The Complete Guide to Ilha Grande

The Complete Guide to Ilha Grande

Ilha Grande – which literally translates to Big Island – is a tropical island just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state and is about 160 kilometres from Copacabana. It is an island defined by its white beaches, clear blue waters and as a car-free zone. In short, it is a slice of Brazilian paradise and ideal for a weekend getaway from Rio de Janeiro. It can be done in a day but you will be pushed for time if you want to do everything. I stayed for one night and two days and that was ok – but I think one more night would have been perfect. Yet exam revision called me back to Rio (the joys!), hence why I didn’t stay longer. But the time I spent there was wonderful and I managed to pack in plenty of great activities and see some unforgettable sights. Here is my complete guide to Ilha Grande.

How to get there

The easiest way of getting there is a bus from Rio de Janeiro and then the ferry over to the island. There are several routes so here are all your options.

First of all, the main port on Ilha Grande is Vila do Abraão so that’s where you’ll be heading. To get there, you have to take a boat from either Mangaratiba (which is closest to Rio), Conceição de Jacareí (the closest point to Ilha Grande and with the most boat departures) or Angra dos Reis (which is the closest to São Paulo). I took the one from Conceição de Jacareí as it has plenty of boat departures at all hours so we didn’t need to wait long to board.

Ilha Grande Rio de Janeiro

Getting a boat from Mangaratiba will take between 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach the island. They depart just once a day at 8 am except on Fridays when there is one extra departure at 10 pm. The boats are huge with a capacity of between 500 and 1,000 people and visitors can take up to 10 bikes with them (why you would need so many bikes, I’m not sure!) free of charge. The boat back to Mangaratiba from Abraão leaves once a day at 5.30 pm. The cost of a ticket is R$16.60.

Getting a boat from Angra dos Reis will take between 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach the island. Like Mangaratiba, they depart just once a day at 3.30 pm on Mondays to Fridays and at 1.30 pm on weekends and holidays. The boats that leave Angra dos Reis are big with a capacity of between 500 and 1,000 passengers and they have the same rules about bikes as the boats that leave from Mangaratiba. The boat back to Angra dos Reis from Abraão leaves once a day at 10 am. The cost of a ticket is R$16.60.

Unlike Mangaratiba, Angra dos Reis also has smaller and fastest schooners available which run on a much more frequent timetable. The journey to the island takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes and the boats have a capacity of between 30 to 120 people. They run every day at every hour from 7 am to 6 pm and go to Abraão. To go back from Abraão to Angra dos Reis, the boats run every day at nearly every hour from 6:30 am to 6 pm. The price for a one-way ticket is between R$25 and R$50.

Getting the boat from Conceição de Jacareí to Abraão. This is my favourite choice as it’s quicker and much more convenient. The trip to the island takes between 15 and 20 minutes (which basically means more beach time on the island!) and the boats have a capacity of between 30 and 60 passengers. The run regularly between 8.30 am and 6.15 pm (with an extra trip at 9 pm on a Friday) to go to the island and run between 7.30 am and 5.30 pm (with an extra trip at 8 pm on Friday) to back to Conceição de Jacareí. Each trip costs between R$20 and R$30.

You can get your tickets from the port so no worries about booking in advance. To get more information about the exact timetable, take a look here.

The next question is then – how do I get to Mangaratiba/Conceição/Angra?

The easiest way is to take a bus from the Rodoviaria in Rio de Janeiro. Take the comfy Costa Verde bus (you can either book it in advance or simply book it at the Rodoviaria before you board. That’s what I did) which costs R$40.50 to Mangaratiba and R$58 to Conceição and Angra. There are plenty of guided tours that offer a full package – hotel pickup, bus there and boat trip over – with prices starting from R$100. Ask at your hotel to see if they have services available for this.

Ilha Grande Rio de Janeiro

Tips for the island

  • Take cash! There are no cash points on the island and not every restaurant, shop or bar accept card yet. So you may need to pay in cash. I think it is improving now as the flow of tourists is always increasing year by year, but I remember being grateful that I had taken out cash beforehand – normally I pay for everything by card so I was lucky to have some fortunate hindsight!
  • There are no roads on the island. It is a motor-free zone, which is one of the many charms of Ilha Grande. Yet this is something worth remembering if you’re carrying heavy luggage – you may consider renting out one of those push carts when you arrive to help you take your back to your accommodation.
  • There are plenty of hikes on the island, some with challenging climbs, others simply flat trails leading through the forest. Take good shoes – trainers are absolutely fine – and remember to set off each day with plenty of water! The tropical weather can be fierce and you should try to always stay hydrated.
  • You can walk all the way around the island! Yet it’s not called Big Island for nothing, you know; it can take between 4 and 5 days to make it all the way round. If you have your heart set on doing it though, it’s best to start at Abraão and walk in an anti-clockwise direction. Note: at the other end of the island, accommodation is quite scarce so you will need to plan this before (that or find a friendly local who doesn’t mind providing a bed for the night!). Camping is not permitted outside the designated places in an attempt to protect the island’s environment so take care to follow these rules.
Ilha Grande Rio de Janeiro

Things to do

Let’s start with the beaches

Ilha Grande does beaches splendidly. One of the best ones is Lopes Mendes with its long, white sandy beach, crystal clear shallow waters and a fringe of tropical palm trees. It is the definition of paradise. The water is good for surfing although you have to paddle quite far out as the water remains shallow for a while. To get there, take a speedboat from Abraão to Pouso and try to do this on a calm day – when I did it the waves were big and I was convinced that I was going to be catapulted out of the boat! From Pouso, it’s a pleasant 20-minute hike through the forest before arriving at the Lopes Mendes beach. Provisions are in short supply there, although you can buy water, beers, caipirinhas and basic snacks there. It’s a good idea to bring some of your own snacks with you too.

