Top 10 Adventure Spots in Brazil
#1 Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (Maranhão state)
Located in a transition zone of Cerrado, Caatinga and Amazon Biomes, the park covers a total area of 155 thousand hectares made up mostly of rolling sand dunes and seasonal lagoons, bordered by 70 km of Atlantic Ocean coast. The main port of access is the town of Barreirinhas, the largest of the three towns located inside the park and an approximate 4-hour drive from the historic city and state capital, São Luis. We recommend planning at least two nights inside the park. From Barreirinhas, the best way to explore the grandeur of seemingly endless rolling white sand dunes is by taking a tour in a 4x4 vehicle, with options for half day or full day tours. Role, run or walk down the dunes and cool down from the tropical heat in one of the seasonal lagoons that form after the winter rains, then finish the day with an amazing sunset. The next day, explore the different biomes and vegetation along the Preguiças River (literally Lazy River) in a speedboat until reaching the coast and one of the beautiful beaches, then enjoy fresh coconut water and fried shrimp!
Off the beaten path: For the more adventurous we recommend getting up before the break of dawn and taking a sunrise tour with breakfast served on the dunes, or staying an extra couple days and trekking from Barreirinhas to Atins to learn how the locals survive in this desert environment.
Best time to go: June to September, after the rainy season when the lagoons are most full.
How to get there: Fly into São Luis and then take a 4-hour transfer to Barreirinhas.
Ideal amount of time to visit: 4 days, starting with a night in São Luis
#2 Iguaçu Falls (Paraná state)
An adventure lover’s paradise, bordering Brazil and Argentina and located in rich protected rainforest. A total of 275 waterfalls join to form Iguaçu Falls and span an area 3km wide and 80m high. The Brazilian side park is shorter and can be visited in a half day. To fully enjoy the park, we recommend doing a bike tour from the visitor’s center to the start of the wooden foot path and first viewpoint (1.2 km) and then continuing by foot. The Argentinean side park is much larger and consists of a series of 6 walking trails. It is best to reserve a full day here. The falls can further be experienced up close and personal in an unmissable boat tour under the falls. Both sides offer this option, but the Gran Aventura tour on the Argentinean side gets closer to the falls. Finally, to finish exploring the falls from every angle, finish the day with a helicopter ride over this magnificent natural phenomenon.
Off the beaten path: Spend an extra day in the area and visit the Guarani Indigenous reserve on the Argentinean side to learn about their culture, customs and deep connection with the surrounding forest. Or, explore the Atlantic Forest by foot, the Iguazú river by canoe, and stops at three different waterfalls on the Aguaray half day multisport adventure.
Best time to visit: Year-round
How to get there: Daily flights from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro will connect you to most places in Brazil or internationally.
Ideal amount of time to visit: At least two days, with one day on the Brazilian side and one day on the Argentinean side.
#3 Rio de Janeiro (state of Rio de Janeiro):
One of Brazil’s most cosmopolitan cities and famous for its rich art, music, breathtaking sights and lively festivals, most notably of which is Carnival. Moreover, the ‘Marvelous City’ as it is often referred to, is also surrounded by the world’s largest urban forest: Floresta Tijuca. With an array of daily arrivals from international destinations, most people will pass through the city on a visit to Brazil. On a quick visit, sights not to be missed are the fashionable beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, the Tijuca Forest and Christ the Redeemer statue for a bird’s eye view of the city, and Sugarloaf Hill for an amazing sunset and great views of the city’s southern beaches. We also recommend visiting a Samba School and learning about the preparation and criteria that goes into the Carnival parades. For nature lovers, a hike through the Tijuca Forest is a must, with the most famous trails being Pedra Bonita, Pedra do Telgrafo, or Pedra Gávea. Finally, visit Projeto Morrinho, a mock favela made out of painted bricks turned social project led by local residents to share their reality and escape poverty, to learn about the city’s socioeconomic divide.
Off the beaten path: Take our Vida Carioca tour to explore the city like a local on the local subway and experience the city’s best kept secrets with a local guide.
Best time to visit: Year-round, however between May and October the city will be less crowded and there will be less rain. Between the end of December until after Carnival (usually the end of February) the city will be really busy as it is summer holidays in Brazil.
How to get there: The city has two international airports, Santos Dumont and Galeão, connecting it to cities around the world and to other parts of the country.
Ideal amount of time to visit: Spend at least 3 nights in Rio, but there is enough to do to keep busy for at least a week or more.
