We accidentally had a super short stay in Rio. We booked the 18th through the 21st. Four days, right? Nope. We left Buenos Aires the evening of the 18th but arrived the morning of the 19th, and flew out at 2am on the 21st. This means we were only on the ground for 48 hours. Oops.
So, we made the most out of the little time we had.
Monday, April 18
9:30p – Depart Buenos Aires
Tuesday, April 19
12:20a – Land in Rio
The airport was empty, immigration a breeze, and cabs were plentiful. A+ late night airport experience. Astute observers will noticed that this was quite a long flight time for what should be a relatively short flight. Turns out there was a crazy storm and we had to route way around it, almost doubling our flight time.
1:30a – Check into our hotel, and immediately go to bed
The Rio Summer Olympics are right around the corner, and to prepare, a bunch of giant new hotels were just built near the giant new Olympic Village. They’re super nice, and since all the Olympic hoopla hasn’t yet begun, they’re super empty, which means they’re super cheap! We scored a beautiful room in the brand new Hilton Barra. The amenities and service were outstanding.
10:00a – Breakfast time
After a nice long sleep we hit the buffet and planned out the rest of our day.
12:00p – Hire a Guide
The very friendly bellman, Edwardo, helped us hire a driver for the day. He didn’t speak English, and we don’t speak Portuguese, so we communicated with lots of pointing, nodding, and smiles. He charged us $70BRL/hr (~$20USD/hr) to drive us wherever we wanted to go, hang out, and then drive us to next location. It was awesome.
1:00p – Christ the Redeemer
Our first stop, naturally, was Christ the Redeemer. Arguably the most popular tourist spot in Rio. The 125′ Art Deco statue is the perfect selfie bait. We sweated it out with hundreds of other tourists, climbing the stairs to the top and attempting the photo. With Arms Wide Open, the seminal Creed classic, played in my head the entire time. I bought an açai (the Brazilian superfruit) smoothie because when in Rome, right? Surprisingly, the ones in Hawaii are better.
3:00p – Sugarloaf Mountain
Next was Sugarloaf Mountain. Maybe the second most popular tourist attraction in Rio? It rises 1,299 ft above the harbor and via a series of two cable cars, you can check out some pretty fantastic views. The weather was perfect, super sunny and clear so we could see everything. We rushed our way through lunch (there were LOADS of bees) and quickly made our way back down the mountain.
5:00p – Sit in traffic
It took two hours to get home. The traffic in Rio is totally unpredictable, and since there is tons of Olympic prep road work going on, the streets are a mess. Also the driving is bonkers. The drivers are very assertive and alert, making four or sometimes five lanes where there are only three.
7:30p – Swim at the hotel
Back at the hotel I had the outdoor rooftop pool all to myself and enjoyed a nice pre-dinner lap swim under the stars. Not a bad way to unwind after a day of schlepping up and down various mountains.
8:30p – Chill dinner
We were totally pooped and decided to have dinner at our hotel. Our waiter Andre, a young local guy, was incredibly friendly and brought us all kinds of local snacks to try. “This one we eat at the beach!”, he explained, showing us the correct way to dip the light, crispy donut-shaped crackers into a bright cheese sauce. He said the bar could make “Any drink!”, so I ordered a martini with a twist. After about 30 seconds he proudly came rushing back with a martini with a twist, of lime. Oh boy. He stayed to make sure I enjoyed my first sip (“Delicious!”) before beaming and slightly bowing as he walked away.
Wednesday, April 20
10:00a Pack up and check out
We packed up, checked out, stashed our bags with our bud Edwardo, and took another victory lap through the breakfast buffet.
12:00p Olympic Village
Thoroughly sated with unidentifiable fruits and tiny pancakes, Edwardo hooked us up with another driver, Junior. He took us for a spin around the Olympic Village (we weren’t aloud to walk through due to the copious amount of construction). For being only a few months away, they look like they’re in pretty good shape. We’ll be those annoying people who’ll say “Actually, we’ve like, been there.”, when we’re watching the Olympics.
12:30p Parque Lage
Next, Junior took us to Cafe Plage, a stunningly beautiful public park. In the middle of the park stands a gorgeous mansion, formerly the home of industrialist Enrique Lage and his wife, singer Gabriella Besanzoni. In the 1960s the land became a public park, with walking trails through the surrounding subtropical forest. Now an arts school and a café open to the public operate from the former mansion. Fun Fact: The mansion was notably featured in the 2003 music video for Snoop Dogg’s single “Beautiful.”
We enjoyed lunch in the atrium while observing the endless identical Instagram photoshoots occur by the pool. Fix the hair, pop the leg, turn slightly, angle the face, hand on the waist, smile and click!
4:30p Ipanema Beach
Duh. Of course we went. The beach was a beautiful endless strip of beachgoers and vendors, offering anything and everything you could possibly want. Beer, cachaça, fresh coconuts, snacks, beach chairs, souvenirs, bikinis, hats, everything. There were tons of people playing football, volleyball, and if that isn’t enough, footvolley, a locally invented sport that is, you guessed it, a combo of volleyball and football.
We made our way to the end of the beach and climbed Arpador Hill, where locals and tourists come to watch the sunset. The rock was hot AF after baking in the sun all day, but we settled in and watched the sun dip behind the mountains. It was really, really lovely.
Next we walked over to Leblon, the fanciest neighborhood in Rio. It was uncomfortably hot, and I felt like my brain was starting to melt, so we sought refuge in an overly air conditioned restaurant. The only people there, we nibbled on the bread basket while drinking four bottles of water apiece. Feeling guilty for taking up space and not ordering anything other than water, Patrick ordered two beers, and once those had been taken care of, we boogied our way out of there.
8:00p The Fifties
After two failed cab attempts we finally found a cab who would take us to our hotel and accepted credit cards. Square, get your butt to Rio, STAT! After sitting in traffic for an hour, we were over it. We asked our driver to dump us at the nearby mall instead, so we could kill some time and wait for the traffic to die down. Patrick tried to buy the freshly-released MacBook at the Apple Store but they hadn’t received their shipment yet. Deflated, we did a lap and came across an American-style diner called The Fifties. It was like stumbling onto a Happy Days set and we loved it. Realizing it was dinner time, we sat down and enjoyed a slice of good old Americana.
10:00p Quick change
Traffic abated, we hopped a cap back to our hotel, and retrieved our bags. We set up camp in the lobby restroom, changing clothes, brushing teeth, and getting our bags organized for our giant flight ahead.
11:00p Deserted Airport
Junior came back to out hotel, and gave us a ride to the airport. We saw fireworks from the highway for Tiradentes’ Day, a local holiday, which made me miss Disneyland and my friends. We arrived at the airport, and walked though the empty departures hall until we reached the Emirates desk where there were 300 people waiting in the Economy line. Oh boy. But, since we’d checked in online and didn’t have any luggage to check, we were able to skip past and head straight through immigration and security. We sat at the gate for an hour, and then hopped onto our 777, lustfully walking past the business class thrones on our way to economy.
Thursday, April 21
2:05a Depart Rio, fly to Dubai
We really enjoyed our quick stint in Rio. The city is beautiful, lush, culturally rich, and very relaxing. And who knows, you may even spot us in some Olympics b-roll!