As soon as we stepped into our own personal oasis in Rio, we were greeted by a light hue of blue peeking through our curtains. I gasped when the bellman yanked the curtains back, revealing a majestic ocean view bordered by unforgettable mountains. No one had ever mentioned how beautiful Rio was. I had heard about the danger more times than I could count (which I didn’t experience!), the mouthwatering food, and the captivating music. However, everyone who had shared his or her experience with me about Rio failed to mention the stunning view that would make me fall in love with the city. As you all know, I am not ashamed to admit I will travel for a view! I love coming into contact with landscapes that will literally take my breath away. So when I first took in the postcard worthy image of the famous Copacabana beach from my hotel’s room, I knew this was going to be a weekend to remember. If you’ve been following my Instagram stories, you caught highlights of our fun filled trip, but I wanted to provide a detailed post illustrating just how carefree it was as well. The last thing I want when I only have 4 days to enjoy a city is to stress about mundane details. I hope this guide gives insight to why Rio is perfect for a long weekend escape that is sure to relax and recharge.
It was a flight deal for $385 that triggered our decision to visit a city I always yearned to explore. For detailed information about finding flight deals, check out my In-Depth Guide to Booking a Trip! This particular deal was found on Google Flights and provided an 8-hour, non-stop flight from Miami to Rio de Janeiro. We chose an overnight flight leaving Wednesday evening so that we would not miss out on a day by traveling. We arrived in Rio early Thursday morning at 8:30, ready to soak up the city. Our flight going to Rio was through American Airlines. I honestly have to say this was the most uncomfortable flight I have ever been on! We were cramped like sardines, and even my husband, who isn’t plus size, was agitated by this flight experience. However, the deal couldn’t be beat, and we still had a fabulous time ONCE we arrived. Our return route was originally going to be an annoying, 3-flight experience through Latam airlines. However, for reasons we are still unsure of, we were rebooked through Delta and even upgraded to comfort seats for a direct flight to Atlanta, and then Miami. I suspect that one of our flights on Latam airlines was cancelled, but the booking agent didn’t go into detail, and we didn’t ask any questions about having a better flight experience. Just be careful booking flight deals because the airline and/or routes are not always the best.
Stunning view from our hotel's pool!
After reading extensive reviews, we chose to stay at the Miramar Hotel by Windsor in Copacabana. We booked an executive double room (King size bed) with an ocean view for $350/night. It was honestly worth every penny! As the description in my introduction alluded to, we had a spectacular view of Copacabana beach and Sugarloaf Mountain from our room and were spoiled by this imagery every morning. Although the room was small for our preference, we were pleased by it’s clean and modern appearance. The main selling point for this hotel, however, is the panoramic view from the 16th floor pool/restaurant. We were able to enjoy this gem from the serenity of a penthouse sanctuary while being served caipirinhas (traditional Brazilian cocktails) and avoiding the harassment from countless vendors below. However, when we did want to venture out into the chaos of this touristy beach, all we had to do was grab a complimentary towel from the concierge and jaunt across the street to be immersed in the action. The hotel also provided beach lounges and umbrellas, which we could access from a white tent on the beach. The location couldn’t be beat as we were free to stroll down the street with endless opportunities for food/drinks/entertainment. Last, but certainly not least, the service at the hotel was 5 stars. Whenever we requested anything, we received it within minutes, and the bellman even surprised us with an adapter upon arrival since I emailed the hotel asking for one. We were also spoiled by chocolate left on our nightstands every night, champagne upon arrival, an extensive breakfast buffet with unlimited champagne, and bottled water daily. I honestly can’t say enough about this wonderful hotel and will visit again when in Rio! One thing I can say, however, is to stay away from the food at the pool bar, as it was extremely salty for no reason. My husband couldn’t even eat his shrimp since it tasted like it was drowned in salt, and my salad was salty as well. Like really, a salty salad?! I’ll discuss good food places shortly.
As the trip planner, the part I loved the most about our trip was that it took MINIMAL effort to hit the main tourist sites. Repeat after me: Uber is my friend! I’ve had some sketchy Uber experiences in other countries. However, rest assured that Uber in Rio is cheap, efficient, and convenient! Whenever we requested an Uber (except for coming back from Christ the Redeemer which is on top of a mountain), we received our driver in less than 5 minutes. The most expensive ride was $15 for an hour-long journey to the airport. Getting around Rio was a breeze, which definitely enhanced our ability to relax
Day 1: We chilled in our hotel’s rooftop pool, napped (yes this is necessary when on vacation), visited a Brazilian steakhouse for dinner (see next section), and then strolled on Copacabana beach for late night drinks.
