Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Disembark your ship, then hop in a taxi to famous Rio beaches like Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon, which make up a long stretch of golden sand (broken up only by the dramatic Arpoador rock, a popular sunset spot) between Copacabana and Ipanema. Or, if you don't want to sip a caipirinha cocktail on any of these people-watching party beaches, head a bit more off the beaten path to suburban Barra da Tijuca, where many events during the 2016 Olympics took place.
Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro with Christ Redeemer and Corcovado Mountain
Head for the hills — or mountains, to be precise — that surround Rio's picturesque waterfront neighborhoods. Get a bus to the base station of the Corcovado funicular railway, which takes you to the base of Rio's "world wonder" Christ the Redeemer statue. Enjoy that sweeping panorama, then take a taxi to Urca and catch a cable car up the Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf) mountain, which offers a view that's slightly more constricted, but every bit as ... well, marvelous.
Enjoy your time at the beach and in the mountains, but appreciate Rio's history if you can. Ride a taxi or bus to the Lapa Arches, an ancient aqueduct then walk up the colorful Lapa Stairs into Santa Teresa, where you can ride a cable car through this postcard-perfect historical neighborhood. Have sunset cocktails on the rooftop of the Santa Teresa hotel, or walk back down the stairs to Rio's overlooked downtown, where the Theatro Municipal (built in the early 20th century to mimic the Paris Opera) injects a bit of yesterday's Europe into today's South America.
Sit down at a Churrascaria and enjoy succulent cuts of Brazilian beef, pork and lamb sliced tableside by gaucho servers. Or, sit down for a more understated Brazilian meal at Garota de Ipanema, a beach-adjacent cafe where the famous "Girl from Ipanema" song is said to have been written. Enjoy a bite on the beach if you see a beach seller slinging sticks of salty, grilled queijo coalho cheese, which pairs perfectly with caipirinha cocktails made with Brazilian cachaça rum.
Employ one of two shopping strategies in Rio de Janeiro. Head to luxury malls like Shopping Leblon for big-name clothing brands. Otherwise, stop souvenir and sundry sellers who roam the sandy shores of Copacabana and Ipanema, whether for kitschy Christ the Redeemer keychains and paperweights or beach towels emblazoned with the yellow, blue and green Brazilian flag.
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