By Rachel Anderson, Rachel Anderson is a journalist travelling South America. She has previously worked for Sky News and Channel 4 News.
Tuesday 6 Feb 2018 2:02 pm
This weekend, Rio de Janeiro will burst into life for the most famous party in the world.
The Samba bands have finished rehearsing, the costumes are in the wardrobe, and enough glitter to put Glastonbury Festival to shame is ready to go.
But if you’re already in the country, why not spend some time travelling south to discover coastlines surrounded by jungle, with water so blue and warm it rivals South East Asia, or trek to hidden waterfalls, kayak to lagoons and jump aboard a caipirinha cruise.
Explore an island paradise within easy reach of Rio
A ferry from the mainland takes you to another world, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Ilha Grande, 70 miles west of Rio, is a bonafide island paradise.
If the southern coast has a star in its crown, this is it.
Cars are banned here so if you need to get around, you’d better get a boat taxi.
It’s home to Lopes Mendes – voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world by Vogue. But there are hundreds more spots to explore.
Feeling active? There are beautiful treks along forest paths that eventually lead you to the coast where you can reward your tired muscles with a swim in the warm, calm sea.
Swim in tropical waters surrounded by jungle
A short hop south-west takes you to Paraty, where a not-too-shabby coastline comes with the backdrop of lush, green mountains.
The historic centre of Paraty also has lots to offer, having once served as an important port for the Portuguese.
Explore the cobbled streets with beautiful mansions and churches that are hundreds of years old.
Had enough history and feeling daring? There’s a waterfall 30 minutes by bus from the centre with a perfectly formed smooth rock to create a natural water slide that locals perilously surf down.
Thirsty? Take a Caipirinha cruise
No trip to Paraty is complete without jumping aboard the Caipboat.
Explore the many islands, jump from the boat into deep clear water, and do it all with free-flowing Caipirinhas all day long.
Enjoy lunch at a tiny beach restaurant serving the freshest seafood, and then get back onto the ship for more adventures in the afternoon.
See turtles and trek on the famous beaches of Costa Verde
45 minutes south from Paraty takes you to Trindade, home to some of the most famous beaches in the area.
Try Meio beach if you want to dive into the waves.
It’s worth the trip to the furthest one, Cachadaco beach, for some real peace and quiet. Opposite Cachadaco, you’ll find natural swimming pools with calm water to bath in.
Head further south to Ubatuba, where over 100 beaches host some of the strongest surf in Brazil and calm waters hosting a feeding area for sea turtles.
Don’t skip a weekend partying in Sao Paulo
By this point, you might want a night’s sleep without sand in your sheets.
What better place to stop than Sao Paulo, a massively under-rated city with fantastic food and nightlife to jolt you out of your blissed-out beach vibe.
First, try the cheesy, doughy, local classic Coxinha with chicken or prawns at Veloso Bar.
Next, head to Augusta Street on a Friday or Saturday night to drink Caipirinhas before hot footing it to any of the nearby clubs to boogie to South American bangers.
Play in the waves in Florianopolis
One of the most famous spots on Brazil’s southern coastline is thriving Florianopolis.
Built around a blue lagoon, the island’s many beaches have everything you could want – from samba by the sea, to a sweeping beach that leads to a cooling waterfall hidden in the surrounding jungle.
Explore the fancy north of the island, where the country’s rich and famous have their mansions by the sea, or the bustling south, where you’ll jostle to get your spot among the others enjoying the music and activity on busy Campeche beach.
Ready for action? Take a surf lesson with Evandro Santos Surf School, where you can take group lessons or go for one-to-ones if you’re too embarrassed to let your fellow students watch you wipe out.
After all that action, time to treat yourself
You’ve surfed, you’ve hiked, you’ve braved a natural waterfall – you must be ready to relax.
Delicious churros and seaside caipirinhas are the standard around here, but thanks to Puravida Champanharia, if you head to Praia Mole you can now have bubbly on the beach.
Go on, you deserve it.
Where to stay
Atlantica Jungle Lodge is an exclusive hotel with only four rooms nestled in the rainforest of Ilha Grande.
It can lay claim to being the closest accommodation to one of the top-rated beaches in the world, Lopes Mendes.
The colourfully decorated, boutique style rooms all have easy access to the stunning scenery outside – some offering private balconies with hammocks to relax in.
Rooms at Atlantica Jungle Lodge start at £145 per night for a double.
The other side of the island sits Paraiso Azul Retiro, a dreamy resort where the jungle meets the ocean – turn off your phone and enjoy the sea air.
Grab one of the resort’s kayaks and discover nearby beaches where you can go full Robinson Crusoe, or explore the stunning Blue Lagoon nearby.
Eleven rooms surround a restaurant serving fresh food, a yoga studio and a pool and sauna. Snorkeling, scuba diving and boat trips are also on offer.
Rooms at Paraiso Azul Retiro start at £130 per night for a double.
This charming and romantic hotel offers the benefits of being in the heart of Florianopolis, while offering a quiet and peaceful retreat.
Elegant, colonial architecture is complemented by carefully and individually decorated rooms, each with its own special character.
Lounge in the four-poster bed of the Master Suite, which features a wooden hot tub, or go all out and treat yourself to the Loft Suite for a private pool and lakeside views.
Rooms at Hotel Boutique Quinta das Videiras start at £170 per night for a double.
How to get there
TAP Air Portugal flies from London to Rio de Janeiro starting at £319.