Rio De Janeiro & Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
A little city, a little beach, a little rainforest - a little something for everyone!
- More about your oliver guide: Meredith Brown Calkins
- Trip type: Adult, Family, Beach, City
- Activity level: moderate
- Ideal length of trip: 5 Days (Rio) & 4 Days (Amazon Rainforest)
to & from
We flew from Denver to Atlanta (3 hour flight) and then Atlanta to Rio (9-hour flight). Note: if you travel in late spring/summer before Daylight Savings there’s just a minimal 1-hour time change from EST as they don’t spring forward when we do!
- From Rio we flew to Manaus to access the Amazon Rainforest, which was a 4 hour flight (1 hour time change) from Rio. If possible, flight wise, would recommend flying directly out of Manaus to the US when flying home rather then backtracking south to Rio.
Where to Stay
We traveled with our 3 daughters (ages 12, 10 & 6) for Spring Break in late March. We couldn’t decide between the Copacabana Palace and the Fasano Hotel so we stayed a few nights in both! Copacabana is a classic hotel with a ton of history. They have a great pool (although shady in the afternoon) and poolside cafe for breakfast & lunch. Copacabana Beach is pretty busy & commercial, think Venice/Santa Monica. Fasano is just a short mile north on Ipanema Beach, which is cleaner and better for actual “beach time”. Fasano Hotel is pretty chic, with a nightclub and fine dining restaurant in the lobby and amazing rooftop pool and bar, accessible only to guests.
We stayed at the all-inclusive Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge. The words “all-inclusive” would typically scare us away but this was a GREAT way to see the rainforest and made planning very easy. The lodge was high-end compared to anything else right in the heart of the rainforest. It was about a 2-hour ride from Manaus to the lodge. They provided private transportation to/from Manaus. The same owner has a property, Villa Amazonia, in Manaus where we stayed the night we flew in from Rio. We stayed for 4-days & 3-nights which was good amount of time. You do 2 “activities” per day including kayaking, piranha fishing, an evening boat ride to spot animals, etc. In between and after activities you have free time to swim/paddleboard in the amazon, read a book, nap or just enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Where to Eat and Drink
Lunch or Dinner: Aprazivel – a cool treehouse style restaurant in Santa Teresa.
Happy Hour: Riva – A beachside “stand” in Ipanema (almost to Leblon) great place for a sunset drink, kids played on the beach while we took in the views.
Drinks: The poolside bar at both the Copacabana and the rooftop Fasano are a great stop for drinks.
After dinner drinks & DJ: Barreto-Londra Lounge at the Fasano in Ipanema
All our meals (with the exception of our first night in Manaus – we ate at Villa Amazonia) were eaten at Anavilhanas. Not a lot of restaurant selection in these parts!
What to Do
Must see: Christ the Redeemer & Sugar Mountain
We hired a local guide to take us to both which made it very easy but it would have been fine to do on our own. Would recommend getting to Christ the Redeemer early though as it gets crowded! We went to Sugar Mountain before sunset and were at the top as the sun was setting. The views are amazing and it was cool to see it by day and then again at night.
Selaron Steps: Our guide took us to Lapa to see these famous tile steps by a chilean born artist, Jorge Selaron. This is a fascinating story and an interesting peek into a local neighborhood.
We didn’t visit a local favela but wish we had. Definitely need a guide to do this as some can be a little dangerous. Would be an interesting way to get an inside look at this way of life.
We went to Rio in 2016 after the Olympics. We felt just as safe as we do in any large city in the US. If you bring your street smarts and leave your flashy jewelry at home, you should be fine. We Ubered throughout the city – very easy & safe.
We were surprised that at Anavilhanas there were minimal mosquitos. The lodge itself is on the Rio Negro (an off shoot of the Amazon) and because of its acidity, there are actually very few mosquitos. We were also surprised at the amount we actually spent in the river itself. Our kids spent hours paddle boarding and swimming right off the dock.
Depending on when you visit the Amazon, either in the wet or dry season, your experience will be significantly different as different animals are easier to spot depending on the season. Do some research ahead of time to prioritize what you want to see and when to go!
The Sunday hippie market in Ipanema was recommended to us by a few people, we went but weren’t that impressed. Seemed like the same touristy-junk you could buy anywhere.
What to Pack
In March, it was pretty warm in both Rio and the rainforest. We did experience some rain showers in both cities so raincoats (that are actually functional!) are a must. Casual dresses and tennis shoes were great for sightseeing in Rio. Those same dresses with a jean jacket & cute pair of sandals worked well at night. If you are going to stop in at the Fasano lounge, you may want to throw in something a tad dressier as it’s a pretty chic crowd. The rainforest was very casual, Anavilhanas provides a packing list depending on time of year and chosen activities.
If you have time, spend a few days in Sao Paolo. We didn’t but would have loved to…now we have an excuse to go back to Brazil!