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March 15, 2004 -- If the dollar is weak elsewhere, it certainly is strong in Brazil. You can find some amazing bargains -- especially if you're looking for luxury at an affordable price. Many travelers searching for a beach vacation tend to overlook the beautiful (and seemingly endless) stretch of beaches near Salvador, Brazil. It may be a little complicated to get there, but you'll be saving so much once you've arrived, that the trip will be worth your while (besides, you can stay longer at these prices!).

The new resort area of Costa do Sauipe is heading towards becoming the Cancun of South America. But, for now, there are only a few luxury hotels on some of the continent's most stunning beaches. Ten years from now there are plans for up to 15 more hotels to be built on these beaches. There is no better time to visit Costa do Sauipe than now!

The Marriott Resort & Spa is located one hour from Salvador airport (which is a 2-hour flight from Sao Paolo or Rio). You'll be met at the airport and whisked to a private waiting room for your welcome drink before your trip on a private van to the hotel. Located at the edge of a modern development complete with golf course, equestrian club, a full spa, professional tennis courts and several swimming pools, the Marriott provides a huge expanse of beach from which to launch your complimentary surf-board, boogie board or an afternoon of reading in your chaise lounge. The hotel's restaurants serve delicious local cuisine (including the yummy shrimp and coconut stew that is a specialty of the area) along with international and Italian dishes. Guests at the Marriott can use all the facilities of the beautiful Renaissance Hotel next door, too. A daily roster of activities is free of charge to all guests -- from water aerobics to surfing lessons and children's beach games. You can unwind in the evening with a Caipirinhia (a local drink made of crushed lime and sugar cane liquor) before strolling over to the small nearby village for a show or a bit of dancing.

But what most sets this resort apart and makes it a terrific bargain is that you can walk for miles on the beach and not see another soul. Even in front of the hotels, there is relatively little crowding -- it's such an immense beach. It being a gated and private resort area insures your safety and privacy.

A side trip to Salvador itself provides ample opportunity for shopping and sightseeing in one of Brazil's most colorful cities. The hotel arranges such trips for a small fee.

With the dollar so strong in Brazil, the daily rate at the Marriott including breakfast and dinner averages about $166 for two people. A full ocean view room is $186 with the same plan. Rooms are airy and attractive and come with large bathrooms and terraces: You can hear the waves from the ocean view rooms.

Book at www.marriott.com or by calling any Marriott Hotels reservation center worldwide.

Transfers from the airport are an additional $20 -- but ALL activities and two delicious meals are included in this incredibly low rate. (Even golf is free -- you need only bring your clubs or rent some at a nominal fee. To use the tennis court, just reserve a few hours in advance. To go rowing on the lagoon, just call ahead to reserve your complimentary canoe. You get the idea). This Marriott is striving to be similar to a luxury Club Med, with all the amenities of a full service hotel. Spa services are also fairly reasonably priced and include everything from deep tissue massage to facials and herbal wraps.

These special rates are valid now through late June, and mid-August to mid-December.

Getting There

For trips to Brazil, right now the best fares come from the national airline Varig (www.varigbrasil.com/english) and its code-share partner, United (www.united.com). Flights from U.S. gateways connect in Sao Paolo or Rio before reaching Salvador.

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