Bom Dia! I’ve just returned from an absolutely incredible trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with PayPal. Rio has been on my bucket list for years and I almost can’t believe that I can finally check it off! With the highly anticipated Rio 2016 Olympics just weeks away, PayPal brought a group of people together from all over the world, to meet and experience Rio de Janeiro like a true Carioca (local native of Rio). Countries represented included: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, USA, China, Japan, India, Australia and Canada. There were about 30 of us in total and in the short 4 days we spent together, we’ve already become friends and made lasting memories. (#PayPalCarioca crew, if you guys are reading this, I miss you all already!)
PayPal is a perfect travel buddy. It’s a great way to pay for experiences, with no need to exchange currency or give out your credit card details. There are tons of travel merchants accepting PayPal online now, offering a new and superior level of financial security for travelers like you and me! All of the places we visited and experienced on this trip accept PayPal payments, making travel in Rio that much easier.
My trip began with an overnight flight from Toronto direct, non-stop to Rio de Janeiro. Upon landing at Rio Galeão International Airport, I took a car booked via 99Taxis to my home for the next few days: Hotel Pestana Rio Atlantica. Right on Copacabana Beach, the 5-star hotel was absolutely beautiful. My room was very spacious and offered an unobstructed view of the beach.
Without wasting anytime, I met up with our group for lunch and then set out on an explorative walk with my new Chicago-based friend, Elliot of Passion Passport. We walked from our hotel along Copacabana Beach and around the corner to Ipanema Beach, stopping many times for photo opps and to soak it all in. After dreaming of Ipanema Beach and Rio for so many years, it was such a surreal moment to actually be there in real life. It was exactly as I had imagined, if not better!
For our first night, we ate dinner on the rooftop of the Hotel Rio Atlantica, enjoying the night lights of Copacabana from above.
Day 2 started bright and early with breakfast at 8am. By 9 o’clock, we were out the door and on our way to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)! Our city tours for the trip were arranged through Crux Ecoaventura (a PayPal travel merchant) and we were super lucky to have the company’s founder, Marcelo as our tour guide. The views from the Sugarloaf were nothing short of epic. From the many lookout points, we could see downtown Rio on one side, as well as Copacabana on the other.
For lunch, we went to Fogo de Chão for an authentic, Brazilian steakhouse experience. If you were following along on my Snapchat, you’ll know that I WAY over ate my quota in meat that afternoon and even when I didn’t want anymore, it kept landing on my plate, ha! Needless to say, it was absolutely delicious.
Following lunch, we made our way to the newly revamped Porto Maravilha, port region of Rio de Janeiro. The whole area has been refreshed, completed just in time for the 2016 Olympics. Among the various attractions, the area is home to the brand new Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow). The museum highlights ideas, ecology and sustainability through a highly captivating exhibition that challenges us to think about how our actions today will affect the future. The building itself is architecturally stunning and uses 40% less energy than conventional buildings.
After a couple hours of discovery in the Museum of Tomorrow, we continued on to the Escadaria Selarón, known in English as the Selaron Steps. You might recognize them from Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” music video. The colorful, tiled steps were created as a tribute to the Brazilian people by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón. There are 215 steps, covered in over 2000 tiles that were collected from over 60 countries around the world.
That night, we went to Ginga Tropical for a fabulous Brazilian Samba experience. Dinner was served, but not before some Samba dance lessons for everyone! It was so much fun. Following our little dance lesson, we sat down to eat and enjoyed a show full of live music and electrifying Samba dance and Capoeira performances.
Day 3 started at Arpoador, the peninsula that separates Copacabana and Ipanema. The rocky area is one of the best surf spots in Rio de Janeiro.
Here’s our whole group together at Arpoador!
Next on the agenda was a boat cruise through a lagoon in the Barra De Tijuca neighborhood. We sailed around on two boats and even had some live music performers serenading us as we explored the lagoon environment.
We docked for lunch at Laguna Restaurante, which is only accessible by boat on the lagoon. The quaint seafood restaurant has a large outdoor eating area, with thatched roofing and lush gardens. The food was so delicious. Our group enjoyed a selection of authentic dishes like the shrimp moqueca and other seafood dishes.
In the afternoon, we ventured into the Vidigal favela and embarked on a hike up Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Mountain). Unfortunately, it was quite foggy, so the view wasn’t as spectacular as it could be, but we did get to encounter some curious marmosets that came out of the trees to check us out!
Dinner on Day 3 was at Rubaiyat Brasil, which overlooks the Jockey Club Brasileiro equestrian track. Another amazing meal for the books and melt-in-your-mouth steak.
On our final day in Rio, you could say they saved the best for last. A visit to Corcovado and Christ The Redeemer statue. I mean, you can’t go to Rio and not visit the iconic statue.
It was a cloudy morning, but the sky opened up just as we made it to the Christ. And shortly after we left, a thunderstorm began. Unbelievable!
SHOP MY TRAVEL STYLE:
All of our activities were payable via PayPal. I would suggest booking tickets for Corcovado and Museu do Amanhã well in advance online, as ticket lines at peak times are long and you don’t want to waste your time waiting in line in Rio.
The #RioByPayPal #PayPalCarioca experience was unforgettable. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to visit Rio de Janeiro for the first time. Everyone on the trip was so much fun to travel with and our Brazilian hosts were beyond warm and welcoming.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that you need to visit Rio de Janeiro after reading this post! If you’re already planning a trip, be sure to check out my Best of Rio Travel Guide with my recommendations on the best of the city, with highlights I’ve selected as the must-do/see parts of the itinerary I experienced.
Special thanks to everyone at PayPal who organized this fantastic trip and to Elliot and Malini for helping me take all of the photos with me in them!
Until next time…