We stayed for four nights from February 8 to 12, 2012 at the Copacabana Palace (an Orient-Express Hotel), located on Avenida Atlantica, across the street from Copacabana Beach (there are no hotels directly ON the beach in Rio). We booked a Superior City View Room through the American Express Platinum Fine Hotels & Resorts Program. The rate included an upgrade upon availability, a 12:00 early check-in, a 4:00 pm late check-out, buffet breakfast daily for 2 people, and a US$100 spa credit. (We would have preferred a US$100 food and beverage credit, but that was not offered.) We debated between the Copacabana Palace, the JW Marriott, and the Sofitel, which were all similarly priced, but decided on the Copacabana Palace because it is one of the most iconic hotels in South America. The hotel is modeled on the Negresco in Nice and the Carlton in Cannes, so it’s a big, classic property. The hotel has two parts - the original main palace building and an annex called the tower wing. Our room was located in the annex. We were upgraded to an Avenue City View Corner Suite (room 954), which had a large living room with two balconies, a nice-size bedroom, a large bathroom, and a large foyer. One of the balconies overlooked Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, and the other balcony overlooked the fitness center/spa with a slight view of the Atlantic Ocean (if we stood on our tip-toes and leaned over a bit). When we checked in, the desk agent explained the various rooms from which we could choose, so we knew that we were sacrificing a pool/ocean view for a larger suite, a decision that we would repeat. Neither balcony was outfitted with any patio furniture, which was a real shame! Anytime we went out on the balcony, we carried out chairs from the living room. It seems odd to have such nice outdoor spaces and then not encourage guests to use them. It would probably promote consumption from the mini-bar as well, because guests would want to enjoy a cold refreshment while they sat on the terrace. The living room had a sofa and two chairs, along with a coffee table and two end tables. It also had a desk and chair and two other small chairs (which we used on the balconies). Wi-Fi service was included with the room rate. Coffee service was provided (it looked like a single-cup Keurig-type machine), although we do not remember it being complimentary (we did not use it). Evening turndown occurred late (between 21:00 and 23:00), and as part of the turndown, a bottle of water and a yummy chocolate was provided on each bedside table, and a starched bedside mat was laid on each side of the bed, with a pair of Havaianas flip-flops atop. The air-conditioning worked tremendously well, which is always impressive in an international hotel of a certain age, and especially in such a warm climate. The bathroom featured dual sinks, which helps when two people need to share, and a bathtub separate from the shower. The toiletries were made by Granado in possibly the Castanha do Brasil scent, according to what we see on their website. Shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and body wash were provided, as were some cotton swabs and cotton balls, but that was the extent of the toiletries. (Granado was once the official pharmacy of the Portuguese royal family.) We had some issues with our toilet - one of the parts inside the tank responsible for the flushing mechanism broke several times, and each time we called maintenance, someone would arrive with a plunger, thinking that the toilet was clogged. It was difficult communicating the real issue to the staff - we are not sure if it was a language barrier or they did not have the correct parts to replace the broken ones. Umbrellas, robes, and slippers (actually black Havaianas flip-flops, which you can take with you when you leave; just ask the housekeeper or reception desk for a specific size if what they provided does not fit) are provided, as is a nice-size electronic safe. The night before our departure, we were unable to open the safe, and it was discovered that the batteries needed to be replaced. But this repair was handled with the utmost professionalism, with two persons - one person of whom seemed managerial - coming to address the issue. No iron or ironing board is available, but of course, the hotel offers pressing services for a fee. The closet area in the bedroom was huge, sort of a walk-in type with plenty of storage. We really enjoyed the spaciousness and comfort of our room!
The location of the hotel is great, with Copacabana Beach across busy Avenida Atlantica, and Sugar Loaf mountain less than a 10-minute drive away. A cross-walk exists near the corner of the hotel, and the traffic lights have those buttons that pedestrians can push to make the light change more frequently. Avenida Atlantica sometimes has two-way traffic, and at other times, the traffic runs only one way, but the direction changes depending on the time of day. (It made us glad that we did not rent a car and drive ourselves!) It does not appear that there’s any parking at the hotel; some on-street parking exists, but you could not leave a car there for any significant amount of time, and certainly not overnight. A doorman is stationed at the hotel entrance to hail taxi cabs for the guests, although we did not use that service.
To reach the fitness center and spa, which are part of the tower annex, you must walk through the Cipriani Bar and Restaurant. If you try to access the fitness center or the spa in the late afternoon or early evening, you feel a bit conspicuous in your workout gear or hotel robe as you pass elegantly attired diners. Even returning to your room after a late afternoon at the beach or pool makes one feel a bit out of place as you walk through Cipriani. Although we do not normally partake of spa services while on vacation (our feeling is that we’re already relaxed, so why not save the pampering for a boring day at home?), I booked a 30-minute jet lag massage to spend our US$100 spa credit from American Express. The cost for the service ended up being about US$85, but I remitted the entire check in addition to leaving a separate tip for the therapist. The spa area is attractive, with a lovely relaxation room on both the main level and the upper level. You can use the area on the main level at any time, whereas it seems that the room on the upper level is reserved for patrons after their services. Outside of the relaxation room on the main floor is the entrance to the men’s and women’s saunas, as well as a small table outfitted with cold water (with real glasses and ice) and mixed nuts. The fitness center is large and well equipped, including towels and bottled water. Changing rooms include lockers, showers, and so on. A beauty salon is also on site at the hotel.
