Rio de Janeiro – beaches, football, Christ, Sugar Loaf Mountain, dental-floss bikinis. And juice

It isn’t hard to get your five a day in Brazil. On practically every street corner in Rio there’s a juice bar where, for around £2/$3 you can get a freshly-squeezed glass of something that you’ve never heard of or can’t pronounce.

Sucos are juices straight up; Vitaminas are blended with milk. My favourite was Fruta do Conde (custard apple), which really did have a sweet custardy flavour. Abacate (avocado) is another goody too, blended with milk and a bit of sugar. Maracuja is passionfruit, and abacaxi (pineapple) is worth it just for the pronunciation alone (ah-bah-cash-eee).

Then there’s superfruit acai, which is beetroot-purple and served as a sort of frozen sherbert/ice cream, with a bit of guarana juice, and perhaps some granola – great for when you’ve been for a jog along Copacabana beach (… I’d know!)

Acai. You can also pick up a coconut at the beach for about £1.70 / $2.70

If you are heading for the beach there are ways you can minimize standing out like a tourist, even if you aren’t quite prepared to wear a dental-floss bikini (ladies) or a pair of sungas (gentlemen), the thicker-sided speedos that most locals sport. For a start, never take a towel, especially not to lie down on; locals either stand or sit on a folding chair. And they don’t take much with them at all – a mobile, a wrap (kanga), sunglasses and a bit of cash for snacks.


If you want to escape from the crowds, you can go hiking in Tijuca, the world’s largest urban rain forest and just a 15 minute drive from the main tourist hang outs. I had Gabriel Morand as my guide (who you can book through local Brit-run tour operator Dehouche), who’s also a biologist so was easily able to point out monkeys, snakes, humming birds and toucans as well as a dizzying variety of plants and trees. It’s a fun and rewarding, if sweaty, way to see a very different side of the city, and you get great views.

Gabriel Morand

As for staying, I was in the Copacabana Palace Hotel which is certainly the place to be if your budget will stretch to it and you fancy a bit of old-world glamour. But if you want to live like a Carioca, hire a local apartment through Rodrigo Harold, whose company Rio Luxury Boutique rents out chic flats and houses from around £100 a night to £1,500+ (and for the latter you are getting seriously swanky, with pads in lush suburbs like Joatinga with views to match – see below).

Rodrigo Harold, at one of the apartments he hires out

And if you’re looking elsewhere in the country for accommodation with heaps of individual character, try Hidden Pousadas run by expat Brazilophile Alison McGowan.

Ipanema sunset

A really good local blog with tons of practical info about the city is Gringo Rio