Globally influenced Etnia Casa Hotel hotel is a rustic, yet refined retreat in Bahia’s peaceful fishing village of Trancoso, a longtime destination for wanderlust-struck creative types. Under the direction of anyone other than the fashionista/design guru owners, the hotel’s eight woodland bungalows each with a different ethnic twist might have taken a kitschy turn, but smart, natural style prevails in this serene setting.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Etnia Brut, a seasonal fruit plate and early check-in and late check-out (subject to availability)
Noon, although both check-in and check-out are flexible, depending on availability.
Double rooms from $231.16 (BRL960), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
There are three new villas in the works, set to open in December 2019. Construction work will take place Monday to Saturday from 8am to 4pm until 31 October 2019, and the poolside restaurant will be closed during this time – breakfast will still be served in the lounge.
At the hotel
Massage treatments, personal trainer, library, free WiFi in all rooms. In rooms: TV, minibar.
Our favourite rooms
Etnia’s bungalows are dotted around the woodland and linked by paved pathways, so each offers plenty of privacy. They’re all styled according to a different geographic theme – Trancoso evokes the local village, with simple murals of rural buildings and a wooden four-poster; two-story Alafiá has jungle views and space to spare.
Occupying a clearing in the lush flora, Etnia’s pool is surrounded by cosy sun chairs.
Insect repellent never goes amiss in these tropical climes, but otherwise just make sure you’ve a stock of holiday reading to skim through, some Haiavanas to flip-flop around in, and a mind for some serious relaxation.
Although extra beds can be arranged (at 30 per cent of the room rate for a third person; 40 per cent for a fourth), this is a decidedly grown-up affair.
Sit out in the breeze on the decking around the pool.
A breezy breakfast is served daily in the lounge area by the pool – breakfast can be served as room service, too (for an extra charge) or the hotel can arrange a private chef if you'd like a gourmet lunch or dinner in your bungalow.
A selection of drinks, including three locally made wines, is available from the restaurant area, but you’re more likely to make the two-minute stroll into Trancoso, which has plenty of tempting watering holes.
Etnia only serves breakfast, from 8.30 until 11am.
There's no room service, so fill up on Bahianese bounty in the trattorias of Trancoso.
The nearest airport is Porto Seguro International, 80km from the hotel. Air Italy, Azul Brazilian Airlines, Gol Airlines, Livingston Energy Flight, TAM and TRIP all fly here.
It’s an hour’s drive into Porto Seguro. The hotel offers a valet service and free parking.
The Quadrodo is just a few minutes' walk from Etnia Casa Hotel and is lined with dining options, including the colonial-ish Maritaca, which serves wood-fired pizzas and excellent pasta dishes in colourful, high-ceilinged surroundings. Capim Santo, the traditional restaurant attached to the pousadaof the same name, is quaint and cute with a fine line in fish.The menu at Hotel da Praça's restaurant inventively blends Bahian classics with Japanese gastronomy.
Tiger-striped, postbox red, lemon yellow and startling turquoise are the colours of just four of the kaleidoscope of butterflies I spotted while relaxing on the decked terrace of my luxury bungalow in the jungle gardens of Etnia Residencial in Bahia, Brazil. Hummingbirds darted away from the peach hibiscus as Mr Smith bought over a coconut juice from the poolside bar, a pool which I could glimpse sparkling through the palms and passion-flower plants. Too indolent to move, I pouted to indicate I expected him to bring the straw to my lips on my behalf, and he kindly obliged. After only a couple of hours at Etnia, we were already acting like the stars of a Mills & Boon novel.
Our arrival saw us skipping down pathways from a bougainvillaea-draped doorway into Etnia's private 7,000sq m tropical forest. We passed giant symmetrical palms, banana trees and hundreds of other parrot-bright blooms, as Alessandra, the hotel manager, pointed out the seven other bungalows hidden in the foliage. Ours, she explained, was called Mediterraneo, and the others have similar travel-inspired names – for example, Kyoto and Goa – which hint at their interior design. Our suite consisted of three airy interconnected rooms, and when I peeked into bungalows Gypsy and Marrocos, they were similarly spacious.
