25 Best Sights in Side Trips from Rio, Brazil

Angra Top

Fodor's choice

This reliable outfit sails its schooners, catamarans, and other boats on day trips to the islands around Angra dos Reis with stops for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. Fresh fruit and soft drinks are provided onboard. The boats are also available for private group hire, with skipper.

Fazenda Bananal

Fodor's choice
Drive 15 minutes inland from Paraty to this immaculately restored colonial fazenda (farm), where you can feast on delicious farm-to-table food in the light-filled restaurant before exploring the museum, tropical gardens, and working farm. Simple yet evocative, it gives a striking insight into the area's history and future potential. The farm welcomes thousands of local children every year to learn about sustainability and agricultural conservation, and any surplus organic food produced on-site is given to employees, the church, and the elderly in the region.

Lopes Mendes

Lopez Mendes Fodor's choice

Locals and visitors alike regard Lopes Mendes, a 3-km (2-mile) stretch of dazzling-white sand lapped by emerald waters, as the most beautiful beach on Ilha Grande. It's often cited as one of the most beautiful in all Brazil. Strict environmental protection orders have kept the jungle-fringed beach from being spoiled by development: expect makeshift beach kiosks, not upscale bars. Take a taxi boat from Vila do Abraão (R$15) if you don't feel up to the two-hour hike through the forest, or hike here and take the boat back—the rough jungle trail and sticky heat can tax even the most hearty of ramblers. While here, use plenty of sunblock, as the rays rebounding off the white sand are particularly strong.

If you want to avoid the boat-loads of day-trippers, go early.


food and drink.

Best for:

swimming; walking.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Museu de Arte Contemporânea

Fodor's choice

Designed by the late, great modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, the cliff-top Museum of Contemporary Art looks like a spaceship that has touched down to admire the views. The museum's visiting art exhibits tend to be underwhelming, but it's worth a trip here just to see the building. The museum is a five-minute cab ride from Praça Araribóia, by the ferry terminal in downtown Niterói, or take the 47B bus. The on-site bistro is a good spot for lunch.

Museu Imperial

Fodor's choice

The magnificent 44-room palace that was the summer home of Dom Pedro II, emperor of Brazil, and his family in the 19th century is now the Imperial Museum. The colossal structure is filled with polished wooden floors, artworks, and grand chandeliers. You can also see the diamond-encrusted gold crown and scepter of Brazil's last emperor, as well as other royal jewels. Visitors are handed soft slippers on arrival and asked to slip them over their own shoes to avoid damaging the antique floors. (Children will love sliding around on the polished floors in their slippered feet.)

Palácio de Cristal

Fodor's choice

The Crystal Palace, a stained-glass and iron building made in France and assembled in Brazil, is rather less grand than its name suggests, resembling a large and very ornate greenhouse, but is worth a visit nonetheless. The palace was a wedding present to Princesa Isabel from her consort, the French Count d'Eu. Their marriage was arranged by their parents—Isabel, then 18, learned of Dom Pedro II's choice only a few weeks before her wedding. The count wrote to his sister that his bride-to-be was "ugly," but after a few weeks of marriage decided he rather liked her. During the imperial years the palace was used as a ballroom: the princess held a celebration dance here after she abolished slavery in Brazil in 1888. Surrounded by pleasant gardens, the Crystal Palace is now open to the public and often hosts live classical music performances.

Rua Alfredo Pachá s/n, Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, 25685–210, Brazil
sights Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

Praia da Ferradura

Ferradura Fodor's choice

On a cove that protects it from the winds that often blow elsewhere on the peninsula, Praia da Ferradura has calm waters that make it a perfect choice for families with children. The beach adjoins one of Búzios' most exclusive areas—some mansions back right onto it—but maintains a relaxed ambience. Sun loungers and umbrellas are provided as a courtesy for clients of the many beach barracas (simple makeshift kiosks selling food and drink). Arrive early for a good spot on summer weekends. Amenities: food and drink; toilets; water sports. Best for: swimming; running; walking.

Praia de Geribá

Geribá Fodor's choice

This long half-moon of white sand is fashionable with a young crowd, and its breaks and swells make it popular with surfers and windsurfers. The walk from one end to the other takes 30 minutes, so there's plenty of elbow room here even in high season. The relaxed bars and beach kiosks make it easy to while away whole days here. The surrounding Geribá neighborhood makes a great base for beach lovers, with plenty of good pousadas near the sands. Amenities: food and drink; water sports. Best for: walking; surfing.

