Our seemingly never-ending beach hunt continued with an adventure west of Rio on an epic three day weekend. It started like so many of our recent Saturdays, by waking up too early and hitting the road. We had rented a car, which turned out to be a brand new Hyundai HB20 with only 450km on the clock. We were ready to take this car on its first big trip and hopefully see some great sights along the way.
For any of you planning a similar trip, there are tips further down and also information throughout that should be quite helpful. We spent one day driving to Buzios, one day driving around Buzios, and the final day doing a boat tour from Arraial do Cabo.
So let’s start with the crossing of Niteroi bridge and trying to find our way to it. It was tough, as road signs are pretty poor in Rio and there are a lot of manic drivers about... We ended up making a couple of errors and having to take the old “retornos” that are so few and far between. However by this point it didn’t matter as I had a new mission to double the mileage of the car before I returned it.
I have highlighted the routes and stops that we took in the map below to help any fellow travellers considering the same journey. We left from Barra and it took 230 km.
As you can see it really is quite far, and we took the long route to Buzios along a lot of beaches and beautiful coastline. It was a hell of a journey, and we traversed many empty dusty roads. The drive took over 7 hours but that involved a lot of stops, including one for lunch in Arraial do Cabo. All the beautiful photos are at the bottom of the page.
Buzios is known for its wild nights and great restaurants (Katie to talk about these soon!) and we couldn’t help but indulge slightly. The main party area is along a few roads that branch off the main Rua das Pedras, and there are a lot of people about. It was very pleasant as we both felt very safe walking around these streets at night, without the weariness that comes when you are in Centro do Rio or Zona Sul.
We ended up spending the majority of our evenings sipping passion fruit caipirinhas while people watching. We sat in a great Mexican restaurant and listened to a band play some entertaining music while drinking and eating nachos. Saturday night was considerably busier than Sunday for obvious reasons so for all you party lovers out there, best to go out on a Saturday.
Driving Around Buzios
On Sunday we spent a full day exploring the visual treats that Buzios has to offer anyone with a car. We drove around the windy streets, stopping in a variety of places where the parking situation was actually quite favourable. We got a great map from our pousada and I would recommend getting a similarly good map or downloading the photo I took of the map at the bottom. It was a 80 km drive in the end.
The roads ranged from windy roads up the mountains to uneven dirt and rocky tracks. It was a fantastic drive, very entertaining and we even made it to Cabo Frio in the evening. Rather than bore you with the exact details of where we stopped, we are going to give you a photo tour to try and show you how unbelievably beautiful the city and surroundings were. It was one of the best days we have had in Brazil.
Arraial do Cabo Boat Trip
We woke up early on the Monday and made our way to the port city to hopefully catch an early boat tour around the islands. However, the gods were conspiring against us as the weather was very misty and then when we spoke to the tour guides, all the boats were leaving at 11am. We forgot that Brazilians do not like to do activities in the morning if they can avoid it... Must be all those late nights at the botequins drinking ice cold beer and eating steak.
Although we didn’t set off til 11:30, the boat tour was amazing. We immediately saw turtles in the water as we made our way to the first beach. It was an incredible sight and made me think that I should have scuba-dived this year in Brazil. We have missed out on some fantastic experiences I’m sure.
The boat tour involved a stop at three or four perfect beaches. The water was turquoise and completely clear and the sand was a delight to tread on. While on the boat we saw some interesting rock formations that reminded us a lot of El Nido in the Philippines. We wanted to get back to the car and begin the four hour journey before it got too late, as the traffic in Rio is horrendous and the car needed returning. So we didn’t chill on the final beach, and instead took the trail back to town. It is a 10-15 minute walk up some wooden stairs over a small hill with stunning views of the surrounding area. It was a great way to end a great three days.
For everyone thinking of taking a trip out of the city for a few days, I cannot think of a better place to drive to. Petropolis has history and is certainly relaxing but in terms of raw beauty, nothing beats a good coastline in my opinion. We drove back via the quicker toll roads in a 225 km journey.
Below are some tips about driving in Brazil and beyond that are some amazing photos from the weekend.
Tips for driving in Brazil
- Parking in Brazil is very rarely free. Many people, some licensed some not, ask for a few reais (R$2-10) from anyone who is parking in “their” spot. It can be somewhat annoying but try to view it as enforced charity and giving people some extra money, rather than an overpriced parking ticket.
- Toll roads are common and cost from R$2 to R$10. Make sure you have some small notes on you before you head off on your trip for parking and tolls.
- Keep your doors locked while driving and lock your car when unattended. Obvious but I think some non-city folk don’t consider this a necessity when driving.
- "Streetview" where you are going to stop, as it can be difficult to park and it’s best to have a clear idea in your head.
- Take water and supplies and be prepared to hold your pee as toilets can be hard to come by. You are best off visiting a restaurant during one of your stops.
- You will need GPS. Taking a wrong turn in Rio de Janeiro can lead to a 10-20 minute detour to get you back on track. And there are of course areas that you do not want to be driving into.
- Do not drive at night! After 9pm I would keep off the roads because on the main roads you have bandits that are known to stop cars and rob them, and there are a lot of murders as well. Besides the grim reasons, you also should see what the surroundings look like as Rio is very beautiful. Just drive during the day and spend your evenings drinking ice cold chopp.
- Do not drink and drive. An obvious one but the police in Rio set up stops to breathalyse people because drink-driving is very common. Also it’s idiotic and dangerous.
|This kind of dirt track was what we drove on for most of the coastal route|
|Ponta Negra Beach|
|Driving towards Igreja Nossa Senhora de Nazare in Saquarema|
|It really was just miles of beaches!|
|Igreja Nossa Senhora de Nazare in Saquarema|
|The view from the Igreja|
|Another seaside cemetery. Being buried in such a beautiful area must inspire more visitors!|
|Praia dos Anjos in Arraial do Cabo|
|We got a beautiful view of Prainha beach as we drove out of Arraial do Cabo|
|The view from our pousada in Buzios|
|Praia de João Fernandinho|
|Praia da Ferradura|
|Praia da Tartaruga|
|Praia de Geriba|
|"After the years of Castaway, Wilson appeared on Geriba beach"|
|Some of the roads we had to drive down!|
|Praia das Conchas|
|Bird of prey on a horse!|
|Praia das Caravelas|
|Arraial do Cabo and the morning fog...|
|The beach of Ilha do Farol|
|I just found a website that calls this "The Crack of Our Lady"...well, it's a crack |
in a rock with a statue of Mary so I suppose it's as good a name as any, right?
|This beach is apparently called "Prainhas do pontal do atalaia"|
|Finally Praia do Forno, from which we walked back to the port|
|A map of Buzios - may be useful for some|