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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Real Latin America Experts
Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant
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 an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.
Ben Line - Travel Consultant
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 Manager of the Tailor-made Department.
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.
Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant
After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.
Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Consultant
Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.