Praia do Foguete

Fodor's choice

This beach is famous for its almost transparent soft white sand and the equally clear waters that shelter sea creatures such as turtles, dolphins, and even penguins. The 6-km (4-mile) strand is almost deserted in low season, and while even in summer the water is chilly, the constant strong breeze here creates waves that are perfect for surfing and bodyboarding. During summer, a few vendors operate kiosks with food and drink, but if you visit between March and November you should bring your own refreshments. Amenities: food and drink (in summer). Best for: solitude; surfing.

Praia do Pontal da Atalaia

Fodor's choice
Across the bay from the idyllic Ilha do Farol (Lighthouse Island), the waters on the peninsula are equally as spectacular, but easier to access than the island's beaches. Two beaches straddle the point of this peninsula, and when the tide is low, the white sands join to become one. Surprisingly, these beaches are often emptier than those closer to town, but that's probably because of access—you have to drive or take a taxi to the residential condominium Pontal do Atalaia and follow the dirt track until you reach the stairs down to the beach. Amenities: food and drink. Best for: solitude; snorkeling; swimming.

Praia do Sono

Trindade Fodor's choice

Secluded Sono Beach is one of the Paraty area's most beautiful strands, with thick jungle framing the crescent of light, soft sand bordering crystal clear waters teeming with colorful fish. Campers base themselves here during the summer, when there's a relaxed, bohemian air. In the off-season, the beach is virtually deserted—sunbathers bask in what feels like a private tropical paradise. Although Sono is a bit off the beaten track, the gorgeous setting makes it worth the effort to reach it. The best way to access the beach is by boat from Paraty (about R$35); otherwise you must take a one-hour bus ride and then hike for about 40 minutes. Amenities: food and drink (in high season). Best for: solitude; swimming; walking.

Angra dos Reis Turismo


This group runs boat tours to the islands around Angra dos Reis, transfers from Angra to Ilha Grande and rents out boats, plus skipper, for up to 18 people. One great tour is to Lopes Mendes, the paradisiacal beach on Ilha Grande. Some boats, in particular the larger schooners, have a reputation for playing loud music. Check before you book if you prefer a tranquil environment. The company also offers two secure parking locations should you be traveling by car and wish to park it before heading out to the islands.

Blue Lagoon

Lagoa Azul

This natural pool forms at low tide and is home to thousands of brightly colored fish that will literally eat out of your hands. Many tour operators include a stop here as part of their boat trips around the island, and most provide floats for children. Be sure to bring a mask and snorkel.

Casa da Cultura

Centro Histórico

The largest cultural center in Paraty, Casa da Cultura is dedicated to telling the story of the city and its people. Permanent and visiting exhibitions illustrate the area's rich history and its abundant native flora and fauna. There's a pleasant coffee shop and patio, and the gift shop downstairs, one of the best in town, sells crafts made by local artisans.

Casa de Santos Dumont

Known as "Encantado" or "enchanted," this diminutive cottage wouldn't look out of place in a fairy-tale wood. Santos Dumont, one of the world's first aviators, built the house in 1918 to a scale in keeping with his own tiny size. The eccentric genius's inventions fill the house, including a heated shower he developed before most homes even had running water. The home doesn't have a kitchen because Dumont ordered his food from a nearby hotel—the first documented restaurant delivery service in Brazil.

Rua do Encantado 22, Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, 25685–081, Brazil
sights Details
Rate Includes: R$5, Closed Mon.

Catedral São Pedro de Alcântara

The imposing Cathedral of Saint Peter of Alcantara, a fine example of Gothic architecture and the city's most recognizable landmark, sits at the base of a jungle-clad hill. Inside the building, whose construction began in 1884, lie the tombs of Dom Pedro II, his wife, Dona Teresa Cristina, and their daughter, Princesa Isabel. Elegant sculptures and ornate stained-glass windows add to the interior's visual appeal. Drift further back in time by arriving via a horse-drawn carriage, easily hailed in the historic center of town.