Arguably the best beach is Parnaioca beach yet it is much less-visited. Why? It can only be accessed either by boat or a 3-hour hike from the Dois Rios near Abraão. It’s worth it though – few people make the effort to go there so you’ll be rewarded with a secluded beach with very little crowds.

Other great beaches worth checking out include Aventureiro beach (look out for the famous L-shaped palm tree there), Santo Antonio beach (a tiny beach with turquoise waters) and Caxadaço beach (another tiny beach surrounded by dense forest).

Other things to do in Ilha Grande

  • Visit the abandoned Candido Mendes prison. This prison was once used to lock up some of Brazil’s most dangerous criminals until it was closed in 1994. It includes stories of escapes such as when Escadinho, a Brazilian drug lord, was broken out with a helicopter. It can be reached by following the trail from the Vila de Dois Rios.
  • Go diving. Ilha Grande is great for dive-lovers and there are several schools to rent equipment from. Expect to see tropical fish, coral reefs and even the occasional turtle. I didn’t dive there but I’ve heard that some of the best spots are Ilha de Jorge Grego, the island in front of Lopes Mendes beach, Gruta do Acaia and Ilha das Palmas. However, I did go snorkelling and I would highly recommend Lagoa Azul in the far north of Ilha Grande. The water is so blue with amazing visibility and I saw plenty of colourful shoals of fish.
  • Hike Pico de Papagaio. Standing at 980 metres tall, this is the second largest peak on the island and takes about two to three hours to reach the top. It’s a challenging trek but the views over the entire island are worth it.
  • Visit the waterfall. The Cachoeira de Feiticeira waterfall is not far from the main port, Abraão. The waterfall stands at 15 metres high and you can take a shower under it (you will love that during the summer time!) and swim in the pool in front.
  • Go on a boat tour! There are loads of boat tours available. Here are some of my favourites:
    “>- This one is great for those that want to go to Ilha Grande but only have a day. The tour is 12 hours and takes you from Rio de Janeiro to the island and back to Rio after. The trip includes a tour around the island in a boat with a stop-off point at some of the most beautiful beaches and lagoons for swimming, snorkelling and an onboard lunch. “>Click here to find out more about this tour.
    “>- This one is very similar to the one above (so ideal for those on a shorter time frame) but it also includes a trip around Angra dos Reis, a beautiful coastal town on the mainland made up with dozens of little tropical islands. “>Click here to find out more about this tour.
    The tours are done by guides who speak English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Ilha Grande Rio de Janeiro

Places to eat and drink

Being an island surrounded by marine-rich waters, it’s hardly surprising that Ilha Grande does amazing seafood. For a fancy seafront dinner, head to O Pescador, which does Mediterranean-style fish dishes as well as great pasta and meat dinner options. The fish fillet with passion-fruit sauce is wonderful at Dom Mario, a seafood restaurant in Abraão. Another great seafood restaurant is Restaurante Lua e Mar. With its candlelit tables edging out onto the sand, it’s the perfect spot for a romantic date-night.

Where to stay

When I went, I literally left everything last minute and arrived on the first day of a national holiday. Needless to say, on this beautifully sunny weekend, half of Rio’s population and I had decided to come and spend some time at Ilha Grande. I arrived without any accommodation and everywhere was completely booked or out of my pitiful budget. After trekking around, we actually ended up chatting to a friendly local who let us stay there for a discounted price. It was pure luck and the fact the lady was an avid dog and cat lover was even better – the place was full of puppies and kittens at every corner! However, it’s best to book in advance, especially when travelling there on a weekend or during a holiday. Here are some of the most popular spots on the island.

Che Lagarto is a famous chain of hostels throughout South America and this one is a popular spot for backpackers. It’s a great place to meet people and is nicely located right next to the beach. Check here for prices and availability.

Pousada Beira Mar is clean, comfortable and simple. It’s next to the beach too and has rooms with hammocks. Make room in the morning for the breakfast buffet.

Pousada Naturalia is located just a little bit up on a small hill which provides wonderful ocean views. The multilingual staff are super friendly and breakfast is served fresh every day. It is one of the best pousadas (bed & breakfast) on the island. Check here for prices and availability.

Asalem is a more luxury (and more expensive) place to stay but its secluded location and forest surroundings are charming and the attention to details is impeccable. The hotel overlooks the Crena beach and guests may find themselves in close proximity to wildlife such as monkeys, hummingbirds and brightly-coloured butterflies. The sea nearby is known to have starfish and turtles. The 6 water-front suites give Asalem an exclusive feel. Check here for prices and availability.

