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|The beaches of Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro offer eclectic fun, sun, and amazing views. (William K. Wolfrum/GolfPublisher.com)|
The area of Ipanema, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is known for its great beaches, beautiful people and Brazilian nightlife, but it also has what other hot spots in Brazil doesn't: great golf at courses like the famed Buzios Golf Club and Resort.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - The Girl from Ipanema is alive and well, thank you very much, and the area of Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is doing quite well itself as a tourist destination.
Helô Pinheiro is the real "Girl from Ipanema" (Garota de Ipanema), and she was just 15 when the song was dedicated to her in 1962 and became a worldwide sensation, having now been recorded multiple times in multiple languages. And the area has enjoyed the fruits of the famous song - the song was supposedly written to honor Pinheiro, who would walk past the Veloso Bar on a daily basis. That bar is now known as "Garota de Ipanema," and the area is as ritzy and upscale as ever.
At the heart of the city of Rio De Janeiro, Ipanema is a world-class tourist destination where the beach, great food, culture and frivolity reign. And unlike many other parts of Brazil, you can easily set up a golf outing at nearby golf courses like the famed Buzios. Here's a look at Ipanema, as well as Rio. You'll quickly see this is an area that's much more than a famous song.
Golf in Brazil is scarce, for the most part, but when staying on the beaches of Rio, you're not far from one of the best golf courses in all of South America, the Pete and Perry Dye-designed course at Buzios Golf Club and Resort, which was helped along by designer Dan Blankenship. It may take a separate road trip to get to Buzios, but the quality of the golf, as well as the resort, makes it well worth the trip.
Lakes, as well as Brazil's famed lush vegetation, will escort you through your round at Buzios, where the final two holes - the par-3 island green at No. 17 and the tricky 18th hole - will give golfers a taste of golf in Brazil from the master hands of the Dyes.
Gávea Golf and Country Club in São Conrado, Rio de Janeiro is a closer option for golfers. While it's a private club, guests can usually find a way to get on, usually through their hotel. Playing to a par of 68, it's not the toughest of courses, but with four holes bordering the ocean, it's a scenic experience where mountains and sea delight the senses.
Itanhangá Golf Club is also located in the city of Rio and provides tree-lined fairways and impeccable conditioning. Playing to a very respectable 129 slope rating, Itanhangá is the best bet for traveling golfers looking for a challenge. Once again, this is a private club, but it's not hard to get a tee time on via hotels or tour agencies.
Brazil has kept an emphasis on golf over the past several years, and it even has a government department dedicated to advancing golf as a way to boost Brazil as a tourism and business leader in South America.
In Ipanema, you'll have dozens of choices of where to stay, all with easy access to the bustling beaches. Sol Ipanema is a Best Western Hotel, directly across the street from the beach, with luxurious rooms, a top-notch restaurant and amazing service. They'll even supply you with towels, beach chairs and umbrellas to help you enjoy your stay on the blazing beach.
"I'd say during the summer that 70 percent of our guests are foreigners," said Leonardo Valentini of Sol Ipanema. "The rest of the year is about 50-50."
Of course, if you plan a stay at Sol Ipanema, say hello to doorman Athaide Pires, who has been with the hotel since it opened in February 1973.
Another solid choice in Ipanema is Caesar Park, where luxury co-mingles with traditional Brazilian attitudes to create a stellar stay. The hotel's Galani restaurant normally serves Italian fare, but on Saturdays it serves the traditional Brazilian fare of feijoada, an amazing dish made by soaking pieces of meat in beans. With the traditional fixings, it's an amazing culinary experience.
Ipanema is known as one of the safer areas of Rio de Janeiro, and most tourists have no problems with crimes. Nonetheless, it is perilously close to the local favelas (slums) where poverty and crime reign. Like everywhere in Brazil, it's always best to keep an eye on your surroundings and stay in tourist areas.
"Ipanema is safer than a lot of other places in Rio," said Valentini. "There can be crime, but unlike an area like Copacabana, it is safer."
So, if you're looking to book a trip to Brazil, keep in mind the famous song. The Girl from Ipanema is still here, and she's waiting for your arrival.
January 16, 2008
William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.
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