This small, wooden guesthouse sits in Sao Conrado, on the edge of Rio de Janeiro's main Zona Sul tourist area (Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Vidigal), high in the jungle-covered hills near Tijuca National Park, the world's largest urban forest. Although only a 25-minute drive from the crowds of Copacabana beach, it feels further – in a good way. With only six rooms for a maximum of 10 guests, the emphasis at Tuakaza, which opened in December, is on personalised service, space and peace, up in the mountains.
The guesthouse was designed by Zanine Caldas, a well-known Brazilian architect, which means wood, and lots of it. As well as tree trunks integrated into the structure, the floors, doors, ceilings, features and much of the furniture is made of hardwood. There are four doubles and two singles, each named after a different fruit (Kiwi, Blueberry and so on) and painted accordingly. Elsewhere, you'll find colourful panels in the reception room, chunky art books on tables and shelves, modern art pieces and curios, and a card table. There are two small outdoor swimming pools.
Breakfast is a well-presented tray of yoghurt, cereal, fresh fruit, with a basket of warm bread rolls, croissants, toast, jams, honey and cheese, all served with fruit juice, tea or coffee. You can have it brought to your room, or anywhere else on the property, but the best spot is the bar, with views of the soaring hunk of rock, Pedra de Gavea.
Tuakaza is a play on the Portuguese words for "your house" (tua casa) and this is the guiding principle of host and owner Matteo Bassadonna. There are lots of thoughtful details, including a complimentary drink on arrival and luxurious Granado toiletries in the bathrooms, balanced with a relaxed informal feel – Matteo repeating his "it's your house" mantra to encourage guests to do as they please. This might also involve playing piano in the bar, swimming, or making use of the kitchen with fresh food you've picked up in the city.
Matteo is joined by his friend Cecilia Guimaraes on hosting duties, with a chef and other staff brought in depending on how full the guesthouse is.
On a rainy day in Rio, Matteo can call in a massage therapist to complete a Tuakaza Ritual. For this, you start in the sauna, with views of the mist rising over the rainforest, followed by an exfoliation scrub, stretch, manipulation and massage, finished with an aromatic bath – it's a very relaxing way to spend a morning.
If the weather still hasn't improved, the Fashion Mall, a five minute drive, at the bottom of the hill, has a good selection of designer boutiques. But when the sun's out, there's plenty to do. Pepino Beach, far less crowded than Copacabana and co, is a short taxi ride away at the bottom of the hill, while hiking trails through Tijuca National Park offer the chance to see monkeys and more. The statue of Christ the Redeemer is a 20-minute taxi ride away; Matteo can arrange private tours for 150 reals (£52) per person, which includes the BRL50 (£17) entrance fee.
The guesthouse is also very close to Pedro Bonito from where para-gliders and hang-gliders launch off the mountainside. Again, Matteo can help arrange these with locally trusted fliers, at around BRL300 (£104), for a 10-30 minute ride, depending on conditions.
A log fire and candles burn at Os Esquilos (The Squirrels; 00 55 21 2492 2197; osesquilos.com.br), a restaurant inside Tijuca National Park, less than 10 minutes' drive from the B&B. Laidback jazz accompanies international and Brazilian cuisine, for which you'll pay around BRL100 (£35) for two people. Cash only.
The Bottom Line
The laidback "your house" ambience makes Tuakaza a relaxing place to spend time, with plenty to see and do in the area and close enough to the downtown beach action should you want it. You'll experience a very different side of Rio here. However, if it's your first visit, you might want to be closer to the action.
Tuakaza, Estrada da Canoa 2600, Sao Conrado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (00 55 21 3322 6715; tuakaza.com.br). B&B starts at BRL300 (£104) single, BRL550 (£190) double. No children under 16.