Photos by:

First image: by Helio Araujo on Flickr
Third image: by normalsanik on Flickr
Fourth and feature image: Valdiney Pimenta on WikiCommons
Fifth image: by Nathon Chor on WikiCommons
All the others are by Felipe Campos. You can check out his work on Flickr or on his Instgram account.

Love it? Pin it!

Ilha Grande Rio de Janeiro

Hotel in the Spotlight: Sant’Martre in Santa Teresa

Hotel in the Spotlight: Sant’Martre in Santa Teresa

Sant’Martre: resort-like setting in Santa Teresa with simple rooms and budget-friendly prices.

 

Despite being minutes away from the main hub of Santa Teresa, Sant’Martre maintains peace and tranquility thanks to its hillside location that keeps it tucked away. Defining features of the hotel include an ample garden with broad, leafy palms, plenty of tropical flora and birds singing and monkeys chattering in the background. Breakfast is served on the outside terrace with wicker chairs, glass-topped tables, and glorious sweeping views over the city. Highlights include a low-hanging swinging chair and an outdoor hot tub that overlooks a wide backdrop peppered with churches and colonial mansions. It’s a hotel that combines a cosy, resort-like feel with reasonable prices, making it an ideal option for the budget traveller.

Location

Santa Teresa provides an alternative experience to the body-conscious shores of Copacabana and Ipanema. Located up in the hillsides, the region is all about the cobbled streets, former industrialists’ mansions, traditional restaurants and bars, and an artistic flair that gives the neighbourhood an unmistakable bohemian vibe. It’s a wonderful place to explore and dip into little art galleries and boutique shops. The steep hills may not appeal to everyone, yet the local bonde (street tram) helps get to and from the city centre. Otherwise, you may depend on taxis or Uber to get around. Copacabana is about 25-minutes away by car.

Hotels in Santa Teresa Rio

Style and Personality

The hotel has a resort-like feel with an ample outdoor area complete with a hot tub, large wicker chairs, and plenty of natural vegetation. The hotel itself is modern and minimalist with wonderful artworks of flying parrots decorating the walls. The atmosphere is calm and peaceful, making it an ideal weekend retreat for those looking for a spot to rest without any disturbance. Despite its glamorous side, it embraces the casual and familiar approach with friendly, chatty staff that instantly make you feel comfortable and at home.

Services and Facilities

The hotel is clean, simple and comfortable, yet the real joy lies in the surrounding gardens and outdoor terrace which homes the majority of the hotel’s defining features. The staff are exceptionally friendly and make you feel at home by acting as casual hosts rather than overly-eager waiters hovering around to cater for any whim. This approach makes it easy to settle in and feel the staff are your friends.

  • Hot tub
  • Breakfast
  • Wi Fi
  • Snooker table
  • 24-hour reception
  • Event space
  • Room service
  • Drinks – beers and soft drinks

Rooms

The rooms are simple and clean, providing a comfortable space to sleep for the night. I loved the huge bed and the crisp bed linen that smelled freshly-washed and clean. The balcony overlooks the hotel garden and the venue’s wonderful views, making it hard to imagine a better way to wake up in the morning. The bathroom is small yet the hot, powerful shower is a joy when getting out of the hot tub during the winter – the winter months of July and August can feel surprisingly chilly. The toilet doesn’t offer a huge amount of privacy which may cause some discomfort for the shyer traveller. There is a Nespresso machine in the room, a place to leave your bags, and a safe for your valuables. The wifi is fast, strong, and reliable in the rooms, as it is throughout the whole hotel and gardens.

Food and Drink

The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant or snack-offerings (besides the biscuits and chocolates in the mini-fridge), but that’s ok as Santa Teresa has plenty of places worth checking out for traditional Brazilian food. The breakfast in the morning is buffet-style and provides a simple offering that is typical in Brazil – several types of bread, ham, cheese, a simple yet moist corn cake, cereal, yogurt, and a mix of hot and cold beverages. It was satisfying and wonderful to eat on the outdoor terrace – especially when the monkeys came down to say hello.

Value for money

The rooms start from R$160 ($50) per night. Free WiFi. Breakfast is optional as some people go out early in the morning to visit tourist attractions and so have the option to pay less for something they wouldn’t use. Breakfast is an additional R$20 ($6) per person per day.

Disability access

The hotel has ramps throughout so people in a wheelchair can easily access the outdoor terrace. There is one room in the hotel that is disability-friendly and is on the ground floor for extra ease.

Family-friendly

The hotel accepts children and the outdoor area provides space to run around and burn off some of that boundless energy. Older children may enjoy the snooker table. The pool is no longer working, having been transformed into an outdoor patio instead. The hot tub is probably more of an adult entertainment feature than for kids, yet for young nature-lovers, the garden’s flora and fauna diversity will kill a couple of hours.

Sant'Martre: Check here for availability and prices

Book now
Love it? Pin it!

