We flew from Foz do Iguaçu to Rio de Janeiro on the daily Avianca Brasil service, arriving at Galeão International Airport at around 1pm. From there, we called an Uber to bring us to the JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro.
The JW Marriott is by far the nicest-looking Marriott/Starwood property in the city, which is why I chose it for our four-night stay. Despite only staying for four nights, it was still advantageous for me to use apply a 7-night certificate from a Marriott Travel Package towards my stay. Otherwise, the room would ordinarily cost 35,000 Marriott Rewards points per night, while cash rates typically fluctuate around the US$200 mark.
Immediately upon arriving, you notice the hotel’s standout feature – its prime location directly facing Copacabana Beach. You’re mere steps away from one of the most famous stretches of beachfront in the world, and you’re also within walking distance to the Sugar Loaf Mountain as well as the nearest subway station.
The hotel’s exterior incorporates a set of eye-catching triangle designs, while the JW Marriott Griffin logo is displayed prominently by the entrance.
Through the revolving doors, the lobby consists of a central bar and lounge with the check-in desks to the right.
The check-in agent was delightful, and walked us through the benefits we’d enjoy as a Gold Elite member of Marriott Rewards, including daily breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres in the lounge. I had also emailed the hotel in advance to request a room upgrade, and was delighted to learn that we were assigned an Ocean View room for the duration of our stay.
Heading to the elevators, we passed by an illuminated sign on the ground for the Moon Lounge on the rooftop. I’m always in the mood for a nice rooftop bar, so we made a mental note to check it out later.
We made our way to Room 316 on the third floor. It was then that I realized that the building is in the shape of a large square with a central atrium, and that the guest rooms which don’t face the ocean actually face the interior atrium.
That’s a disappointing view any day of the week, and even more so when you’ve got Copacabana Beach right on your doorstep. If you’re staying here, do everything in your power to secure an Ocean View room!
The king bed was the centrepiece of the room, while the desk and lounge chair completed the interior pieces.
A large adjustable TV screen was mounted above the desk, which also played host to a Nespresso coffee machine and a coffee and tea kit. To me, these are one of the most underrated features that a hotel room could possibly have – give me some complimentary coffee and tea packets, a few cups, and a way to boil water, and it’s very likely that I’ll enjoy my stay.
Over by the foyer is where you’ll find the closet and the bathroom. I personally liked the folding doors in the bathroom, though I know some prefer the absolute privacy of a door that can be properly shut.
The bathroom itself is small, but decorated very nicely. I loved the bright light fixtures along the sides of the mirror, and the complimentary bath salts were a nice touch as well. Most importantly, the water pressure on the shower was amazing – I can’t tell you how much the ability to enjoy a warm, refreshing shower can impact my lasting impressions about a hotel.
Of course, the best thing about the room was the intimate view of Copacabana Beach. It was so nice to watch the beachfront in action throughout the day, whether it’s the hawkers trying to move their product or the athletes enjoying a game of beach soccer. I imagine the view would be even more captivating from the hotel’s upper floors, so I’ll definitely to try requesting one of those rooms on my next stay.
Meanwhile, my only criticism about the room would be that it’s on the small side – it’s definitely walking the tightrope between “cozy” and “cramped”. For me, it’s nice to have lots of space in a hotel room, but I’m perfectly fine with a cozier setup as well, as long as I don’t have to maneuver around too much (which I didn’t find to be the case here).
Jessica and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood and came back after enjoying a light dinner. We were delighted to find that the staff had delivered our welcome amenity, which consisted of a handful of chocolate sweets.
Throughout our stay, turndown service was offered every night, and usually we’d receive a few chocolates and a brief note informing us of the next day’s weather, accompanied by the in-room breakfast menu. (Speaking of which, I’m always tempted by the thought of in-room breakfast, but can never justify the cost – can someone tell me if it’s ever worth it?)
The hotel’s club lounge is located on the 9th floor, and that’s where breakfast is served for Elite members (there’s also a breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant on the 2nd floor, which you’d need to pay for).
The lounge’s killer beach views confirmed my suspicions regarding the upper-floor views (yes, they’re incredible); however, just like the guest rooms, it was a bit on the small side for a club lounge. The seating options are not too plentiful – you have about a dozen seats facing the windows, a handful of high-top seats, and a few clusters of chairs around a coffee table – and the lounge was approaching its capacity on many occasions when I visited it during both breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres.
Given the small size of the lounge, the buffet spread was also located in rather tight quarters. For breakfast, guests can enjoy a variety of cereals, fruits, cold cuts, pastries (including my beloved pão de queijo!), and a handful of hot items.
To drink, you could get some juice from the self-serve bar, or order coffee or tea from the lounge attendants milling around.
The evening hors d’oeuvres were very well-executed. The exact selection changes from night to night, but usually there’s a soup dish, a finger food of some kind, a few types of cheese, and various meat, fish, and salad dishes in small ramekins. All were pretty tasty. And while the portions themselves are small, there’s nothing to stop you from going back for more helpings, so Jessica and I ended up eating dinner in the lounge on two of our four nights.
Alcohol is included in the evening spread as well, with a self-serve wine bar set up in the back of the lounge.
When food isn’t being served, the lounge still has a grab-and-go section, which features bottled water, soft drinks, juices, coffee, and tea. The grab-and-go was a godsend for us since it saved us from buying drinks while we were out sightseeing, and it also allowed us to easily stock up on our favourite drinks in our room for when we were feeling thirsty.
Opposite the grab-and-go, there’s a small computer workstation with a printer. I used this to print out our tickets to the Flamengo football match.
We spent a fair bit of time relaxing on Copacabana Beach during our time in Rio, and after sunbathing, our inclination was usually to go take a dip in the rooftop pool.
On the top floor, the elevator opens up to a small room, where you can grab a towel before heading poolside.
The pool is neither particularly large nor deep, but it’s big enough to complete a few casual laps. Of course, most of the time we went for a quick dip before kicking back on the pool chairs to continue perfecting our tans.
At night time, the pool is illuminated in a vivid blue strobe light.
Adjacent to the pool is the Moon Lounge restaurant and bar, where you can order some light refreshments. Jessica and I enjoyed a burger & fries together with a caipirinha by the pool during one of our trips up there.
Alternatively, you can sit on the high-top chairs by the edge of the building and take in the view of the beach. The safety barriers get in the way of the view somewhat, but they don’t stop you from seeing the cusp between the Copacabana and Ipamena beaches and the islands all the way in the distance.
The hotel’s fitness facilities are housed in an air-conditioned glass enclosure here on the rooftop, and the entrance is by the elevators.
As with most things at this hotel, space seems to be at a premium. There are treadmills, weight machines, step machines, and free weights available for you to use, although you won’t see any aerobics classes taking place here anytime soon.
Given how excellently the hotel had treated us, we were a little sad to leave on the fourth night. As we bade our room goodbye, I put up the Do Not Disturb sign (since I wanted the elite night credits for the full 7-night stay I had reserved), before hopping in another Uber to catch our late-night flight to Panama City.
On the whole, Jessica and I spent quite a significant amount of time at the hotel, and we enjoyed pretty much every second of it. We had been sightseeing with a sense of urgency in Buenos Aires, Uruguay, and Iguazu Falls, but now that we were in Rio, we were pretty much ready to take it easy, visit one attraction a day, and spend the rest of our time relaxing on the beach and by the pool.
In that regard, the hotel fit our needs perfectly – it was comfortable in the truest sense of the word – and while the property’s square footage is indeed limited, it does an excellent job of making full use of the space it has available. I’m certain I’ll stay here again on my next visit to Rio de Janeiro.