Sun and Surf in Rio

Four days embracing South America's hottest spot, the Brazilian gem of Rio de Janeiro.


Sun and Surf in Rio

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

The hands-down highlights of Brazil's most popular city are the beautiful Cristo Redentor statue, the Pão de Açúcar cablecar ride, and the warm, sunny Atlantic beaches.

After arriving into town and heading to your hotel, stroll around Copacabana to get oriented. Have dinner at the highly recommended Monchique Churruscaria (Brazilian BBQ) and people-watch at Copacabana Beach before heading to bed. The next day, spend a while relaxing and being seen on Copacabana beach. The perfect, idyllic beach one sees only in their imagination, comes to life here. Perfect water temperature, bustling party atmosphere, and warm sand make this experience outstanding.

The next day, head to the Pão de Açúcar cablecar station in Urca, and be lifted high off of the ground, above two mountain peaks to the tip of the conical-shaped "sugarloaf mountain". Here, enjoy the views of the ocean and the city below - one of the nicest views you will ever see, beautiful enough to bring a tear to a tough man's eye.

Finish your visit to Rio by heading to the Corcovado mountain and ride the tram car up to the Cristo Redentor statue (Christ the Redeemer). This world-famous landmark will give you a new respect for Jesus Christ - whether you are religious or not.

Be sure to do some shopping while you are in town. Visit Copacabana's Rio Sul Mall, for everything you might want and need.${QuickSuggestions} Tip 1: Try the churruscaria! Brazilian BBQ is delicious and cheap. An all-you-can-eat buffet of the world's finest meats, cut tableside, are around $7.50 per person. Restaurant Monchique is one of the best in the city.

Tip 2: Avoid taking taxis too much. Unlike most South American cities, taxis are not cheap in Rio. While okay for short trips (usually under $3), long distances (Copacabana to Botafogo, for example) can cost upwards of $10. From the bus station, avoid the taxi touts who will take you into Copacabana for $22. Instead, take the local city bus, which stops nearby. Don't worry about the bus number - take any taxi marked "Copacabana" and get off once you enter the hotel district. This costs around $1, and takes about the same amount of time.

Tip 3: Prostitution is common in Rio. Don't accept rides from strangers, and keep your hotel room locked at all times. Many reputable hotels deny prostitutes from entering. A good, safe option is the Apa Hotel, on Ave. Republica do Peru.

Tip 4: Skip the city tour and do Rio by yourself - you will enjoy it far more. Remember, you may be promised the guide will speak English, but they almost never do (and will refuse to refund your money when you discover this).${BestWay} The best way to get around for short trips is taxis (see my above note) and for long trips is city bus (fast, easy, and practical).

Seniors visiting Rio should be aware that no senior pays bus fare in Rio, and you can travel anywhere free. This saves hundreds of dollars in the long run. You may be asked to show ID (over 65 only).

To get in our out of town, consider a low cost budget airline like Gol Airlines, or Varig. These are about the same price as buses, and take a fraction of the time. Note, though, that tickets cannot be booked online, due to Brazilian travel laws. You MUST book them in person at a travel agency.

Apa Hotel

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

This cute little hotel is centrally located in the beautiful beach district of Copacabana, near budget restaurants and shops. Perfectly situated only 3 blocks from the beach, it is also on a main bus route and is easy to get to and from wherever you are going.

The decor is quite nice for this price range, and each room has comfortable, but small, beds. Rooms are complete with mini-bar, fridges, television (high up on the wall for easy viewing), couch, and tables. The rooms are very spacious and cozy, and each room has a balcony (which can sometimes be noisy). Rooms are complete with much-needed air-conditioning.

Service at this hotel is good, and porters do expect to be tipped. One real should do, per bag. I would recommend this hotel to families and to those new to the area. The English-speaking staff will be on hand 24/7 to help you book sightseeing trips, and even call around for best airfares out of town.

A luscious breakfast is included, which features yogurts, eggs, bacon, sausage, fresh fruits, juices, breads, and many more items. The cozy lobby has couches and televisions for relaxing in a family-room like setting. Internet use is free, but you may have to wait in line. This is a business friendly hotel, with 24 hour security. The noise level wasn't bad at all.

