“This article is dedicated to my best friend and travel partner, Antonella. Thank you for always making life so exciting!”
Brazil is a place like no other. The sticky heat, the lush jungles, the sexy, vibrant culture and sprawling beaches; it’s a destination that can inspire poetry and fill your heart. I am a bit ashamed to admit that the apprehension other’s had about my journey to Brazil with a handful of girls started to weigh on my mind, hence why I opted out of bringing my DSLR camera and used only my iPhone to take photos. However, the moment we arrived to our beautiful beachside condo, all those insecurities vanished.
We were greeted by a beautiful Brazilian woman at our new home and given a run down of all the do’s and don’t of the city. She then proceeded to escort us around the local neighborhood, showing us where to shop, dine and hang out. I highly recommend having a local agent sort out what you need or wish to do while in Rio. Although it’s not necessary, it ended up saving us a lot of time, negotiating and hassle of planning each thing along the way, allowing us to just go with the flow and make a call when we needed advice or arranging.
Hopefully you’ll have plenty of time to both explore and relax when you visit Rio. The beaches can be magnetizing but there is much to experience around the city, too. This was by far one of the most fun and well orchestrated girls trips I’ve ever been on; well worth the time it took to plan and arrange visas for. I’d definitely be up for going back to write part 2 of this article…Their visas are good for 10 years, after all. 😉
1. Copacabana Beach. This is first on the list because it’s one of the most well known destinations on the planet. The beaches are dotted with colorful umbrellas shading relaxed beach goers and a steady stream of bicyclists and joggers on their designated paths. Whether you’re laying out or strolling the coast, there’s much to see. There’s also no shortage of beachside vendors waiting to sell you a much needed frosty beverage or delicious snack on a hot summer day.
2. Go to Sugarloaf Mountain! The views are spectacular. You really get a sense of your surroundings and the beautiful landscape of Rio de Janeiro. Plus, the cable cars add a little sense of adventure to it!
If you squint, you can see Christ the Redeemer in the background.
3. Try Açai. You’ll notice there’s always people walking around eating a cup of purple stuff with a myriad of toppings. All you need to know is, it’s nutritious and delicious.
4. The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden or Jardim Botânico is definitely worth an afternoon stroll. Obviously this is more of a leisurely activity but the scenery is quite impressive and lush. It’s a great way to learn more about Brazil’s botanical history or just get some fresh air.
5. Go Hang Gliding! This is for the bold and adventurous! It’s quite a rush, but after the launch it’s smooth sailing. Glide through the air and get a birds-eye view of the incredible coastline and land right on the beach below. You know you’ve got yourself a badass bestie if she’s willing to do this with you!
6. Join a Samba School for the day! It’s fun, fast paced and one hell of a workout. There’s a reason why this was the only picture I snapped during the whole experience.
7. March in the Carnival Parade! This only happens once a year so you’d have to plan ahead of time and be comfortable with wearing semi-ridiculous costumes but, it’s all part of the experience. It can be really helpful to hire a local to set everything up for you prior to your trip. The costumes and tickets were even delivered to our condo, which was extremely helpful. It may seem like a very involved process to become part of a samba school, take the class, wear these elaborate costumes while dancing around enthusiastically for hours on end, and, it is. But it’s also one of the most exhilarating experiences to be surrounded by the buzzing energy of hundreds of thousands of people in and around Sambadrome, chanting and dancing. If all that sounds like too much, just grab a ticket and watch from the stands. You definitely get a better view of the parade than when you’re marching in the thick of it. Another option is marching in the parade one night and watching the second. Up to you, but worth the effort if you ever find yourself going to Rio in February.
8. Make Your Own Cachaça Drink. Cachaça (“ka-sha-sa”), the national spirit of Brazil made from sugar cane juice. Put your own unique twist on it by adding different fruits or mixers.
For one cocktail
1 sugar cube
Cut the lime into segments and muddle it inside a tumbler. Once muddled, add it to your glass and pour a shot of cachaça and sugar syrup over the lime and then add ice, preferably crushed. Mix it the with a spoon and add more ice. Add a lime wheel and sugar cube to garnish the drink and use to sweeten it, if necessary. *For a healthier (and more tart) alternative, forgo the sugar syrup and use club soda.
9. Go See Christ the Redeemer. It’s a cultural icon and considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. If you’re doing it right, it’ll take an entire afternoon to make the trip up to the top. There are plenty of picturesque waterfalls and lookout points along the way and the views from the art deco statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the entire city of Rio de Janeiro are pretty incredible.
10. Experience a Sunrise. If you’re experiencing a sunrise in Rio you’re either extremely healthy or you know where the best discos are. Never in my life have I witnessed a more breathtaking, awe-inspiring sunrise. I will always remember it as such a spiritual experience to share with my best friend.
*These photos were not enhanced
11. Eat a Caramel Stuffed Churro. It’s everything you want and more, I promise.
12. Eat fresh seafood or go to a Brazilian steakhouse. We happened to do both. You know what they say, when in Rio…
13. Ipanema Beach. It didn’t take us long to figure out that Ipanema was a bit more hip than Copacabana. Both are beautiful beaches but if you’re looking for a younger, sexier vibe, Ipanema is the spot to be. Plus, you get sweet photo ops like this.
14. Drink fresh coconuts. There’s not much more of a satisfying moment than when you get that first big gulp of cool, fresh coconut water on a sweltering day in Rio. It’s important to stay hydrated in the heat and watching them hack them open with machetes is always entertaining!
15. Shop in Saara. Located in Old Downtown Rio de Janeiro, Saara offers the adventurous traveler a more authentic shopping experience. 1,200 retailers and stores make up the 11 block stretch of outdoor mall. *This is not for the timid traveler.
16. Stop for coffee. There are so many pleasant places to stop and enjoy a delicious cup of world famous Brazilian brew. No, really. For over 150 years, Brazil has produced more than a third of the entire world’s coffee supply, making it the world’s largest producer. They’re doing something right.
17. Catch a tan. The people watching is incredible and you can purchase fresh fruit drinks right in the sand. There’s not much more a girl can want.
18. Go for a run or rent bikes. There are designated lanes for bikers, making it easy to cruise along the beach from Copacabana to Ipanema, not to mention the scenery ain’t so shabby.
19. Treat yourselves to some fun desserts. You can never go wrong with chocolate but, are you brave enough to try queijo(cheese) ice cream?
20. Build a sandcastle. Ok, maybe it won’t be as good as these but getting dirty and building something with your hands has proven health benefits, I guarantee it.
21. Go for a hike. Enjoy nature at its finest. Check out these 5 hikes in Rio by Halfway Anywhere.
22. Have FUN, DANCE, DRINK, MAKE FRIENDS! Don’t be shy! Rio is full of warm, passionate people who know how to have a good time. There is always something going on, so don’t hesitate to ask around, converse with the locals and follow your intuition. You never know who you’ll meet!
Did I miss something? Add your favorite things to do in Rio de Janeiro in the comments!