Itinerary map here

The Best Beaches of Rio de Janeiro and Beyond

1 night: Sao Paulo for endless local dining options and art-centric museum touring.
4 nights: Rio de Janeiro for visiting the world-famous Christo Redentor, surveying the city from Pao de Acucar, samba dancing, and the sun.
2 nights: Arraial do Cabo for lounging on pristine beaches and boat touring nearby remote islands.
2 nights: Buzios for more white-sand beaches, upscale shopping, and sipping caipirinhas in Brigitte Bardot’s favorite Brazilian town.

" This sun-centered trip visits Brazil’s two most famous big cities, with stops along the way to some lesser-known beach towns for their stunning seaside views and crystal clear water. "

Some general information:

This route has been created as a road trip with a rental car. In Brazil, rental cars are very inexpensive and international brands (such as Hertz) are available in every major city. The routes suggested are safe, with excellent roads, and easy to navigate. The exploration of Arraial do Cabo and Buzios is best with a car, as the beaches are very spread out and transportation within the towns are limited. Additionally, the vista points are amazing, and most fun to explore independently with your own vehicle.

If you wish to take public transportation, there are bus routes available between all of the stops except for Arraial do Cabo and Buzios. A basic knowledge of Portuguese is highly recommended for any long distance bus journeys. Public transportation and taxis within Arraial do Cabo and Buzios are almost nonexistent.

It is also an option to base yourself in Rio de Janeiro, and to take an all-day organized tour to Arraial do Cabo on one day, and then Buzios on another day. Any tour operator can set the excursion up, and your hotel may sell such packages as well.


Sao Paulo

1 night


Sao Paulo has made a name for itself as a major international business center in Brazil. It has top notch restaurants offering cuisines from around the world, and ample worth-to-visit museums. Since Sao Paulo has no beaches, and the focus of this roadtrip is at the shore, we will only spend one night here.

What to do:

While Sao Paulo is packed with museums, the best must be Museu de Arte de São Paulo, so use your time wisely and make a stop there. With the most notable Western art collection in Latin American, and popular temporary exhibits, this museum makes an excellent stop in the city.

Parque Ibirapuera is the largest park in Sao Paulo, and also one of the biggest city parks in all of South America, perfect for walking, biking or just relaxing around the lake. It also holds a few of famous architect Niemeyer’s creations.

Sao Paulo is also world famous for graffiti and street art. One of the best places to view them is in the neighborhood of Vila Madalena.

Eat & drink:

Avenida Paulista is the city’s thoroughfare, and is packed full of restaurants, shops, and cool cafes. The subway lines run directly along the streets around here so it is very easy to navigate. It is a sure bet for finding something that suits your fancy. Make sure to try Brazilian coffee while you are in town – Sao Paulo does it right! Brazil is the largest producer of coffee, and it is at its finest here. Pizza in Sao Paulo is different from the ones in Italy or the USA, they have their own special Brazilian touches and it’s extremely popular among the locals.

Where to sleep:

Most major international chains (like Marriott) have excellent hotels in Sao Paulo city center. Otherwise, staying near Avenida Paulista is a safe bet for a good and convenient area.


Driving north along the BR 116, you’ll be hitting Rio de Janeiro in about 5 hours. The drive will take you through beautiful rivers and rolling hills. It is best to have a GPS handy in case you get off the path.


Rio de Janeiro

4 nights


Rio de Janeiro is known for samba, the sun, the world famous carnival and its beauty all around. Locals believe that the famous Christ the Redeemer statue keeps his watch over the city.

What to do:

No trip to Rio is complete without a visit to Christ the Redeemer in the neighborhood of Cosme Velho, Make sure to schedule your visit on a clear, cloudless day for the best view. Tickets for the tram that takes you to the top of the mountain to see Christo Redentor are available online or through your hotel, and can be bought the day of to ensure the weather is good.

Pao De Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) is another major Rio attraction. Bondinhos (cable cars) take your from the base of Morro do Leme to the top of the hill, and then a second cable car completes the journey to the very top of Pao de Acucar. Another camera-worthy view, the bay and beaches are a magnificent sight to behold from one of the best vantage points in the city.

