Incredible honeymoon at Fazenda Catuçaba and Pousada Picinguaba through Jacada Travel thanks to Emily Opie
My wife and I had an unbelievable honeymoon at Fazenda Catuçaba and Pousada Picinguaba for 8 nights in April. Our Latin American Travel Designer from Jacada Travel, Emily Opie, was absolutely incredible. She worked with us for months to ensure we got the perfect trip. We had plans to be near Sao Paulo for a few days after the honeymoon, so Ms. Opie scoured the South American continent for places for us to go. Our trip was a bit difficult to plan because we were bringing our dog with us. Emily worked so hard to try and make Argentina work, but even with a doctor’s note, no domestic airlines in Argentina would allow us to book, so she went back to the drawing board and found us these fabulous two spots in Brazil, that turned out to be heaven on earth. I don’t even want to know the number of hours and the contacts Emily had to make, but she never gave us and she was so kind. Upon our arrival at the Sao Paulo airport we were greeted by a driver, who allowed us to the opportunity to go to the bathroom and exchange money. We didn’t touch our baggage. We took the drive out of the city into the countryside that eventually led us onto a dirt road to Fazenda Catuçaba. When we entered the gates of the Fazenda we knew we had reached paradise. We were immediately greeted by the hotel manager, Marcel who told the driver where to take our luggage and then led us to the main house for snacks and drinks. When we went to our room we found our bags put away and rose petals scattered all about the room. Our room was fabulous and very spacious. We had no issues with mosquitos, so we were able to leave our windows open at night to allow the cool breeze in. If needed we would have been provided fans for warmer nights and a fire on cooler nights, but neither were necessary. We had a very comfortable and large King size bed and a beautiful bathroom with both a large two person shower and deep tub. I’ve seen reviews of people complaining that you have to throw toilet paper in the garbage can, but the garbage was always cleaned so it wasn’t an issue at all. I applaud the Fazenda for working hard to protect the environment. Though we were given a nice snack upon our arrival we went and had a late lunch in the dining room. We were always given a little nook that was to itself so that we could have a romantic private dining experience. Our only dining guest was the occasional friendly cat that would come by for a visit. Lunch was served either in the dining room, the porch, or in the front yard under the trees. Our lunches and dinners ranged from zucchini soup, seasoned beets, okra, carrot, green bean, and potatoes amongst other things. We had great vegetable crepes, baked chicken, fish, shish kabobs, pork chops, and the best steak we’ve ever eaten. The desserts were incredible (pies, orange cheesecake, puddings, caramel drizzled bananas, apple tart (which I had to get seconds of)). Our meals were often prepared by Helo, who was a fabulous cook. She knew enough English to translate for us what we were eating (we weren’t familiar with some of the local vegetables and soups) and was so friendly to us.
We were not given a rigorous schedule and were allowed to do as we pleased when we pleased. Dinner was served over a wide period of time, giving you the flexibility to eat when you wanted. Dinner was always several courses and was far more than we could ever eat. It always included a plain lettuce salad, generally a type of soup, a main course, side dishes, and a fabulous dessert. We were asked on several occasions by Marcel, if we were okay eating a certain meal prior to them preparing it. An added bonus was that we had no cell service on the property or phones in our rooms. This was the ideal place to get away and disconnect. This disconnection proved to be part of what made the Fazenda so great. Therefore don’t come here if you plan on keeping up with your work e-mails, skyping friends, or watching YouTube, because it’s not going to happen. You’ll be all the better because of that too. We realized on the first night that the crickets would serenade us to sleep every night and that was all we needed. Some have complained that the cost of activities or meals was expensive, but by going through Jacada everyone was included, therefore we didn’t have to worry about cutting back on certain things or not doing certain things. If we wanted a snack, we got a snack. If we wanted to go on an extra trail ride, we did so.
