Skip the World Cup and head to this amazing, understated hotel in Brazil. Uxua Casa Hotel is the first, and part of the inspiration, for my This Must be the Place series highlighting small, special design hotels that reflect the spirit of the place. Often they’re owned by visionaries who fell in love with a corner of the world and had to share it, like this one. Here’s the story…
One visit to the remote fishing village of Trancoso on Brazil’s Bahian coast and Wilbert Das longed to return. A friend told him it would feel like home, and surprisingly, for a Dutch fashion designer who once headed Diesel’s creative team, it did. He was taken with the simple, unspoiled architecture, immaculate beaches and rich culture, and soon Das was looking for a vacation home. He settled on 10, encircling the town’s historic square (called Quadrado) and scattered throughout a garden filled with fruit trees. Das worked with local artisans and nearby Pataxó Indians to restore, furnish and decorate the loose collection of homes using traditional building methods and recycled materials. The resulting “casas,” completed in 2009, reflect the colonial, indigenous Indian and Afro-Bahian histories of the area with their rustic-modern sensibility.
In an attempt to blend in, the casas have no signage but enjoy access to hotel amenities such as a luxury spa; a lagoon-like pool made with 40,000 pieces of a local quartz thought to have healing powers; a beachfront lounge made from old fishing boats; and a restaurant serving regional Bahian fare with seafood right from the ocean and cocktails crafted from fruit grown in the garden.
Uxua (pronounced “Ush-wah”) helps to sustain local culture by sponsoring Trancoso’s academy of Capoeira, an Afro-Bahian martial arts dance—which guests can experience—and working with local fisherman to preserve the rainforest and marine life. Ever the creative director, Das has lured an impressive list of international artists and designers to Uxua (the Pataxó word loosely meaning marvelous)—including Mario Testino, who photographed the resort for Vogue—and asked them to capture their impressions on photographic “canvases,” which can be seen on the Uxua web site. Rates run from $470 to $1,670 per night. Isn’t it amazing?