Hotel Review: Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

This is the second of three posts covering my November 2019 trip to Rio de Janeiro. You can read about the origin of this trip here, and my last post, covering my flights down on Delta, here.

I’m not going to do a full report on what I did in Rio- one day downtown, two days on the beach- given how backed up I am on trip reports. But I figured I will do a review of the Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana.

Rio is a weird city hotel-wise; despite the size and it being a tourist mecca, there aren’t a lot of great hotel options. There are some high-end boutiquey properties, and there are some newer properties in Barra de Tijuca, which is far away from anywhere you would want to be. On my last stay, I stayed at the Sheraton, which probably remains one of the best options. It’s located in Leblon, just south of Ipanema. In Ipanema itself, there are some Accor properties, including a new Fairmont and three Novotels. The former Caesar Park Hotel, which had a great location in Ipanema and where I stayed twice before, is currently under renovation by Accor to be renamed the Sofitel Rio Ipanema. When I was booking my Delta Vacations package, the Sheraton was pretty pricey, so I was decided between a cheap Best Western in Ipanema, or the Hilton, which though called the Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana is actually in Leme, just north of the main part of Copacabana. I decided to go with the Hilton given that it had both pools and beach access, and there was a promo package including a food and beverage credit and early check-in and late check-out. Since I know I wasn’t entitled to my Hilton Diamond benefits since it was a third-party booking, and early check-in isn’t even a published benefit of that, it figured that was worth a lot- especially since I planned to arrive super early in the morning and my flight out was very late at night.

Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana at dusk

I wasn’t expecting very much from my stay at the Hilton, and those not-very-much expectations were met; the facilities were underwhelming, though the staff was pretty helpful. Unfortunately, it rained most of the time I was there, which obviously was not the Hilton’s fault.

The Hilton was built as a Le Meridien, which after being closed for four years became the Windsor Atlantica in 2011, before becoming a Hilton in 2017. Except for the gym and the rooftop pool, I don’t think anything in the hotel has been updated since Hilton took over or anytime in the past twenty years. Upon entering the lobby, there’s a check-in desk on the left, and there’s a sign saying “Gold and Diamond Check-in” with an arrow, but it was totally unclear to me where the arrow was pointing. I asked at check-in and the agent there escorted me through the lobby, past the elevators, past a small bar, to the lounge. (There was no way I would have found it on my own.)

It was 8:40am, and the lounge was almost completely dead—the only thing they had out was coffee and water. I had been able to add my Hilton Honors number to the reservation on Hilton’s website, so my reservation was reflecting my Diamond status. I had also emailed in advance to ask what time early check-in was, and they wrote back and just asked when I thought I’d be coming. I’d said 9am, so I was surprised that the friendly agent said she was expecting me. She told me I’d had been upgraded to a “junior suite” on a high floor, which was nice, but that it only had two double beds. She explained that there were two pools and beach service, and that breakfast would be available in the restaurant.

The room was not what I’d call a junior suite by any means. On its website, the hotel calls it their “ocean view” suite, although they also have a “King ocean view suite” which appears to have a separate living room. This was just a larger room, and it was corner room, which meant that there were great views both south towards Copacabana and north towards Sugarloaf Mountain.

King Ocean View Suite, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

The room was quite spare, with the two double beds on one wall facing a desk/small chest with a small television on it, and a minifridge with some room for you to add your own stuff.  In the opposite corner there was a large marble table with an armchair next to it. The hard wood floors, as well as the furniture, were significantly scuffed and stained.

View of Sugar Loaf from room, Hilton Rio de Janeiro

View towards Copacabana from room

The bathroom was very big but very, very dated. It had double sinks, a toilet and separate bidet, and a shower/tub combo with sliding glass doors. It also had a big window view. There was one random washcloth and a glass on the side of the counter, as you can see in the picture – I think the result of errant housekeeping, as both were gone the next day.

Bathroom, King Ocean View Suite, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

I realized the agent hadn’t mentioned the food and beverage credit at check-in, so I went back down and asked about it. She saw it on the reservation but didn’t know anything about it, so called someone and confirmed it and said it would just be applied to whatever I got at any of the outlets at checkout.

When I came back to my room after exploring downtown on day 1, there was a welcome amenity on the table in the room—a small bottle of red wine and a box of four chocolates along with a note.

Welcome amenity, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

I checked out the gym on the 38th floor, which was surprisingly new and large. There was a lot of cardio equipment—two ellipticals, four treadmills, and two bikes. Both ellipticals were broken though. There was not much weight equipment unfortunately—just one bench and some hand weights.

