Let’s open our presents under the palm trees
Seguro is the best in Bahia. From our viewpoint, on the terrace of the hotel, breakfast juice in hand, perched on a headland overlooking not one, but three pristine white beaches, we all breathed a sigh of awed relief.
The hotel itself is charming: a mixture of traditional Bahian buildings with bright furniture and peaceful gardens, plus a stunning, more contemporary, airy reception and restaurant, with white walls and dark wood rustic tables. There’s a new pool with a healthy sprinkling of comfy day beds and white curtains, which has more than a hint of Ibiza chic.
But the most striking thing about Brisas do Espelho is its setting. When I hear the phrases “gated community” or, worse, “holiday village”, I balk. And yet, that’s where we found ourselves, in a giant Brazilian-style condominium with its own golf course and private airport. We are talking thousands of acres, with a scattering of some unbelievably discreet and luxurious villas and a lot of virgin jungle. This explained the gate house we’d dozily driven past in the early hours of the morning, and the little pastel-coloured signposts showing the way to the shop, the playground, the beaches.
At first we worried that we’d found ourselves trapped in a Brazilian edition of Hi-de-Hi! but we soon realised why it had come so highly recommended for a family holiday, and why all our fellow guests and residents looked so chilled and smiley. It wasn’t just beautiful – it was unbelievably safe. Children from the age of six or seven were roaming freely. There were bicycles available for anyone staying on the estate who wanted to explore, or reach the communal tennis courts. Guests could use the rather swish beach club on one of the beaches – Outeiro, a breathtaking swathe of empty gorgeousness, which you reach by walking down a well-marked but wild jungle path from the cliff top, spotting birds and flowers as you go.
Groups of cool Brazilian teenagers emerged after lunch and headed off down to Espelho beach round the headland, which was buzzier, with pousadas (inns) and beach bars and sea kayaks to rent. I had the feeling that we were part of an extended Christmas house party, a feeling that intensified when we realised that our delightful hosts, Maria Fernanda and her Dutch husband, Paul, had over the past few years persuaded many of their Sao Paulo friends to buy holiday homes from the selection of multicoloured cottages on the cliff.
Most nights, whether we were at our favourite restaurant at Brisas – with its sushi chef flown in from Sao Paulo for the holidays – or at a rustic