Casa Bromelia Travel Services: Experiencing Rio de Janeiro as a Local

Casa Bromelia Travel Services: Experiencing Rio de Janeiro as a Local

We met Lauren at her home and boutique accommodation, Casa Bromelia. The first thing that struck me was the genuine warmth of Lauren’s greeting – ‘Hey girls! I’ve been expecting you! Please, come in!’ – as she ushered us inside her gorgeous haven. It’s one of those places where you want to stop and look at everything and I couldn’t help but think, how do people do interior design so well? ‘When I arrived here, the place needed plenty of work done,’ Lauren reveals. ‘So I went ahead and reformed everything. The floors were scrubbed clean of a layer of wax and I found these original wooden designs underneath. The door frames, window frames, even the door handles are all original. The rest of the decor I designed myself, drawing my inspiration from the tropical beauty of Rio.’

So that’s how she does interior design so well. It’s clear though that she has a great eye for what works and what doesn’t. All the furniture and fittings each have their own intriguing story and the brightly coloured walls, exotic plants, and tropical-inspired paintings bring the vibrancy of Rio to the inside. Casa Bromelia is an exclusive boutique with three unique bedrooms in addition to offering a travel concierge service and a jaw-dropping swimwear range. Seeing the swimwear made me want to play dress-up for the rest of the afternoon but we were on a special purpose. We had come to check out one of Lauren’s local-inspired tours.

Tours in Rio de Janeiro

As part of the concierge service, Lauren offers tailor-made tours for individuals or groups of people that want to experience Rio as a local with someone that knows the city like the back of their hand, speaks English, Portuguese, Spanish and French, and has that remarkable ability to connect with locals, expats and travellers in a way that instantly makes anyone feel comfortable and at home. We decided we want to check out the ‘A Day as a Local’ tour and get a feel for what it’s like to be Brazilian in Rio as well as check out some pretty off-the-beaten-track spots in the city.

Our first port of call was the local padaria (Brazilian bakery), which was an excellent beginning as I was famished. After explaining the different foods on display in the wide, glass-walled counters, we ordered whatever tickled our fancy and sat down for a hearty brunch of coxinhas, acai, freshly squeezed fruit juice, and a large cup of classic Brazilian coffee for me. Lauren kept the whole atmosphere lively and engaging, chatting happily away with us and the amused looking staff (that was our fault. We were excitedly taking millions of photos, filming the food, and creating boomerang images of what, to them, is simply daily snack and breakfast items). After feeling sufficiently full and satisfied, we took the metro, as thousands of Brazilians do every day, to the huge outdoor market, Uruguaiana Market.

Tours in Rio de Janeiro

Now, for those that are new to Rio and don’t speak the local lingo, Uruguaiana Market can be an overwhelming medley of stalls and persistent sellers, all thrown together in a what feels like a warren made by a crazed rabbit. Yet Lauren guided us around, pointing out interesting stalls, wonderful products, engaging with friendly locals, and introducing us to exotic fruits such as the goiaba (see below), which you can actually eat with the skin (I did not know that). I’ve already been to Uruguaiana Market but normally I go, buy whatever it is I need and leave. But with Lauren, I got to experience it at a more leisurely pace which totally changed my perspective of the market. I felt safe, comfortable and was having a great time exploring the products, many of which are unique to Brazil and represent fascinating aspects of local culture.

This is goiaba (guava in English). It’s so pretty! I personally love the thick jelly-type paste version – known as goiabada – which is popular in Brazilian and eaten with a mild, white cheese. This combo is known as Romeu e Julieta. I love it in its purest form as a slab of white cheese with a layer of guava jelly on top (I am so hungry now just thinking about this!) but Brazilians are really creative with this combination and you can find it in cheesecakes, truffles, pies, mousses, as a filling in tapioca, and even mixed with pao de queijo! 

If you’re wondering how to prepare for the trip to Uruguaiana market, then Lauren has all your answers. In the video below, she gives a run down of some top tips on what to wear to Uruguaiana market, what to bring, and gives a little more insight into how long her tours last for.

Lauren expertly guided us down hidden paths and winding corridors in Uruguaiana until we stepped out into a quieter street in the city centre, the exciting hustle and bustle of the market behind us. This time we went to the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, one of the most beautiful libraries I had ever seen with breathtaking ornate decor that forcefully commands a hushed silence as you step in. The building dates back to the end of the 19th century and contains the largest and most valuable collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal. Despite not being allowed to touch most of the books – some date back to the 14th century and efforts to preserve them would be majorly hindered from public manhandling – I could have spent a pleasant afternoon there simply taking in the incredible surroundings.

Tours in Rio de Janeiro

We wandered around some more, checking out nearby cathedrals and architecture. When I asked about the flow and schedule of her tours, Lauren explained, ‘I take my tours out with a loose plan of what we will do. We have some points to cover and a theme, but ultimately, I want people to have a great time and really feel the local experience. If we are having a great time at one point, we will stay there and really enjoy it. If people are like, this is great but I think I’d like to move on, then we simply move on. I keep my tours as flexible as possible whilst still following the structure that drew people into doing the tour in the first place.’

What about duration? ‘Normally my tours are about three hours. Yet it’s not unheard of for them to go on for four, maybe even five hours when we are really having a great time,’ she smiles. ‘People love the samba tour for example, and that can sometimes finish longer than expected. But that’s fine. As long as they are happy, I’m happy.’

