Oh Rio! Where do I even begin?
I have been dreaming of visiting Rio De Janeiro since I was a little girl. It must have been all the Brazilian soap operas I have watched for years with my mom and sister Leyla that made me want to visit this far away place.
Rio is a very unique place. It’s hard to compare it to any other place I had previously been to. It’s breathtaking landscape, wild nature, warm people and incredible food makes you fall in love with it almost instantly. Rio is raw and real in many ways, yet beautiful and magical all at the same time. Its rolling hills and never ending ocean views bring peace and serenity to one’s soul. I have never been to a place that’s as effortlessly romantic as Rio. It’s not the man made architecture that makes this city unforgettable, it’s pure wild mother nature. If you haven’t watched my Rio Vlog, check it out here. Below I share with you some of our tips and recommendations from our personal experience in Rio.
Things to See, Do and Eat
Rio Carnival - Unintentionally we ended up going to Rio around the time they had their annual carnival. I personally prefer visiting a city when it’s not going through some sort of celebration or carnival, because that way you get a sense of what the city is really like. Even the locals warned us that Rio gets really crazy around the carnival time. There are thousands of people on the streets, drinking, partying, and you can potentially end up in not very safe situations. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend going to Rio on the week of the carnival, unless you want to see the Carnival itself. The actual Rio Carnival is not in the city centre, you have to travel by bus or cab to get there, and I believe it costs a minimum of $100 per person. We were on a very tight schedule while in Rio, as we were still working and filming, hence decided to skip the carnival and enjoy the beach instead, haha.
Ipanema Beach was my favorite beach. It’s a must visit. It’s clean and long with spectacular views of the two little mountains that you see in all Rio postcards. It’s perfect for long, romantic walks along the beach. We stayed in Ipanema beach area at this Air BnB. (Have you tried AirBnB? Check it out here, this is what we use to rent apartments all over the world.) and I honestly think this flat has the best view of Rio. Arpaodor is a great rocky spot in Ipanema from which you can watch the sun set.
Leblon was our favorite area to hang out at. When we go back to Rio, we will definitely stay in Leblon. This area felt safer and cleaner, more young and hip. Most restaurants we ended up going to were in Leblon.
Jardim Botanico - these beautiful tropical gardens are a must visit when in Rio. We were amazed by all the new exotic trees and flowers we got to discover. Also, the gardens are a home to monkeys, and a lot of exotic birds. If you are lucky, you will be able to snap a picture. Alex did! :)
Sugar Loaf is also another attraction you don’t want to miss when in Rio. Make sure to go there to watch the sunset, that’s the best time, and at that time of the day, it’s not as hot as during the day. You take the cable cars to the top of the sugar loaf, which has absolutely incredible views of Rio. If you can splurge, then I HIGHLY recommend doing the helicopter ride. We made a spontaneous decision to do it and I’m so happy and grateful we did. It was thrilling, overwhelmingly emotional and touching experience to see such beautiful landscape from a bird's view. You can find the heli office at the first base of the Sugar Loaf. The ride is about 15 minutes long, but feels a lot longer as the ride makes you very present.
Christ the Redeemer was another highlight of our trip. Again, this is somewhere I would suggest going around sunset. You get magical light and views (perfect for taking pictures or video). Christ the Redeemer statue is one of the 7 modern wonders of the world. It actually looks a bit smaller in real life as I imagined it to be massive, yet still VERY impressive and beautiful.
Coconuts on the beach - when going to the beach make sure to drink some fresh coconut water straight from the coconut. Then go back to them and ask them to break the coconut, so that you can enjoy the coconut jelly. It’s hydrating, delicious and very nutritious.
My favorite food spots
Bacio di Latte - As you guys know, I’m not the one to eat sugar or dairy, however it was a really hot day and our group decided we should have some. Haha! I caved in. Sometimes a gelato is just a gelato, haha. I had a passion fruit sorbet (maracuja) and coconut sorbet or gelato, I can’t remember. It was possibly one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had in my life and we all thought so - all 5 of us! It’s located at Shop Leblon Mall.
Felice - is a super cute cafe/restaurant in Ipanema. It was minutes from where we stayed, so we ended up eating there almost daily either for lunch or dinner. The food is great, the menu selection has a lot of healthy options. The service was very warm and welcoming. Oh, and they also have wifi.
Zuka - is a modern fusion Restaurant in Leblon area that incorporates a lot of local cuisine. We went here twice. I would suggest trying Hearts of Palm Pasta here. It’s literally made of shaved hearts of palms and tastes just like pasta.
Sushi Leblon - always had a lineup outside, for lunch or dinner. The reviews were also great, so we made a point to go there. We weren’t crazy about the actual sushi rolls, however all of their appetizers were amazing. My favorite was the shitakee rice.
Bibi Lauches - is a great place to grab a snack, a real fresh fruit smoothie or Acai bowl. It’s also located in Leblon area and we made sure to stop by here daily for a dose of acai cup.
- Wear simple clothes and no jewelry. I know, it freaking sucks! When I was told that, I rebelled and as you may know, if you watched my Rio Vlog, I was almost robbed by a little boy. Two people that we know in Rio got their iPhones stolen that same week we were there. Unfortunately, crime rates are quite high in Rio, so save yourself the negative experience and just drop all your valuables at home. Wear a small cross body purse and keep it in the front at all times so that you can see it. Keep your phone in the bag (not in your pocket).
- I wouldn’t recommend traveling here alone, especially as a female, or just be prepared for a lot of male attention. And probably not the kind you would want.
- Brazilian people eat late, usually the hottest time to be in a restaurant is 10-11. Make sure to make your restaurant reservation at 8pm and you will have no problem getting a table at any restaurant.
- This is the tropical fruit central, so make sure to go to a grocery store and get some local fruit. My favorites are Passion Fruit, or as locals call it Marajuca, Cherimoya, Mangoes, Papaya.
- Make sure to try Tapioca while in Rio. Tapioca is made of cassava root, hence it’s gluten free. They make all kinds of stuff with it, such as pancakes, add it to acai bowl etc.
- Make sure to try Acai Bowl, which is a local treat. It’s made of frozen fruit and acai berry, which is grown in the Amazon. Ask them for no sugar version (in most places they add this processed syrup into the acai bowl, so I suggest asking them to skip that step).