Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Hang gliding

Hang gliding and paragliding from the Pedra Bonita peak, overlooking São Conrado, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is a spectacular thrill, and a great way to see Rio from a different angle. After 15 minutes of breathtaking soaring over the treetops, you land on the soft sands of Praia Pepino. There are several highly professional operators offering tandem flights, including Just Fly, run by Paulo Celani, a professional pilot with 23 years’ experience.

Tel: (21) 2268 0565.


Stroll down Ipanema Beach on early mornings and late afternoons to see dozens of surfers in action. Surfing is huge in Rio – as huge as the waves that pound the beaches all along the Zona Sul. Prainha and Recreio, south of the city, are other top spots for surfing in Rio, although inner city beaches, such as Arpoador and Leblon, are good options to get some surfing practice. Rent a board from Invicta Surf Shop on Rua Francisco Otaviano, Arpoador, or check out surfing schools, such as Rio Surf n Stay, which offers courses, tours and accommodation.

Invicta Surf Shop
Tel: (21) 2523 0499.

Rio Surf n Stay
Tel: (21) 3418 1133


Despite the fact that Rio is an ideal destination for climbers, this sport is still little explored. The granite peaks looming over the city present a challenge for even the most experienced climber; but there are easier routes up some mountains and specialist companies run guided ascents for all levels of climber. Sugar Loaf and Corcovado are two of the most popular and hardest climbs, but a couple of hours’ drive from Rio, in the nearby Serra dos Orgãos National Park, the Dedo de Deus is a fantastic alternative for dedicated types. Climbinrio is one of several companies run by experienced professional instructors.

Tel: (21) 2245 1108.

Beach volley

It is not unusual to walk down Ipanema Beach and see professional athletes playing beach volley. After football, it’s Brazilians’ favourite sport, and the canny Cariocas have managed to combine the two, with futevolei. Many visitors are happy just watching this dynamic game, but you can also take beach volleyball lessons on some of the hundreds of public pitches; for instance by Posto 10 on Ipanema Beach. Just turn up the day before to book a place; lessons usually take place mid-morning.


For the hardcore urban cycler, Rio is an easy task - so long as you stay off the main roads. Most of the cycle paths run along the seafront (Flamengo, Botafogo, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Barra) and around the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. You can rent bikes from the municipal BikeRio network, with dozens of pick-up points around the city. Plus, there’s an increasing number of companies that run guided bike tours in and around the city, such as Special Bike, Rua São João Batista 28A, Botafogo.

Special Bike
Tel: (21) 2539 3980.


Nothing comes more naturally to Cariocas than dancing. A night out in a Lapa Gafiera (Samba dancehall) or a chic Ipanema nightclub is a fantastic experience, and Rio has many private courses and professional schools to help budding dancers shake those hips. Have a go at the deceptively simple samba, or a more challenging lambada, afoxé and forró: classes for these and many more nifty moves are available from professional dancer and choreographer Carlinho de Jesus, Rua Álvaro Ramos 11, Botafogo.

Tel: (21) 2541 6186.


If you’re stuck for something to do on a rainy day in Rio, why not learn to cook - Brazilian style. The highlight of Cook in Rio’s class (beside the yummy meal) is the history lesson that goes with it. The one-day course includes the preparation of classic dishes such as the blow-out feijoada stew, or moqueca, a spicy seafood speciality from Bahia. And you'll find out how to mix a mean caipirinha, Rio's favourite cocktail of cachaça (cane rum) and lime juice that helps wash it all down.

English-spoken cooking lessons are available from Cook in Rio, Rua Ronald Carvalho 154, Copacabana.

Cook in Rio
Tel: (21) 8761 3653.


With its mountainous green curtain that is Tijuca National Park, Rio is ideally placed for walks and treks through the last vestiges of Atlantic forest. Its exotic tropical flora and the animal-spotting opportunities it provides (monkeys, toucans, morpho butterflies, and more) will add an extra allure to your adventure. Plus you'll thrill at the breathtaking views from the mirantes (lookout points), and rocky summits.

Rio Hiking
Tel: (21) 2552 9204.


You might be lucky enough to catch a group of young Cariocas gyrating acrobatically around each other on a street corner, to the twang of the single-stringed berimbau. This is capoeira, a hypnotic martial art thought to have been brought to Brazil by African slaves in the 18th or 19th century. It now attracts a big and growing fan-base from around the world, drawn by its skillful blend of athleticism and grace – participants are supposed to get close but not quite touch each other. Capoeira schools have sprung up all over Rio, offering courses for all ages. Contact the Asociação de Capoeira Angola (Angolan Capoeira Association) for details.

Tel: (21) 3209 2518.


Whether you fancy a gentle riverside amble or a rigorous cross-country trek, the forests, mountainsides and waterways around Rio offer some wonderful routes for exploring on horseback. There are several operators that run a range of tours and equestrian courses, including Haras Pegasus, one of the best known riding stables in Vargem Grande, beyond Recreio dos Bandeirantes, in the far west of the city.
Haras Pegasus

Estrada dos Bandeirantes, 24.845 - Vargem Grande
Tel: (21)2428 1228.