The samba tour is one of Lauren’s most popular experiences. Guests start at the wonderful Casa Bromelia for homemade caipirinhas and to test out a few samba moves within the cozy, private comfort of the home. Later in the night, the tour moves to an underground samba place where guests can have a truly Brazilian experience by taking part in a street party where usually only Brazilians go to enjoy local music in the balmy evenings of Rio’s outdoors.

Back to our tour, after a stroll around the city centre we end up at Casa Cave to finish the tour with a chat and cake, a perfect way to wrap up what had been a wonderfully enlightening and fun excursion. Having lived in Rio for about four years, I felt pretty clued up on what to do and what to see in Rio. Yet Lauren surprised me by revealing paths in Rio that I hadn’t yet trodden down and I left the tour with a new appreciation for the city. Lauren’s passion for Rio shone and sucked me in, reminding me why I moved here in the first place. The tour didn’t feel at all touristy and didn’t just scratch the surface of Rio – it dove straight into its heart and revealed the culture here that I simply love.

Tours in Rio de Janeiro

Lauren is the owner of Casa Bromelia. She offers boutique accommodation in the heart of Ipanema, Rio’s trendiest neighbourhood, which is just one block away from one of the world’s most iconic and beautiful beaches. She is also behind the travel concierge service, a total guide and assistance to anyone visiting Rio de Janeiro that caters for all whims, desires, and needs. Lauren also has a fabulous swimwear range whose prints and patterns scream Rio de Janeiro and the quality will make you feel on top of the world. Finally, Lauren is the host of a range of incredible city tours. 

So how do you get in touch with the lovely Lauren? Send her a message through her website or Facebook page. Alternatively, you can contact us and we will pass on the message for you. If you contact Lauren or book any of her services, make sure you quote ‘Now in Rio’. Then let us know and we will send you some exclusive information about Rio de Janeiro.

Love it? Pin it!

Tours in Rio de Janeiro

The Best Day Trips From Rio de Janeiro

The Best Day Trips From Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has pretty much something for everyone. Looking for beach days? Or forest trails for hiking through a huge urban rainforest? How about nights of caipirinha-fuelled nights and dancing ‘til dawn to the drum-filled air of live samba bands? The adventurous can check out sprawling favelas whilst the culture-vultures can browse through enlightening museums and elegant art galleries. Amazing as Rio is, sometimes its hustle and bustle leaves you searching for a calming getaway that offers a different perspective of Brazil. Luckily, a quiet retreat is never far away with several nearby getaway options from colonial towns to tropical beachside paradises. Here are some of our favourite places:

Petrópolis

Just 69 km outside of Rio lies Petropolis, a colonial city dating back to the imperial era in Brazil. It was once the home to the last Emperor of Brazil, Pedro II whose remains are buried in the Cathedral of St. Peter of Alcantara. His once summer palace is now the Imperial Museum which is open to the public. To keep the former glory of the palace, visitors have to wear slippers over their shoes to protect the ancient floor and regal artifacts such as the huge gold crown are strictly for observing only (no photos, guys). The surrounding land of Petropolis is filled with forest trails and nature walks.

Highlights:

  • Palacio Quitandinha – This is a former luxury resort hotel that sits in well-manicured lawns and still preserves the former glory of its striking facade. Choose to either explore inside or simply chill out in the surrounding gardens.
  • Casa de Santos Dumont – The former home of Alberto Santos Dumont, the Brazilian inventor of the aeroplane (still to this day in dispute against the Wright Brothers), is open to the public to peek a glimpse into his past life.
  • Cervejaria Bohemia – This is the official brewery of the Brazilian beer Bohemia. The factory includes a tour of the beer production (half self-guided, half supervised), beer sampling, and finally a store to purchase some of the beers on offer. There you can pay to have your name on a label (between R$14 and R$20) and even buy a beer kit so you can make beer yourself at home. The two restaurants are worth popping into for good food washed down with chilled locally-made beer and accompanied by live samba music.
Day trips from Rio de Janeiro

Buzios

Buzios is the luxury beachside retreat for Cariocas (those born in Rio) and visitors will be spoilt for choice with 23 stunning beaches to sunbathe on, a thriving nightlife scene, and plenty of great restaurants to wine and dine at. The main street in Buzios is Rua das Pedras where the bulk of the bars and eateries are so if you want to be in the hub of it all, make sure to stay around this area. For watersports such as surfing, bodyboarding, and windsurfing, head to Gerba beach, which is renowned for its big waves and great surfing conditions. Wildlife lovers shouldn’t leave Tartaruga beach off their list – this is the best spot to see a turtle.

