Rio de Janeiro is an outdoor lovers’ dream, and it’s easy to understand why. The city has myriad natural beauties. The “Cariocas”, as the residents are called, love to exercise, swim in the sea, hike and admire the sunset after mountain climbing and eat on their patios enjoying the view. Thus, in this three-day route through the ‘Wonderful City’, you can expect open-air activities, healthy cuisine restaurants and fitness challenges in postcard-perfect scenarios and a feeling of accomplishment at the end.
DAY 1 (15,471 steps, 2,202 calories)
7 a.m.: In the first day, begin by exploring the natural beauties of Barra da Tijuca and Recreio. Head down to Grumari, a beach located inside an Environmental Protection area, and do your morning run on the tracks, circuits and visuals of this part of the city. The route from Grumari to the beach area of Prainha is a beautiful 4.3 kilometres path. If you like the sea, go ahead and surf here: Prainha is where you find the best waves of the city.
Av. do Pepê, S/N – Quiosque 11
+55 21 2433-1400
11 a.m.: Afterwards, head down to the Secreto Pool (Secret), named after its hidden location not known by many. It is a natural pool with crystalline water formed on the rocks of the hillside, in the path from Praia da Macumba to Grumari. To get there, you need to hike down for 10 minutes through woods, rocks and beautiful landscapes. Here is a tip: avoid the Sunday crowds.
1 p.m.: For lunch, head down to Quebra-Mar, at the beginning of Barra da Tijuca, and do a strategic pit stop at Barraca do Pepê. This is the place for suntanned people, for wave and wind surfing. The kiosk belonged to Pedro Paulo Carneiro, or Pepê for those who knew him, a Rio de Janeiro figure who inspired the musician Caetano Veloso to write his famous song, “Menino do Rio”. Pepê was a hang gliding World Champion and a finalist at the Pipe Master Hawaii in the 70s. He opened the kiosk on the beach to offer healthy food. The athlete died in a tragic hang gliding accident, but the kiosk remains as a patrimony from Rio de Janeiro. The most popular items here are the healthy sandwiches and the blended açaí, guaraná and granola smoothies.
4 p.m.: To close the day, how about hiking once more to see the sunset from one of the Rio de Janeiro postcards? Urca has a natural complex with more than 200 routes for tracking, rappel and climbing, and Morro da Urca is one of them. Many people go up to the top of the mountain on cable cars, but you can access the slopes through the track, passing by lookouts and well preserved stretches of the Atlantic Forest. The route starts at Pista Cláudio Coutinho, in Praia Vermelha, and has some steep points, but is safe for children. Everything is well signalised and safe.
The walk ends at the top of the mountain, where there is also the cable car station to the Sugarloaf. Once up here, there are two options: go to the hill rock face (where some groups do rappelling) or take the cable car to go to the Sugarloaf Mountain. The Sugarloaf is a second mountain, taller, and accessible only through cable cars or mountain climbing.
R. Joana Angélica, 40 – Ipanema
+55 21 2247-9101
8 p.m.: At night, get acquainted with one of the most celebrated restaurants in the city. Zazá Bistrô has a romantic atmosphere, but it’s also super family friendly, besides being one of the best places to eat in Rio de Janeiro. The second floor has poufs, futons and low tables, and the menu has a contemporary section with conservative-free products that are, whenever possible, organic as well. Taste the Moroccan pastillas, the cashew and leaves salad, the fish with banana and curry and the seafood feijoada. For dessert, go for the fruit salad with lemongrass scent, ginger crisps and soursop sorbet. It is our favourite here.
+55 21 3486-4113
Raja Club provides stand up paddle board lessons with equipment and trained instructors.
Ilha da Coroa, 9 - Barra da Tijuca
7 a.m.: Wake up early and eat a healthy, strong breakfast at Bibi Sucos, a fast food chain that offers the best açaí in the city. Other great orders are the egg white omelette and the fruit shakes.
