At Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Palace hotel, the Cipriani Restaurant mirrors the exquisite charm of its famous counterpart in Venice, and the just opened Bar do Copa is now the hottest nightspot for adults in Rio. During a visit this winter, the sheer drama enveloped our group with a sense of starry-eyed glamour, without even a hint of pretension. If you don’t book Copacabana, anyone old enough to know who Barry Manilow is will end up there anyway. So take everyone for a well-made caipirinha, some carpaccio and window shopping for Chanel at the very least!
The energy in Rio is both laid back and intense, where beach culture is the center of social life. We loved the anything-goes attitude about skimpy bathing wear for all body types. DMC Rentamar creates group events on the beach themed around Carnival, with elaborate costumes to create your own parade. Other themes include the beautiful martial art of capoeira and drum workshops.
The two most popular group activities by far are a cable car ride (75 at a time) up to Sugar Loaf Mountain near the harbor, and a drive up to the top of Corcovado mountain to see the famous Christ the Redeemer statue.
Rentamar offers private cocktail receptions with samba dancers at Urca mountain, the midway stop on the cable car journey. The DMC also combines the Corcovado tour with a trip through Santa Teresa, a bohemian borough with leafy cobblestone lanes lined with preserved 19th century mansions and walled gardens. Many artists live and work in open-air studios surrounding the colorful, shops, galleries and restaurants, so plan on time to walk around a little.
While in Santa Teresa, make sure to stop for lunch at Porcão, considered the country’s best churrascaria (Brazilian BBQ), serving grilled meats carved tableside. The buffet’s local cuisine includes tropical fruits, fresh seafood, sushi and moquecas (mixed fish stews). We also visited Colombo Coffee House. This gorgeous 1894 Victorian tearoom brings guests back to the time when Rio’s elite met here for long, well-lubricated lunches and the latest society gossip.
Definitely head to the trendier-than-thou Lapa District for live samba music at the Rival Petrobras Theatre and Rio Scenarium, an antique shop, museum, bar and restaurant with some of the city’s best dancing. The Guardian ranked it one of the 10 best bars in the world. Rio’s nights are alive everywhere with samba dance, and we loved that so many older Cariocas (locals) showed us how it’s done.
If time permits, book the 2-hour flight to the cavernous Iguassu Falls on the Brazil/Argentina border. Hotel das Cataratas sits right on top of them, and guests have exclusive access to the UNESCO Heritage site before and after it’s open to the public. An extensive renovation just wrapped, remaking all 193 rooms and public spaces.
Don’t leave without an eye-opening helicopter tour over Iguassu River through cloud sprays swooshing over the falls. And make sure to bike the Poco Preto jungle trail before boarding a boat on the Iguassu to snorkel and kayak. The onsite Iguassu Experience outfitter handles logistics.