Prior to our daily activities we would have a wonderful breakfast outside on the porch, which always involved the freshest fruits, eggs, and the most wonderful coffee and juice ever. The key to the meals is that everything is freshly grown and made on site and doesn’t have any chemicals or preservatives. We fell in love with horse riding, which we did nearly every day and in fact was the core reason we extended our stay at the Fazenda by an additional day. My wife’s horse was Catazuza (which she requested each day) and I rode two horses, one whose name was Paradiso. We were accompanied by our fabulous guide Juliette, who was so great to allow us the liberty to free ride since we are experienced riders. We on various days took trail rides that took us through the mountains, other farms, the rain forest, meadows with grazing cows, farmers homes where we were greeted by their dogs, little fields and valleys, and a perfectly hidden little gem of a waterfall, which was an awesome place to swim and relax under the falls. We even got to ride through the town of Catuçaba, which was a lot of fun on horseback. On two occasions we had picnic snakes that Marcel or a member of his staff prepared for us and had ready for us to enjoy. The tranquility of the rides was heavenly. Whether it was the parakeets singing and flying around us to the locals that we met on their farms, there was a sense of peace and old world charm you just don’t get back in the states. It seems that each day we had snacks around 11am and then around 2pm we a full lunch. Even on the day we took our hike to Nuclo Santo Virginia (one of the forests in the Atlantic rainforest), our English speaking guide Fabrico, led us several miles into the forest before he unpacked a wonderful picnic for us to enjoy on the rocks of the river. We never ever were hungry that is for sure.
We loved the lunch that was prepared for us at the lake. We spent the afternoon there and loved that the staff had prepared us blankets to tan next to the lake and a completely stocked guest house with additional snacks and drinks. Granted with as much as we had at lunch we didn’t need any snacks. We were given the option of having a driver come back and get us, but we chose to walk the 2/3 mile walk back to the Fazenda as it was so pretty. On one afternoon Marcel and Juliette arranged for us to go on a cattle drive, so we helped herd the cattle up the mountain from the Fazenda to a mountain top pasture. We were able to ride along with the cowboys and help herd the cattle past a school bus and keep them on the path. On this afternoon we went from there straight to the mountain top for our sunset picnic. Juliette laid out our wine and snacks and allowed us time to watch the sun set as the clouds came over the mountain and engulfed us with a wonderful breeze and beautiful surroundings under the really unique architectural designs. Juliette was so kind that she let us stay later than we probably were supposed to, so we ended up coming off the mountain by the moonlight and arriving back at the Fazenda long after dark. This was probably a highlight of the trip and an experience my wife will never forget. We loved hearing the horses clip clopping on the cobblestone as we came back to the Fazenda that was already lit up by the gas lights that the staff refilled each day.
We took an independent hike around the property one day. The only drawback, which wasn’t a real problem, was that the directions weren’t very clear, so we made a wrong turn, but after climbing under a fence or two we got back on the right path. You did go through pastures with high grass and bulls and cows, but none of the ever posed a problem and to me just added to the experience. We stopped back by the lake and grabbed some water and snacks and chilled out before we came back to the Fazenda for lunch.
Marcel arranged for Nilton to drive us to Sao Luis do Paratinga for an afternoon of self-touring. Though it would have been helpful to have a guide, the town really wasn’t big enough to warrant one. Nilton didn’t speak much English, but we agreed to meet back on the town square at a certain time and he gave us his card with his phone number in case we had any problems. The town was a nice little town, but didn’t have much to offer, so I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you just want to be amongst the local town people, and walk around the shops. The drives to and from the Fazenda were always neat (though a bit fast, winding, and bumpy) we always enjoyed the various things that would greet us in the road ranging from horse riders to free roaming cattle and mules.
For our final night the Fazenda arranged for us to go to a rodeo in Lagoinha. Our driver took us to the rodeo, which didn’t start until 11pm. He helped us get through the entrance since no one there spoke English and he waited until the parking lot until we were finished. Marcel even met us there to make sure we were okay and had a great time. It was very safe and there were lots of families there. It was an awesome date night and we had so much fun watching the bull riding and then dancing at the concert they had afterward with a live band.
Fazenda Catuçaba was a heavenly place and all the people (Marcel, Emily, Juliette, Nilton, Fabrico, and Helo) made it the greatest place we’ve ever stayed. Marcel is a second to none, top rated, hotel manager. He had to get over burdened as he was one of the few people who could speak English, and all of the guests seemed to speak English and utilize him for translation, but even though he was there at 8am until 9pm (and in the case of the rodeo until at least 2am) he never seemed upset, always worked hard to make sure we were taken care of, and always told us when we asked about something, “yes, it is possible.” He was a true pleasure and great asset to the Fazenda.
