Remarkable Rio Expat: Alison McGowan – Pousada & Brazil Travel Expert

Alison McGowan
Alison McGowan

The untold gold of Brazil’s pousada accommodation

Alison McGowan is a British journalist and photographer based in Rio de Janeiro. After 30 years of living working and travelling in Brazil, she stumbled upon a beautiful small inn- pousada in Bahia, and realized that a wonderful alternative existed in Brazil to anonymous hotels and resorts. She set up Hidden Pousadas Brazil in 2008 to promote the best of these pousadas (eco-lodges, boutique hotels, guesthouses, Inns and bed & breakfasts) and to share a small bit of the paradise she had found with other independent travellers.

What is your view on the current situation in Brazil regarding travel?

Brazil is in fashion. The hosting of World Cup 2014 and the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 has catapulted it into the limelight and for those who are actually going to be here you can look forward to some spectacular partying. At the same time there will be a lot of people who don’t have much interest in football or sport and who prefer to keep away from madding crowds, inflated prices and cities and mass tourism.

Most people know the iconic tourist spots of Rio, Iguaçu Falls and the Amazon but the rest of Brazil is practically virgin territory for the foreign tourist; a hidden paradise of extraordinary wildlife, history, culture, music and thousands of miles of sandy beaches still waiting to be discovered.

Vila do Patacho, São Miguel dos Milagres (Praia do Patacho), Alagoas
Vila do Patacho, São Miguel dos Milagres (Praia do Patacho), Alagoas

Which evolutions have you seen since you first came to Brazil?

Brazil has changed a great deal over the last 30 years and indeed so has independent travel. Hippies and backpackers with their South American Handbooks have now been replaced by the independent traveller who researches everything on the internet, from flights, to destinations to accommodation, and then books it all on-line, using such sites as Trip Advisor or

Pousada Xuê, São Miguel dos Milagres (Praia do Patacho), Alagoas
Pousada Xuê, São Miguel dos Milagres (Praia do Patacho), Alagoas

So how would you define the typical Brazilian Pousada?

When you look in Wikipedia, it will give you the Portuguese version, which is: “a small upmarket hotel in a refurbished historical building, formerly run by the state and now in the hands of the huge Pestana hotel chain”.

In Brazil the pousada concept is equally beautiful but totally different; a small more personal place to stay usually found outside big cities, where owners are normally present and where there is a commitment to the local community.

The closest thing to a pousada in the US or the UK would probably be a B&B, guesthouse, inn, eco-lodge or boutique hotel and prices are probably similar for each in Brazil. But here the style is uniquely beautiful and unmistakably Brazilian. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

Butterfly House Bahia, Maraú Peninsula, Bahia
Butterfly House Bahia, Maraú Peninsula, Bahia

How did you get the idea to start with “Hidden Pousadas”?

I noticed my first pousada back in 2007 when a friend of mine recommended I check out the Pousada Santa Clara on Boipeba Island as a remedy for stress. Two caipirinhas later, sitting on the gorgeous sandy beach flanked by swaying palm trees looking out over the sunset I knew I had found gold.

People deserved to know about this place and there had to be other equally wonderful destinations and pousadas in off beat Brazil that independent travellers would want to discover. As it happens there are many and you can find them at Hidden Pousadas Brazil!

Please leave your comment:  Do you stay in hotels or do you prefer the more personal atmosphere of a pousada?

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