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Practical to combine Amazon + beaches with visit to the Guianas?

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We are starting to plan a return trip to Brazil in 2015 to see the Amazon and Northern beaches. We anticipate having three weeks this visit and have already spent time in the Pantanal, Rio, Buzios, Recife, Salvador (plus a few more areas I'm forgetting).

We are experienced travelers in the---shall we say ---"mature" category.

Couple of preliminary questions to pose to Fodorites for which I have received some conflicting information.
~~what are the pros/cons of taking a several day river cruise versus using a river lodge as a base with day trips to jungle, river, etc.? Recommendations would be appreciated.

~~Manaus seems to be the usual flying in/jumping off spot, but it certainly doesn't sound terribly appealing (would be delighted to learn differently).

~~any thoughts on how best to allocate time to incorporate some of the good swimming beaches near Fortaleza and Natal?

~~I have longed to see Fernando de Noronha but have occasionally heard it is simply not worth the expense.

~~Has anyone combined a trip in this region with, say...French Guiana? Suriname? Guyana?

~~I understand that LAN airlines has recently started flying from SFO to Manaus, and I will be exploring OneWorld connections from the West Coast in order to avoid MIA if at all possible :-)

Thanks for any input, feedback or suggestions.

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    In the Amazon, we stayed at the Uacari Lodge which I would heartily recommend to anyone who wants to visit the flooded forest. I found a reference to it in my local newspaper:

    To get there is a bit complicated. You fly from Manaus to Tefé and then an open power boat takes you about two hours upriver. The upside of this is that you are very, very far away from other tourists, we only saw the two other people who were at the lodge when we were.

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    Here are a few thoughts if you don't mind my english:

    Amazon jungle can be amazing only if you can pay for more expensive excursions inside the jungle, or you won't see much. I believe Pantanal has better cost to benefit relationship, if watching wildlife is your goal. Is can be expensive depending on where you stay, farms work in an all inclusive system. But you get more for what you pay. Best times to go there are between april to september.

    In Natal, allocate half to full day to Genipabu beach, where you may also rent a buggy to drive in the dunes. Morro do Careca beach, in Ponta Negra (best neighboorhood to sleep) is very beautiful, but it is not clean. Pipa's beaches are among the most famous in Brazil and I suggest you spend two to three nights there.

    The only clean beach in Fortaleza is Praia do Futuro. Best beaches are a bit far away. You can't miss Jericoacoara (300km) and Canoa Quebrada (166km).

    Recife has not good beaches to swim, because of sharks. Best beaches are far from there, in Porto de Galinhas (80km), Carneiros (100km, one of the best in Brazil) and Maragogi (125km, actually in another state, Alagoas). Carneiros, Porto de Galinhas and Maragogi are among the most beautiful natural pools you'll find in the northeast. Don't forget to check the tide tables before allocating your time. Best time to go is when tides are lower than 0.5.

    Fernando de Noronha is undoubtedly the most wanted travel destination in Brazil, that's why it is also the most expensive. However, if you can go to Caribbean beaches, I believe you'll spend less.

    Salvador's beaches, again, are not the best for swim, some are dirty. The whole city is a mix of dirt, poverty and beautiful spots. Best beaches are far away from there. Praia do Espelho and Praia do Forte are the best within 80km.

    Boipeba island, a very peaceful place full of amazing beaches (Moreré being the most famous), is a hidden gem, but it is not easy to go there - you'll have to spend half to full day travelling, taking ferry, bus and speedboat. Peninsula de Maraú is very beautiful as well and Taipu de Fora was elected by a local magazine the best beach of the whole country.

    Almost nobody in Brazil travels to Guiana or Suriname. There are much better destinations in the South America. Where else have you been?

    Rio is where I live and I love Buzios. I suggest spending 4 to 5 nights in Rio and 2 to 3 in Buzios, more if you do a day trip to Arraial do Cabo (where you'll find the best boat trips and diving spots). Best beaches in Buzios are Ferradura, Joao Fernandes, Tartaruga and Azeda. In Rio, Arpoador is very beautiful (there you'll watch one of the most famous sunset in the country), Ipanema and Leblon. However, these are very crowded and it is not safe to leave your belongings in the sand. Best beautiful and clean beaches are Joatinga (not easy to go there), Prainha and Grumari. I suggest you do not swim in Rio's beaches and do it in Buzios and Arraial do Cabo.

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    I have been to all three of the Guianas. They're interesting places if you "collect countries." None is particularly easy to get to, including from Brazil. Surinam Airways flies from Belem to Cayenne and Paramaribo. I imagine the flights are expensive. They're geographically close to where you'll be, but I think it would be convoluted to get there.

    If you look at a map, connecting in MIA isn't that far out of your way from the west coast and it might open up more options for you. Brazil is quite far east.

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    SusanF: Thanks for the suggestion of the Uacari Lodge.I'll happily check it out.

    Luademochila: Wow! What a helpful assessment. I have been having difficulty trying to figure out the logistics. (We actually spent New Year's in Porto de Galinhas one year--and one in Copacabana :-) plus a few days in Praia do Forte.

    Jeff_Costa_Rica: It's not so much that we're "collecting countries" so much as enjoying unusual destinations. You've pretty much confirmed what my initial exploration revealed, however...maybe a different trip altogether.

    If any of you or others wish to chime in as to how best to split out our time to cover the interesting aspects of the jungle/river(s) and beaches, t’would be much appreciated. Some of the smaller nice boats for a few days might be interspersed with jungle lodges before we head toward the beach.Ocean swimming is a high priority so it's helpful to have insight on the quality of the various locales.

    We did the dune buggy ride outside Buzios (the one nearer Rio) and enjoyed it, but once may be enough.

    We did spend a fair amount of time in Rio on two previous visits thus will probably not spend many days on this trip---that was actually why I was eying the SFO > MAO flight to skip directly to the area of most interest.

    I like the idea of island visits...we certainly enjoyed Ilha Grande (and Sagu Lodge).

    We really like interesting lodges that have some character. While we don't want to waste money, we certainly don't mind spending it to have a wonderful experience.

    I'll stay tuned for additional advice and suggestions.The area is so huge that I appreciate the information as we try to make it a manageable trip without wearing ourselves out.

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