8 a.m.: After breakfast, the day’s agenda will be paddleboard crossing to Ilhas Tijuca, in Barra da Tijuca. Since you will be rowing in open sea, it is important to be safety-conscious and go with a guide. You will need someone with knowledge about the winds and sea currents. The oldest and most experienced Rio de Janeiro company that offers this type of crossing is Raja Club. You need to book your crossing in advance.
The starting point is always at Raja Club itself at 8 a.m. on the weekends and if the sea is calm. The crossing starts at the Marapendi canal and then goes on for two kilometres in the sea until the islands. The whole course takes about three hours and a boat follows along with the group, in case anyone needs help. The effort is worthy: the view from the islands is wonderful. Clear water, lots of sea life and the view of Pedra da Gávea framing the whole continent.
Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, 458 – Leblon
+55 21 3437-4989
1:30 p.m. Back to the mainland. Eat lunch at Verdin, a new and popular restaurant in Leblon based on the concept of good, healthy and fast foods. They have functional recipes that are different every day, besides incredible green and detox juices. Afterwards, go once again down to Barra to hike to the Pedra da Gávea waterfall. (4,757 steps and 1,408 calories)
The access to the trail is inside a gated community at Praça Professor Velho da Silva, at Barrinha, and start next to a green gate (number 936). From here to the waterfall is 15 minutes of walking through the forest and stone and root steps.
If you have more energy, you can follow the trail to the top of Pedra da Gávea, which is about 842 metres above sea level. This second part requires quite some physical strength—the climbing part only takes about three hours. On the way, stop at some places like Carrasqueira and Cara do Índio to gaze at view of the city
8 p.m.: Gourmet raw food. This is the idea of Ró, the first wholly raw food restaurant in Rio de Janeiro. Ró opened last June in a beautiful house in Horto and already has a legion of aficionados. They serve two tasting menus, one with five dishes the other with eight dishes, trademark of chef Inês Braconnot. Dishes include delights like peach palm fruit marinated on bonnet pepper chutney, chive olive oil, fleur de sel and flowers, the cashew ceviche with fermented coconut milk and the beetroot mille-feuille.
Rua Pacheco Leão, 102
+55 21 3559-0102
DAY 3 (11,739 steps and 1,170 calories)
9 a.m.: The Cariocas love to go and have their breakfast out, and if it’s your idea to eat in a very “green” place, the breakfast at Parque Lage is our choice. Located inside a historic house surrounded by gardens with a view to the Corcovado that also houses the School of Visual Arts, the restaurant offer tables and tatamis where they serve waffles, sandwiches, jams and cakes in a very relaxing and cool atmosphere. If you want some protein, try their great omelettes.
10 a.m.: To see the city from up high, a very cool hike takes you up to the top of Pedra Bonita. The trail takes a little over 35 minutes and starts at the hang gliding ramp, so you should stop and see the people jumping off before going uphill. The Pedra Bonita Reserve is also the most beautiful view to Pedra da Gávea, besides having a panoramic view of Barra, Leblon, Copacabana and São Conrado. If you want to get into the groove of the Rio de Janeiro residents, do it like them: bring a pareo, cookies and fruits and set up a light picnic on top of the mountain.
3 p.m.: It’s time to explore one of the most beautiful places of the city: the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. Located in the heart of Rio de Janeiro with the horizon detailed with the geography of the Rio de Janeiro mountains, the Lagoon is a place to meet people, play sports, eat and relax. You can rent a bicycle (there are several places where you can do this) and give a whirl around the Lagoon. The route is a little over six kilometres long. You can also skate in one of the skating areas along the way. After your walk, visit the Palaphita, a charming restaurant bar with tables and poufs and the best view of the area: it faces frontally the Corcovado and the Pedra da Gávea.
5 p.m.: End your day by doing a five-minute track on Pedra do Arpoador where you will have a privileged view of the sunset. The nature spectacle is cheered with a round of applause from people, in a ritual that repeats every day. The sun sets next to Morro Dois Irmãos, making everything even more beautiful.