Emiliano Rio Review
When we hear Brazil, most of us think Rio de Janeiro, famous for its beaches, carnaval, and much more. Yet it was shocking that Brazil's most popular destination lacked a decent Hyatt option all these years. Thankfully, the wait is over. On a recent trip to Rio, I spent three nights at the Emiliano Rio and I cannot wait to return. From the excellent service–staff regularly remembered guests' names after just one interaction–to the sophisticated décor and ambience, the Emiliano Rio hits all the right notes. In this Emiliano Rio review, I cover the hotel's great location, excellent service, and fantastic aesthetic.
The Emiliano Rio's location on famous Copacabana beach is very convenient, starting with the beach at your doorstep. Copacabana is centrally-located for exploring Rio. You are near the Sugar Loaf (which you can see from the hotel). The neighborhood of Santa Teresa, another popular destination, isn't very far either. You're also close to the trendy neighborhoods of Ipanema and Leblon, both of which offer excellent restaurants and botecos (what locals call bars, but is really a way of life).
Ubers are very reliable in Rio and the favorable exchange rate for the US dollar (US $1 = BRL$5 in May 2023) made every ride incredibly cheap. Uber rides to/from Galeão International Airport (GIG) run around $14 (BRL$70). Rides to/from Santos Dumont (SDU) domestic airport is around $7 (BRL$35). Traffic can be unpredictable in Rio, so these estimates can vary quite a bit.
As if being right in front of the beach wasn't enough of a treat, the Emiliano Rio has its own stand in the sand with lounge chairs, towels, and complimentary bottles of water. The staff at the stand are very attentive and will watch your belongings while you go for a swim or on a walk along the beach.
Emiliano Rio Review: Typical Booking Cost
Hyatt formed its partnership with Small Luxury Hotels of the World back in 2018, but only part of the SLH portfolio became bookable with points via World of Hyatt. The list continues to grow, and both Emiliano properties in Brazil (in Rio and São Paulo) are now bookable through Hyatt. This is excellent news for Hyatt loyalists, especially for those traveling to Rio. Before the Emiliano, the only option in Rio was the Grand Hyatt, which is very far from the main sights and desirable neighborhoods.
The Emiliano Rio is a Category 6 in the World of Hyatt program. Here are the award costs for each room type (as of May 2023):
- 21,000 points off peak
- 25,000 points standard
- 29,000 points peak
- 36,000 points off peak
- 40,000 points standard
- 44,000 points peak
- 42,000 points off peak
- 50,000 points standard
- 58,000 points peak
The hotel has 90 guestrooms and 28 suites. The cash prices for the Emiliano during my stay were around $500 per night. I booked three nights for a total of 71,000 Hyatt points that I transferred from my Chase Sapphire Preferred.
The Emiliano Rio is easy to spot among the other beachfront buildings due to the hotel's modernist fiberglass panels on its façade. These stylish panels serve as a motif for the hotel's decoration on the inside as well.
I arrived at the Emiliano Rio around noon. A staff member offered to help me with my luggage and walked me to the check-in desk. Unlike most hotels, the check-in desk at the Emiliano Rio is tucked away in a separate room past the lobby bar. All hands were on deck when I walked in. A bevy of guests were either checking in or out. Still, the staff all appeared relaxed–the perks of being in one of the most laid back cities in the world, perhaps.
Upon being greeted by a member of the staff, I was offered some coconut water (to which I'll never say no). The representative checking me in thanked me for being a World of Hyatt member and handed me a sheet with information about the benefits of being a World of Hyatt member. The benefits include late checkout and complimentary breakfast for up to two people.
I asked whether they had any suites available and the rep explained that complimentary upgrades are offered to Ocean Junior Suites subject to availability. Unfortunately, the only suite available was an Ocean Emiliano Suite. The rep also looked for standard rooms with an ocean view and said those were all booked as well. Over the course of my stay, I noticed the hotel was indeed quite full, but never felt crowded.
After checking me in, the rep mentioned that the room wasn't ready yet. She offered to store my luggage and to have one of the butlers show me around the property. (Staff members are referred to as butlers, but they are not assigned to specific guests like at St. Regis properties.) A butler approached me and mentioned that if I wanted to change out of my travel clothes, she could have my luggage sent to the spa, where I could use the lockers. Replacing my jeans and sneakers with shorts and flipflops was paramount, so I gladly accepted the offer.
