top RIO de Janeiro travel attractions


Looking for a Subtropical Beach + Cosmopolitism + Nightlife + Entertainment package?

If so, consider Rio de Janeiro and nearby resorts like Buzios and Angra dos Reis. They are some of the best beaches in Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro depends on its beaches like nowhere else in the world and Copacabana embodies this spirit. Copacabana beach is at the heart of Rio, with plenty of accommodation, restaurants and nightlife places. For those who want not only beach life but also friendly people, music, parties, volley, sports and a city life, Copacabana is an inevitable option to consider.

But there are other options in Rio. If you want the soft white sands and the blue water of Copacabana, its music and opportunities, but also a more relaxed and family friendly ambiance, then consider Ipanema and Leblon. These twin beaches are just a mile south from Copacabana, so you can also visit it as well.

Another option is the Barra beach, further south and distant from Rio's centre but near enough its main attractions. It doesn't have the busy and intense spirit of traditional Rio's beaches, but it is less crowded (at workdays), offers good animation at night and isn't far from other Rio options.

Rio de Janeiro Map with the main travel spots


Travel basics:

- Rio's financial and historic centre: Rio's downtown.
- Downtown's beaches are polluted and no longer suitable for swimming.
- Today's beaches begin more at south, with Leme Beach and Copacabana.
- Copacabana and Ipanema: the most popular beaches, with dozens of restaurants, bars, shopping centres.
- Barra de Tijuca (or simply Barra), with its more distant set of beaches, is also a fine option, especially for surf lovers. If this is the case, consider the Tijuca's beaches: they are amongst the best beaches in Brazil and aren't very crowded at weekdays.

Maps of Rio de Janeiro Beaches in Brazil
Books about Rio de Janeiro


See: Best time to visit Rio de Janeiro


The downtown area of Rio (the centro) contains the city's oldest neighbourhoods, churches, museums, cafes, bars, restaurants and other historical sights. But most of the tourism and beach zones are located at more southern locations.

Most of the social life is spent in the beach, or near the beach, amidst music. The beaches and the restaurants, bars and public places around them are where most socializing takes place and even many business endeavours.

Every trip to Rio de Janeiro should include a day in Copacabana. Take a walk south, from Avenida Atlantica to Ipanema and Leblon. Eat in one of the many small restaurants of those places, in two of the best beaches in Brazil. Ipanema and Leblon offer a great number of good small restaurants and bars.

Other highlights and trips:

Sugar Loaf
A prominent granite mountain, standing at the entrance of Guanabara bay. Sugar Loaf offers an astonishing view of the city and the Guanabara bay. An iconic place, the views that Sugar Loaf offers are truly exceptional.

Corcovado Mountain
Another icon and landmark of Rio, where the gigantic statue of Christ the Redeemer stands.

Nearby attractions
See: Nearby attractions: Buzios, Angra dos Reis, Parati and Petropolis

Eating, Shopping, Nightlife and Entertainment in Rio de Janeiro
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro


There are some interesting ecological places near Rio and its outskirts:

Tijuca forest
Tijuca forest national park is the world's largest urban forest. It covers 3,200 hectares and is just some kilometres away from central Rio de Janeiro. Tijuca is the home of hundreds of rare species of plants and wildlife. Its attractions include the Cascatinha Waterfall, the Mayrink Chapel, the Excelsior Lookout Point, the Paul and Virginia Grotto and the Fairy Lake. The jeep is probably the best means of transport to explore this unexpected Rio's wonder.

Paqueta Island
Right in the heart of Guanabara Bay, Paqueta is a semi-tropical island with no motorized vehicles: just bikes and horse-drawn carriages, very few streets and no noise. It's largely unpolluted, has excellent beaches, an interesting flora and fauna and nice optional trips: a visit to Pedra da Moreninha (Moreninha Rock) or to Darke de Mattos Park for instance.

Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens is an ecological sanctuary, housing rare species of tropical flora and fauna. It has six lakes with endemic species of lily, lotus, or papyrus. Friar Leandro's Lake is spectacular. Wild animals and resident birds are a constant presence, but the flora is even more remarkable: it has approximately 8,200 specimens of trees and plants (bromeliads, violets, the biggest Brazilian cacti collection, medicinal plants) and even a greenhouse only with insect-eating plants.

Burle Marx Site
Burl Marx Site is a legacy of an important Brazilian botanist (Robert Burl Marx). The grounds and house of this site stand in Barra da Guaratiba, a few kilometres from Rio centre, and shelters over 3,500 threatened and rare species of plants. It also offers a great variety of cultural activities, and a nice art collection.



Buzios is a charming peninsula with a small town (Armacao de Buzios), at a 2 hour drive away from Rio de Janeiro, with 20 unspoiled beaches and many handicraft stores, boutiques, restaurants, bars and a selective ambiance.

Buzios is a kind of Saint Tropez in a South American version. Its beaches - Geriba, Ferruda, Ossos - are excellent for swimming, diving, resting, windsurfing, sailing... They are, undoubtedly amongst the best beaches in Brazil, for those who privilege cosmopolitism.

Angra dos Reis

Also near Rio de Janeiro, halfway between Rio and Sao Paulo, stands a much larger peninsula with 365 small islands, broad bays, 2,000 white and golden sandy beaches, small villages, lovely hotels, restaurants, villas, clubs, and, between them, an unspoiled but expensive travel treasure: Angra dos Reis. Like Buzios, Angra stands amongst the best and most costly Brazilian destinations.

Angra dos Reis stays at a peninsula called Costa Verde (Green Coast), somewhere between Rio and Sao Paulo. This is a delightful destination, with amazing forests, waterfalls, lakes, small fishing villages, secret coves (Angra dos Reis means King's Cove) and 365 small islands and 2,000 small beaches - and also many resort hotels, villas and restaurants.

Here you can fish and dive or explore the walking trails of the Ilha Grande (the main island), giving access to some isolated and top beaches (Canto, Morcego). You can also enjoy the delights of the zone by boat, schooner, or yacht. Or go to popular surfer's beaches, like Aventureiro, a reference among the many surfable beaches in Brazil.


Near Angra dos Reis, Parati is a huge demonstration of the ancient colonial Portuguese architecture. Unesco has classified the entire place as a world heritage site.


Petropolis is a tiny mountain town just 31 miles/50 Kms away from Rio de Janeiro, where the ancient Brazilian royal family used to go for a much cooler environment to pass their summers. The Imperial Museum (once the summer palace) and its jewellery and artwork collections are an obligatory piece of the visit.


Brazilians love playing soccer and volleyball or do jogging on the beach. But, besides this sporty beach activity or the amenities allowed by top hotels, Rio de Janeiro offers excellent opportunities for sports like biking, surf or golf.

For biking, try Tijuca Forest, and its tracks.

For surfing, Ipanema is an excellent option, but some beaches of Barra, just some kilometres south, are even better: beaches like Prainha are a paradise for surf lovers.

For golf in Rio de Janeiro (and others destinations in Brazil), see:
Sports in Brazil: Golf

For more information about sports in Brazil:
Sports in Brazil