Highlights:

  • Seafood – Buzios proximity to the clean, wildlife-rich ocean has been the inspiration for the dozens of great seafood restaurants in the area. For fresh fish and meaty seafood, then Restaurante Mistico, Rocka Beach Lounge, O Barco, Restaurante do David, and Bistro da Baiana have wonderful menu options.
  • Scuba diving – Nearby fisherman village, Arraial do Cabo, has definitely got the top-spot for scuba diving with its fertile seas and calm surf. Yet Buzios is almost as good and there are plenty of dive schools for beginners or more experienced divers.
  • Privilege Buzios – those looking to party hard to great music and a young, beautiful crowd should head to Privilege Buzios, a nightclub under the same ownership as Privilege Ibiza. The entrance fee is pretty high at around R$100 yet it promises to be an unforgettable night.
day trips from Rio de Janeiro

Paraty

With its cobbled streets and whitewashed houses with their vibrant-coloured door and window frames, Paraty is as tranquil as Rio is intoxicating. The well-preserved architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries reflect the wealth of Paraty’s colonial heydays when it was the state’s major gold port. The fact the historical centre is closed off to motor vehicles is one of the town’s greatest charms and makes it an ideal place to aimlessly mooch around.

Highlights:

  • The historical centre with its uneven cobbled streets and colonial buildings, the city centre is like a snapshot from the past. The streets are peppered with Baroque churches such as the Chapel of Santa Rita and the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, historical monuments, and charming buildings and are the motives behind the region being listed as a historical UNESCO Heritage Site.
  • Boat trips – wildlife and nature lovers will be in their element with over 65 islands nearby to explore, some of which are uninhabited. The boats slowly amble through waters, stopping off at popular, stunning islands so visitors can chill out on the shores or snorkel with the colourful, tropical fish who are more concerned with picking up bits of strategically thrown bread than care for the human observers.
  • Cachaça Tasting – A guided tour is a great way to experience this national liquor and there are multiple tour options that combine cachaça tasting with a jungle jeep tour.

    Restaurante Do Quilombo Campinho – Quilombos are communities founded by fugitive slaves and the Quilombo do Campinho is located near to Paraty and is one of the several that still exist in Brazil today. Head to their restaurant that comes highly-recommended on places such as Trip Advisor for delicious, homely food.

Recreio

Still considered within the city of Rio de Janeiro, Recreio is a neighbourhood in the west zone of the city. With its lack of subway routes and long distance from more visited-places such as Copacabana and Ipanema, Recreio remains very much off the beaten track. Yet this is its blessing – kilometres of white, empty beaches, untouched nature reserves and excellent surf spots are what awaits those willing to put in the effort to go there.

Highlights:

  • Prainha Beach – a quiet crescent-moon shaped beach surrounded by rainforest-covered mountains to one side and a surfer-haven ocean to the other. Feeling hungry? Prainha has a number of kiosks sprinkled along the shoreline or you can head to Bar e Restaurant Mirante da Prainha for some delicious and fresh seafood accompanied by a stunning view.
  • Praia Secreto – the small secret beach (translation) is hidden between Macumba Beach and Prainha. It’s actually a natural pool of water surrounded by rocks. Swimming in Praia do Secreto depends on the tide, so it’s best to check if the tide is too high or too low, because in either case, the pool disappears. Thanks to how shallow the pool is, the water is generally pleasantly warm and makes a wonderful place to chill and laze a couple of hours away.
  • Hike Pedra do Pontal – this small island lies between Recreio dos Bandeirantes Beach and Macumba Beach. A narrow strip of sand connects this lone island to the mainland and disappears when the tide is high. The trail is relatively easy, but the final part requires some arm strength to lift yourself on the supporting ropes.

Niteroi

Just across the bay from Rio de Janeiro is Niteroi, Rio’s sister city. The age-old saying goes that the best thing about Niterói is its view over to Rio, which isn’t very fair – the view is indeed flawless, yet Niterói has enty to offer in its own right. It is home to Itacoatiara, a local beach spot, located 32 kilometres from Rio’s city centre. The beach stretches out for 700m with a large rock jutting out in the middle, splitting the beach into two separate characteristics. One-half is known as a surfer paradise for its excellent surf conditions while the other, smaller half is protected from the waves, making it ideal for a leisurely swim. The beach is surrounded by the Serra da Tiririca State Park, an environmental protected area known for its hiking trails with breathtaking oceanic views from the park’s viewpoints.

Highlights:

  • Parque da Cidade – Take a taxi up to the Parque da Cidade to take in the picturesque view of Niterói, the bay and over to Rio de Janeiro. It’s one of the best places to watch the sun set over Sugarloaf.
  • Beaches – Along with Itacoatiara, the city is home to many beaches including: Piratininga, Praia da Barra Camboinhas and Itapu beaches, all of which are just a bus trip away.
  • Museu de Arte Contemporanea – The saucer-shaped building is one of Niterói’s most impressive landmarks and was developed by the late Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. It’s inspiring architecture draws in as many people as the collection of modern art inside.
  • Fortaleza de Santa Cruz – the historical fortress stretched out into the sea and was once the main defense against potential naval attacks during the imperial and colonial era. Nowadays, it is open to the public and offers oceanic views over to the Sugarloaf.
  • São Francisco – Locals of Niteroi tend to prefer heading over to Rio for all night parties and heaving nightclubs, given that Niteroi is somewhat lacking on the full-on party scene. However, it still has several spots for lively bars and diverse restaurants. The best neighbourhood to eat and drink is São Francisco where visitors will be spoilt for choice for drinking and eating options.
day trips from Rio de Janeiro

Image credits: Diego Rego Monteiro/WikiCommons

Love it? Pin it!

day trips from Rio de Janeiro

The Best Budget Hostels In Rio De Janeiro

The Best Budget Hostels In Rio De Janeiro

budget hostels in Rio de Janeiro

You don’t need to stay at the Copacabana Palace or the swanky Santa Teresa Hotel to enjoy some of Rio’s top spot accommodation. There are plenty of great budget hostels in Rio de Janeiro for a fraction of the price. The budget options nowadays are a far cry from the ‘slumming it’ days of cheap, dreary hostels and many also include great day trips and local city excursions. Here are some of our favourites based on location, design, ammenities, and price.

