During my visit to Brazil I was lucky enough to visit two amazing, but totally different sides of Brazil’s beaches – the hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro and the relaxed small town of Paraty.
Copacabana Beach is the most well known area for travellers to Rio de Janero however, Leblon for me is a much nicer and safer area (less cheesy too). I liked not being hassled on the beach – would I really buy a cheap bikini or fake weed from a shady character asking highly inflated prices? It’s neighbouring beach Ipanema (you might recognise the name as a Brazilian thong brand) also has less ‘cheese’. If you want to visit Copacabana beach it’s still easily accessible by foot or bike. Leblon is mostly locals and seen as the ‘swanky’ end of town, with only a few hotels and more Airbnb type accommodation, which worked out well as I like to mix up my accommodation while travelling – who doesn’t love having a washing machine occasionally! Even with the areas high-end status, the prices at the many bars, Botecos (name for local watering holes that mostly serve local dishes) and nice restaurants were still cheaper, or on par with back home. Regardless of which beach you’re sitting on, the views of surf, mountains and colourful favelas in the distance is pretty special to see all at once.
How I enjoyed the beach-side living in Rio de Janeiro
Botecos in Leblon
I unintentionally went on a Boteco lunch mission during my time in Leblon to compare the roast meat sandwiches and shrimp pies – best inhaled with chilli sauce or chilli oil. Ok maybe the mission was intentional. Gourmet sandwiches are a big thing in South America. A lot of the Boteco’s had similar menus, but their mini pies (usually a small starter) were all made slightly differently. There are many scattered around – some are very small establishments with no seating and only a bench to eat, drink your beer and of course watch the soccer while others are more like a cafe style. Two of the more popular Botecos in Leblon (and the ones that had the best sandwiches!) are:
Jobi – My favourite because the roast beef had a chorizo baked into it. Meat wrapped in more tasty meat – what more could you ask for! No further explanation needed. The shrimp pie had a crumbly and buttery texture. Yum! I also came back here one night for a few local cerveza’s (beers) as it is very popular with locals and friends catching up after work so had a really good vibe.
Boteco Belmonte – A larger Boteco with a more extensive menu including a variety of grilled meats and sides making it ideal for more formal dinners as well. This Boteco felt a bit more formal however, nobody seemed to notice me sneaking in wearing workout gear after a long day of cycling through Rio! South Americans seem to have large meals at lunchtime, so I saw it as my duty to try the sandwich and two shrimp pies here. They were too good to stop at one.
Don’t leave Rio without doing
A bike Tour with Rio by Bike – A special mention to this operator because the tour was one of my favourite days in Rio. I generally don’t do too many tours as I’ve been known to get bored and sometimes sneak off. But not this day, I didn’t want it to end. Our guide was super chilled, passionate about the city and actually provided interesting information. Doing a round trip from Copacabana beach to Centro and the bits in-between including the colourful Selaron steps, I got to see the real Rio. Motorists in Brazil still aren’t fully accustomed to seeing bikes as a mode of transport and sharing the road with cyclist as with other continents. So having a guide who effortlessly navigated us through traffic was really helpful and good for people like myself who sometimes get caught up in the moment, so tend to be clumsy.
Sugarloaf mountain at sunset – The worst kept secret in Rio, but absolutely a must-do. The mountains are accessed by cable cars that can apparently have very long lines, so best to avoid on weekends. I was there during the week so it was quieter, yet I was still fearful of losing an eye from the sea of selfie-sticks, so I can’t imagine what weekends are like. There is also a bar at the top of the mountain so you can celebrate the day with a toast of Brahma (local Brazilian beer) and the best views of the city. The fog hadn’t fully lifted the day I visited however, the view was still pretty special.
Paraty, Brazil | The other beach to visit in Brazil – Where beaches, bikes and beers collide!
After being teased by many Brazilians I’ve finally learned learnt that Partay is pronounced Para-chi. A few hours drive between Rio de Janerio and Sao Paulo. With it’s Portuguese colonial architecture the beachside town is a laidback, friendly sleepy town that is the perfect post big-city detox. A place where cars give way to dogs, horses and bikes (sometimes they have no choice as dogs like to plonk themselves in the middle of the road to take an afternoon siesta). I stayed in Jabaquera – the secluded beach is just out of the old town. Although nothing is far in this small town. Jabaquera beach had mild temperature waters and relaxed beachy restaurants scattered on the sand, making lunch and beer easily accessible. Having a hire bike from the local operator Sou + Bike I never felt the need to have a car. It’s a town where you can go for a bike ride and stumble across amazing waterfalls (I discovered the hard way the waterfalls come after riding up a few very steep hills – I definitely earned my indulgent dinner that night), pick up groceries on the way home and then ride to dinner.
My next post will be from Peru after visiting Lima and Cusco. Unless of course I drop my phone from the side of the mountain whilst getting the standard tourist selfie at the top of the Machu Picchu – if you are female and have been on any online dating sites, you know the one!
Like my Facebook page ‘Belindness’ for some of the other places I visit in-between posts.