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From the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer to the famous beach of Ipanema, the city of Rio de Janeiro has no shortage of iconic sights for you to enjoy on a South America cruise. Ascend the dramatic Sugarloaf Mountain via cable car and enjoy panoramic views of Rio from the summit, or spend an afternoon exploring the energetic neighborhood of Copacabana, whose art deco influence makes every block effortlessly photogenic.
Of course, Rio’s Carnival is the city’s biggest annual festival, but the nightlife spirit of dance and partying exudes in every bar, beach, and restaurant regardless of the time of year. A Rio de Janeiro cruise is for lovers: lovers of tropical, sunny weather, lovers of energy, and lovers of adventure. In Rio, you can dance the night away or climb some of the world’s most challenging natural structures. No matter what you do on your Rio de Janeiro cruise, you’ll be swept up in the city in no time.
A jungle in the middle of urban Rio, Tijuca National Park was almost completely destroyed before the residents and locals of Rio realized what a paradise they had on their hands and replanted the entire rainforest to protect the area. Scale the park’s incredible panoramic hiking trails. Don’t forget to stop and admire one of the several tropical waterfalls within the park. The summer is the rainy season, so be sure to wear rain-resistant, hardy shoes.
You can’t miss Rio’s instantly recognizable monument of Christ the Redeemer, which has been immortalized in photography, film, and popular culture as a symbol of the city. At 125 feet tall, the statue provides a protective, watchful eye over Rio. You can hike the steps to the top if you’re craving a physical challenge, or you can take the funicular, or cable car, to the summit.
Ipanema Beach has been the subject of famous songs and attracts thousands of visitors to its shore every year. This beach is an institution of Rio and embodies the city’s laid-back spirit. Lay out your beach towel or take a dip in the waters. You can easily spend a whole day at Ipanema Beach chatting with locals at nearby cafes or simply lounging beachside.
Rio is a beach-lover’s paradise, and Copacabana Beach is one of its most famous. With over 2.5 miles of beach to enjoy, you can take a long walk down the shoreline, stay for a sunset, and then head on to beachy bars and restaurants for an evening of dancing, drinks, and delicious food.
Within Tijuca National Park, outdoorists and hikers can’t miss the chance to hike Corcovado, also known as the “humpback” mountain. Climbers are welcome to scale its impressive heights, but should know it’s a full day’s challenge. At the summit stands Christ the Redeemer in all its glory.
For an unforgettable view, take a cable car up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s a must-do in Rio for a sighting of Christ the Redeemer glittering in the distance. Plus, you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the city from the top. Get there earlier in the morning to avoid crowds, or plan to go around dusk to experience the beautiful sunset.
When you need a break from the city’s bustle, spend an afternoon at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden and see thousands of varieties of tropical palms and orchids. A guided tour is one of the best ways to learn the history of the 19th century garden and stand in the shadow of the beautiful Corcovado Mountain.
For nightlife in Rio, head to the neighborhood of La Lapa, where bars with live music line every block. During the day, Feira Rio Antigo offers shopping and antiques from vintage clothing to furniture. In La Lapa, nightclubs, bar crawls, and lively dance halls make the neighborhood a fun and bohemian night out in Rio. For a taste of what Rio is like during the annual Carnival, La Lapa is a good start.
Address: R. Alm Alexandrino, 264 Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Chef Natasha Fink takes Amazonian food and local produce very seriously at Espirito Santa, a romantic spot where brightly painted walls and black-and-white floors make for a perfect Rio date night. Seafood dishes are a must here, from the marinated shrimp to tilapia, while the slow-roasted pork ribs are a favorite for meat eaters. Top off the night with a banana meringue.
Bar do Momo
Address: R. Gal. Espírito Santo Cardoso, 50, Rio de Janeiro
Burger lovers, look no further than this loved-by-locals burger bar, where huge portions of grilled meat and melted cheddar cheese provide the ultimate comfort food for the hungover, the hungry, and the adventurous. A burger and a few rounds of cold beer make this a refreshing, no-frills stop after a full day of beachy exploration in Rio.
Address: R. Ronald de Carvalho, 55 Rio de Janeiro
After a long afternoon lounging on Copacabana Beach, you might find yourself craving fresh Mediterranean fare, and that’s where Amir comes in. Order a fresh plate of hummus and veggies or the heavier (but delicious) lamb kebab. Stuffed grape leaves and shawarma await for a bold lunch and a break from Brazilian cuisine.
Address: R. Gonçalves Dias, 32 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro
Located in a historic, high-ceiling, colonial-era building, Confeitaria Colombo is a step back in time. The cafe and restaurant have been there for over 100 years, and the bakery offers delicious confections along with traditional tea time services in Rio. You’ll find every type of sweet or savory pastry you can think of when you stop in for a snack and some well-deserved time off your traveling feet.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most visited cities in South America, famous for its hot, tropical climate, its beaches, and its steamy annual Carnival. In 2016, Rio hosted the Summer Olympics, bringing international attention to the city once again. Historically, Rio was occupied by the Portuguese in the 15th century, forever changing the landscape. Before the Portuguese arrived, the indigenous Guarani and Tupi were living in the area for centuries. Today, Portuguese is one of the main languages spoken in Rio. People living in Rio are known as “Cariocas,” and they take pride in their city. The culture of Rio is laid back, where dance and afternoons at the beach are staples of life here.
The primary port where cruises to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil dock is called Pier Maua. You can easily walk to shops and museums in downtown Rio from there. When you arrive here, you’ll quickly be amazed by the stunning view of Sugarloaf Mountain and other ships in the near distance. Rio hosted the 2016 Olympic Games, and it renovated many parts of the port to prepare for an influx of international athletes and tourists. Most travelers don’t linger in port, but use the pier as a jumping-off point for boat rides to Ipanema or before heading into town for lunch and shopping.
When you’re getting around in Rio, it can be easy to get lost in this massive city, which is one of Brazil’s most populated. Yellow taxis are abundant in the city, and they’re one of the most popular ways to get around Rio’s sights. Ubers are also available in Rio. Of course, the city has an extensive bus and metro system for skilled navigators. Best of all, downtown Rio de Janeiro is pretty walkable, as well as many of its scenic neighborhoods, so you can leisurely take in the city on foot, too.
There’s not a lot of shopping near Pier Maua, but you won’t have to go far to find the action you’re looking for in downtown Rio, where you’ll stumble upon standard souvenir and tourist fare or beachwear stores. Every Sunday, there’s a craft and arts fair in Ipanema, and in Santa Teresa, you’ll find a variety of antique stores and vintage shops. Browse the vintage digs and trinkets to bring home a piece of Brazil when you head back to the ship.
In Brazil, the official currency is the Brazilian real (BRL). You’ll be able to find a currency exchange at the cruise port terminal as well as banks across Rio de Janeiro. Tipping while on cruises to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is the same standard you’d find in the United States. Leave 15-20% tip for your restaurant waitstaff, bartenders, and tour guides. Leave a couple extra reais for taxi drivers or other helpful staff during your time in Brazil. In general, credit cards are accepted most places you’d go, unless you’re stopping to buy something from a vendor along the beach.