brazil – has 25 villas, set in the resort’s privately-owned peninsula, and guests walk from villa to beach to restaurant to bar, although the chauffeured golf carts are only ever minutes away if you’re feeling lazy.
We’re keen to try the café culture and surfing that Florianópolis is famous for – but later. For now, we just want to go for a gentle swim, then flop on the shore with a caipirinha and a good book. Descending wooden stairs to a small sandy beach, we see that it’s part of a little cove, with two tiny islands nearby keeping the water calm, even when the Atlantic Ocean gets in a bit of a fury.
There’s no sign of a storm today, so we make our way across a footbridge to one of the islands (which actually belong to the resort), where the waiter soon appears with our drinks.
Consuming the 10-course degustation breakfast gives us enough energy to hit the waves the next day. A driver takes us to Florianópolis for a surf lesson with Floripa Surf Club, and amazingly, we’re actually standing up before too long. Feeling fairly smug, we leave the beginner’s beach with its gentle waves and head for Praia Mole, one of the most famous surfing beaches in the world. Thinking we’d get some tips from the experts, we settle down at a bar to see how the locals do it.
When the next big wave comes in, a dozen muscled, tanned surfer guys and gals leap up, weaving, spinning and hopping along the wave’s crest. Before long, a massive tube-shaped swell appears, and several of the surfers skim along under it, like they’re going through a pipe. Given that we’d barely managed to stand on what we thought was a one-metre monster, we decide to leave this stretch to the pros.
Back at Ponta dos Ganchos the next day, we take a lazier option and jump on a speedboat to the Bahia dos Golfinhos, a protected area of the Atlantic that’s home to dozens of dolphins – many of which we see frolicking in the water.
Horse riding, golf, trekking, kayaking and more are all easily arranged at the resort, but I fancy a bit of shopping, so we set off for the old Colonial Market. Tiny, hole-in-the-wall cafés line one side of the market building, with shops opposite selling local fruit and vegetables. Picturesque, but not quite what I’m looking for. Then we stumble upon another building around the back – the shoe market, with every style, shape, colour and pattern of Havaianas flip-flops you could dream of, at rock-bottom prices. That’s more like it. I leave with a dozen different pairs.
On the final day, we go on an awe-inspiring walk through the resort’s majestic rainforest before aromatherapy and shiatsu massages in the tented, beachside cabanas of the Christian Dior Spa. A private dinner on the little island by the resort’s beach is the perfect finale. As the sun goes down, flickering candlelight and chilled champagne set the mood for what feels like the last evening of our honeymoon – only we’ve been married for ten years. Toasting a blissfully loved-up week, we both agree we’ll be skipping the Seychelles next year and coming back to our new favourite winter-sun hotspot instead.
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Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert
Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.
Hannah Donaldson - Travel Expert
Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.
Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert
Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.
Ben Line - Travel Expert
Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.
Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert
Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.