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Hottest Travel Destinations of 2012

Courtesy of Fazenda Sao Francisco do Corumbau

Southern Bahia, Brazil

The Pataxó people got it right when they named their Bahian village Corumbau—“far from everything.” It’s only about 30 miles from Porto Seguro airport, but the dirt roads make for a bumpy, four-hour drive. Yet the same venturesome Brazilians who turned nearby Trancoso from sleepy to chic are calling Corumbau and neighboring Caraíva the country’s next hot spots. And the helicopter takes just 20 minutes.

Corumbau: Once you finally get here from Porto Seguro—the most adventurous option requires a beach buggy, wooden raft, and dugout canoe—you may want nothing more than to lie on a beach, sipping an açai juice. But there’s plenty to keep you busy: snorkeling the pristine coral reef; mastering the local spearfishing technique; hiking through dense tropical forest. Clothing designer Renata Mellão’s Vila Naiá (55-11/3061-1872; doubles from $800, including meals) has eight sexy bungalows and suites, outfitted in bold fabrics and recycled driftwood and connected by boardwalks. A more secluded option is Fazenda São Francisco do Corumbau (55-11/3078-4411; doubles from $800, including meals), where 10 light-filled cabins face nine miles of deserted beach, and fresh seafood is matched with produce from the garden.

Caraíva: Six miles north of Corumbau is a town that’s the epitome of Brazil’s no-fuss beachside life. Wooden houses splashed in shades of mustard, lime, and peach line a tangled web of streets too sandy for cars; the chief mode of transport is mule. Show up for a 4 p.m. lunch of moqueca (fish stew) at the Boteco do Pará (55-73/9991-9804; lunch for two $40), whose tables are shaded by an almond tree. Hotels here are rustic; the best is Pousada Lagoa (55-73/3668-5059; doubles from $86), where five brightly painted bungalows are scattered across a lush garden. At the other extreme is Fazenda Caraíva (55-21/2225-9476; from $4,810, including breakfast and dinner), a three-bedroom villa designed by local architect Ricardo Salem. It sits on a forested promontory, drawing publicity-shy execs and celebrities. —Colin Barraclough

The Breakdown

Who It’s For: Beach obsessives who want Brazil bragging rights.

When to Go: Oct.–April

How to Do It: Book with Blue Parallel or Matueté.

Exotic Factor: Far-Flung

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