ROOMS: 40 BUNGALOWS PRICES: $398--$1,000
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: REQUEST ONE OF THE BUNGALOWS SET HIGHER IN THE HILLS; THE VIEWS ARE WORTH THE EXTRA WALK TO THE BEACH
Hemmed in by lush Brazilian rain forest and sandy white beach, Txai Resort is so idyllic as to make the Girl from Ipanema reconsider her choice of hangout. Sure, Txai (pronounced Chigh) is flush with 40 beautifully minimalist bungalows, a full-service spa, an array of pools and a chef who could hold his own in any four-star kitchen in the world. But this eco-resort's ultimate amenity is the natural beauty. As one employee explained, "Deus é nosso jardineiro." God is our gardener.
Unlike many tropical resorts, Txai does nothing to hide or downplay the indigenous culture. Its name derived from the Indian language of Kaxinawa and is translated roughly as "the other half of me," Txai is not merely in the state of Bahia but of Bahia, and regional touches inform the experience of staying there. Instead of water aerobics or elliptical machines, guests can get a cardio workout doing capoeira, an acrobatic "fight-dance" in which partners exchange mock blows. The West African--influenced Bahian cuisine--for instance, moqueca, an outrageously tasty seafood stew flavored with coconut milk--is like nothing most Americans have ever sampled.
A stay at Txai, located some 320 miles south of Salvador, entails a sort of sensory assault. From the iridescence of the geckos to the vivid red orchids, the place is alive with colors you won't find in any Crayola box. But the ultimate jolt to the system is auditory: the crashing South Atlantic waves and tropes of the birds form a background soundtrack. The adventurous can hike in the rain forest, negotiate the rocky falls of the Tijuipe River or surf the South Atlantic.
When Txai was conceived and built earlier this decade, it triggered the familiar tug of war between commerce and ecology, a battle that tends to be especially pitched in Bahia, where much of the citizenry cares more about surf breaks than tax breaks. Now that the resort is up and running, it's hard to imagine Txai treading any more lightly on the environment. No one paved paradise much less put up a parking lot. They just, as noninvasively as possible, opened it to a few fortunate visitors.
Like Fernanda and Ana Paula (above, right), the author drank it all in, from the rain-forest setting of his bungalow, which was located only yards from brilliant reflecting pools to the surfer-filled South Atlantic.