What to Do in Rio Besides the World Cup
Now that the U.S. is out
Bars become stuffier and fútbol fans drunker as the World Cup roars on. Get your head above the soccer slosh and take advantage of the city’s easy access to natural areas with these eight adventures.
Explore Tijuca National Park
The best way to tour the world’s largest urban rainforest is on a bike, although you should go early to avoid traffic on the park’s winding roads. The 12.4 square-mile, hand-planted forest is perhaps most famous for iconic Christ the Redeemer, the 125-foot statue of Jesus at the top of Corcovado mountain (who, by the way, is specially lit in green and yellow for the World Cup). Ride among the fruit trees, hibiscus, and colorful bromeliad flowers to waterfalls and overlooks. Keep an eye out for macaque monkeys, which seem to fill a squirrel-type niche in the ecosystem.
Not a cyclist? If you have access to a trad rack, climb a 5.11—served with a rack of nuts and cams—up to Christ the Redeemer. Go late in the day to finish with the sun setting behind the statue.
Climb Pão de Açúcar
The beauty of this rock face is in its vast range of difficulty and length. With grades from 5.4 to 5.13a and lengths ranging from two to 12 pitches, Sugar Loaf, as it’s called in English, leaves all levels of climbers satisfied. For the best view, however, opt for the Classic Line on the wall’s west face, which runs at 5.8 with a 5.10c crux.
Reached by a mix of hikeable and climbable terrain (class 1 to 5), the summit of Pão de Açúcar has views of the Atlantic Ocean, Rio’s city center, and the adjacent port city of Niterói on the Guanabara Bay.
Hang Glide Down to Pepino Beach
The glide starts atop Pedra Bonita, the highest peak in Tijuca park at 2,280 feet. Cruise above Rio and down to Pepino, one of they city’s nearly 30 beautiful white beaches. Outfitters, such as Rio Hang Gliding, drive you to the top of the mountain, set you up with all the necessary equipment, strap you to a guide, and then send you off a ramp. Flying superman-style above the World Cup will be much less claustrophobic celebrating with the masses down below.
Hike to the Top of Pico de Tijuca
Looking for a workout before your team plays? Summit Pico de Tijuca, a mellow half-day hike that gains 2,290 feet over 3.2 miles. At the top, you’ll see rocky peaks descend sharply into hilly rainforest and eventually to white beaches. You’ll also be able to see the 14 other peaks in Tijuca (all 15 peaks in the park can be summited by trails starting in Praça Afonso Ribeira).
Bring your own water and food, as you’ll have few opportunities to stay hydrated along the way.
Trek from Terésopolis to Petrópolis
This 22-mile hike crosses through Serra dos Orgaos National Park, dipping into the Antas Valley and ascending over 7,400-foot Pedra do Sino. The trek starts at Terésopolis and finishes in the imperial city of Petrópolis. Once a vacation spot for Brazilian Emperors, Petrópolis boasts many beautiful palaces, one of which is now the impressive Imperial Museum.
Roda de Bola on Copacabana
Get in the fútbol mood by playing Roda de bola a.k.a foot volley. The pick-up beach sport is similar to volleyball except no hands are allowed. Each feet-only volley includes a spin, twist or jump, and your skills will have to be up to snuff if you want to play the locals, who take this sport seriously and often pester foreigners if their game is sub par.
If you’re thirsty, rehydrate with coconut water straight from the fruit, available at vendors along the beach.
Kite Surf Off Barra de Tijuca
The heart of Rio has little to offer as far as water sports go, as there is boat traffic in the bay. But for those looking to get kite lift, Barra de Tijuca is the best—and least crowded—option. More than 10 miles of beach and endless open ocean makes roaming the shore on a kite board easy, not to mention, the beach’s location on the southern side of the city make it less exposed to nasty winds, which makes for a smoother surf.
Surf Grumari Beach
West of Rio, Grumari is a wild and rustic beach that has no high rises or beachside restaurants, just cacti, banana plants, palms, and some kiosks. But although it lacks the crowds of Copacabana, the parking is still and issue on the weekends, so arrive early (you’ll need a rental car to get there).
The waves are easy left and rights that are around 5 feet at this time of year.