Passion Points: Escape
When Wilbert Das arrived in Trancoso, the 16th-century fishing village in Brazil’s southern Bahia, it was love at first sight. Says the longtime creative director of fashion label Diesel: “Trancoso has it all: amazing people, stunning natural beauty and a totally authentic, groovy vibe.” Hunting for a spot where he could build a small beach retreat for himself, the Dutch designer ended up buying a lush, multi-acre property right on Trancoso’s historic quadrado square, in walking distance to the beach. Inspired by the location and the presence of three historic missionary houses on the property, Das set out to create a handcrafted and special boutique hotel: Uxua opened in 2009 and has been the insider spot to book in Trancoso ever since.
Tucked into a lush garden, the hotel has just nine one-to-three bedroom houses (casas), each individually designed by Das whose fashion background is reflected in the careful attention to detail, like the beautifully distressed wood floors lining the guest rooms. “I am a jeans guy, so textures are very important to me,” says the designer who also worked with local craftspeople on restoring the historic houses on the property. Stylish and modern while also maintaining a destination-specific Afro-Bahian look, the Uxua casas showcase an imaginative mix of recycled materials, handcrafted furniture, gorgeous fabrics and drapes, and original, like stained glass windows in the two-bedroom Gulab Mahal. If you must, there’s WiFi access and televisions, which are artfully hidden in large suitcases. For travelers seeking the ultimate in privacy, there’s a lofty tree house, spread of multiple levels some ten feet off the ground.
Says Das: “Design-wise the hotel is really a tribute to the town of Trancoso itself, to its history, culture, the people and the amazing artisanal skills they possess. Over recent years I’ve noticed so many luxury destinations seemed to be about taking travelers ‘away’ from the culture of the destinations, hotels on isolated beaches or private islands, and while such resorts can offer a relaxing stay, they fail to really stimulate my curiosity about the world. So at Uxua, I wanted to develop something literally in the heart of Trancoso, restoring houses which fit within a large garden on the town’s central square, three of them actually facing that square. And the hotel, while being very private, is nonetheless a real part of that town center, without any signage or indication that the houses of the hotel or anything other than local fisherman houses, and really the guests do feel a part of the town when they stay here. And I think that feeling makes a much bigger impact than in staying in a large gated resort.
True to Trancoso’s laid-back vibe, the beach club at Uxua has elevated daybeds underneath a thatched roof: best of all, no need to get up at the crack of dawn to reserve your spot; every casa comes with its own daybed. Uxua’s carefree ambience is obviously contagious: Das remembers a recent visit during which two groups of French travelers had an impromptu baking contest in the hotel’s large open kitchen (of course, a full-time chef is also on the premises to prepare communal meals or cater to individual casas). “Uxua grew out of a fantasy of the kind of place I would like to visit again and again,” says Das. Apparently, this sentiment is infectious: even though the hotel has been open for under a year, some guests have already retuned three times. As for the memorable name (pronounced ooh-shoo-ah)? Uxua means “marvelous” in Trancoso’s native languages. Naturally.
Getting There: You can reach Trancoso by flying to Porto Seguro (multiple connections leave from cities such as Salvador and Sao Paulo daily). From November through February, many charter flights also fly directly to Porto Seguro from Europe. Trancoso is about a two-hour drive from the Porto Seguro airport.
Read a Q&A with Das about his favorite places around the world.
Read Indagare’s destination report on Bahia.
Read about what to see and do in Trancoso.
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