We spent three days at Pousada Picinguaba as the second part of our honeymoon after spending five days at Fazenda Catuçaba. We had a great driver who took us from the Fazenda right to the Pousada. The Pousada is located at the end of the road out of Ubatuba. This quaint little fishing village wasn’t bustling with tourists and traffic and had just one street in and out. The road ended at a place where the fishermen bring their daily catch and there was a little elevated walkway that took us to our house. We had a very private 3 bedroom and 3 bathroom house nestled on the winding pathway under the trees above the beach. The views were amazing and the hammock on the porch was luring especially thanks to the sound of the waves and the birds nearby. The house was filled with lots of books to read and a nice music collection. The refrigerator was filled with various drinks that we enjoyed. Some have complained that the cost of activities or meals was expensive, but by going through Jacada everything was included, therefore we didn’t have to worry about cutting back on certain things or not doing certain things. If we wanted a snack, we got a snack. If we wanted to go on an extra excursion, we did so. On a few afternoons we would order off the menu and the staff would bring us snacks of shrimp, rice, refried beans, grilled vegetables, pasta, bread, and various desserts of fruit and chocolate (so a snack was actually a full-fledged meal).
On our first afternoon we took a kayak out on the water and watched the fishermen pull in their days catch in their nets, as well as see some sea turtles come up and greet us. We weren’t as pleased by the meals at the Pousada as we were at the Fazenda, but they were still good. Some of the more exotic seafood wasn’t our thing (baby octopus and fish soup for instance), but it was buffet style next to the pool so you did get all you could eat. We didn’t care as much for the fish that we had each night, but again it was still nice dinners and the desserts were always A+ (loved the key lime and chocolate tarts). I presume that the lighting was only by small candles on each table to keep from having issues with mosquitos, but it did require us to use the flashlights on our phones to see what we were eating. That being said we never had any issues with the mosquitos. We have read where they were a big issue with others, but maybe the time was just right for us (April 12-15). We even told the staff they didn’t need to turn down the mosquito nets on our bed each night because they were no issue. It was really nice coming in from dinner each evening and having our beds prepared, shutters closed, and the air conditioning nice and cool. The master bedroom having its own air conditioning system with a remote control thermostat was a huge plus for us. They also were quick to remedy any problems we had. We were billed for two drinks that we had received one evening, but after explaining to them that they were not what we thought they would be and were not made to our liking, they didn’t charge us for them. That was very kind of them because it really was a “lost in translation” sort of thing where we asked for what we called a Strawberry daiquiri, only to find out after making one they don’t have strawberries and the drink they made us had salt along the rim and more of a tequila like taste.
The biggest highlight of staying at the Pousada was the half day excursion on their large schooner. We were taken for a wonderful trip by our captain to various beaches and islands. The young waiter that accompanied us made sure that we were completely taken care of and had all we wanted to drink. He was even able to point out certain things about various places we passed by. We absolutely loved the first island we stopped at. We were given the option to swim to shore or be taken by a small motor boat, which we did. We were able to lie out and tan on the sand and also go snorkeling. The snorkeling was really good because we saw lots of neat fish and some corral. The water was so clear you could always see the bottom. On this island there were probably no more than 7 other people there when we were, but beyond that we were by ourselves. We were taken to another island where we got to walk around on the sand and play in the water completely alone, until the captain called us back to the ship for lunch. We had wonderful sandwiches and salad. The only thing we didn’t like was the cold fish, but that was just us. They had by far the best watermelon I’ve ever eaten. We did feel slightly rushed on the cruise, but we were able to get the captain to stop at one last beach where we collected sand dollars.
The Pousada arranged for Rosa to take us to Paraty for a half day excursion with a great English speaking guide that had been reserved with Paraty tours. It was a neat town preserved in its original form. We had Italian for lunch at a nice little restaurant that our guide took us to. The Pousada also provided us with a wonderful massage the last evening we were there. We had to leave around 4:00 in the morning to get to an event near Sao Paulo and the staff made sure they took our luggage to the car and even prepared us some sandwiches to eat along the way. Our driver to our next location drove us the five hour drive safely and after dropping off my wife took me to pick up my rental car and then proceeded to work with the rental car agency to make sure that I was taken care of and had the right car. Throughout our journey we were given messages from our travel specialist at Jacada, Emily Opie, asking if we were doing well, and if there was anything we needed. Even though we went elsewhere on our trip for an event that lasted five days, Emily made sure that we had a car pick us up to take us to the airport to get home. We arrived at the pickup spot an hour late, but our driver was there waiting for us patiently and knew that we were pressed for time, so he drove extra swiftly to ensure we got on our flight. He even was very helpful in ensuring that we got our rental car returned and that they car agency we used for the few days we were independently travelling didn’t take advantage of us.
25th May 2015