Prices are fixed here for doubles, at 144.00 reals plus taxes, which come out to 158.40 reals per night. If booking online, expect to pay more.

Discounts given for extended stays. Bag storage available at no charge. Visit them online at:  www.apahotel.com.br/pt-br
Apa Hotel
Rua República do Peru 305
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
+55 (21) 2548-8112

Monchique

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

Copacabana's premier churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse) is the place to come for the best meats that Rio has to offer. This popular place is packed nightly with hungry tourists and locals alike. Waiters casually stroll around the restaurant with huge skewers of meat, cutting off pieces tableside and serving them to hungry customers. Everything from lamb and beef to chicken and pork is served up here - freshly grilled to perfection.

The quality of the meat was exquisite. Among my favorites were the grilled chorizo, the carne asada, and the grilled lamb. Those who are sensitive to salt should avoid the res do sel, a mouth-numbing piece of roast beef, covered in crushed sea salt and barbequed.

The ambiance of the restaurant is quite upscale, but the prices are very reasonable. For only $7.50 USD per person, customers are treated to an all you can eat smorgasbord. Stay until you're full, they won't mind.

Included in the price of your dinner is a delicious hot buffet featuring many Brazilian national dishes (try the flambeed bananas!), as well as a traditional Brazilian salad bar, which is endless in its variety.

Service here is speedy and friendly. Waiters are here to serve, as well (it would seem!) to impress. The entire place is spotless, with a stainless steel buffet line, marble countertops, and staff in full uniform. This is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner, as well as for families just wanting to get together and experience the best of Brazilian cuisine. It's noisy, but fun.

Watch out, though, as refills on drinks are not free, and drinks do not come cheap. A can of Pepsi is likely to set you back about a dollar. Mixed with salty food, and your bill instantly ncreases. It's impossible to have only one, and this is where most of their revenue is made.

Make sure you ask about discounts, I was given coupons for 1 real off my next meal. The restaurant is open late (until 11:00 PM) and accepts all major credit cards. This is simply a must-visit on your next trip to Rio.
Monchique
Avenida Nsa Sra de Copacabana, 796-A
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2548-5140

Bob's

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

Bob's is Brazil's most popular fast-food chain. Serving burgers and shakes with a Brazilian twist, these restaurants are always jam-packed. They are everywhere in Rio, with one almost on every other block.

Their menu is family-friendly, and burgers can be ordered either with beef or chicken. Toppings vary from guacamole to garlic to cheese. Combos are readily available, with fried vegetables, french fries, or chicken sticks to add-on. The menu also features other goodies like hot dogs, chicken or tuna salad sandwiches (on toast), and a local favorite, the cheese and banana sandwich (try one!).

There are many flavors of shakes, if you're in the mood for a frosty dessert, all of which are of decent quality.

There are several good combo-value meals available here, all of which are tasty. The food, while good, is not served in the greatest quantities. Think Burger King quality food, in much smaller portions. The burgers are barely three inches in diameter.

One neat highlight of this restaurant is that staff take your order while in line, speeding up the process. You give them your order slip when you pay - no waiting for people to order. Things go pretty quick at Bob's.

Prices are comparable to that of any American fast-food chain, with combos around $5.

For more info, visit their website: www.bobs.com.br (Portuguese only).
Bob's

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Primo Cappo

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

This cute little pizza shop is located in northern Copacabana, near the border with Botafogo. One of Rio's premier Italian budget restaurants, this is popular with locals and tourists alike.

The easiest way to get here is by taxi, unless you are staying in a nearby hotel. Definitely do not attempt to walk, as it's a good distance from the center of Copacabana.

We visited Primo Cappo as our last meal before leaving town on an overnight bus. We arrived at around 9:00 PM and found the place still as packed as ever, filled with the laughter and conversation of many groups of people enjoying the best pizza in the city. We grabbed a table and joined in on the fun, experiencing the atmosphere around us. Primo Cappo may be about good food, but it's also about good times with friends.

