I have to admit, before coming to Rio de Janeiro, I was a little apprehensive and worrisome. People kept telling me how dangerous it was and not to walk around at night. I wasn’t that excited about this leg of the trip until we got to experience this beautiful city for ourselves.  It ended up being completely safe and we never once felt worried about our safety. With the World Cup and Olympics coming here, security is getting tighter and safer. Just like visiting any big city, you need to be alert and cautious.

Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Beach

The famous Copacabana Palace Hotel

We checked into our lovely little hotel right on Ipanema Beach and had a great view. Surf was double overhead and could hear the power of the waves pounding. There happen to be a swell that just rolled in and of course my husband had to get in the water after being holed up in the mountains for a week. (Cusco, Peru) I headed next door to Hotel Fasano and got started on my pre-happy hour with a fresh strawberry caipirinha. The caipirinha is a national cocktail of Brazil made with cachaca, sugar cane, sugar and lime. It’s quite refreshing and tasty!

View from our hotel room of Ipanema Beach

My husband shot this in the water, view of Ipanema Beach.

Fresh Strawberry Caipirinha, Hotel Fasano

I noticed immediately that there was a huge language barrier as their official language is Portuguese and 99% of them do not speak English. Not even Spanish. Obrigado meaning thank you quickly became by BFF for the week.

The Caricoas are such a beautiful mix of ethnic people that they have that nice olive skin tone glow. Brazilian men are in great shape as they are always running along the beach, surfing or playing foot volley, which is very entertaining. I always thought that Brazilian girls all looked like Gisele Bundchen, but I was wrong. They are very curvy and confident of their voluptuous body. It doesn’t matter what size or shape they are, they’re all in a thong bikini. It was really beautiful to see, unlike here in the U.S there’s so much pressure to be thin. You will find that they love their coconut water as there are many coconut stands all on the beaches across Rio and for 5 Reais ($2.50), everyone is drinking one. The beaches were crowded by 10 in the morning and cleared out by 9 pm. It looked like half of the city was here.

Ipanema beach

Sand artist representing the women of Rio

Shopping through Rio, I could tell the women loved their fashion jewelry, shoes and cheap bikini stores.  For men, Abercrombie and Hollister are fashion luxuries as it’s quite popular and very expensive in Brazil. I walked into a high-end boutique and they were selling these shirts for $150 a pop. Yes, that wasn’t a typo.

Rio really felt like Hawaii and NYC put together. It had that chill surf vibe, but also that fun, sexy city feel to it. Our favorite area was Leblon as it was almost like walking around Soho and has great restaurants.

The food is delicious and their meats are devine! Going to a rodizio restaurant is a must when visiting Brazil. They come around with around 14 different types of meats on a skewer and they slice the pieces you want on your plate. (Varies which restaurant you go to)

We did do a few tours around the city. Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain were done together and then we did a separate tour to visit the favelas. For Corcovado and Sugarloaf, we ended up taking the express tour, which was supposed to last for 4 hours, but it took about 10 hours. The lines to get into Corcovado and Sugarloaf were insane. We went on one of the busiest days as we were visiting in prime summer and the weather was gorgeous.


View from Corcovado

View from Corcovado of Rio

Sugarloaf Mountain

 TIP:  Going on a Corcovado helicopter tour is only $50 more per person than the regular tour. You get a better view and if you are limited with time, it’s the perfect way to see it. (We didn’t know till after or we would have done this)

We went to visit two favelas and it was the most amazing, interesting thing I’d ever seen. With the best view overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Rocinha is the biggest favela and has over 70,000 people living there with one main road. It was just pacified last year and now the government has taken control of this neighborhood. It is a city within itself made up of concrete and brick. Our tour guide said 17 years of doing tours through the favelas, they’ve never had one problem. It’s completely safe to visit (go with a tour guide). The people that live here are hard working citizens just trying to make a living and support their families. 80% of their famous soccer players come from favelas. Do not leave Rio de Janeiro without visiting this fascinating place.

Rocinha Favela

Walking through the favelas

Just missing New Year’s Eve here by a few days and hearing how amazing it was in Rio, we are planning to come back to ring in 2014.  Can’t wait to see this beautiful city again!

Sunset at Ipanema Beach