Rio is one those unique and incredible cities which manages to have the ocean, mountains and skyscrapers all in one place. It’s an expansive, diverse and beautiful city full of personality and natural beauty. Ant and I spent four days there at the start of our South America trip and absolutely loved it. We managed to cram a lot into our short visit and we wanted to share our personal highlights, tips and tricks for Rio de Janeiro based on our experience. So here are 12 things you should do when you visit:
- Eat fresh acai every damn day. There are numerous acai stands pretty much on every street corner and they serve up the richest, delicious acai bowls you’ll ever have! If you want authentic acai without too much sugar then I recommend checking out Tacaca du Norte. Don’t forget to bring your own jar or container to the street stalls otherwise your acai will be served in a plastic cup.
- Run along the beach. Rio is such an active city, we constantly saw people exercising – so why not join them? Try a sunset run along the beach at Copacabana or Ipanema and you’ll be jogging alongside the local residents.
- Paraglide over the city. The highlight of our trip was seeing Rio from above with Querovoar. Paragliding is such a peaceful and beautiful experience and doing it above Rio is a once in a lifetime opportunity – you are able to see mountains, beaches, the ocean and the city in all directions.
- Take a bike tour. Despite the mountains, Rio is a surprisingly easy city to cycle around. We took a half-day bike tour with Rio By Bike which enabled us to really get to grips with the city as well as tick off seeing a few of the tourist highlights.
- Devour epic vegan food. Rio has some incredible plant-based options – our favourite by far being Teva restaurant. You simply have to go – every dish (especially the apple pie) will blow your mind! There are tonnes of other vegan-friendly spots such as Yasai Natural Sushi (get the crispy mushroom with teriyaki) and Prana (don’t miss the warm gooey brownie!).
- Go hiking. Rio is an incredible location for hiking with a national park (Tijuca) being located right in the heart of the city! We used a local guide called Rafael who took us up Dois Irmaos – a steep trail which takes you through a favela up to a mountain peak overlooking the city. Other popular trails include Pedro Bonita, Pedra de Telegrapho, Pedra de Gavea and Pico de Tijuca. If you want to get off the beaten track then I suggest heading out to Grumari and the surrounding area, it is a haven of beaches, trails and natural beauty – without the crowds.
- Appreciate the street art. A personal highlight was the largest mural ever created by a single person – Etnias. It is a beautiful representation of five faces from five continents and at 2500 square metres this is a seriously impressive piece of modern art.
- Tick off the tourist hot spots. It would be a crime to come to Rio and not visit Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain (which you can partially hike up), Escadaria Selaron and the Botanical Gardens. These places are popular for a reason – they are absolutely stunning.
- Is it raining? If so, visit the Museum of Tomorrow. A solar-powered sustainability focused museum which looks ahead to the future of humanity. It is hailed as not only an architectural marvel but a game-changing museum that combines art with evidence to fight against climate change.
- Train with the locals. If you want a tough workout then I recommend heading to CFP9 – a famous cross-fit gym that allows guests to come in for one-off classes. It has friendly coaches, air-con, snazzy equipment and even its own health food bar complete with post-workout shakes. The dream!
- Party! Brazil is famous for its parties, carnivals and abundance of nightlife. Head to Pedro do Sal on Monday nights for a famous Samba party and into Lapa District almost any night of the week for bars, drinks and dancing.
- Stay safe. I never felt scared while in Rio but I took a lot of precautions, kept my wits about me and used common sense. For example don’t wear flashy outfits, jewellery or bags. Keep your camera and technology stowed out of sight. Don’t have your phone out on busy streets and make sure to take taxis at night.
Got more time? There are so many beautiful areas near Rio, but one which we really wished we had enough time to visit was Ilhe Grande. A small island with over 20 beaches and 16 hiking trails. It is jam-packed with natural beauty and a great spot for getting outdoors!