Jardim de Botanico - Tired of the hustle and bustle and crush of the city? This incredible Botanical Garden in the heart of the city of Rio is a wonderful place to gather your thoughts quietly. The scenery is breathtaking, with views of the Christo between palm trees. It is open during daylight hours and showcases some absolutely gorgeous flowers and plants.
Copacabana/Ipanema - Hey there beautiful! Take your itty bitty bikini and head on down to the beach to people watch with a caipirhina (the national drink of Brasil!). You’ll be identified as a definite gringo if you bring a towel, so bring a sarong instead or buy towel and chair service down on the beach. Only bring enough money to get what you need and leave any extra or valuable items in your hotel room safe - roving gang of boys are known to sweep the beach and grab everything they can get their hands on.
Ipanema Hippie Market - Looking for the those 3ft tall wooden parrots to put in your tiki bar back home? The Ipanema Hippie Market is the place for you. Located in Gener Osario on Sunday mornings, vendors start setting up around 8 or 9am and the market goes on until midday. If you hit it just right you might catch a cultural show as well. The outer ring has homewares, jewelry and fun knick knacks and the inside of the square is where the artists set up. You can buy any canvas and they’ll take it off the stretchers and roll it so you can take it on the plane better.
Selaron Steps - This colorful "tribute to the people of Brasil" started as a project by Jorge Selaron in 1990 and continued on until his death in 2013. Over 2,000 different tiles contributed from over 60 countries, the 215 steps were continually under renovation as the art project grew and evolved over the years.
Santa Theresa - It’s a really cool old neighborhood with some great old architecture. The trolley used to run here, until it careened off the tracks, killing several tourists. Be prepared for San Francisco grade hills. One of the best restaurants in the city is Apraizivel, which has a gorgeous view of the city as the sun sets. Your only issue will be trying to find a taxi to get you home, since it is so high up into the neighborhood. Try and get the maitre’d to call you a cab. If not, Uber is fantastic.
Christ the Redeemer - This is just a must. It’s on every tourist’s list, so be prepared for busloads and busloads of tourists. It's easiest to take the tram up. If you drive, be prepared for a long walk.
Sugarloaf - One of my personal favorites because it looks from the water onto the city, giving you a sweeping view of how incredibly huge and diverse Rio is. If you go first thing in the day, a cab can drop you right off at the entrance and you can get a ticket there. The ticket allows you to take the cablecar all the way to the top. Are you adventure minded? You can do the climb to the first stop of the cable car to Morro da Urca. Be prepared to actually hike and potentially get muddy. This is a real climb! The trailhead is at Praia Vermelha to the left into the woods.
Lapa - Let’s go dancing! This section of town lights up as the sun goes down. The botecas (small cafes) and block parties don’t start really hopping until at least 11pm, so be prepared for a late night.
Plataforma - The gringos and tourists spot for a samba show, but if you’re going to miss Carnivale, then this is the best spot in town to see a history of the famous dance.
Gavea Hangliding - Hang on to your hats! Pull up to the roundabout just below the Gavea park and you will be greeted by hang gliding instructors from every walk of life. Find one that you trust and try to maintain your calm as you jump off a perfectly good cliff to hang glide down to the beach. All standard guides worth their salt have a GoPro to record your reaction to the whole event and will give you a helmet and be very in tune with the winds. All flights are tandem (with instructor) and run about USD $100.
Park Lage -