Lemon Spirit 

It’s hard to imagine anything less than a five-star hotel in Leblon, Rio’s swankiest neighbourhood, yet Z. Lemon Spirit Hostel has created a trendy hostel that reflects the surrounding high-end feel whilst maintaining affordable prices. The location of the hostel is ideal – one block from the beach, set amongst some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, and near to the metro for quick access to the rest of the city. The super friendly, multi-lingual staff are well-informed on local tourist attractions and are quick to offer advice on fun activities to do around the city.  The young, trendy vibe is contained within the clean, comfortable dorms that sleep between four and six people. Don’t forget to pick up your welcome caipirinha and sit back and relax in the hammocks strung up on the terrace. Take a look here to see prices and availability.

Lemon Spirit Hostel, R. Cupertino Durão, 56 – Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 2294 1853

Contemporâneo Hostel

Located in a lively part of Botafogo, this small boutique hostel is popular with 30-plus travellers. The interior is brightened with designer furniture locally-made and the walls are decorated with cheerful artwork from a local art school. The breezy hostel maintains a comfortable feel with high-ceiling dorms that sleep between four and nine people. Guests can enjoy the complimentary breakfast on the patio which doubles up as a leisure area later on in the day. There is also a well-equipped kitchen for cooking and all guests have access to good wifi, lockers for valuable belongings and a library filled with travel-inspiring books. Later in the evening, guests can make the most of the surrounding neighbourhood that is known for its hipster vibe and casual, modern bars and restaurants. 

Contemporâneo Hostel, R. Bambina, 158 – Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 3495 1027

El Misti

One of El Misti’s best features is its impeccable location – one block away from Ipanema beach, – the most famous part of Rio’s coastline – in among a host of lively bars and diverse restaurants, near to a famous gay street (Rua Farme Amoeda), and close to the subway for quick and easy access to all the main tourist parts of the city. The hostel attracts a young, international crowd and is a great hostel for the solo traveler looking to meet fellow backpackers. The staff managed the hostel well by keeping it clean, serving a well-stocked buffet-style breakfast, and speaking at least three languages between them. The trendy hostel provides private rooms as well as dorms that bed between four and 12 people. Take a look here to see prices and availability.

El Misti, R. Joana Angélica, 47 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, 0800 020 2661

Mango Tree Hostel

Located on a busy street in Ipanema, the hostel retreats just off the main road, keeping most of the traffic noise at bay. The simple, airy hostel has a contemporary vibe enhanced by modern fittings and colourful furniture. The hostel provides private rooms and dorms that sleep up to six people.  They serve a complete, buffet-style breakfast each morning complete with ham, cheese, fresh local fruit and a selection of bread. The TV Lounge doubles up as a socialising area making it a great spot to mingle with fellow international guests. The friendly staff can help you organise tours that offer a fascinating glimpse into Rio’s culture and are full of useful tips to make a pleasant stay in the city. The nearby beach is one of the hostel’s best features yet their garden and patio area makes a great place to relax. Their wifi is strong and works quickly – something we can all appreciate when travellingTake a look here to see prices and availability.

Mango Tree Hostel, R. Prudente de Morais, 594 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 3083 5031

For this silent mind

A post shared by O Boca (@rocorbyoficial) on

Bonita Pousada and Hostel

Music fans will appreciate the history of Bonita hostel – it is the former residence of Tom Jobim, the man famous for his contribution to the bossa nova music scene and to the world-known song, ‘Girl from Ipanema’. Located in the middle of Ipanema, the hostel enjoys local privileges such as nearby quirky bars, several restaurants of both national and international cuisine, and just a couple of blocks away from the beach. Guests can enjoy the large patio area that is perfect for socialising with the young, international crowd that group there or make the most of the bar and TV lounge. In addition to private rooms, there are also comfy, cosy dorms that sleep up to six people. Bonita hostel also helps organise tours such as favela excursions, football games, and even sky-diving and weekend trips to Buzios. Take a look here to see prices and availability.

Bonita Pousada, R. Barão da Torre, 107 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 2227 1703

Here lived Tom Jobim! 🎶 #RiodeJaneiro #Brazil #CasaBonita #ErreJota #Boemia #BossaNova #Mpb #Brazilian #Relax #Peaceful #Holidays #Ipanema

A post shared by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Rodrigo Santiago (@driguex) on

Love it? Pin it!