A lifebelt saying Bienvenue À Bord greeted us as we came into the first room, where a giant lounging bed tempted the lazy with a plethora of plump striped cushions. Up a couple of steps, and we were in the bedroom where a four-poster bed, swathed in a white mosquito net, conjured up the Scarlett O'Hara in me. How can something so useful, also be so utterly Gone with the Wind romantic? Meanwhile Mr Smith was investigating the bathroom, with its fit-for-two shower, which we later discovered had windows at eye-level so we felt like we were washing under a waterfall, without the worry of curious eyes. Luxurious Granado green-coconut and chestnut scented products, anchor hooks for towels and pictures of yachts at full flight added to the feeling we'd stumbled onto a luxurious ocean liner.
Alessandra had suggested lunch by the pool, so we smartly stripped down to our swimming costumes and meandered down, spying dragonflies and admiring birds-of-paradise blooms along the way. Our table was waiting for us, sheltered under a poolside parasol, with a red hibiscus bloom sharp against the white linen. The sitting room, dining area and bar are set deep in Etnia's tropical estate, so the only sound as you eat, swim or sunbathe is birdsong and the gentle hiss of sprinklers. As we enjoyed our feast of chicken with passion fruit and locally caught fresh fish, we each remarked on the design decisions we liked the most – the linen-covered sunloungers for two, the mock-colonial travel trunk, the faux bone-handled silver knives.
Keen to explore Trancoso in the late-afternoon sun, we grabbed a couple of rolled towels and ventured out the back of the Etnia's grounds to walk to the beach. Ten minutes later we were crossing a long rickety walkway over a mangrove forest with the sound of the sea growing louder, until at last we could see the waves kissing the shore. Praia dos Coqueiros (south of the mangroves) and Praia dos Nativos (north of them) are the first of many beaches of sugary sand, with a mixture of deserted stretches and chill-out bars, which attract both hippies and Brazilian glitterati alike.
After kicking the surf at each other and unsuccessfully trying to shake coconuts out of the trees, we headed into the famed centre of Trancoso, the Quadrado. This is large car-free rectangle of grass, with a white church at one end and dozens of boutiques and restaurants housed in fruit juice-coloured cabanas along either side. The shopping is to die for – don't buy any kaftans or bikinis before you come to Etnia – in fact, bring an empty suitcase, because you'll want to fill it with confections of wafty chiffon and sequins from the hotel's own high-end boutique (halfway down the Quadrado).
As we wandered past a sushi joint and a crêperie, a horse stopped alongside us to munch at the grass, and a tribe of barefooted children booted a football in our direction, tempting Mr Smith into a quick kickaround, while I tried on some of the latest Brazilian fashions. The fairy lights outside the restaurants were just flickering on as we headed back down a cobbled road to the Pousada.
At night Etnia is exquisite. Italian/Brazilian owners André and Corrado really understand the aesthetic value of low-level light. Candles in white filigree wrought-iron lanterns lit our way to the pool for our pre-dinner drinks. In the flickering shadows, we toasted each other with hugely generous pineapple caipirinhas and relaxed to the sound of frog flirtations and discrete bossa nova before heading out to the Quadrado for dinner. André had recommended the restaurant Maritaca, as only breakfast and lunch are served at Etnia – I recommend the grilled octopus.
I'll skip past our slightly tipsy return to our room later that night, and the jungle-inspired Tarzan and Jane reenactment, to the magnificence of the breakfast at Etnia. The morning staples of eggs any style, fruit salad, juice and honeyed yoghurt are joined by local Bahian delicacies, served in miniature, so you can try all of them without feeling guilty. For our breakfast, Lita, Etnia's chef, had prepared fried bananas sprinkled with cinammon, pão de queijo (cheese puffs) and coconut pavé (creamy cake).
There were many things we could have done for the rest of that day – a trip to Espellho (one of Brazil 's top-ten beaches), a surf lesson at Itaquena or a capoeira display, but indolence reigned supreme, and instead we plumped for reading by the pool and a massage. And as I lay face down in Etnia's candlelit spa, with the masseuse kneading my back with surprising strength, I realised that despite only rare visits to botanical gardens in the past, Etnia's jungle estate was in fact my natural habitat.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Etnia Casa Hotel’s Guestbook below.
We loved the hotel and the friendly staff, everything was fantastic. If anything could be commented upon it was the late breakfast (8.30) each morning, most guests were already up and waiting by that time. Also the service was a bit slow in the morning, as the kitchen didn't seem to realize that all guest had been waiting for breakfast and were really hungry, and there was not enough staff to cater to them in a timely manner. Other than that it was a great stay. Good food, and friendly and helpful staff. A little oasis 3 min walk from the Quadrado. We will return.