By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Cidade Maravilhosa is full of famous tourist attractions and landmarks, like Christ the Redeemer, Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf), and the Carnival Sambódromo. Yet those with the time, interest – or the means – should explore these other off-the-path activities in Rio.
Stand-up Paddle-boarding: Enjoying long days on the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon will likely be a default activity for most travelers (and residents), but something worth a try is Stand-up Paddle-boarding. The water sport where one stands on a surf-like board and uses a long paddle, has become increasingly popular in recent years.
There are various schools throughout Rio dedicated to the sport, but the Posto 6 kiosk in Copacabana, where waves and wind are not as strong, is probably the most popular place to practice. Lessons generally tend to be in the morning when there is little wind. The prices of lessons and rentals vary, but this time of year (the summertime), they will be more costly.
Hike Dois Irmãos: While many hikes can seem to last too long, in just a couple hours the physically fit traveller can get to the top of Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) mountain, with one of the best views in Rio. American expatriate in Rio, Roshni Thakker, who is the guest relations director at boutique travel and tour agency XperienceRio, rates it at the top of her list.
“You climb to the top of one of the most iconic post card locations in Rio, and the view you have is breathtaking as to you are seeing the city from high up, yet at close proximity,” Thakker explains. “This hike as well provides you with an added plus of a little ride though a favela to reach the starting point.”
Readers should note however that no trip into a favela community in Rio is recommended without a local guide. Vidigal is relatively safe due to its small size and proximity to Leblon, but the area is under-represented in all government services, including security.
Boat trips in the Bay: Being on the water and looking back at the stunning landscape of the mountains that envelop the coast line of Rio is bound to make memories. Italian-run Rio Classic Sailing offers intimate options from day tours where guests will get a nautical perspective of Centro, Niteroi, Urca and Sugarloaf; to a romantic sunset cruise where guests enjoy a bottle of Prosecco as they watch the sun go down over Rio’s stunning skyline.
Most trips will start early in the day, around 10AM, and leave from Marina da Glória or Urca. There are a number of operators, and Roshni Thakker agrees that “there is nothing like seeing the coast of Rio, from the sea to the land. So a boat ride out to the Cagarras Islands, and even a stand up paddle experience there.”
Food tour in Rio: If all this physical activity is not tempting, then anther way to go is tasting the flavors of Brazil with a walking food tour. British expatriate and author Tom Le Mesurier began the Eat Rio as a blog in 2011.
“Since my arrival in Rio I had learned so much about Brazil’s rich culture and Rio’s hidden gems – the ancient bars and quirky old restaurants – that I wanted to share my discoveries.” With Eat Rio food tours they suggest, “[…] the best way to get to know a city is by strolling along the streets, eating the food and rubbing shoulders with the locals.”
Helicopter rides: Far at the other end of the spectrum is a helicopter ride and a number of companies offer flights over the city. Roshni Thakker shares, “if you have some money to spend on a truly majestic experience, I recommend doing a helicopter tour around the Christ statue. To be level with the eyes of [the Christ the Redeemer statue], overlooking the marvelous city, is priceless.”
With a choice of routes, priced according to length of time in the air and sites visited, passengers can take in the top tourist attractions high above the crowds below, as well as get a feel for the geography and the different neighborhoods of the city.