The butler gave me a tour of the property, showing me the hotel's library, lobby bar, restaurant, spa, gym, and rooftop pool. During the tour, she mentioned hours of operation and all other relevant information for each. We concluded the tour back at the spa, where my bags had been delivered.
Around 40 minutes later, the same butler came to find me to hand me my room keys. This was a really nice touch and much better than receiving a text message. And certainly better than having to check back with the front desk myself for an update.
Emiliano Rio Review: Deluxe King Courtyard Room
The Deluxe King Courtyard Room (the standard room at the Emiliano Rio) was impressive. The size exceeded my expectations for being in an older part of the city. Almost everything about the room was well thought out.
The room opens into a hallway flanked by a closet and the restroom. Immediately next to the door is a cubby carved into the wall where you can leave room keys and anything else to remember on the way out. This was a really neat idea and I would like to see this in more hotel rooms.
The bathroom featured a white marble vanity and marble floor and walls. The golden brass fixtures gave off a modern vibe, similar to what you see at Thompson properties. The bathroom included the usual amenities expected from a higher-end property.
The shower and a large soaking tub are combined in a wet room configuration. I'm a big fan of combining a soaking tub and shower in the same space. The rain shower head wasn't particularly high–so taller guests should be mindful–though the shower also has a removable showerhead to compensate. The shower has a floor-to-ceiling glass wall facing the king-sized bed and the rest of the room. Blinds on the bedroom side ameliorate privacy concerns for those traveling with a companion.
The small closet was well-equipped with amenities, even including collar stays for dress shirts. Complimentary pairs of flipflops–the obligatory footwear in Rio–are also available in two sizes. Just as important, there was an adapter for Brazilian outlets. (Brazil uses Type N outlets, which no other country uses, but are compatible with the Type C used in Europe and Asia).
Next to the closet is the minibar, which offers standard snacks, beverages, and alcoholic drinks. In the fridge was also a small bucket with ice. The minibar also included an illy machine with complimentary pods.
A couple of sweet treats (brigadeiros) were on the coffee table, along with handwritten notes from the general manager and the butler team. A small complimentary dessert was left in my room every evening.
Overall, the room was designed very well, and the light tones throughout were relaxing, inviting, and calming. The furniture followed the modernist trend from the hotel's common areas. Yet these pieces were more subtle and clearly picked for comfort. The ample surfaces obviated the need for a writing desk. The window faced the back of residential buildings, but the blinds, sheers, and blackout panels took care of privacy concerns.
The room showed a bit more wear and tear than expected for a hotel that opened only 6 years ago. These consisted mainly of a couple of chips or scratches on the wooden shelves or baseboards. But these minor issues didn't affect the enjoyment of the room in any way.
The only drawback with the room was a lack of storage space for clothes or luggage. The closet has enough room for one standing suitcase, but there are no drawers in the room for clothes. So to easily access clothes, I had to leave my suitcase open on a luggage rack somewhere in the room. Alternatively, I could have kept my suitcase closed in the closet and taken it out and opened it as needed. Neither option is ideal and it would have been nice if the closet had enough space to keep an open suitcase or a drawer or two for clothes.
Emiliano Rio Review: Property/Amenities
The Emiliano Rio offers several amenities, including a rooftop bar and pool, a lobby bar, full service restaurant, spa, gym, and a library. Lush greenery and midcentury modern furniture and décor prevail across all common areas.
The hotel's layout is so clever and the décor so brilliantly executed that you forget you're in what is basically a residential building in a densely-populated part of the city. Each time I saw the building from the outside I marveled at how all these different spaces managed to fit in that building.
Emiliano Rooftop and Pool
The rooftop pool and bar is one of the hotel's highlights, exclusive to hotel guests. The infinity pool overlooks all of Copacabana beach. You can even see the Sugar Loaf with its famous cable cars. The pool has plenty of lounge chairs and the staff is quick to greet guests with a menu.
The rooftop bar has a couple of comfortable sofas with low tables to enjoy some drinks and light bites, and plenty of regular tables for those looking to savor a full meal. Bossa nova music played through speakers during the day, while the evening conjured more contemporary tunes.
The rooftop menu emphasized light and healthy eating, with a range of snacks, appetizers, and entrees. I tried the pastéis de queijo (cheese-filled, deep fried thin crust pies), which were pretty good. But better pastéis are available at the Sunday farmers market two blocks away.
