Sunset over Ipanema beach — Photo courtesy of Charlie Phillips
Paris and Rome, eat your heart out. For a romantic destination that will have your pulse racing, your senses tingling and your heart a-flutter, Rio de Janeiro can't be beat. This is a city that simply oozes sensuality - as soon as you land at the airport and hear the deep, breathy voice of the flight announcer, you'll know that you have arrived in arguably the sexiest city on the planet.
The year-round steamy weather lends a permanent sense of summer romance to the proceedings, and
the fact that it's necessary to dress in barely-there clothing in order to survive the sticky heat only adds to the sense of tropical naughtiness. Add to this heady mix a breathtaking physical landscape and a musical soundtrack that includes sexy samba, sultry bossa nova and outright sexy forro, and the scene is set for the most romantic getaway of your life.
Accommodation-wise, those who have cash to splash can treat themselves to a stay at Copacabana Palace, with its air of old-time glamour, or at the funkier Fasano Rio, whose rooftop pool offers stunning views over Ipanema beach and out to sea.
For the ultimate in romantic indulgence, though, indulge in a stay of at least one night at La Suite. This French-owned boutique hotel is a real hilltop hideaway, in the ultra-exclusive neighborhood of Joa - known as the Beverly Hills of Rio. It's a cab ride from Leblon, but the views from the infinity pool are unrivaled - the mountainside location affording superb vistas over sea, mountains and jungle.
Sunset at Lagoa — Photo courtesy of Daniel Bonatto
Should you be lucky enough to be staying at La Suite, start your day by enjoying the lavish breakfast on a sun deck set against a mountain backdrop, before heading to nearby Joa beach. This little spit of sand receives hardly any visitors thanks to its secluded location, so you can enjoy the sense of splendid isolation.
For those staying at Copacabana or Leblon, enjoy a morning on the beach sipping coconut waters and occasionally cooling off with a dip at the edge of the sea (a strong undertow makes it unwise to head too far in).
For lunch, head to the famed foodie hot spot that is Rua Dias Ferreira in Leblon. This street is home to some of the best restaurants in the city - there's delicious Italian finger food at Stuzzi, a charming bistro atmosphere at Brigite's, and excellent Japanese cuisine at Sushi Leblon.
After lunch, take a stroll along to Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, known locally as Lagoa. This vast expanse of water is flanked by mountains and framed by the distant figure of Christ the Redeemer, arms outstretched atop his mountain perch. Hire a pedal boat and take to the water, or simply stroll around the edge of the lake, taking in the gorgeous view as the dipping sun turns the waters a golden hue.
For the evening, there are several waterside bars to be found at Lagoa, and any one of them makes a great spot for an early evening drink - make it a caipirinha and feel relaxing powers of cachaca, the local firewater.
After a quick change at the hotel, take a cab into Lapa for a night of live music and dancing. Top spots for samba include Rio Scenarium, with its kooky interior decor and quality live acts, and Clube dos Democraticus, which sees live music played in a beautiful old art deco building. If you can't dance a step, don't worry - simply sipping a drink, eating petiscos (light bites) and watching the locals whirl around the dance floor is a memorable experience in itself.