The flight into Rio was amazing! If you’ve seen any photos of the Olympic stadiums, Christ Redeemer or Sugar Loaf, they’re all just as beautiful as the pictures look. Although I do have to say, getting off the plane, the hot and humid air hits you like a brick wall.
We grabbed a uber right from the airport to our Airbnb where Tomaz, our host, met us with the keys. We had some seriously good luck with our Airbnb hosts because Tomaz was awesome. His place was a block away from Copacabana Beach. It was clean, had AC (which ended up being a LIFE SAVER), and all the essentials. Because we were renting during the New Years celebration, it was more expensive than usual but he seemed to give us a far price. Here’s the link to for his Airbnb page if you’re ever looking for a good guy to rent from in Rio!
After we dropped our bags, TO THE BEACH WE WENT! A little odd being on the beach a few days before the New Years celebration but we sure weren’t complaining! But we soon came to realize just how hot and sticky our stay in Rio was going to be. We actually had to go back to our place after a few hours because of exhaustion from the strong South American sun which we weren’t used to and desperately needing water and nap.
Our first drinks on the beach
Looking down Copa to Sugar Loaf
Before we left Buenos Aires, I talked with my physio, Mariana, who is from Rio to get the scoop. Needless to say she gave us a very long list including a ton of food or drinks she wanted us to try. Of course, I’m not going to refuse good food and drinks but personally, I had two goals for Rio: 1. Sip a caipirinha out of a coconut while laying on the beach (which was a little more difficult than I thought it would be) and 2. Buy myself a nice cheeky brazilian bikini :). Both were fulfilled as you will read about later.
After our nap, we decided sushi sounded good and luckily we saw a nice place right down the street. After getting up early to go to the bird park, traveling, and the laying in the sun in the afternoon, we were exhausted. We went to sleep pretty early that night because we were going to get up early again the next morning for more touristy things.
When you think of Rio, the two most touristy places you can go are the Christ Redeemer and taking the cable cars up Sugar Loaf Mountain. Both can be tricky and very dependant on weather/cloud coverage. Luckily, we woke up the next morning to a beautiful day. We walked almost all the way down Copacabana beach, passing Copacabana Palace on the way, to the stand where you buy tickets for the Christ Redeemer. The ticket booth even had live footage of the image of statue to show you the weather conditions. We were told that sometimes you can get to the top of the mountain and see absolutely nothing because clouds will be passing or the weather will be bad. We were luck and had crystal blue skies 🙂
We bought tickets for a shuttle bus up and back down the mountain so we didn’t have to worry about taxi’s or the train. I had read reviews on taking the train up and although people say it’s part of the experience, we weren’t interested (the shuttles also had AC…). On the way up we saw a few people hiking or attempting to bike up the trail but oh boy did that seem hard! It’s a mountain people, think major inclines! Sometimes, even looking through the dash in the shuttle you couldn’t see the road in front of us because of how much of a slope the vehicle was on.
After sitting in some traffic (sometimes it’s only one lane to go up and down the mountain so the shuttles have to play a game of chicken) , getting dropped off and walking up quite a few stairs, we reached the statue and were greeted by hundreds of other people all trying to get the same photo (the ‘Jesus pose’). The funny part was, on the ground you would find soft mats all over the place so when whoever was taking the picture for you would lay on the ground, at least it wasn’t solid cement they were laying on. Clearly a true tourist attraction but still a must none the less.
After taking our pictures and observing the beautiful views of almost all of the beaches of Rio, we headed back down in the shuttle. Since it was such a beautiful day, we immediately ordered an Uber to take us to Sugar Loaf Mountain or Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese. Well it just so happened to be the most popular time to buy tickets so we stood inline and waited for close to 2 hours…again, part of being a tourist.
To reach the top of the mountain, 65 passengers can fit in each cable car but there are two separate cable cars you must take to reach the very top. The first ascends to the shorter peak Morro da Urca which is 722 ft above the harbor. The second ascends to Pão de Açúcar which is 1,299 ft. Even though we wanted for quite a long time to get in a cable car, in total, the ascent only takes three minutes from start to finish to reach the top of Pão de Açúcar.
We wanted to do the highest/second peak first and work our way back down so went all the way up. The view is unbelievable. You can to see the Christ Redeemer looking over all of Rio (when the clouds allow it), the gorgeous beaches and islands, and the iconic view of the different mountainside favelas and neighborhoods of Rio. There were a few trails you could take to see a 360° view and monkeys if you were luckly…we were not. No monkeys for us but beautiful pictures!
The second peak held more of the places to eat, souvenirs and a helicopter pad for those who wanted to take a 5 min helicopter ride. For breakfast, we had only eaten some bread we found at a place near the ticket booth so at this point we were starving. Even though the food was so over priced, we ended up buying a few snacks to hold us over until we got down the mountain. I got cheese bread or pao de queijo which is always delicious and Cody got a chocolate covered churro…we were not going for nutritious here.
Heading back down in the cable car, we were literally caught in the clouds! An enormous cloud was passing through the mountain. Our timing for both monuments was perfect!
On top Sugar Loaf Moutain
On the first peak looking at the second
After coming down from the mountain, we were walking distance from a bar I had seen on the Food Network. I’m a sucker for food/travel shows so I tend to watch a lot of Anthony Bourdain, Chef’s Table, or Andrew Zimmern. Anyways, Bar Urca was on one of those episodes as a great locals bar with a gorgeous view sitting on the sea wall. After a 25 min walk, we found that it was indeed packed with locals. We were lucky enough to get a table in the inside/upstairs section which is very hard to do. We enjoyed a couple of drinks, some empanadas and a little rest time for our legs. Satisfied and a little tipsy from the caipirinhas, we walked along the sea wall with the locals and caught an uber to go back to Copacabana.
After a little shopping around the beach, dinner was the next thing on our minds. Since we were in the mood for A LOT of food, there was a churrista in Ipanema that sounded delicious. We walked there and were not disappointed. Delicious, delicious, delicious. Since we were staying right in front of a pacified favela, we had to be careful of where we walked but as a group, we were ok. Since tomorrow was going to be a long night, we ended up heading home after dinner very satisfied.
The New Years celebrations in Rio deserve a whole post to itself so I’ll stop here. Our New Years shenanigans next!