#4 Amazon Jungle (Amazonas State):
The world’s largest and most biodiverse rainforest spans over 9 countries in South America, 60% of which is found in Brazil. Its numerous ecosystems, from the blackwater Igapó flooded forests to the dense terra firme (firm ground) forests of towering trees, give way to a myriad of rich flora and fauna, and unique local cultures and lifestyles. The Brazilian Amazon cuts across 9 states, but we recommend flying into Manaus, in the state of Amazonas, and starting your adventure from there. The best way to understand the Amazon is to immerse in the local culture by visiting local communities, learning about conservation efforts and witnessing the extraordinary natural sites on either a multi-day boat cruise or a stay at a typical Amazonian Lodge. On either option, the days will be filled with nature hikes, birdwatching walks, river kayaking, caiman spotting, community visits and picture-perfect sunsets all with specialist guides who to teach about the regional customs, edible Amazonian fruits and medicinal plant life. Finally, a trip to this area is not complete without a stop at the meeting of the waters, where the Solimoes and Negro Rivers meet and run side by side but don’t mix.
Off the beaten path: Spend an extra day in Manaus and visit the REUSA community social project in the periphery community of Redenção neighborhood, which uses art to empower local female residents to clean up their community, in addition to providing an alternate source of income.
Best time to visit: The Amazon can be visited year-round, but between July and November the temperatures are a little cooler, the rains are less intense and there are less mosquitos.
How to get there: The starting point for Amazonian Adventures is Manaus, which has international flights from Europe and the US, or via connections through São Paulo, Brasilia or Rio de Janeiro.
Ideal amount of time to visit: For the best experience we recommend at least 4 nights: 1 night in Manaus and 3 nights in the jungle (cruise or lodge).
#5 Pantanal (Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul states):
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site of environmental importance, the Pantanal is the world’s largest continental wetland and covers an area of 210,000 km². Most of this flat land is in brazil, but it also spans across parts of Paraguay and Bolivia. This ecosystem has the highest density of wildlife in the Americas and provides a rare opportunity to observe the local fauna up close, including endless birdlife, fish, reptiles, and mammals, such as Capibaras and the elusive Jaguar! The best way to explore the area it by staying in a traditional fazenda – old colonial plantations that have been transformed into ecotourism projects – with meals and activities included, such as horseback riding, walking trails and canoeing through the wetlands. To spot Jaguars we recommend spending a couple days in the Porto Jofre Area, with lodging on a seasonally stationed boat hotel and daily excursions through the wet plains by speedboat in search of jaguars.
Best time to visit: Between July and October, when it is driest, and you can spot more animals. This is especially prime season for jaguar sightings.
How to get there: The Pantanal is divided into north and south. The gateway to the North Pantanal is Cuiabá, whereas the gateway to the South Pantanal is Campo Grande. Both cities offer daily flights from São Paulo, making it easy to connect with international destinations.
Ideal amount of time to visit: We recommend at least 3 nights in a typical fazenda and, for those in search of Jaguars, we recommend spending an additional 2 nights in Porto Jofre.
#6 Salvador (Bahia state):
Founded in 1549, Salvador is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas, was Brazil’s first capital, and is home to a priceless legacy of buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. The bubbling melting pot of Portuguese, African and indigenous cultural influences found in the city have combined over the years to give way to a unique culture that can be experienced in the local music and dance, cuisine, festivals, diverse religions and local lifestyle. A ‘journey through the ages’ is best begun in the historical center of Pelourinho, a UNESCO world heritage site where colorful houses, atmospheric streets and living history are the norm! Visiting the rainbow-like displays on show at São Joaquim’s bustling market is also a must, the perfect place to both haggle your way to a bargain (like the local ‘Baianos’ do), while also hearing about the local social initiatives throughout the city. The African traditions of Bahia and Brazil are integral to the identity of the country, and can best be understood while watching an authentic dance performance at the legendary Miguel Santana Theatre.
Off the beaten path: Stay an extra day and take a journey to the hinterlands to colonial towns and sugarcane plantations, or explore the beautiful beaches of the north coast, of which the most famous is Praia do Forte.
Best time to visit: The weather is generally nice all year round, but between November and January there is less rain.
How to get there: Direct international flights to the airport in Salvador (SSA) or via connections with other major cities in Brazil.
Ideal amount of time to visit: We recommend spending at least 3 nights and 2 full days.
#7 Chapada Diamantina:
Brimming with unimaginable beauty, otherworldly underground pools and cutting canyons of ancient trees and great cliff edges, Chapada Diamantina National Park is the ultimate adventure destination. The region first became famous in the 19th century for diamond excavation and export, but today time is much better spent enjoying the incredible cliffs and valleys, rich wildlife and turquoise lagoons than in the dark diamond mines. Not to be missed are the creepy crags of the Mosquito Waterfall and the impossibly clear underground lake of Poço Azul. For the most adventurous, we recommend trekking the Vale do Pati, over 70km of blissful trials and rocky climbs leading to hilltop lookouts of the blockbuster landscape below.
