Rhythms of Rio: A 10-Day Couple Itinerary Celebrating Afro-Brazilian Heritage and the Vibrant Soul of the City

Travel Advisor Colette Gueye stands in front of a bright green and red door wearing a bright yellow dress
Curated By

Colette Gueye Owona

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  • Nature Escapes

  • Rio de Janeiro

  • Couples Travel

  • Beaches

  • