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Review: Gran Melia Iguazú Falls Hotel

Review: Gran Melia Iguazú Falls HotelScore 78%Score 78%
TRIP Report: Honeymoon - South America



Introduction

When we were putting this trip together, we had a constant battle with our supplier about too many destinations in too little time. As we become seasoned travellers, we have learnt two things:

  • Stay in one place and see more of it instead of racing around trying to see every destination, and experiencing none
  • Schedule rest periods so you are not on tour all the time but have some days to yourself

To that end, instead of our one full day, in Iguazú, we scheduled three nights, thinking that we would have one day for seeing the falls, and one day for lazing by the pool.

As you will see, that’s not what happened. We spent three hectic days exploring the Falls from every available angle!

Details

Stay: 27 February to 2 March 2019
Stars: 5
Room: Deluxe Room King Size Bed – Falls View
Size: 25 sqm (269 sqf) + balcony
Bed: King
Per Night Average: ~AU$540
Address: Iguazu National Park, Misiones, Argentina
Phone: (54) 37 5749 1800
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.melia.com/Gran_Meliá/Iguazú‎

Booking and Cost

We booked this hotel as part of a package put together by our travel agent here in Sydney: Out & About. They use the South American specialist agency Eclipse Travel (South America Holidays, African Safari & Polar Tour Specialists).

As it was a package, specific prices for the hotel are not available. However, expect to pay around AU$540 per night for a room with a king-size bed, balcony and a view of the falls. This is expensive, and the rooms at 25 sqm are small. But they have a monopoly on providing accommodation in the park, with views of the falls, so, if you want to wake up to this fabulous view of the spray from the falls at dawn – then pay the money, honey!

Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas

The Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas – the other quality hotel close to the falls – has no rooms that have direct views of the Falls – so don’t be fooled.

The mist rising from Iguazú Falls at dawn from the Melia hotel

Our stay was in a Falls View room – there doesn’t seem much point in choosing a hotel in the national park without a view of the falls does there?

However, if money is tight, the non-falls view rooms – called ‘park’ or ‘jungle’ view are about AU$350 per night.

Location and Arrival

The hotel is the only accommodation within the park that has views of the falls. For that reason, you need to enter the park, to get to the hotel – obviously.

The river and falls form part of the border between Brazil and Argentina. They have their separate towns and airports, – so it’s important to know which side you are on, and which airport you are flying into and out of for the purposes of visas etc.

We flew in from Buenos Aires to Aeropuerto Internacional Cataratas Del Iguazú (IGR) and so we remained within Argentina for our hotel stay. Later you will see we exited via Brazil on the way to Rio de Janeiro

Our driver from the airport to Gran Melia Iguazú

Check-In

We arrived at the hotel after a roughly 20-minute car ride from the airport at around 1:45 pm.

After our stay at the small, delightful boutique Palo Santo Hotel in Buenos Aires – the arrival at the Gran Meliá brought us back to earth and reminded us of what it is like to stay in a big international hotel chain. What I’m trying to say is, they attempted to upsell us to a suite on arrival – except, it wasn’t really a discount on what we would have paid if we had booked it online, so we politely declined.

Hotel entrance from inside

And as an added reminder of our corporatised accommodation, our room was not ready. Official hotel check-in time was 3 pm. We were given our room number, however, and asked to come back to the desk to collect our keys – after 3 pm.

We headed off to have lunch in the hotel’s Iguazú Restaurant – a beef burger – nothing particularly memorable, but it did pass the time, fill the belly, and provide an excuse to have a glass of wine (like we needed an excuse).

We returned after 3 pm and were given our keys. The check-in agent recognised that I would be having my birthday during the stay, and asked if we drank alcohol. We denied it of course!

Exterior from the falls side of the hotel.

History

The hotel opened in 1978 as the Hotel Internacional Iguazú.

In 1985 it hosted the production and catering base for the three-month filming of the Academy Award-winning film The Mission.

Starwood Hotels took over the management of the hotel and renamed it as the Sheraton Internacional Iguazú. A spa was added as part of renovations in 2003. After a further renovation in 2006, the name was changed to the Sheraton Iguazú Resort.

A UAE based company acquired the hotel in 2017, and it joined the Melia Hotels International group soon after, renamed as the Hotel Meliá Iguazú. But that name didn’t last for long, after a US$20 million refurbishment in 2018, it was renamed the Gran Meliá Iguazú – the name it retains today.

