While Copacabana wins out as the most picture-perfect city beach in Rio, Ipanema is easily the more chic of the two neighboring stretches of sand. Less flanked by high rise hotels than its neighbor, Ipanema is the ideal place to while away the hours just working on that tan and watching the beautiful people glide by. There are scores of kiosks selling tempting food and drink, too. The towering twin peaks of the Dois Irmaos (two brothers) mountains frames the beach scene in spectacular fashion, and visitors will find the beach informally divided into social groups. Head to Posto Nove (Lifeguard post 9) for a young, hip crowd, or look for the giant rainbow flag if you're looking for gay-friendly sunbathing and socializing.
Rio de Janeiro´s city beaches are famous the world over, and with good reason. But if you´ve been partying hard during your Rio vacation and are feeling the need for a little rest and relaxation in more tranquil surrounds, the Costa Verde beckons. This paradisiacal stretch of coastline takes in innumerous beaches and more islands than one could count - the Costa Verde town of Ilha Grande is in itself surrouned by 365 islands. The largest of these is the vast nature reserve of Ilha Grande, whose history as a prison for dangerous criminals and, before that, a leper colony, have not stopped visitors from flocking here in the search for isolated beaches surrounded by wild palms and chattering monkeys, as opposed to the high rise hotels of Copacabana. Of the beaches on Ilha Grande, Lopes Mendes is the most dramatically beautiful with its white sands and lapping waves.
Some 40-minutes bus or cab ride away from Ipanema and Copacabana, this scenic beach is a popular hangout for surfers and body boarders. Although packed at weekends and on public holidays, it is usually blissfully quiet during the week. The ambiance is a world away from the touristic rush and crush of Rio´s more famous beaches, and the jungle-fringed setting is nothing short of spectacular. Nearby, informal bar-restaurants offer a chance to refuel, and the atmosphere here is a whole lot more laid back and less hectic than that of central Rio. Although not far from the rush and crush of the city, it feels like a whole world away.
This beautiful park, located right next door to Rio de Janeiro's famous Botanical Gardens, is largely overlooked by tourists. More fool them, as the park is home to one of the most spectacular builldings in the city, framed by the figure of Chriar the Redeemer atop his mountain perch. This building is currently home to an art school, and there are regular exhibitions, and is also the location for a coffee shop and restaurant that make great options for a leisurely brunch. The park may be recognisable to hip hop fans - it appears in the video for --Beautiful--, by Snoop Dogg and Pharell.
There's more to Rio de Janeiro than its beaches, and the artistic heart of the city can be found up in the jungle-clad hills of Santa Teresa. Here, pastel-colored colonial mansions have been converted into bucolic bars, friendly guest houses, artists' studios and some of the best restaurants in Rio, and the lofty location makes for some terrific views over the city. Start your visit to Santa Teresa at Largo do Guimaraes, the busy square at the start of the city, and follow the steep cobbled streets to discover vintage clothes stores, bustling drinking dens and some of the friendliest locals in the city.
One of the most famous mountain peaks in the world, Sugar Loaf scarcely needs an introduction. But while you may be familiar with the tourist board images of the cable car making its dizzying ascent up to the top of the mountain, nothing can prepare you for the spectacular views and the true splendor of Rio's cityscape as it unfurls below. The cable car makes two stops - calling first at Morro da Urca, Sugar Loaf's smaller sister mountain, before continuing its journey to the lofty vantage point. Sugar Loaf juts right out of the Atlantic Ocean, and the sweeping vistas of white sand beaches, jungle-clad mountains and crashing waves will take your breath away.
No trip to Rio would be complete without a trip to see the art deco Cristo, and the views from the feet of this most iconic of statues are truly breathtaking. One of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, the statue stands 38 meters tall atop Corcovado, or 'hunchback' mountain - which at 710 meters is the highest peak in this city of rugged mountains. While minibus trips run up to the statue, the best way to make the ascent is to ride the funicular railway. As the little red train climbs through the jungle-clad hills, leaving sweeping vistas in its wake, it's not uncommon for live samba bands to entertain passengers.
Along with the Christ Statue and the beaches, one of the most emblematic images of Rio de Janeiro is the bright yellow bonde - or tram - rattling over the Lapa Aqueduct and through the cobbled streets of Santa Teresa. Out of action for several years following a serious accident in 2011, the trams are now back in business, with improved safety features (no more free rides for those brave enough to stand on the running boards for the duration of the journey) and more modern trams. The journey remains as much of a thrill as ever, departing from downtown to clatter over the whitewashed Lapa Arches, taking in amazing views of Centro before making the steep climb up into the historic hillside neighborhood of Santa Teresa.
For a truly luxurious experience in Rio, it's hard to beat the spa at Copacabana Palace. This classic hotel added a five-star spa and beauty salon in 2007, and the treatments here are all about making those well-heeled guests feel like a million dollars. There are a number of treatments for couples, as well as pre-wedding treatments, making this one of the top spots in Rio for a romantic spa treatment. You don't need to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy a beauty treatment, massage or sauna, but you will need to book in advance, and it goes without saying that treatments at this luxury hotel spa don't come cheap. If you want to be pampered in style though, this is the place to come
Located between the world famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, Arpoador is not a beach whose name trips off the tongue as easily as those of its more famous neighbors, but this curve of sand is well worth your beach time. Really an extension of Ipanema beach, Arpoador is most notable for the giant rock that juts out from the shore into the crashing waves. This rock is lined with walking trails, which affordsome fantastic views over Rio de Janeiro´s stunning coastline. It´s a favorite spot with romantic couples, too, and the sunset views from here are guaranteed to set even the hardest heart a-flutter.