Be a Local. This well-established outfit conducts walking tours of Rocinha that make various stops inside the community, as well as trips to soccer matches, speedy city tours, and lively nocturnal visits to samba school rehearsals; accessible prices make it popular with a younger demographic. Rua Barata Ribeiro 111, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 21/9964--30366; www.bealocal.com. From R$65.
Brazil Expedition. This reliable tour company runs a hugely popular city tour—known as the Big Dude tour—which takes a scenic route through Tijuca National Park to the Christ statue before visiting other key Rio landmarks such as Santa Teresa and the Lapa Steps, with an optional visit to Sugarloaf Mountain. Other recommended excursions include trips to samba school rehearsals (August through February) and an interesting street-art tour. Language lessons, surf packages, and transfers to Ilha Grande and Paraty are also available. The English-speaking guides are knowledgeable and friendly. Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 21/9998–2907; 021/9999--82907 ; www.brazilexpedition.com. From R$200.
Favela Tour. If you're interested in learning more about the favelas that cling to Rio's mountainsides, Favela Tour is the way to do it. Led by Marcelo Armstrong, this highly respected outfit conducts tours twice daily through Rocinha and Vila Canoas. Marcelo pioneered favela tourism in Rio and offers tours in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Tours are informative but not voyeuristic, and there are opportunities to buy locally produced arts and crafts as you tour the communities. Hotel pickup and drop-off are included in the price. Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 21/3322–2727; 21/99989--0074; www.favelatour.com.br. From R$90.
Rio Cultural Secrets. This quality outfit has enthusiastic, knowledgeable English-speaking private guides who whisk visitors around the city in comfortable air-conditioned cars. Popular trips include visits to Tijuca National Park and Rio's Botanical Gardens, soccer games, and city tours that take in major attractions such as Sugar Loaf and the Christ statue. Rio Cultural Secrets can also take visitors up to the imperial city of Petropolis, around an hour's drive from Rio. Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 21/9949--86622; www.rioculturalsecrets.com. From R$140.
Rio Free Walking Tour. Expert English-speaking guides lead free tours through Centro, Copacabana, and Rio's downtown dock area each weekday. Rain or shine, the guides will take you on a three-hour morning stroll (tours start between 9:30 and 10:30 am), explaining the history of downtown Rio's major buildings, streets, statues, and monuments. The walk is followed by lunch at a pay-by-weight buffet restaurant. There's no need to book in advance, just look out for the yellow-shirted guides. Although there's no charge, tips are welcomed. Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 21/98600--2593; www.riofreewalkingtour.com. Free.
Rio Hiking. One of the best ways to explore Rio's top sites, spectacular views, and verdant rain forest is hiking to them. This professional outfit leads two-to-seven-day small group tours and private experiences that combine walking with mountainbiking and climbing. The five-day tours include hikes to Ilha Grande's striking Papagaio Peak. All equipment is provided and guides are bilingual, and there are treks, tours, and adventure trips to suit all levels of experience. Laranjeiras, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, 22241–090. 21/2552–9204; riohiking.com.br. From R$650.
Helisight. With landing pads at Morro da Urca (the smaller peak next to Sugarloaf) and Lagoa, Helisight conducts helicopter tours that pass over the Christ the Redeemer statue, the beaches of the Zona Sul, and other iconic sights. Conde de Bernadotte 26, Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, 22430–200. 21/2511--2141; 21/2542--7935; www.helisight.com.br. From R$320 (seven-minute flight); from R$1,860 (hour-long trip).