Ultimate 3-Day Trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Digital Nomad Travel
Rio de Janeiro
I visited Rio de Janeiro twice before deciding to move here permanently in 2020. As an avid traveler and local, I’m committed to helping you make the most of the “Marvelous City”! Whether you’re looking for sun-drenched beach days, tranquil nature escapes, dancing until the early hours, or active adventures that will literally take you to new heights, Rio has it all!
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Where to stay
Hotel Fairmont Rio de Janeiro Copacabana
Luxurious Copacabana hotel with a stunning rooftop pool and unforgettable gastronomic experiences.
$50 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
In the Leblon neighborhood of Rio, this contemporary hotel is complete with a sauna, rooftop pool and terrace — all just steps from the beach.
A luxurious haven where sophistication embraces the vibrant spirit of Rio de Janeiro.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Unlock perks by contacting Riker to book your trip.
Day 1: Arriving in Brazil
If you’re coming from North America or Europe, you’re likely to arrive in the morning. Once you get to your accommodation, I recommend checking in early if you can, showering or freshening up, and heading out to explore the city as quickly as possible.
Head to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) for a stunning view of the city, beaches, and ports. Be sure to purchase your tickets online or via an agency in advance so you can be put in the priority lane or you will be waiting forever. Grabbing a drink at the Classico Beach Club bar is an excellent way to take in the views of Copacabana. If you want to pair Sugarloaf with a beach experience, I’d recommend renting a chair and umbrella from a “barraca” (beach stand) for a couple of hours at Red Beach (Praia Vermelha). Red Beach boasts stunning views of Sugarloaf and the surrounding mountains.
If going to the beach isn’t in the forecast or on the agenda for day one, you could pair Sugarloaf with a trip to the city center. There are many tours I’d recommend, but if you’re looking to see the main attractions after Sugarloaf, I would recommend seeing the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Arcos da Lapa/Aqueduto da Carioca, and Escaderia Selaron.
To end your first night, you could book a Michelin star dinner at Cipriani at the Copacabana Palace. It’s an Italian-inspired menu that leaves you feeling incredibly full! Honestly, one of the best Michelin star experiences I’ve ever had. Or if you’re looking for a quick drink with a stunning view of Copacabana, SkyLab is the move.
Day 2: Exploring Rio
No trip to Rio is complete without a beach day in Ipanema. In my very biased opinion, Ipa has the best beaches and the best vibe of every beach I’ve been to in the entire country. You’ll likely find me at Barraca da Vaina e Junior, but I also recommend OhLaLa and Barraca da Denise. (Ponto G in Leme is also fantastic.)
Before or after exhausting yourself on the beach, Ipanema's Rua Visconde de Pirajá is one of the best places to go shopping. Some great recommendations for ladies include: Farm (Rio) Zinzane, Zsolt and BARBARÄH. Recommendations for men include Draco, Hermes Inocencio, Oficina and Ventura.
End a full day of beach-ing and shopping at ZaZa Bistro (no, they don’t mind if you come a little sandy, just have a tank top, shorts, and flip flops). They bill themselves as Brazilian meets Moroccan, but it’s light food that ranges from the Amazon to the eastern Mediterranean and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. (Reservations not required but recommended at peak times, if you can. They’re generally not open on Mondays at all or Tuesdays before dinner.)
Day 3: Take a Helicopter Tour
One of my many controversial opinions about Rio is that you don’t actually need to go to Jesus (Cristo Redentor) if you see him from the sky. This is why I strongly recommend taking a helicopter tour. Nothing compares to seeing Rio’s stunning shoreline and landscape from above while doing two laps around Cristo Redentor, among other incredible points along the way. Plan your trip around this in terms of the weather and clarity, as the tours are often flexible on their timing. (Reach out to me for help or guidance!)
Generally, the helicopter tours take off from Barra da Tijuca (the westernmost point in Rio), so if you do a morning or early-afternoon tour, it pairs nicely with an afternoon at the Classico Beach Club Downwind.
Need to Know
For longer itineraries to Rio, see my guides on six day stays in the city and 10 day trips to the greater Rio-region.
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Culture and Sport meet at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar: A Complete Guide
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Brazil.