Once you’ve had enough of sipping coconut water on Ipanema Beach, check out the near-endless array of heart-pounding activities you can try in and around Rio. (Don’t worry: that stretch of sand will still be there when you get back!)
While some of us may associate Rio De Janeiro with beautiful beaches and string bikinis, there’s far there’s more to this glamorous tourist destination than meets the eye.
Rio—which happens to be the future site of the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament—is a vibrant urban oasis that’s teaming with opportunities for a would-be adventurer.
While it’s technically a major city with 6 million people, Rio also showcases tons of topographical variation (think: hills and mini-mountains that run right up to the water) and rugged natural settings that provide the perfect backdrop for a high-adrenaline vacation. To help you get your heart racing in Rio, here are some suggestions.
Zip-Line Through the Atlantic Forest
The Atlantic Forest, which runs for thousands of miles along the coast, can be found just outside the city of Rio. You can explore the forest from its treetops—a vantage point which also provides aerial views of the city, beaches and jungle. Sign up to complete more than 30 obstacles from up to 90 feet in the air, fly like a bird on three zip-lines, swing like Tarzan from tree to tree and make your way through tunnels to reach the end of the course. While physically challenging, the adventure will give you a chance to spot Rio’s wild creatures, such as monkeys, toucans and lion tamarins. (http://tree-canopy-tour.rioadventures.com).
Climb Sugar Loaf Mountain
In Rio de Janeiro you’ll find some of the world’s best urban climbing, with more than 200 routes to choose from. For a thrill that’s also scenic, head to the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain and its adjacent formation Morro da Urca. While you can hike the steep Morro da Urca and take the cable car over to the top of Sugar Loaf, adding some rappelling to the excursion makes it a more adventurous experience. There are many climbing options for both beginners and experts. Bring your own gear and do the climb yourself or opt for a tour (http://www.viator.com/tours/Rio-de-Janeiro/Sugar-Loaf-Mountain-Hiking-Tour-with-Rappel-Descent/d712-2484SLHR).
Forest Hiking in Rio
Rio is home to a number of hiking trails: Along with the above-mentioned Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Tijuca Forest, a hand-planted rain forest and National Park, offers an array of trekking routes featuring caves, waterfalls, ruins and the mountain of Pico da Tijuca. One particularly challenging hike in the park is to the top of Gavea Rock. It takes three hard, steep hours to reach top; however, your efforts will be rewarded with 360-degree views of the forest, Dois Irmaos Mountain, the Atlantic Ocean, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Hangliding in Rio
One popular adrenaline-boosting activity in Rio de Janeiro is literally flying like a bird over the city—wings and all. Imagine running off the edge of the 1,706-foot Pedra Bonita, arms spread wide as you propel yourself from the mountain and over the city, taking in Sugar Loaf Mountain, Corcovado, Copacabana, Tijuca Forest, white sand beaches and Guanabara Bay as you glide. At the end of your trip, you’ll land softly on the smooth sand beach of Sao Conrado. Another option offered is parasailing, which is similar—although the sensation is more like floating on air over the water. (http://www.riohanggliding.com/)
Surfing in Rio
Because it’s home to some of the world’s most beautiful urban beaches, Rio de Janeiro is the ideal place to take up surfing. In fact, the Association of Surf Professionals (ASP) World Tour stops here each year. Ride the Surf Bus for around $2 to the various beaches including Largo do Machado, Botafogo, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon-São, Recreio and more. The beach that you chose is dictated by what kind of surfing experience you’re looking to have. For example, while Prainha is home to some of the city’s more powerful waves, Barra offers fewer crowds. Conrado-Barra de Tijuca is a good spot for beginners.
Jessica Festa, a New York native, is a world traveler who is always looking for a new adventure. She stays active through hiking, cycling and dance and loves nothing more than her backpack. Follow her travels around the world at Jessie on a Journey and at Epicure & Culture.
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