Legend of the falls
Recently hailed as one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Iguazu Falls provide a jaw-dropping travel experience. Straddling Argentina and Brazil, they encompass 275 separate cascades and are nearly three kilometres wide.
The falls can't fail to impress, but in recent years, the one thing that has let down this world wonder slightly are the nearby hotels. On the approach from the nearest Argentinian town (Puerto Iguazu), you pass numerous structures with grand names and dubious four-star ratings; yet what had been lacking was a standout property that meets high international standards.
Enter the recently opened Loi Suites Iguazu. The owners of this small, Argentinian chain have already proved themselves, with high-calibre properties in Buenos Aires and Patagonia. Now, with their latest property, they have quickly moved into offering some of the best accommodation in the environs of Iguazu National Park. There are only two hotels in the park itself: on the Brazilian side, the Orient-Express-owned Hotel Das Cataratas and, in Argentina, the somewhat old-fashioned Sheraton.
Bypassing the boutique trend, Loi Suites has gone in big, offering 144 rooms spread among five stone-and-wood buildings and linked by suspension bridges to give the place a jungle feel; you're in the Atlantic Forest, after all. Somehow, despite the size, the atmosphere remains calm and quiet, with the restful sound of crickets and frogs.
Situated down a tree-lined lane, the hotel has a style that is more in keeping with Indonesia than Argentina - which is a bit disorientating - but it's tastefully done. The complex centres around four oblong swimming pools which are surrounded by rosewood trees. The pools don't have the traditional sky-blue tiles, but instead a more subtle, almost lagoon-like, light green. The result is beautiful, particularly when lit at night, and there are plenty of vantage points, including the ?la carte restaurant on the second floor that offers international and regional specialities.
Rooms on the lower floors can seem dark, as you are surrounded by thick foliage. Above the bed, a strip of glass provides a fringe of green. Some bathrooms have similar views. More expensive rooms have their own balcony jacuzzis.
It is not immediately obvious that the hotel is located right on the river. You have to walk to the resort's far corner, where some steep steps or a small (somewhat temperamental) funicular takes you down to the water where fishermen's boats bob on the surface. There's a floating pontoon, a launch for kayaks (available to guests) and a dock for boats. A shuttle boat from the airport can be arranged, too.
The few outdoor bungalows were built with honeymooners in mind, each with an inviting, free-standing bath and a bed draped with a white gauze suspended from bamboo.
The hotel also offers a nature walk - guided or otherwise - for spotting hummingbirds and butterflies. And there's a spa that takes the Asian theme to new levels, with its Buddha statues imported from Thailand.
Ideally, you should spend two days visiting Iguazu: one and a half days on the Argentinian side and half a day in Brazil. If you do make the trip, do yourself a favour and add at least one more day.
Raising the bar
Loi Suites Iguazu Iryapu rainforest, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
+54 3757 498 300
Rating: Rooms start at US$212 for standard; US$450 for a villa
Getting there: Delta flies from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires from HK$14,800 return. Domestic flights to Argentina's Cataratas del Iguazu International Airport can be arranged by LAN (www.lan.com). The 90-minute flight is HK$3,300.