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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Your Essential Weekend Itinerary

Beaches, culture, vibrant city life, and exquisite food - Rio de Janeiro has something for everyone. The seaside city in Brazil is known for its beautiful landscapes which includes rainforests, mountains, and stunning beaches, and of course its affinity for festivals, partying, football and samba. Take a look at some of the sights and sounds beyond the typical tourist sites of Cristo Redentor and Copacabana beach for a truly unique and memorable vacation.

Enjoy Freshly Squeezed Local Fruit Juice and Snacks

Juice bars are as common in Rio de Janeiro as fast food is in North America. Before heading out for a relaxing day at the beach, stop by The Big Nectar for a variety of freshly made juices and shakes, and quick snacks for breakfast and lunch. Brazil is home to many exotic fruits and many of the juices prepared at the Big Nectar use locally grown and sourced fruits and vegetables, creating unique and refreshing cocktails. Try a simpler concoction of the pineapple and mint juice, or explore the flavors of tamarind juice, or the famous sugar cane juice. The small café also boasts local cuisine such as empanadas, cheese and banana sandwiches, and of course, a plate of rice, beans, and meat.

Avoid the Crowds at Prainha Beach

One of the first things to come to mind when you think of Rio de Janeiro is its stunning coastline and pristine beaches. The most popular beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema attract thousands of tourists on a daily basis, and are indeed, some of the most beautiful beaches you will find in the capital. But when you are looking for a more secluded and personalized experience, Prainha Beach is the place to go. The beautiful beach is bordered on each side by rocks and high cliffs, and is generally much less populated than the other beaches in Rio. It is said to be a surfers paradise, and is about 45 minutes outside of central Rio, but is well worth the drive for the practically private beach experience you will get.

Take a (beautiful) Hike

If you are still undecided about whether or not you want to face the crowds and selfie sticks at the tourist hot spot of the Cristo Redentor statue, start instead with a stroll through the grounds of the public park Parque Lage, visit the historical mansion that now houses the School of Visual Arts, (and is famously the site of Snoop Dog’s ‘Beautiful’ music video) as well as a beautiful bistro with great snacks by the pool. After enjoying the picturesque park, find the trail within the park that will lead you through waterfalls, rainforests, and monkeys, before eventually arriving at the ticket office for the Christ Redeemer statue. Whether you decide to visit the statue or not, the hike itself is beautiful and a sight to see in Rio on its own.

Enjoy Dinner in a Tree House

After a long hard day of relaxing on beaches and enjoying Rio’s natural beauty, stop by Restaurant Aprazivel for a truly unique dining experience. The restaurant is set atop the hills of Santa Teresa and provides stunning views of Rio, in a tree house setting. The journey to the restaurant is filled with windy roads that may leave the faint of heart a bit nauseated, but the view once arrived is remarkable. The restaurant has trees growing throughout the seating area, making for a much more sophisticated version of your childhood tree house. The menu features authentic Brazilian cuisine and is known for their fresh baked Palm hearts, and hearty meat dishes. Be sure to check the weather before making reservations as most of the restaurant is outdoors, under the cover of dried palm leaves.

With so much to see and do in Rio, we have inevitably left out a bunch of must-see spots while on your vacation.  For the best views of the city, be sure to visit Sugarloaf Mountain and take a ride on the cable cars, and visit the stunning Tijuca National Park- the largest urban rainforest in the world. Rio is so much more than its beaches and great football team- hopefully you will spend more than just a weekend exploring it all!

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