For such a small area, the little peninsula town of Arraial do Cabo is chock-full of beaches, and is home to arguably the most scenic views the country has to offer. The peninsula has Praia Brava and Praia Dos Anjos, which act as barriers on either side of the town, and over the hill is the shimmering baby-blue water and powdery sand of Pontal Atalaia, which on the weekend will be filled with boats, music, and sunbathers with beach umbrellas.
The second of the three towns in the corner of Rio de Janeiro is Cabo Frio, or Cold Cape, which is a small bustling city with a stunning historic quarter and equally impressive beaches. The ocean creates a small inlet that envelopes the city and the cobblestoned roads and colonial buildings around Passagem, the old part of the city.
Arraial do Cabo is a kick back and relax kind of town, Cabo Frio is a little more happening, and Armacao dos Buzios will knock your socks off. The main access road that runs through the peninsula skirts the main center of town, which is simply stunning, with characterful restaurants, shops, and boutique hotels, and rimming the whole town is a pedestrian promenade that hugs the water’s edge and allows you to walk from one part of the town to the other in the most scenic of fashions.
Ilha Grande is one of the most touristy and most visited destinations in Rio de Janeiro, but even if you don’t like crowds, or like to stay off the beaten path, it is still worth a visit and has a lot to offer you – after all, it is the Big Island. Around two hours south of Rio is the port town of Angra dos Reis, where you can board a ferry over to the island, which has a couple of relaxed little towns and enough coves, beaches, and nature to keep you busy for weeks.
This is one of the best places near the city of Rio de Janeiro to call home, as it is just around the southern corner of Ipanema and Leblon, but close enough to the city that it’s a bus or train ride away. It is lined with the same beautiful stretch of coast as the center of Rio, has some great shopping and a golf course, and between the coast and the city center is a long lake called Lagoa de Marapendi which runs along almost the whole length of the city.
If you continue south from Angra dos Reis, you will encounter the historical center of the state in the form of the city of Paraty. Entering the center of Paraty is like entering a time warp, taking you back to the time when the country was being colonized, with white buildings trimmed with beautiful colours, bumpy brick roads, and a gorgeous central plaza that makes Paraty one of the gems of Brazil.
If you ask a local how to get to Grumari, you may get some confused looks, as the destination is not really a town, but the journey there will show you some beautiful sights nonetheless. Avoid the highway leaving Barra da Tijuca and take Avenida Estado da Guanabara, which runs through the green grass on your right, and the gold coast on your left, weaving through some gorgeous scenery which is the worth the drive in itself; there is also a selection of stunning beaches in which you can stab your beach umbrella and kick back for a while.
Rio de Janeiro, when referring to the state, is more eclectic than just its coast, and a short trip inland will prove it. Petropolis, the city which centers the area, has touches of Portuguese and German influence, and has peaceful green spaces woven throughout it. The surrounding area is considered the mountainous region of Rio, and while there are no towering mountains here, the jungle-covered peaks and the roads that wind through them will take you on a scenic tour of some of the region’s quaint little towns.