Paraty is a couple hours drive south of Rio de Janeiro. A hidden gem in every sense of the meaning. The beach is quite difficult to find and includes a drive (I did it in a bus) up a mountain, then back down the other side. On the way, you do wonder if it's worth all this palava but once you finally witness the beach, the sea, the backdrop of the mountains and the surrounding coast, you know you've found something very special. Perhaps the most beautiful set of beaches I've ever seen. Just don't forget your suncream - the sun is perilously strong in this corner of the world.
To anyone lucky enough to be able to go to Brazil during the World Cup in 2014, watching the footy on Copacabana beach is a must. I was there during the final of the last World Cup in 2010, and it was probably one of the best days of my whole six month travelling experience! They set up huge screens on the beach from midday, with live samba music, dancers and an abundance of beer and of course, Speedos. Even watching the final between Holland and Spain, the atmosphere was as excited as if it was a South American final. I can't even begin to imagine how it would have been if that was the case - it was truly like a mini Carnival. And my top tip, if you're feeling a little worse for wear the morning after the festivities, grab yourself an Acai berry smoothie from one of the kiosks near the beach, one sip and you'll feel completely revitalised!
Google map: bit.ly/rcHlgh
The picture-perfect beach of Dois Rios lies in a peaceful cove on an island just an hour off the mainland of Rio de Janiero state, where there are no ATMs and motorised vehicles are banned. After two hours of hiking across the island we reached it, with sprawling golden sand, turquoise waters to the front, lush rainforest behind and pretty much nothing else. It really is the perfect deserted beach. Unlike the more popular (and no more gorgeous) Lopes Mendes beach, no tourist boats go here so the only way to reach it is on foot - gruelling in the humidity (and flip flops) but a real blessing in disguise. I hope it remains utterly unspoiled for a very long time, or at least until I can afford to return.
Stay in: Vila do Abraao, Ilha Grande
Google map: bit.ly/oS93At
Spa Maria Bonita is a located in Ipanema.
If you are looking for beauty treatments or if you just want to have a relaxing time during your trip, I'd recommend it. Employees there understand your needs and It's a place where many Brazilian women like to go.
Rua Prudente de Moraes, 729 - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Amaderm is a estheticians' and dermatologists' centre in Rio. Despite the fact that Rio is the world capital of beauty, once I was there I never thought of having any aesthetic treatment. After all, vacations in a sunny paradise doesn't quite match with botox or peelings.
However, during my days in Rio I had a rash, so I needed professional advice, and to my surprise, AMADERM, the place I went in Ipanema, offered so many quick and efficient options of treatment, I couldn't believe. From diode laser for epilation from device for spider vein, you can find high quality services with a price you wont find back home. Definitely a must try for rainy days in Rio!
If you want a day by the beach where you can walk into the sea and not battle against breakers get out east to Cabo Frio.
On the Praia do Forte you can walk straight out into the sea up to shoulder depth, look down, and still be able to see your feet, The water is that clear! And because of the configuration of the bay it is pretty much always calm.
At Carnaval many Cariocas head out here - plus Paulistas (from São Paulo) and Mineiros (mostly from Belo Horizonte) to get away from the mayhem and tourists in the cities.
Make an early start and head over the Rio-Niteroi bridge and keep going east along the motorway. It shouldn't be more tha a couple of hours drive if you go mid-week but well worth the trouble. Google "cabo frio rj" where you will find lots of sites and pictures.
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