A simple but unmissable pleasure, sunbathing on the famous Copacabana beach while sipping a caipirinha is the ultimate way to relax. Take in the sights and sounds of the relaxing Carioca lifestyle, and make sure to purchase a canga (combination of beach towel, blanket, and cover-up) as a souvenir of your unforgettable time.

Samba dancing is everywhere in Rio, perhaps one of the best places to take it in (or participate) is in the bohemian neighborhood of Lapa. If you arrive before sundown, you should also make time to visit the Lapa Arches, and Escadaria Selaron which leads to the artistic neighborhood of Santa Teresa.

In case you want a more active activities, Rio has a number of excellent hikes within the city limit. Morro do Leme and Morro da Urca are within walking distance of Copacabana beach, and the Tijuca forest offers many trails slightly further from the shore.

Eat & drink:

Caipirinha is the ubiquitous cocktail of Rio de Janeiro. It can be purchased for a few real at every beachside kiosk. It is, after all, best to enjoy with a view of the beach alongside with an ocean breeze playing with your hair.

Acai, a tasty fruit snack, is available by the cup from roaming beach vendors or lanchonetes (snack shops) throughout the city.

You can’t say you’ve been to Brazil unless you have gone to a Brazilian steakhouse. These type of steakhouses serve different cuts and types of meat endlessly, in addition to a sizable buffet salad bar. Porcao is a popular choice with many locations throughout the city.

Where to sleep:

The legendary Copacabana Palace Hotel is a true luxury choice, as well as extremely historically significant. It is a Rio de Janeiro landmark with a stunning view of the beach and sea. If you would like a different option (for one third the price without sacrificing luxury), Rio 180 Boutique Hotel in Santa Teresa provides the most jaw dropping view of both Pao de Acucar and Christ the Redeemer from any of its 8 Jacuzzi suites.


From Rio de Janeiro, you’ll take BR 101 to Arraial do Cabo. The entire journey will take approximately 3 hours. Remember to have some changes handy since you’ll be driving on some toll roads!


Arraial Do Cabo

2 nights


Arraial do Cabo is the Carioca’s favorite place to go to get away from the big city of Rio. Featuring friendly little bars, palm-tree lined streets, and beautiful beaches at every corner, it is a flashback of Rio years ago. This is a place to get away, with a focus on relaxing more than touring.

What to do:

Praia Grande is the biggest beach in the area with umbrellas and chairs for rent, drinks and snacks to offer. The beach is so big that even it is one of the most popular beaches in Arraial do Cabo, it does not feel crowded at all.

Praia dos Anjos is a popular departure point for boat tours, it is next to the marina. You’ll see tour operators meandering up and down the beach, holding placards describing the tours they offer, so just wave one down if you’re interested.

For a bit more action, you can hike from Praia dos Anjos to Praia do Forno, it is a 20 minutes walk up a steep and sometimes muddy trail. The beauty of the beach is well worth the bit of sweat. A less physical option would be going to Praia do Forno for a boat tour from Praia dos Anjos, since it is not reachable by car.

Eat & drink:

The caipirinha is popular in Arraial do Cabo as well, though most locals choose cerveja (beer), perhaps the Brahma or Antarctica brand. Botecas (little bars) and beach huts sell snacks, sometimes full meals as well.

Where to sleep:

Hotel Pousada Caminho do Sol is extremely popular, but excellent accommodation is available on Airbnb as well.


Buzios is less than an hour and many turns away, use your GPS to avoid getting lost! (Although getting lost is part of the adventure!)


That’s it for a 9-day itinerary through the best beaches and towns around Rio de Janeiro. Once back in Rio, you can fly home from Rio de Janeiro Galeão International Airport, or drive back to Sao Paulo to catch your return flight, maybe spending an extra night there. With a bit more time, you could add a stop to the colonial village of Paraty and island paradise Ilha Grande between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.