The hotel has 176 rooms and four suites. It is the only five-star hotel in the Iguazú National Park, and the only hotel with a direct view of the Iguazú Falls, in particular, the Devils Throat.

All about the view

As you can see from the image above, this hotel is all about the view. And given that this is the only hotel accommodation within the park that has a direct view of the falls from its rooms, they have a monopoly. And those falls are just a 12-minute walk away, so they are just over there!

The Room

Amongst our friends, I have the reputation for never accepting the first room we are offered. This is not really true. They must be confusing me with another friend who was heard to remark to a poor Thai hotel worker that she would ‘neck’ herself if she had to stay in a certain room in the Peninsula Bangkok – only to realise, after viewing a couple of other rooms -that her discombobulation was due to her assigned room being the mirror image of the layout she was used to.

However there was that time in St Petersburg where I did ask to see another room, and after viewing seven different rooms, decided that the one we had first been allocated was the best room anyway. Well, it was.

Anyhoo, I digress . . .

We were taken to our allocated room on the first floor and as soon as we opened the door, we were hit with the smell of damp. And I’m talking sustained damp. The damp that is in the walls, or the floor, or the ceiling – not just a slightly toxic bathroom drain smell.

Well, when I’m paying more than AU$500 for an undersized room in a five-star hotel, I’m not settling for a room where I feel I might catch something from toxic mould.

Just as my husband and I had decided the room was unacceptable, the porter arrived. We politely but firmly advised of the rooms unacceptability, and he, bless his cotton socks, phoned room allocations immediately, and soon had us moved to the second floor, to room 240, where there was no, or at least much less of a damp smell.

Overall the room was compact but efficient. There was only one chair, although we moved one of the balcony chairs inside, so there was seating for two. There was no desk chair either. It looked like the room had been repainted in a beachy white, with beach shack style shabby chic treatment to the bedhead.

Wardrobe space was minimal, with no drawers, or doors. The safe was ‘laptop ready’ whatever that means, but was no way big enough to house my 15″ Mac Pro.

Open wardrobe, the meagre number of coathangers, slippers and safe.

Mini-Bar

The selection was fairly restricted, water, energy drinks, champagne, and beer. Obviously the inevitable Pringles, a cursory miniature of Johnny Walker, and a selection of lollies (candy), chocolate bars, biscuits and nuts.

Minibar contents

A drip coffee machine (its been a long time since I’ve seen one of those – given the preponderance of pod espresso machines) along with a ‘Coffee Kit’, which had a sachet of coffee, two of sugar and two of ‘creamer’ (Ugh!) and a filter, for that morning fix.

In summary, it looked like the rooms had been restyled, rather than gutted and refurbished. The quality didn’t really justify the cost, but the view did.

Bathroom

The marble tiled bathroom was very compact but quite adequate. I’m not a fan of windows in hotel bathrooms, but they do have the advantage of bringing in some natural light, and of course, allowing you to see that fabulous view.

Single basin

The bathroom housed a bidet as well as a toilet, and the door was backed with a mirror. There was the inevitable bathroom phone.

Bathroom amenities were kind of generic but did the job.

No-names ammenities

Overall the bathroom was a tight fit, but it had everything and was well arranged, including the placement of the shower tap. It got a little steamy, so that lack of ventilation may have also contributed to the ‘damp’ in the room.

Balcony

Our balcony was small but deep enough to sit out on and read a book and be mesmerised by that waterfall view, or amused by the goings-on by the pool.

The balconies were semi-private, but we rarely encountered guests in close proximity.

Public Areas – Bars and Restaurants

The hotel was pretty generous with its public areas, with plenty of seating and lounging areas both inside and out as well as restaurants and bars. The outside furniture could have done with a few more cushions, as some of the three-seater lounges lacked a padded back.

Public areas were mainly split over two floors both with indoor and outdoor space. On the ground floor was a reception area with a large rug, surrounded with winged chairs all placed to take in the view, as well as outdoor seating and bar service.

On the first floor, the vibe was more loungey, with comfortable chairs and low tables, as well as another outdoor balcony area.

This flowed through to a cosy darker bar area. The hotel was reasonably busy if meal times were any indication, but the restaurant and bar areas never felt crowded, even at breakfast.