The pizza menu is extensive and varied at Primo Cappo, almost too extensive to have to choose from. After a good ten minutes of debating what to order, I decided upon the very tasty Brazilian personal pizza, with hard-boiled eggs, olives, and peppers. I also ordered a margarita personal pizza, with fresh tomato and basil, which was also excellent. The pizzas are generally thin-crust, with a nice spread of tomato sauce, a generous helping of cheese, and then the toppings. Beer is free-flowing, too, and relatively inexpensive at around $1.50 USD per pint.

My meal companion had a delightful chicken dinner instead of pizza. The half bird was served alongside massive amounts of boiled veggies. The portions are huge here (see photos) and the bill came to a modest $13 USD for both dinners.

Treat yourself to some excellent pizza in the heart of Copacabana. You won't find a better slice in Brazil. Take out specials are available, and they do deliver. They accept all major credit cards.
Primo Cappo

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Cantina

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

This is a hole-in-the-wall juice bar and restaurant located just a few blocks from the beach in central Copacabana. It might not be much to look at from the outside - just a counter with a couple of rickety stools - inside is what counts. Here, the menu is all about food - GOOD food, done right.

We approached somewhat hesitantly, but were soon encouraged to get a bit closer by the owner, a Brazilian with a good sense of humor, who laughed at almost anything he heard. We mosied on up to the counter and took a seat at the small bar and ordered a fresh juice to start, while the cook prepared our hot meals. I had the guava juice, two glasses of excellent orange juice, and a glass of passion fruit juice (yes, bathrooms are available here if you need them!). All of these juices were excellent, and only $0.50 to $1 per glass. Oddities include the cashew juice as well as the guayaba juice, along with dozens of Amazonian fruits I'm unfamiliar with.

For my hot meal, I had the fried fish dinner, which was served with french fries, black beans and sausage, rice, and salad. It was excellent, and cheap. This entrée cost only $3. My dinner companion had the fried chicken, which was likewise served with the same sides. Her meal looked amazing as well, and didn't break the $3 mark.

There is seating for about five people total, so you may have to wait for a seat. The place functions more like a walk-up deli than a restaurant - but don't let that fool you. The food is good and the service even better. The restaurant is open late every day - until 3am or later, depending on what's going on that evening.

No, they don't take credit cards. Sorry.

Copacabana Beach

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

Rio's most popular beach is the place to see people and to be seen. This beach, around two miles long, is the nightlife capital of South America, and Brazil's hottest spot.

With excellent surf and a view that will blow you away, this is THE place to swim and surf while in Rio. The sand is warm, the sun is hot, and so are the people.

This beach does have some problems with nudity, so if that offends you, this may not be the place for you. Scantily clad women and men strut their stuff down the beach, making it a great place to mix and mingle.

The ocean is a bit rough here. I accidentally didn't remove my glasses, and held them on for dear life as I tried to make my way back to shore. The waves are very powerful, and I was no match for them, and I lost my glasses rather quickly (which made the day at the optometrist a sudden end to my day at the beach). The other day I visited, the waves were far too powerful for a novice swimmer such as myself, and I was only able to enter the water to shin-depth.

The beach is lined with umbrellas and bars, serving up reasonably priced drinks to thirsty patrons. If you don't come to swim, come for the views of the amazing mountains which line this beautiful beach. The water is warm and the sun is hot pretty much every day of the year.

Public showers and change rooms are available off of the beach, in underground areas on the sidewalk. These do have a fee for use. Lockers available. Watch your belongings, as theft is a problem here. Take turns heading into the water, and do not assume that thieves will not look into your shoe (you'll just lose the shoes along with your wallet).
Copacabana Beach

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio Sul

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

Rio Sul is Rio de Janeiro's premier shopping mall, located a short taxi ride north of Copacabana in the community of Botafogo. This trendy mall has everything you'd ever want, from high-class fashion to optical/sunglasses merchants to electronics superstores. Brazil's economy is red-hot, and no shortage of variety or merchandise is here.

The mall is quite large, and takes a map to get around. Ask at the information desks. Information officers wear red shirts and speak fluent English. They came in very handy when I lost my glasses and blindly wandered the mall in search of an optometrist.

The food court is reasonable and offers food choices from Brazil, fast food, and some high class restaurants. The mall is fully handicapped-accessible, and has ample parking for every type of vehicle.

