By Tricia Chaves, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Just over a two-hour drive from the city of Rio de Janeiro (via BR-101 to RJ-124), Cabo Frio is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Its close proximity to Búzios makes Cabo Frio an especially hot spot during Carnival.
Whether you decide to rent accommodation in one of the city’s many pousadas (guest houses) or just go for a day trip, Cabo Frio has a variety of historical, dining and shopping attractions, making this a perfect destination any time of year.
Forte São Matheus was built in the early 1600s by the Portuguese to protect the area from the Dutch, French and British who tried to invade their territory. The guns used to defend the fort still remain and you can purchase local art in the space that formerly housed the fort’s soldiers.
Explore the Bairro da Passagem, full of colonial homes and the São Beneditor church, built in the Eighteenth Century. The church was originally constructed to hold services for black residents at a time when racial discrimination plagued the area. Visitors can sample food and drink while enjoying live music in the former town square.
The Nossa Senhora da Guia chapel was built on a hilltop in 1740 and restored in 1980, when a gazebo overlooking the city was also built. Although you’ll have to make the trek to the hilltop on foot, it’s recommended for the breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city, particularly at night (special transport is available for the elderly or disabled).
The Matriz de Nossa Senhora de Assunção church was constructed in honor of the Virgin Mary, and the gold relief altar is home to a walnut wood statuette in her likeness that stands just over an inch tall, found by fisherman in a stone grotto in 1721.
Praia do Forte, Cabo Frio’s 7.5 kilometer-long main beach is particularly popular among sailors worldwide for its access to the open seas. The beach boardwalk is filled with shops and restaurants, making it a particularly vibrant spot for visitors, day or night.
Praia das Dunas is accessed from the end of Praia do Forte, and is a common destination for surfers. Inexperienced swimmers should exercise caution due to the strong currents at this beach.
Praia do Peró and Praia das Conchas are located seven kilometers from the city center, and the two beaches are connected to one another by a channel of shells. The warm waters of Praia do Peró make it a popular surfing destination, and Praia das Conchas is a fantastic fishing destination where whiting, bluefish and mullet are plentiful.
Gamboa Shopping, also known as the Rua dos Biquinis is a must-stop destination for any tourist with a desire to dress like a Carioca! This is by far the best, and least expensive locale to buy affordable beachwear, especially bikinis. You’ll find various stores all in one place, carrying all of the hottest styles of the season.
More information is available on the Cabo Frio Ministry of Tourism website at www.cabofrio.rj.gov.br.