Access to the rooms flowed from the public spaces, with wide corridors punctuated by lights, seating areas and tables.

A recurring theme in the decor was rattan, faux travelling trunks, jungle prints, and wall features with plates, or hats or collections of other objects. Ceilings were masked with the designer equivalent of camouflage netting, which looked better than it sounds.

Corridors were kept dark and moody, which contrasted well with the light and delights of the view from the rooms.

The cottagey- beachy white shabby-chic feel is occasionally jarred by the appearance of glass and chrome from the original look of the building.

Breakfast

Who doesn’t love a hotel breakfast? Especially when there are engaging staff to cook what you want?

My photographs of the offering are limited, but it was actually quite comprehensive. The cooks were not just staffing an egg station, you could get waffles and quite a range of other breakfast dishes, if you asked, with a reasonable level of politeness and charm. In fact, nothing seemed too much for these professionals.

Cooking station: eggs, waffles, anything
Pastries, fresh and delicious
Fruit – health, health, health!

I think it was almost impossible to drag my attention away from that fabulous view.

View from the gym.

Pool and Spa

I didn’t have any spa treatments during our stay, but I did traverse the corridors and reception areas and indoor pool to get to the hotel gymnasium.

Spa corridor looking back to access stairs

The view from the gym (above), especially early in the morning as the mist rises from the falls, and hangs like a cloud over the area was just breathtaking, or maybe that was the speed I set on the treadmill.

Spa Corridor, looking towards the pool and falls

The spa is on the ground floor and feels a little like a basement on approach. You wind through a series of corridors, that are decorated with white camouflage netting, and these disk lights.

Spa and Gym reception

The Spa reception area opens out a little and has a small waiting area.

Spa waiting area

The spa has a retail display, as well as internal lounges adjacent to the pool.

Spa retail area

An outdoor treatment area screened from the public by plants is also part of the Spa.

Outdoor treatment area,

There is also an internal pool/hot tub, available to spa users.

The Gym was quite well equipped with both weights and aerobic machines. We tried to visit every day during our stay. You know what it’s like, you get married, go on your honeymoon, and like New Year, you resolve to keep fit . . .

Good luck with that!

There are two outdoor pools. One large, and a smaller pool (far right of the photo above), that didn’t seem to be used much during our stay.

The area is full of wildlife, everything from swarms of butterflies to scavenging, disease-ridden, vicious but cute Coati.

And then there is this rather personable wader who regularly joined us poolside.

2PAXfly Takeout

I feel a little torn about my views of the Gran Melia Iguazu. It is an OK to good hotel in terms of room size, decoration and amenity. Let’s face it, you don’t spend much time in your room, when there are trecks up and down the Falls to do, an excellent pool to swim in, or lay beside, and good bar areas to drink, relax and gaze at the view.

Facilities, including the spa and gym, are very good. Restaurants and bars are about average, although service levels can be variable. Public spaces are large, comfortable and well decorated.

Some of the soft furnishings were not ageing well, and externally, the building could do with more attentive maintenance. We had to scavenge for pool towels sometimes, and the towels themselves were not particularly plush or generous in size. These are issues for management to deal with.

The staff, however, are extremely hospitable, friendly and well-meaning. They even gave me a cake for my birthday!

Birthday Cake, and who doesn’t like cake flavoured with Dulce de Leche?

But it is the view and location, and proximity to the falls that really makes this hotel. Oh and the Toucans! We had some fleeting views of them from the Gym, but this little group of Ramphastos toco below were in a tree near the entrance of the hotel, and posed for us on our final day, as we were leaving for the airport.

And finally, back to the view. Below is a shot from the first-floor bar balcony at dusk. AU$540 per night was worth it to see this view every day, all day and to have the entrance to the Falls a 12-minute walk away.

Pool and Falls at dusk

I may write a separate post about getting the best out of the Falls later, but what we thought would be a leisurely three days, turned out to be action-packed, exploring each of the main three treks around the Falls, and approaching the ‘Devils Throat’ from the river by boat.

But finally – one more view of these spectacular Falls, the largest in the world, with a rainbow.

I’d happily go back and spend another three days.

Other Posts in the Series
<< Review: LATAM A320 Economy, LA 7504 – Buenos Aires to Iguazú

Review

78%

Summary This is a good hotel with a spectacular top rating location and view, that can't be beaten.

Hotel 75% Falls view 100%
78%

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