Rio's frenetic pace can be as exhausting as it is exhilarating, so it's handy that the city is surrounded by idyllic beaches and peaceful historic towns that are perfect for recharging the batteries. Just a couple of hours' drive east is the chic beach resort of Búzios, with its 23 beaches, boutiques and lively nightlife, while to the west is the unspoiled, untamed beauty of Ilha Grande. Nearby lies Paraty, Brazil's best preserved colonial town.
The Costa do Sol (Sun Coast), famed for its beautiful beaches, enjoys more sunny days than anywhere else in Rio de Janeiro State. Here, the hip resort town of Búzios is a playground for Rio de Janeiro's gente bonita (beautiful people), who come to relax on the beaches by day and socialize in the stylish bars and clubs by night. En route to Búzios is the quieter beach resort of Arraial do Cabo, an unpretentious fishing town known as the "Caribbean of Brazil" because of its crystal clear waters and white-sand beaches.
Sitting west of the city on the verdant Costa Verde (Green Coast), pretty Paraty's pedestrianized historical center has changed little since the 18th century. The vast nature-reserve island of Ilha Grande, just off the Green Coast, provides virtually unlimited opportunities for beach hopping, hiking on nature trails, and just relaxing.
Heading inland from Rio, the stifling temperatures drop a little as steep mountain roads deliver you to the imperial city of Petrópolis, summer residence of Emperor Pedro II.