The Marina at Gloria, in downtown Rio, is the departure point for many Rio boat trips — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
The beaches of Rio de Janeiro city are famous the world over - who hasn't heard of Ipanema or Copacabana? - but for the ultimate relaxing beach day it pays dividends to escape the busy city and head off on a boat trip down the beautiful Costa Verde, or Green Coast. This scenic stretch of water winds through Rio de Janeiro State, all the way down to the perfectly-preserved colonial town of Paraty (or Parati, as it is sometimes spelt) - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While it would take a few hours to reach Paraty itself, it is possible to see many of the Costa Verde's most stunning beaches in just a couple of hours. There are many boat tour operators operating this type of trip, and your hotel or hostel should be able to recommend something to suit your tastes and budget. Many backpacker hostels promote 'party boat' trips, with ice cold beers and caipirinha cocktails included in the price, while hotels tend to promote more sedate trips, which often include lunch in the price.
Bring along snorkeling gear if you have it, as the boats will normally stop for swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling.
Ilha Grande is the biggest of the Costa Verde's islands — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
There are literally hundreds of tiny tropical islands to be found along the green coast, many of which surround the pleasant town of Angra dos Reis. The most famous of these is the mammoth Ilha Grande (literally, Big Island), which formerly housed a penal colony for some of Brazil's most notorious offenders, and before that was a leper colony.
The somewhat fearsome history has not prevented tourists from flocking here in recent years, although large parts of the island are dedicated nature reserves and as such are off-limits to developers. Ilha Grande remains a car-free cashpoint-free haven for those intent on relaxing, but the smaller islands close by are the best choice for anyone who really wants to escape the crowds. Most one-day boat trips will therefore call off at the island's smaller, quieter neighbors, and daytrippers will be able to really relax and unwind on their beach-hopping escape.