I’m a big travel planner. Nothing gives me more happiness than when I need to plan an itinerary, book flights, find the right accommodation or figure out how to get from point A to B. If the destination is what I call a ‘hero’ destination – i.e. one that’s been an iconic fixture on my must-see list since God was a child, then that planning momentum can reach fever pitch. I’ll obsess over the minutiae when looking for accommodation, will devour every travel forum, watch every youtube video and even message random people who’ve written about their visit to ask the most mundane of questions. All in the spirit of wanting to get the experience right.

Brazil, or should I say Rio de Janeiro practically killed my travel buzz. When planning accommodation, the hotel scene can appear a little tricky to navigate, with lots of what I would call hotels of dubious merit. While the obvious choice would be to hightail it to the Copacabana Palace without a second thought, the hotel was completely sold out for the short stay we had planned en route to Argentina. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the opinions on travel forums, cautions over security, where to stay and what areas to avoid. In the end, I just allowed common sense to prevail, and chose the Golden Tulip Ipanema for it’s close proximity to Leblon beach, and for having decent enough rooms without the Copacabana Palace price-tag.

An early morning flight from Sao Paulo and after an hour or so later, we arrived to an overcast and rather sweltering Rio. Check-in required a lot of form filling, and after a quick room change to a higher floor, we ended up having an uneventful stay that was rather overshadowed by constant cloudy rain weather.

On the plus side, the Golden Tulip Ipanema is in a great location to navigate your way throughout the city. I enjoyed my daily runs along the beachfront promenade, and Leblon beach (had it been sunny!) would have been a joy to properly experience. There’s a fairly basic breakfast included in the room rate, and guests are offered a welcome drink at check-in, which you can use at any time (lethal caipirihas – you have been warned!). There’s a poorly equipped gym for the brave, and the rooftop pool is often closed to host late night private parties that do seem to go on for a fair bit.

The Verdict
Without intentionally wanting to end on a bum note, the Golden Tulip Ipanema really wasn’t my kind of hotel. In fact I don’t think I particularly enjoyed much of Rio, perhaps with the exception of experiencing Christ the Redeemer – a lifelong milestone now achieved. The constant vigilance, tiresome back and forth with taxi drivers to avoid getting ripped off, always being on edge to protect ourselves from muggings teamed with the horrid weather I think may have just got the better of us. Not a destination I’ll be rushing back to experience (Copacabana Palace or not).

Hotel – 4/10
Experience – 5/10

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