Rio de Janeiro is on most people's must see list for any vacation to Brazil. Rio has great beaches, beautiful people and a range of luxury hotels in which to stay. The people love to party, samba being the music of choice. Things to do in Rio de Janeiro include soaking up the atmosphere, relaxing on one of the cities many excellent beaches, visiting Sugar Loaf mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue (Corcovado -see photo), and there is also the botanic gardens. The shopping is great, as are the restaurants, but primarily it's all about Rio de Janeiro's beaches and lifestyle. And the football of course! Click here for Rio football tickets.
Rio de Janeiro's Beaches:
Rio has some fantastic beaches, but tourists should be aware that most are rather polluted. Rio de Janeiro's most famous beach is Copacabana beach, where numerous luxury hotels such as the Copacabana Palace can be found. Copacabana beach is a little seedy in places and can be dangerous at night. Next to Copacabana beach is Ipanema beach, which makes a more pleasant place to book a hotel. Ipanema beach is trendier than Copacabana, and it is generally where the most beautiful people tend to hang out. The Ipanema beach area of Rio also has more interesting restaurants and shops, making it our number one place to book a hotel. Slightly further along is Leblon beach, which is like a middle ground between Copacabana beach and Ipanema beach. These three beaches are Rio de Janeiro's main city beaches, but slightly further afield are some other fantastic beaches. São Conrado beach is popular with hand gliders. Prainha and Grumari beaches are 40 minutes outside of Rio de Janeiro and are smaller, less crowded beaches popular with surfers. Other beaches in Rio include Flamengo, Botafogo, Leme, Arpoador, Barra da Tijuca, Recreio dos Bandeirantes, Grumari and Recreio dos Bandeirantes. Paqueta is a district that also has some decent beaches.
Rio de Janeiro has some excellent first class hotels, some of the best in all South America. The most famous hotel, and the most expensive, is the luxurious Copacabana Palace. This is the most famous hotel in Brazil and has had numerous distinguished guests to stay. The service at this hotel is second to none, but the Copacabana beach area is a little seedy, so tourists might prefer to stay in the Ipanema beach area instead, the best hotel there being the Caesar Park Ipanema. Those who want to stay on Leblon beach should consider the Leblon Palace. Other luxury hotels in Rio de Janeiro include the JW Marriott hotel, the Sheraton Rio hotel, and the Sofitel.
Mid Range & Budget Hotels:
Excellent mid range 4 star hotels include the Ipanema Plaza hotel and the Pestana Rio Atlantica. If you're on a budget on your vacation, both the Orla Copacabana hotel and the Luxor Regente Hotel are both good hotels that are also good value.
Rio de Janeiro is synonymous with carnival, which is the biggest and loudest of all carnivals in Brazil. The 5 day carnival is every February at the end of the Brazilian summer. Essentially, carnival is a five day inhibitionless party for the residents of Rio and tourists alike. It is not the time to take your granny on holiday to Brazil. Hotels often quadruple their prices over the carnival period, and often have minimum stay periods of 5 or more nights. Some of Rio's budget hotels will let you stay for as little as 3 nights over carnival though. Bear in mind that the Rio de Janeiro carnival has now essentially become a tourist event - many of Rio's local people pack up and leave the city to spend a genuinely more Brazilian (and less touristy) carnival in other parts of Brazil. Carnival in Salvador (North East Brazil) is considered by many to be preferable to the carnival in Rio, but ask many Brazilians and they'll tell you the best carnival is actually in Olinda (a suburb of Recife).
Rio de Janeiro Vacation Combinations:
A three or four night stay in Rio de Janeiro is generally enough for your vacation. Other places to visit in Brazil include Iguassu Falls (a one hour flight from Rio), Buzios (a trendy beach destination 3 hours drive from Rio), Ilha Grande (another great beach destination nearby), Parati (a beautiful colonial fishing village about 5 hours drive from Rio) and Florianopolis (an hours flight from Rio, locals will tell you the best beaches in Brazil are here). Further afield, tourists can fly north to Manaus and the Amazon region to stay in a jungle lodge, or to Campo Grande / Cuiaba to visit the Pantanal area of Brazil which is excellent for wildlife viewing, or to North East Brazil which has some of the best beaches in Brazil in the area around Salvador, Recife and Natal. Alternatively catch a flight to Buenos Aires in Argentina.