Gym, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

The lounge’s service for the day is its evening cocktail hour. It was pretty full the two nights I went, and seating was sparse. There were a number of very large tables, but few options for 1 or 2 people. (The lounge is also explicitly open to all Gold guests, not just Diamonds.) There was self-serve hard liquor, wine, beer, and soft drinks.  There was one very hard-working, very friendly server each night, replenishing items, clearing tables, and asking if you wanted drink refills. It was definitely not the sort of lounge you’d be able to use as a substitute for dinner.  There was only one hot dish, a shrimp croquette thing, and then some cold sandwich quarters. The highlight was the desserts – mousse and pretty cakes – which were quite good, and had some minor changes the second night.

Executive Lounge, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

Food at Executive Lounge, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

For breakfast, I went to the main restaurant on the fourth floor. I knew there was a separate seating area for Hilton Gold and Diamond members, but the woman at the podium the first day didn’t direct me to it. (On subsequent days, I was.) The main restaurant was fairly loud and crowded, so I found the elite area off to the side on my own, which was much more relaxing and overlooked the larger of the two pools.  In the main area, there was a large buffet, with a huge range of bread and pastries, hot dishes, fresh fruits and juices, meats and cheeses, etc.  Then in the elite area there was sort of a mini-buffet with some pastries, juices, and fruit. In the main area, there was an omelet and waffle station, where I ordered on day 1. On the other days, I realized there was a menu for elites, where you could order egg and tapioca dishes, which a waiter would bring to you.

Main breakfast buffet, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

Elite area, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana breakfast

Battered menu, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Honors Elite breakfast

There are two pools at the hotel. The larger one is on the fourth floor, right next to the restaurant. It is the bigger of the pools, and is surrounded by a lot of chairs, although they are not in the best shape, and there was a lot of construction noise. If you want to swim, this is the best place.

4th Floor pool, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

I went to the rooftop pool as well, which is a small infinity pool with fewer chairs around it. The rooftop kind of feels like a completely different hotel, as it is super modern. Most of the rooftop is bar/lounge seating, along with a bar, and is a nice place to sit and look out at the beach while enjoying a beer or a caipirinha. Both pools had lifeguards.

Rooftop pool, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

Rooftop bar, Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

On my last morning, there was a bill under my door with a charge for 89 reais at the minibar – about $22. Not only did I not consume anything from the minibar, but nothing in the minibar cost that much. I asked the woman in the lounge about it before breakfast, and she said she’d take it off. I also asked about late checkout, not sure what I’d get, and she didn’t bat an eye when I asked for 4pm. So that was good.

Unfortunately, that day was the worst weather of my trip, so what could have been a great day to check out the beach or sit by one of the pools was an odd “what do I do with myself day.” It was a Monday, so all the museums in town were closed, too. So, I ended up going to the gym, having breakfast, reading in my room, and going back to the gym before having lunch at the lobby bar – using up the last of my F&B credit.

The bartender/waiter was actually the same as the waiter from breakfast. The food menu was pretty basic- appetizers, sandwiches, and desserts. Prices were high for Rio, I got just a burger (~$14) and a caipirinha, which I figured would come to about $50 with drinks I had had at the pool earlier in the stay. The food was fine but I don’t think I would eat in the lobby absent a credit.

Hilton Rio de Janeiro lobby bar

Lobby bar menu

Lunch at the lobby bar

I checked out a mall, and got a massage, before returning to the hotel for checkout. As could have been expected, there was an issue with the F&B credit, as in it wasn’t applied. I asked about it, and the guy at the front desk said “Oh that’s because you had alcoholic drinks.” I have never heard of a food and beverage credit that excludes alcoholic beverages, and that should have been mentioned to me if that was the case, but I explained that at the very least the burger should have been taken off. He made some calls and they ended up just taking the whole thing off as they should have.

The Hilton was more or less what I expected based on what I had read. Overall, the facilities of the hotel are certainly lacking, and it really isn’t a luxurious property – especially since the cheapest rooms regularly go for over $200 a night. The service was very good, though, particularly in the lounge. And it was nice to get my Diamond benefits on a Delta Vacations booking. In terms of location, the highlight definitely is the beach, as the hotel sits right on the oceanfront promenade. Otherwise, the area right around the hotel is not particularly interesting, as it is residential and not that high-end. There is a convenience store a block away, and a Princesa supermarket another block further. You can walk to much of Copacabana, and to get to and from Ipanema, I either Ubered, which is super cheap, or did one of the rentable motorized scooters-which actually cost more. At night or to go to other neighborhoods, you’re probably going to Uber anywhere. I did have two good meals right by the hotel, one at Salome, which was a French bistro, and the other at Joaquina, which was more traditional Brazilian.

Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

Next up: my flight back home, complete with 100 pyramid schemers – sorry “multi-level marketers”

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