The pool is grand, but not as large as we had expected from other reviews. (Perhaps it IS huge in comparison to the pools of other hotels, most of which are on rooftops). The pool is on the ground level, the same level as the restaurants, the beach, and the lobby. Many lounge chairs surround the pool, and the pool staff does a good job of managing the chairs when they turn over. You can order food and drinks to your loungers, and they set up a little pool bar during the day that serves buckets of Veuve Clicquot champagne and other high-end drinks. I believe the formal pool hours are 8:00 to 20:00, but it seemed that you could swim at any time if you were discrete.
For anyone with mobility issues, this hotel features a number of steps The smallish lobby area is located on the ground level, but it is necessary to climb at least 10 stairs to reach another small lobby area and the elevator bank for the main building of the hotel. To reach the pool, gift shop, and restaurants, you must then walk down two sets of stairs, with each set being 3 or so steps. If your room is in the tower annex, it requires a step up from the pool area and opening a very heavy door to enter the lobby area of Cipriani, then up another 3 or 4 stairs up to access the tower annex elevator bank. It’s not a big deal for most travelers, but if anyone has physical limitations, it would present a problem. We do not think that someone in a wheelchair could even stay in this hotel - one would need to be able to transfer oneself up and down those stairs. If you think you might tote your own bag to your room (even one of those small roll-aboard suitcases), think again! It’s hard to manage more than a handbag or small carry-on bag with all those steps.
The hotel offers beach service, where they provide you with complimentary chairs, umbrellas, towels, cold sealed containers of water, and fresh fruit. The chairs were arranged closer to the sidewalk promenade than to the water, separating hotel guests from the masses of local people. If you wanted to take your Copacabana Palace lounge chair down by the water, the attendants would probably move it for you. Another option is to rent a chair and sit by the water. Many vendors set up on the sand who rent chairs and umbrellas and that also sell drinks and food. It seems that each stand also sets up a portable shower for use by its guests. (The hotel does not have its own shower, which would have been a nice perk.) More formal food and drink vendors are positioned along the paved promenade that runs along Avenida Atlantica from one end to the other. Many stands seem to focus on fresh fruit drinks, particularly drinks including fresh coconut. All stands have some type of seating, whether tables and chairs or something more hip and modern like beanbags. Take your pick and enjoy the view! In the late afternoon and early evening, food carts set up on the corner near the Copacabana Palace, selling churros, empanadas, and other types of local food.
The hotel has two restaurants, the formal Cipriani serving lunch and dinner, and the more casual Pergula Restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Cipriani has a lovely bar area (and both bar and restaurant patrons are treated to live music played on the grand piano), and a nightclub called the Copa Bar is set up on weekend evenings with its entrance near the beautiful pool. We at in the Pergula Restaurant every day for breakfast (with both indoor and outdoor spaces), and the offerings were well-tended and fairly complete. (We did not notice any pancakes or French toast, though.) The variety of fruit displayed is astounding, many with names that were completely unfamiliar to us. The variety of pastries and breads was also impressive. A chef was available to prepare eggs and omelets on request. We were provided with a breakfast bill each day, even though it was included in our room rate, and we think we were charged about US$50 per person per day - a bit pricey in our opinion, because it was not the nicest or most extensive breakfast buffet that we’ve ever seen (that honor goes to the Peninsula Bangkok). We did not dine at Cipriani, partially because we felt that we did not pack fancy enough clothing. Another reason is that we live near New York City, where there are several branches of Cipriani, so we feel that we can always try one of those properties at a later time. We ate dinner in the Pergula Restaurant on our first night of arrival, hoping for something light, quick, and inexpensive, but we found that our meal was none of those (although it was atmospheric dining pool-side in the moonlight)! I was not at all hungry, so I ordered nothing but a non-alcoholic drink, and my spouse’s dish of penne Bolognese cost over US$50 (for a single-serving size, not a large bowl like you would get in the US from which you would have some leftovers to take home)! No less-expensive options were available; appetizers/starters seemed to be priced just as highly as the pasta, and certain tourist staples like the ubiquitous club sandwich were not offered. Nearby less-costly restaurant options included La Fiducia, Manuel and Joaquim, Maxim’s, and Churrascaria Palace.
The main entrance to the hotel (which opens onto the registration lobby) is the ONLY entrance and exit from the hotel during most of the day. A sealed entrance/exit exists in the annex; however, it is not used any more, probably for security reasons (the door opens onto the street running parallel to Avenida Atlantica, which is called Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana). We also saw the door that leads into the Pergula Restaurant opened in the evening and manned by a doorman ushering in patrons between velvet ropes, but instead of the door admitting people to the restaurant, it provided easy access to the Copa Bar that opens off the pool area on Thursday through Sunday nights. Hotel guests have no cover charge on Thursday or Friday, but do have to pay on Saturday and Sunday nights. (We cannot comment on the amount of the cover charge because we are past the age of drinking and dancing the night away!)
This hotel does not have an ATM machine; however, they can convert foreign money to local currency at the front desk or concierge desk. Front-of-house staff are very professional, attired in regulation business suits, and are knowledgeable about local restaurants and attractions.
In an effort to save some cash, we visited a nearby store every afternoon that sold beer (singles and by the case) as well as cases of water. We bought a case of water and a half-case of beer each day for about R$30 (US$16), which was the price of one fancy drink at the hotel! There’s sort of a “dollar store” called Lojas Americanas on Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana where you can buy snacks, non-alcoholic drinks, suntan lotion, and other sundry items.
We made the right choice for ourselves in staying at the Copacabana Palace - it was the favorite hotel of our vacation, and we would jump at the chance to stay there again - especially in one of the suites!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC