No matter where they live or whether they are young or old, fit or less than fit, cariocas go to the beach year-round: it’s Rio’s living room, lounge, gym and main playground—and a key part of what makes Rio, Rio.
To go to the beach like a carioca, remember that less is more: bathing suits (bikinis and Speedos are the norm); a kanga (pareo) around the waist for women, maybe a T-shirt for men; the ubiquitous Havaianas (flip-flops) on the feet for both. A straw bag will carry essentials: sunscreen, a hat, a book, change for a snack. That’s it. Chairs and umbrellas can be rented there, and food and drinks are plentiful, offered nonstop by vendors (a classic: ice-cold maté and Biscoito Globo, a crunchy, salty toastlike treat).
Hot beaches: Posto 9, Ipanema (musicians, colorful characters, gay crowd); Posto 10, Ipanema (stylish locals); and Pepê, Barra (the young and the beautiful). Next door to Ipanema, Leblon is more tranquil, with a local crowd and dramatic Dois Irmãos hill to the north. A little further off is Joatinga, beautiful and secluded below a residential area on a hill. Farther north (and harder to access) lays the idyllic Prainha, wild and filled with beautiful girls and surfers.
Tip: For beautiful and very “carioca” sunset, head to Arpoador, the rock which divides Ipanema and Leblon. It may be crowded but it’s worth it.
In a state blessed with miles of glorious beaches, a common topic of discussion among residents and visitors is which beach is the most beautiful. Of course, there are bragging rights in getting to those that are not easily accessible. Few are reached by paved roads, so a bouncy dirt road ride in a jeep does not earn you stripes. From Txai, we hiked a few miles to reach one arc of sand which had a waterfall pool nearby. Another day, we kayaked among waterways where fishermen cast nets for their daily bounty before we reached a virgin stretch to the south of the resort.
Surfers in Itacaré have their favorite ones for wave breaks. And from Trancoso we drove on dirt roads and made a short but steep hike down to Praia do Espelho, Mirror Beach. It’s always on the list of people’s favorites and for good reason. With miles of soft white beach, a lattice work of rocks that forms little pools in spots and dramatic high cliffs that you can climb for a postcard perspective, it certainly ranked up there with the best beaches I have ever visited from Belize to Zanzibar. Added advantage at Mirror Beach is even though it’s remote, you don’t have to picnic. There are a number of restaurants tucked under the palm groves.
Casa da Bisa
This house with a large garden is a great spot to watch or participate in samba, the lively Brazilian dance.
This is the new outpost of Daros Latinoamerica, one of the most comprehensive collections dedicated to Latin American contemporary art, which has its headquarters in Zurich. The museum occupies an extensively restored 19th century neoclassical building in Botafogo, and has a nice restaurant as well as an interesting store.
Casa das Rosas
The colonial mansion of a famed Brazilian architect, Casa das Rosas was turned into a cultural center at the end of the 20th century. There are lovely rose gardens on the property and a small café, which are both peaceful places to rest within the bustling city. The cultural center hosts many events, classes and exhibitions, and also houses the first library in the country that is dedicated to poetry.
Casa de Vidro
A milestone in architecture that ranks with iconic structures like Philip Johnson’s Glass House and Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, this casa by the famous Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi now exhibits a great Brazilian art collection. The structure is a must-visit for architecture buffs.
Chacara do Céu
The modernist 1950’s residence of arts patron Raymundo Castro Maya houses the main part of the his art collection, as well as original furniture. Expect many works from Brazilian modernists Cândido Portinari and Di Cavalcanti, and also a few from Matisse, Seurat, Modigliani and Miró. More than 500 works by Debret, who depicted Brazil during the 19th century, are also on display. Don’t miss the library and the dining room, preserved as they were 50 years ago. The house itself is a work of art, built amidst lush gardens and with amazing views of the Guanabara Bay down below (Chácara do Céu means “country house in the sky”). Closed Tuesday.
Cooking Classes at Livraria Mundo Gourmet
Occupying two floors in Villa San Pietro in Jardins, this bookstore of cookbooks offers small cooking classes in their beautiful and well-appointed kitchen.
At more than 2,300 feet—the highest point on the Tijuca Massif—the Corcovado peak is majestic enough on its own, but many find irresistible the idea of climbing to the ninety-eight-foot-high statue of Jesus that was built on top of it in 1912. The best way to reach it is either by tram or a previously booked car or bus—avoid the cabs and vans that congregate at the tramway station. Trams depart daily, every half hour 8:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m.
Embu das Artes
The pleasant small town of Embu das Artes (Embu for short), located 31 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of São Paulo city, is a must day trip for anyone interested in uncovering all manner of Brazilian art, antiques, home décor and handicrafts. The community, founded in 1554, has become a conclave of hippies, artists and intellectuals over the years and its outdoor artisan fair, held on weekends, is a treasure trove of both unique pieces and more ubiquitous handicrafts. Tack on several rustic restaurants and bars and it's a perfect little escape from the big city.
Fortaleza São João
At the base of Sugar Loaf is Rio’s oldest fort, the site of the city’s foundation, which dates from 1565. While the fort is open to the public (Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.–6 p.m. noon, Friday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.), visits require advanced reservations and can only be made in pre-arranged groups.
Forte de Copacabana
Built in 1914, Forte de Copacabana, on the southern end of Copacabana beach, is the newest and most accessible fort, with permanent exhibits and the lovely Colombo teahouse. Walk to the end of the peninsula for an exceptional view of the sea, with Copacabana and Ipanema beaches spreading out to the horizon on either side. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Ibirapuera Park is not just São Paulo’s beloved green space, but also home to two great museums, the Museo Afro Brasil and the Modern Art Museum. The space also boasts dramatic buildings by legendary architect Oscar Niemayer such as the Biennale building and Oca.
Indagare Tours: Architectural Highlights of Rio
Your local guide will pick you up at your hotel and take you on a tour of the city’s architectural landmarks, ranging from a striking baroque monastery and Portuguese churches to modernist creations such as Oscar Niemeyer’s first project, Palácio Capanema. Later, catch a boat to cross the Guanabara Bay to Niterói, home to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), uniquely designed by Niemeyer and completed in 1996; a spaceship like building that houses a permanent collection and changing exhibitions. After the visit return to your hotel by car. Contact the Indagare Bookings Team to arrange.
Indagare Tours: Beach Day Trip
Take a helicopter to one of the most beautiful seaside towns in the country: Paraty or Buzios. Paraty is a Portuguese colonial town with charming cobble-stoned streets and colorful historic buildings set right on the bay of Angra dos Reis. You can wander the town and then be picked up by a boat for some touring and lunch on an island restaurant. Or choose the twenty-five minute flight up to the resort town that has been called the St. Tropez of Brazil, Buzios, where you can hit the beach and have lunch in one of the trendy seaside restaurants. Contact the Indagare Bookings Team to arrange.
Indagare Tours: Brazilian Cooking Class
Brazil’s cuisine has influences from many cultures including African, Portuguese, Japanese and Italian. Spend a few hours with a local chef who will take you to a local market and then teach you about the ingredients and techniques that characterize Brazilian cuisine.
Indagare Tours: Exploring the Nightlife
Whether you like samba, bossa nova or disco, Rio has a club and a scene for a great evening of music and dancing. We can arrange for a class with a samba teacher and a visit to a samba club to watch or participate in the dancing. Or arrange for an evening sampling some of the electronic music clubs in Lapa. You will discuss your interests with our local host who will tailor the evening to your taste. Contact the Indagare Bookings Team to arrange.
Indagare Tours: Favela and Art Visit
Indagare Tours: Favela and Drumming Visit
There are more than 1,200 favelas in the city of Rio housing twenty percent of the population. Brazilians would never visit a favela, or slum, but if you want to understand the city, it is worth making a visit. Explore the Santa Maria favela with a local guide who will take you through the narrow alleys with a resident of the favela. You will see a recycling project and when you arrive to the rooftop where Michael Jackson filmed his famous video “They Don’t Care About Us”. Here you will have a drumming class with some of the local kids from the community, who will teach you about samba music. It is also possible to learn kite flying from the kids or to visit a traditional samba school to learn more about this musical form. Contact the Indagare Bookings Team to arrange.
Indagare Tours: Gardens and Landscapes
Lovers of gardens and landscape design can have a tailored tour that could include a visit to the botanical garden as well as to Sitio, the former home and garden of Brazil’s most famous landscape designer Roberto Brule Marx. Contact the Indagare Bookings Team to arrange.
Indagare Tours: Inhotim Day Trip
Contemporary art lovers with deep pockets should consider a helicopter trip to the fabulous open-air museum/botanical garden of Inhotim. It is truly an art experience like no other in the world. This fantasy land of art and beauty must be seen to be believed but it contains interactive art installations by such world-renowned artists as Doug Aitkens, Anish Kapoor and Matthew Barney as well as Brazil’s top artists like Tunga and Helio Oiticica. Set on 5,000 acres, the complex was created by mining billionaire Bernardo Paz as an ode to art and the natural beauty of his native region Minas Geiras as well as a social investment in the local community and his belief that beauty (natural and man-made) can unify humanity. Over many years, he has transformed this vast park into the world’s largest outdoor museum, providing permanent space for works that would never find room in museums. Read a profile of the founder: Local Legend: Bernardo Paz. Trips for an overnight or just a day trip can be arranged, but we recommend two days to visit all of the pavilions. Contact the Indagare Bookings Team to arrange.
Indagare Tours: Rio as a Playground
Rio may be the city in the world that most resembles a playground but you need a local to show you where and how to enjoy its natural beauty. Whether you want to be picked up at the airport by guides who can meet you with bicycles so you can bike to your hotel (a guide will take your luggage) or you want to hike, surf, paddle board or play volley ball or soccer on the beach or learn Brazilian martial arts, we can arrange a variety of typical Carioca activities. Contact the Indagare Bookings Team to arrange.
Indagare Tours: Rio Introduction
We can customize your introduction to the city for a full or half day to include an overview of the city’s beaches and neighborhoods as well as visits to such iconic sights as Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf mountain. Your local guide can give you the social, historical and political background of the city and also explain about why soccer, samba and bikinis are so integral to Carioca culture.
This 200-years old park founded buy the king of Portugal is a must-see. Located at the foot of the Corcovado mountain, it has a vegetation composed by only 40% of cultivated species, the rest being original rainforest. The entrance, through a beautiful path lined with a hundred royal palms is one of those things one should see before one dies. Inside, ponds with victoria lilies, sculptures and fountains, plus numerous greenhouses with thousands of native species of plants. Go on a cloudy day or when you need a break from the crowds. It is also a nice spot for families. Open daily 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
Tip: Café La Bicyclette inside the Botanic Gardens is a great place for a snack and coffee.
Lopes Quintas Street
It’s a bucolic street filled with interesting shops. Look for design items at Gabinete Duilio Sartori (n. 87, 3173-8828), fine deli and grocery shop Casa Carandaí (n. 165, 3114-0179) and Dona Coisa (n. 153, 2249-2336). On Sundays stores are closed.
The revelry truly begins at 3 a.m. at Love Story, the infamous nightclub of choice for many celebrities and a hard-partying crowd.
MAC – Contemporary Art Museum
The Museum of Contemporary Art, located in Niterói, is one of the city’s main landmarks, an intriguing building in the form of a flying saucer by Brazilian famous architect Oscar Niemeyer. The building is actually the main reason for a visit here, for its architecture and splendid views. The bistro also has beautiful views.