Ask at the information desk for a coupon book.
Rio Sul
Avenida Lauro Muller, 116
Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, 22299-900
+55 21 25457200

Christ the Redeemer

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

Absolutely no visit to Rio de Janeiro is complete without ascending Corcovado Mountain's steep walls to the Cristo Redentor monument (Christ the Redeemer). Seen from almost everywhere in Rio, this statue showing Christ with outstretched arms, seemingly hugging and blessing the city, is THE cultural highlight of Rio.

To get to the monument, take a Corcovado-marked bus from your hotel in Copacabana. This bus will take you to the Tram station at the base of the mountain in suburban Rio. From here, enter the tram building and pay the hefty $17 USD entrance fee, then you're on your way. Lines are very long, so expect to wait up to two hours before there is room on the tram. The tram uses cog railway technology, so you stay on the ground the entire time during your ascent.

Avoid hawkers trying to sell you a taxi ride up the mountain. They will try to get your cooperation by telling you that they will stop halfway up for photos, and at other turnouts. For the true experience, take the old tramway. There is a small cafe at the tram station. Beverages and food are at premium prices (around $2-$3 USD), so bring your own.

Make sure to visit the excellent museum depicting the creation and construction of this beautiful monument. Once you ascend the mountain, the tram will drop you off at the statue's lower level. From here, take the escalators to the monument base.

The sun can beat down very hard, so dress appropriately. The views from the top of the monument are not for the faint of heart, as you are extremely high up, and on a very steep cliff. For Catholics, there is a small shrine for worship at the rear of the monument. Expect large crowds almost everywhere. Getting a good angle of yourself and the monument can be tough with all the crowds.

For more info, visit the monument's website at: www.corcovado.org.br
Christ the Redeemer Statue (O Cristo Redentor)
Corcovado Mountain
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Pão de Açúcar

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

After visiting the massive and beautiful Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) can seem a bit redundant. To avoid this, and enjoy the mountain and its beautiful, yet thrilling, cablecar ride, visit here before visiting Cristo Redentor.

Once you arrive in the neighbourhood of Urca at the cablecar station, you will ascend some steps to the ticket booth. Pay the steep $17 admission (the same as the much, much better Cristo Redentor) and you're on your way. The lines are relatively short, and the most you will wait is around 20 minutes.

The cablecar brings you almost a kilometer up to the first station. Here, you will find a small theater with informational videos about the mountain, along with gift shops and restaurants. Once you take a few photos of the mountain from here, head on to the second cable car station, which brings you high up to the tip of the Pão de Açúcar.

Enjoy stunning, spectacular views from the top of this giant cone. The view of Cristo Redentor and Copacabana are especially beautiful. Go at sunset and you will be treated to some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. Enjoy a cold beer at the bar on the peak of Pão de Açúcar, which are refreshing and surprisingly cheap, at only $1.50 per can. There is cafe-style seating, which provides jaw-dropping views of the ocean and of the city of Rio de Janeiro below. Meals are also served at reasonable prices.

The scenic overlooks are quite tight-packed, but luckily crowds are controlled to prevent being annoyed too much. The overlooks are sure to produce nausea in anyone sensitive to heights - so beware.

People with a severe fear of heights will not find this attraction suitable. I went with my grandmother, who had to wait at the cable car station in Urca while I went up alone. The cable car does sway a bit, and getting onto it can be a scary experience for some.

Don't miss a chance to do a bit of hiking on some of the trails near the middle cablecar station. Pão de Açúcar is not wheelchair accessible, so handicapped people will not be able to visit.

For more info on the Pão de Açúcar, visit the website at: www.bondinho.com.br
Sugarloaf Mountain

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
55 21 2461-2700

Praia Urca

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 3, 2007

This beach, opposite the beautiful Pão de Açúcar (sugarloaf mountain) is very much a local's beach. Prices are 1/4 of what they are in Copacabana for drinks and hotels, but with the cheap prices comes dirtier water, and much less surf.

I would compare this beach to that of swimming in a marina, as the waves are meagre at best, and the water is simply too dirty to enjoy.

Use this beach as a suntanning spot only, otherwise you may be a bit disappointed. Recommended only for its views.
Morro da Urca
Praia Vermelha
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 22290-270
Not applicable

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