The Best Luxury Hotels In Rio De Janeiro

The Best Luxury Hotels In Rio De Janeiro

Luxury hotels in Rio de Janeiro

Rio’s golden beaches and tropical weather create idyllic conditions for a luxury retreat. While the laid-back vibe and beach-centric lifestyle set the boho-chic scene, Rio also does glamorous getaways equally well. For a vacation where your every need and whim is catered for, explore the world of luxury hotels in Rio de Janeiro.

Copacabana Palace

The perennial recommendation for luxurious hotels in Rio de Janeiro is the Copacabana Palace, and it’s not hard to see why it has such status. The imposing splendor is spread across 226 rooms that combine a careful mix of traditional classic decor with touches of contemporary elegance. Declared as a National Historical Heritage site in 1989, it also featured in the 1933 film Flying Down to Rio starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and has been a popular accommodation spot on the celebrity circuit ever since, hosting the likes of Madonna, Mick Jagger, and Hugh Jackson. Other highlights at the hotel include the full-equipped spa, two high-end restaurants MEE (which has a Michelin-star) and Cipriani, complete-service salon, and a swimming pool bar with personalized service. Have a look here to check prices and availability.

Copacabana Palace, Av. Atlântica, 1702 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 2548 7070

Santa Teresa Hotel

Based in the city’s bohemian hillsides, the Santa Teresa Hotel offers an alternative escape and experience from Rio’s body-conscious sandy shores. A former coffee plantation, the hotel was later renovated into a luxurious retreat. The gorgeous green gardens are home to the polished getaway venue that combines contemporary with low-key rustic details and stunning views. The outdoor swimming pool is surrounded by crisp white futons and low tables, setting a glamorous scene to sip cocktails and nibble on light snacks in Rio’s balmy nights. Santa Teresa Hotel boasts one of the city’s best spas, in addition to an upscale restaurant and intimate bar. Have a look here to check prices and availability.

Santa Teresa Hotel, R. Alm. Alexandrino, 660 – Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 3380 0200

Casa Mosquito

Casa Mosquito strikes a startling contrast against the nearby favela, yet it retreats back off the main road and nestles into the hills, providing a cocoon of comfort and luxury from the outside world. The minimalistic design creates a clean fresh look to this restored mansion, yet the owners were keen to place their quirky personal stamp on it – the rooms are named after unlikely Rio icons such as the famous Madame Sata, a drag performer from the 1900s. The rooms have that breezy, luxury ambient, yet it’s the rooftop that is the killer deal – a large, open veranda with a swimming pool, well-stocked bar, and a breath-taking panoramic view of the south zone’s glorious coastline. 

Casa Mosquito, R. Saint Roman, 222 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 3586 5042

Saudades já da @casamosquito

A post shared by Festa Traxx (@festa_traxx) on

Fasano Hotel

With its privileged spot on the edge of Ipanema beach, Fasano Hotel is the Ipanema’s more modern and trendy version of Copacabana Palace yet with all the same luxury. The aloof yet ultra attentive staff maintain the air of upscale sophistication, as does the contemporary, atmospheric ambiance with touches of the Orient. The wood furniture, tropical blooms, and mix of brass and marble details lift the mood and create an elegant setting. Highlights include a full-service spa and a rooftop bar with a swimming pool that overlooks the ocean. With past guests including Beyonce and Rihanna, this place spares no expense when it comes to looking after their clients. Have a look here to check prices and availability.

Fasano Hotel, Av. Vieira Souto, 80 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 3202 4000

La Suite

Nestled up in the tropical forest-coated hills of Joatinga, La Suite is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle city life. With features such as helicopter pads, antique decorations, and chandeliers, the hotel exudes A-list luxury, yet keeps the atmosphere grounded and light with friendly staff and few rooms for optimal service that aims to meet all whims. The surrounding broad palm leaves and colourful flowers add an exotic touch and the wide, floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outside in and provide a secluded, tranquil haven. Have a look here to check prices and availability.

La Suite,  R. Jackson de Figueiredo, 501 – Joá, Rio de Janeiro , +55 (21) 3259 6123

Sunshine on my shoulders. ✨ #GoProBR #GoPro 📍Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A post shared by Gisela Carvalho ✈️🌀 (@giselacarvalho) on

TuaKaza

For another concealed retreat, TuaKaza is tucked into the Sao Conrado hillsides and provides a total sanctuary from any reminder of the tos and fros of urban life. The fact the hotel is only accessible by car adds to its exclusive mystery as visitors take the winding road up the hill and through the Atlantic forest. The hotel itself is surrounded by large tropical plants and exotic birds and is defined by impressive features such as a man-made waterfall, swimming pools with paradisiacal natural backdrops, and a personalised service. There are only six rooms in the hotel with glamorous names such as Kiwi and Amora. Have a look here to check prices and availability.

TuaKaza, Estr. das Canoas, 2600 – São Conrado, Rio de Janeiro, +55 (21) 3322 6715

piscina superior tuakaza #tuakaza #travelgram #hotelview #riodejaneiro

A post shared by TuAkAzA Exclusive Lodge (@tuakaza) on

Love it? Pin it!

luxury shopping in Rio de Janeiro