Off the beaten path: For the most adventurous, we recommend trekking the Vale do Pati, over 70km of blissful trials and rocky climbs leading to hilltop lookouts of the blockbuster landscape below and staying and staying in local’s houses along the way.
Best time to visit: May to September, when there is less rain and the trails are better for trekking.
How to get there: The gateway city to Chapada Diamantina is the city of Lençóis. There are flights several times a week from Salvador to Lençóis, or it is also possible to go by land (an approximate 5.5-hour drive between Salvador & Lençóis).
Ideal amount of time to visit: At least 3 nights in Lençóis and two full days, but for the trekking you will need 5 nights, including a night in Lençóis on either end of the trekking tour.
#8 Ilha Grande & Green Coast (Rio de Janeiro State):
Few places can match the pristine beauty of Brazil’s Costa Verde (Green Coast), a stunning coastline of virgin Atlantic Rainforest, impossibly clear waters, colonial architecture and towering mountains, all just a couple of hours drive from the buzz of Rio de Janeiro. Among the highlights is Ilha Grande, an island and very well-protected and preserved national park, where dense jungle and white beaches are the order of the day. The island is only reachable by boat and are not permitted on the island, which therefore creates the perfect conditions for a deep connection with nature. With its 130 km of coastline and rugged surroundings, including 34 small peninsulas and 106 beaches, the best way to explore the island is a combination of hiking on the diverse trails leading to incredible views or by taking a boat tour around the island. Then refresh in the waterfalls or cool down with a swim at one of the dreamy white sandy beaches.
Off the beaten path: To experience the full extent of the green coast, multi-day private sailboat tours are available leaving from Rio de Janeiro that comb along the coast with stops at Ilha Grande and the colonial town of Paraty.
Best time to visit: Between May and October, when there is less rainfall and the heat is less intense. But it can be visited all year round.
How to get there: Fly into Rio de Janeiro and then transfer to the coastal town of Conceição de Jacareí (approximately 2 hours). From there, take a flexboat to Vila do Abraão, the only town in Ilha Grande (a 35-minute boat ride).
Ideal amount of time to visit: We recommend at least 4 days and 3 nights, including transfer time from/to Rio de Janeiro on either end.
#9 Fernando de Noronha (Pernambuco State):
Located 354 km from Brazil’s mainland and only reachable by plane or boat, the 18.4km² tropical island of Fernando de Noronha is the definition of paradise. The island consists of a national marine park and natural sanctuary and the influx of visitors is heavily controlled. A onetime marine park fee is required to enter the beaches and a daily permanence fee to stay on the island. These facts give a certain exclusiveness to visiting the island and have helped maintain its impressive sustainable ethos. The clear waters and numerous dolphin colonies are among the attractions and contribute to the island’s fame as one of the best diving locations in Brazil and the world. Moreover, the island’s Baía do Sancho beach recently took the top honor in Trip Advisor’s Top 25 beaches in the world list. Aside from Baía do Sancho, we highly recommend hiking the numerous trails along forest-carpeted hills that lead to jaw-dropping views of Abreus Cove, Baía dos Porcos, Praia do Leão, Pico Cliff and the Southeastern Bay. Then, top off the day with a dip in one of the natural pools or watch an incredible sunset.
Off the beaten path: Explore the island by foot with a local guide. Our favorite trails are Costa dos Mirantes & Mar de Dentro.
Best time to visit: December to February, minus holidays. This tropical island is enjoyable year-round, but we suggest avoiding the busiest month of January, when prices will be much higher.
How to get there: There are daily flights from Recife (Pernambuco), and flights several times a week from São Paulo.
Ideal amount of time to visit: We recommend spending at least 3 nights and 2 full days.
#10 Bonito (Mato Grosso do Sul state):
Bonito, meaning ‘beautiful’ in Portuguese, is a haven for green initiatives and eco-friendly activities where nature lovers will find the most varied scenarios to delight the eyes, mind and body. Must do activities include snorkeling in crystalline rivers and ponds found in natural caves and observing fish of various species, floating down lazy rivers, hiking trails leading to beautiful waterfalls, rappelling down caves, and horseback riding. Visitors will be surprised by the amount of attractions in such a small area! There is a limited number of visitors allowed at each attraction per day, so we recommend booking ahead of time.
Off the beaten path: For adreline-seekers, we recommend rappelling down the 72m high Anhumas Abyss to an impossibly clear turquoise pond.
Best time to visit: Bonito can be visited year-round, however between March and June, following the rainy season, the surrounding vegetation is green, temperatures are most pleasant, and the rivers and pond waters remain crystalline.
How to get there: Fly into Campo Grande and then take a land transfer (an approximate 3.5-hour drive).
Ideal amount of time to visit: We recommend spending at least two full days and 3 nights in the area.