Emile Bar (Lobby Bar)
The Emile Bar in the lobby epitomizes the hotel's midcentury modern look. From the creative drink menu, the Dona Dita was a standout–a fascinating twist on the classic caipirinha using guava instead of limes. The regular caipirinha also did not disappoint. The favorable exchange rate made prices quite reasonable for US travelers.
I did not see anyone having a drink at the lobby bar during my stay. Even though the space is welcoming, the rooftop bar's appeal is tough to beat. The only times I saw guests in the lobby bar were when they were waiting to meet up with others before going out.
The restaurant is on the ground level around the corner from the bar. The restaurant has two rooms: the first is elegantly appointed with dark wooden panels on the walls and coordinating furniture. At the other end of this room you find the highlight of the restaurant: a bright room with a live wall of lush local flora all the way up to the skylit ceiling.
This room has booth seats with pastel-colored pillows along three of its walls. Knowing that guests tend to prefer this lovely setting for their breakfast, servers make sure to seat guests in this room unprompted.
I did not have a chance to have dinner at the restaurant, but the staff encourages reservations on the weekends. The restaurant was consistently buzzing every evening during my stay.
Spa Santapele and Gym
The spa and the gym are on the 11th floor, just below the rooftop pool. The spa has men's and women's restrooms with a shower and a few lockers. Aside from spa services, guests also have access to a steam room and sauna. The sauna has a floor-to-ceiling glass window facing the beach–easily the best view I've ever had from a sauna!
The spa attendants were very helpful in showing me how to operate the lockers and holding onto my luggage before my room was ready.
I was offered a complimentary 15-minute shiatsu massage when checking in, and I really enjoyed the service. I ended up booking a 90-minute massage since the prices were very reasonable. This treatment ended up being quite disappointing. I would probably give the spa another shot but opt a shorter treatment next time.
The gym also faces the beach and has decent equipment options. Unfortunately, the space is rather small, to the point you cannot have more than two people using the weights at the same time. Removing just one cardio machine would already be a big improvement.
The hotel also has a spacious library/lounge exclusively for guests. This was a nice, quiet space for anyone looking to do some reading or catch up on emails. The lounge included an outdoor space with a retractable roof. Like the restaurant, the back wall was a gorgeous live wall that brightened the entire ambience with natural sunlight.
Emiliano Rio Review: Hyatt Elite Perks & Status Recognition
SLH properties like the Emiliano Rio are not known for generous Hyatt status recognition. In fact, the program's terms & conditions do not require SLH properties to recognize Hyatt status. You can't even use a suite night award for an SLH booking.
That said, World of Hyatt members do receive some benefits at SLH properties, regardless of their Hyatt status. These benefits include complimentary breakfast and late check-out, subject to availability.
These benefits were explained to me during check-in. I always appreciate it when the staff is up front about the benefits you get to enjoy. The rep checking me in mentioned that for late check-out, I should request it the day before I was checking out. I did this and received a 4pm check-out.
As mentioned, all World of Hyatt members enjoy complimentary breakfast, which is also available via room service for a fee. Breakfast is served in the main restaurant. Breakfast begins with a serving of seasonal fruit and a basket of pastries. Fruits included pineapple, melon, mango, watermelon, and kiwi, and you can ask to remove any fruits that you don't want. The pastries included a croissant, cheese bread (pão de queijo), and other breads. Some of the fruit and pastries were more fresh than the others. The restaurant also offers a rich selection of fresh juices (including coconut water).
Beyond the fruit and pastries, breakfast includes a comprehensive menu of breakfast items that you can choose from. The options cover traditional breakfast dishes like omelets, benedicts, croques, and french toast, all in various forms with some creative takes. The portions are very small, so most find themselves ordering at least two items. Overall, the food was great but not amazing. Service was consistently excellent every morning.
Emiliano Rio Review: ToP Thoughts
The Emiliano Rio is easily the best points option in Rio. The hotel captures that 1950s bossa nova atmosphere through charm and elegance without going overdoing it. Sophisticated, cozy, and charming are some of the words to describe the Emiliano Rio, but never gaudy or outlandish. With excellent service, a great location, and fantastic ambience, what's not to like? The hardest thing about the Emiliano Rio is deciding whether to spend more time on the beach or at the rooftop pool. I need to book another stay to solve this quandary.
Have you stayed at the Emiliano Rio? Let us know in our Facebook group, where we talk about traveling on points all day everyday.