Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer over look Rio de Janeiro. / Photo by Joseph Capp
The view from Sugar Loaf Mountain. / Photo by Joseph Capp
(Joseph Capp is a long time Pacific Beach resident who has lived part-time in Rio de Janeiro for the last five years. He will be sharing news and updates from Rio with sdnews.com readers through the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Have a question? Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be happy to reply.)
Rio de Janeiro, or simply Rio, is the place to go in 2016. The city was the site of last year’s World Cup and in August, the 2016 Summer Olympics will be there, as well. However, there is no need to wait that long to enjoy the cidade marivilhosa – “marvelous city.”
Summer begins in Rio in December and the weather has already begun to warm, so now is a perfect time to visit. Another reason is that transportation, lodging – and everything else – haven’t been this affordable in years. Brazil has seen a dramatic slide in the value of its currency (the real). In 2014, the exchange rate averaged 2.22 real to the dollar during the month long tournament, today that rate is now 3.82 and climbing. In addition, round-trip airfare from San Diego to Rio is available for less than $600.
What to do and see – and what to eat and drink – while in Rio:
Spend an afternoon exploring the tropical jungle setting of the Jardim Botanico where you can view 6,500 species of native and foreign flora (some endangered). Bike rentals are located throughout the city and you can cruise the beachfront from Leme on the north end of town through Copacabana and Ipanema down to Rio’s wealthiest neighborhood Leblon and back.
Stop and have an agua de coco (coconut water) at one of the many kiosks along the way. They will open a small hole on the top of a coconut and slip a straw in so you can savior its nectar (they also cut the bottom flat to prevent it from rolling over). When finished, if you ask, they will cut it open, give you a spoon so you can enjoy the succulent meat that is inside: tasty and extremely healthy, readying you for a night of clubbing.
In the evening, head to historic Lapa, in the center of the city. You’ll enter through the splendid, centuries-old Carioca Aqueduct (called the Arcos de Lapa – or Lapa Arches – by Brazilians) and cross a multitude of clubs, bars, and restaurants with hundreds of people seated outside conversing, drinking and dining the night away. While there, take a short walk to see the famous mosaic staircase designed by the Chilean artist Jorge Selarón. It’s a photo op not to be missed.
All visitors must try a churasco (pronounced shoe-hass-koe), all-you-can-eat restaurants that offer large buffets with much to choose from, some even offer their own sushi chef who will cut you fresh sashimi (the salmon in Rio is fantastic) or make you a custom roll.
The best part is the beef. While seated at your table, waiters continually walk through the restaurant offering diners large varieties of meats that have been flame charbroiled over an open pit. At your table they will slice all that you desire and will keep coming back repeatedly until you plead with them to stop. The pork, lamb and beef are some of the best you will ever experience. Wash it all down with a capirinha, the nation’s cocktail of choice, made with cachaça (Brazil most popular spirit, distilled from sugarcane juice) lime and sugar.
Daylong tours are available to all the great tourist spots, with approximate rates of 80-150 reais per person. Visit Sugar Loaf Mountain and the spectacularly perched Christ the Redeemer, both located high above the city where the views are spectacular.
Other day trips include Maracanã, the famed soccer stadium; Santa Teresa, a very hip and trendy area; and a tour of a local favela, to see how life is lived in one of Rio’s shantytowns. The best of the favela tour companies strive to empower the people living in the favelas by giving them the opportunity to run, organize and make the tours themselves.
Art lovers will want to visit Casa Daros, one of the most comprehensive collections dedicated to Latin American contemporary art, housed in a stately 19th-century building in neoclassical style, preserved as an official historical heritage site of the City of Rio de Janeiro.
Planning your trip:
First things first, get online and do a search to see what you can find in airfare. If you get a great deal and the dates work, pull the trigger and book that trip… But here are a few important tips to know in advance.
Have a passport that is about to expire? Renew it now. You must have six months eligibility left at the time you board the plane. You will also need a visa. Get online and go to the Brazilian Consulate’s LA-based website: http://losangeles.itamaraty.gov.br/en-us/. It will provide you with the information to get the required visa prior to your trip.
What to wear: It will be warm (summer there is Dec. 21 through March 21) and Rio is almost always casual, so bring light clothing and comfortable shoes and a smart outfit or two for dining and clubbing in the evening. The sun usually shines during the day, but sometimes a flash storm will roll through. It would not hurt to bring a travel-sized umbrella and a lightweight, “breathable” rain shell.
Where to stay. Consider staying in Zona Sul, the south zone of Rio, where Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon are situated. These neighborhoods are walking distance to just about everything, including the beaches. There are hotels everywhere, but if you can do without the daily maid service, check Airbnb.com or HomeAway.com for apartments. Most places are bigger than hotels, offer the comforts of home and are usually less expensive.
When you do the math, it all adds up to an excellent trip! ;)