Traditionally, Salvador ’s top-of-the-line, big chain beach hotels were concentrated in the middle-class neighborhoods of Ondina and Rio Vermelho. Rio Vermelho, in particular, is picturesque and full of transportation options, although not as central as Barra. Moreover, the beaches are not good for swimming.
Located in a charming pale pink colonial house—and a more recently built annex—overlooking the sea, the Hotel Catharina Paraguaçu (Rua João Gomes 128, Rio Vermelho, tel. 71/3334-0089, www.hotelcatharinaparaguacu.com.br , R$148 d), is a favorite of both Brazilian and foreign travelers (and travel guide writers) who appreciate the homey, intimate atmosphere—unique along Salvador ’s orla.
The 32 rooms aren’t spacious or stylish, but they are cozy. More alluring are the dining, living room, and reception areas, decorated with local ceramics, lacework, and antiques as well as a whimsical collection of glazed ceramic tiles azulejos. Also lovely are the surrounding gardens. The location is perfect for those tempted to indulge in Rio Vermelho’s bohemian nightlife.
If you want to go whole hog and live it up in a classic luxury hotel with all the amenities, then check into the Hotel Pestana Bahia (Rua Fonte de Boi 216, Rio Vermelho, tel. 71/2183-8000, www.pestana.com , R$295–310 d), which emerged from a major facelift in 2003 looking much more refreshed and elegant. Its dramatic perch on a hillside allows for stunning views of the Atlantic, which can be viewed from the tastefully furnished rooms as well as two swimming pools. Toss in a sauna, Jacuzzi, fitness room, massage center, 24-room service, cable TV, wireless broadband, babysitting, and a couple of plush restaurants and bars, and you’re sitting very pretty.