Top Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro: Outdoor Adventures

So what are some of Rio's most famous landmarks? Its outdoor attractions are intertwined with the identity of the city itself, with every panorama studded by Sugarloaf Mountain. Beach life is something can comes second nature to the locals, with each stretch having its own identity. When the sun is up the middle classes head for the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Here they surf, play beach volleyball or football, or soak up the rays between occasional dips into the waves, with the working day just a brief interruption. Or they take their boards to the rocky Arpoador beach to surf at night.

There's more to Rio than just the coast. Nature lovers can explore Jardim Botanico, a former royal garden with an abundance of bird life. For something less tamed, Parque Nacional de Tijuca offers a wilder experience of rainforest and primates. For such a large urban center, Rio is blissfully closer to nature. You can trek or cycle to Vista Chinesa, the viewpoint where you'll be rewarded with views of the city unfolding before your eyes.  

Copacabana Beach

Copacabana, called Leme at its northern end, epitomises picture-book Rio: a splendid broad sweeping crescent of fine sand stretching for almost 8km, washed by a bottle-green Atlantic and watched over by the forested hill Morro do Leme.

Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)

The western hemisphere’s most famous monolith rises almost sheer from the dark sea to just under 400m, towering over Botafogo beach and separating Guanabara Bay from the Atlantic Ocean.

Ipanema & Leblon beach

Ipanema and Leblon are essentially one long curving beach enclosed by the monolithic Dois Irmãos rocks (west) and the Arpoador rocks (east).

Parque Nacional da Tijuca

This is one of the world’s largest areas of urban rainforest—an oasis for Rio locals plus for some 200 species of birds, small mammals, primates and endangered Atlantic coast rainforest plants.

Ilha Fiscal

The tiny island, connected to the mainland by a causeway to Ilha das Cobras, was created as a customs house at the emperor’s request. However he deemed it too beautiful, and said that it should be used only for official parties. It's now a museum, linked with the Espaço Cultural da Marinha.

Parque Lage

These English-styled gardens are part of a huge, tranquil public park, including the Escola de Artes Visuais. 

Arpoador Beach

This narrow strip of beach, between Ipanema and Copacabana, attracts surfers.

Vista Chinesa

Hike or bike to this Chinese-style pagoda in Tijuca National Forest. It dates back to 1903 when Chinese immigrants were brought to the city to work in the tea-farming industry.