Dois Rios

Dois Rios

With its pristine white sands and turquoise waters, this beautiful, unspoiled beach sits in stark contrast to the dark prison ruins behind it. Visitors have the place practically to themselves, as few people make the arduous 5-km (3-mile) trek through hot jungle to get here. Those who do are rewarded with one of the island's most gorgeous beaches, and the sense of achievement that comes with really getting off the beaten track. The prison ruins are worth exploring, but be sure to head back several hours before sundown. Amenities: none. Best for: solitude.

Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro, 23900–000, Brazil

Fortaleza de Santa Cruz


Built in 1555, the impressive Fortaleza de Santa Cruz was the first fort on Guanabara Bay. The cannons are distributed over two levels, but more impressive are the 17th-century sun clock and Santa Barbara Chapel. The views over Rio de Janeiro span out in all directions, so keep your camera on hand. It takes 15 minutes by taxi to reach the fort from downtown Niterói, and costs about R$35. The on-site restaurant serves good coffee and light meals.

Estrada General Eurico Gaspar Dutra, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, 24370–375, Brazil
sights Details
Rate Includes: R$6, Closed Mon.

Forte Defensor Perpétuo

Paraty's only fort was built in the early 1700s, and rebuilt in 1822, as a defense against pirates. It's a pleasant short climb through jungle to get here and the views from the fort itself are terrific. Visitors can also see heavy British-made cannons, still in their original positions.

Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, 23970–000, Brazil
sights Details
Rate Includes: R$2, Closed Mon

Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios

Centro Histórico

Also known as Igreja Matriz, the neoclassical Church of Our Lady of Remedies was built in 1787 and is one of Paraty's most iconic buildings, with its gray-and-white facade shaded by a towering imperial palm tree. The small art gallery within, Pinacoteca Antônio Marino Gouveia, has paintings by modern artists such as Djanira, Di Cavalcanti, and Anita Malfatti.

Igreja de Santa Rita

Centro Histórico

The oldest church in Paraty, the simple whitewashed Church of Saint Rita sits on a grassy square with a mountain backdrop and makes for a terrific photo opportunity. The church was built in 1722 by and for freed slaves and has a typical Jesuit layout with a bell tower and domed front. Inside, the carved angels and ornate wood- and ironwork catch the eye, and there are many valuable religious artifacts on display in the church's small religious art museum.

Praia Azeda

João Fernandes

Two beaches, Praia Azeda and its smaller neighbor, Praia Azedinha, have clear, calm waters and are accessible via a trail from Praia dos Ossos, or by taxi boat (R$10). The view as you descend to the beach on foot is breathtaking. Vendors at kiosks on the beach sell coconut water and frozen caipirinhas, and you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas. Azedinha is one of the few beaches here where women can sunbathe topless. During summer, arrive early to secure a good spot—the beaches start to get crowded by 11 am. Amenities: food and drink; toilets. Best for: swimming.

Búzios, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Praia de Antiguinhos


An environmental protection order keeps beautiful Antigos Beach wonderfully unspoiled—you can swim amid rugged nature here. The thick jungle reaches right down to the sands, and the beach is famous for the large rocks that jut into the transparent water, separating Antigos from the adjoining smaller beach, Antiginhos, whose calmer waters are better for swimming. The beach can be reached via a 20-minute walking trail from equally scenic Sono Beach, which in turn can be reached by boat from Paraty. Amenities: none. Best for: solitude; snorkeling; sunbathing.

Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, 23970–000, Brazil

Praia João Fernandes

João Fernandes

Praia João Fernandes and the smaller adjoining beach, Praia João Fernandinho, are a short taxi-boat ride (R$20) from the center of town; both are beloved for their crystal waters and soft sands. The sounds of live samba music at nearby restaurants and bars can be heard on the beach, and you can bring cocktails out to your chosen spot on the sand if you're not ready to abandon your sun lounger. This beach can get a little busy, but the sunset here is spectacular. Amenities: food and drink; toilets; water sports. Best for: sunset; swimming.



About 30 km (20 miles) from Paraty, Trindade was once a hippie hangout. Today Trindade's several gorgeous beaches attract everybody from backpackers to cariocas on vacation, and the natural pools are perfect for children. Regular buses run from the bus station in Paraty. If you're looking to stay overnight, you'll find simple lodgings and campsites near the beaches.