Day 2: Since we had such a low key first day, we felt energized and ready to tackle some of the sites. We started with Escadaria Selaron, which are colorful steps crafted by Chilean-born artist, Jorge Selaron. These steps are truly a sight to see and make for a great photo opportunity. If you remember the song “Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg, these iconic steps were in the music video!
Our next stop was the Christ the Redeemer statue. This impressive structure is 125 feet tall and has been named one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. This was my 4th wonder, and hubby’s second. We are both inspired to visit all 7, so of course had to hit this one as well! We took an Uber to the entrance at the top of a mountain, and then paid for a van to take us the rest of the way up. There is also an option to take a tram up, but when I was purchasing my ticket on the machine, it defaulted to the van. The low season ticket was $8 per person. Once you make it to where the statue is, you can either take an elevator up or countless stairs. Of course, the elevator was broken the day I went, so we were forced to take the stairs. For my husband, it was a breeze, but I was quickly out of breath! So definitely do some activity a few weeks leading up to your trip in case you have to make the trek. I surely didn’t come all that way to not get my picture with the statue, but I wasn’t planning on gasping for air either lol.
After this ordeal, we grabbed lunch at what became our favorite restaurant in Rio (see next section), then passed out for a nap. Later that night, we grabbed drinks/food while watching locals party on the beach.
Day 3: This was actually our first time visiting the beach during the day. We were amazed by all the products being sold, from swimsuit stands, massages, drinks, corn, barbecue, hats, magic tricks, etc.! This was an experience in itself and the water was fantastic. After the beach, we decided to hit up another picturesque location called Parque Lage for lunch. Set inside a botanical garden, the old European style mansion made us feel like we stepped back in time. We were enchanted by the architecture and amazed by the food, which ended up being one of our best meals in Rio. We ended our night in the Ipanema neighborhood, grabbing drinks and strolling the streets. This neighborhood is less touristy than Copacabana and where more of the locals hang. We definitely felt a difference, as we were able to walk along the beach without being approached to purchase something.
Day 4: If you think we lost our minds hanging off this cliff, rest assured it’s not as scary as it looks. There is actually a strip of land under the cliff. However, it is a STRIP and slanted, which does mean, one wrong move and you’re done. So it is definitely still a risky experience, especially for my husband and I who are not used to hiking across rocks. This area is called Pedra do Telegrafo. Since it requires a 60-90 minute drive outside of Rio, followed by a 45-60 minute hike up a mountain to reach this site, we made the smart decision by hiring a tour guide through our hotel. The tour was $189 for the both of us, and included private transfer by car with a driver who was also our guide. This hike is no easy feat, and I was dying as soon as I began. I even told the guide and my husband to leave me! However, I did make it in 60 minutes, which is pretty impressive. Again, please do some type of activity to prepare for this, so you don’t have to whine the whole time like I did lol. Once you make it to the site, there is a photographer with a professional camera who will take and edit 3 photos of you for about $2.50. He also has a book with photo ideas and gives direction. The hike down is not as tiring, but scary as its extremely slippery. I recommend good hiking shoes for this experience. I wasn’t prepared at all and came down hard on my ankle a few times.
After that crazy hike, we visited our favorite restaurant again for lunch; followed by a nap, then ride to the airport.
There is honestly only one place you NEED to know when visiting Rio, and that place is La Maison. This is a great place to get traditional Brazilian food, including seafood, while overlooking the beach on Copacabana and getting lit off the best caipirinhas. Seriously, only two of those drinks had my husband and I drunk! Not buzzed or tipsy, but drunk drunk lol. It was a nice surprise, but be careful if that’s not your intention. The food is delicious in a home cooked, soul food type of way. We were convinced someone’s grandma was back there preparing the food. We ate there twice; first time trying Moqueca, which is a Brazilian fish stew served with coconut rice. The second time we tried Feijoada, which is a bean and pork stew, served with white rice and something that resembled collard greens. We would fly back to Rio just to eat at this restaurant again!
For the Brazilian steakhouse experience, we tried Churrascaria Palace, which was established in 1951. It was an upscale ambiance with a salad buffet and unlimited cuts of steak, lamb, pork, beef, and fish. Definitely come here starving and prepared to sample some tender meat.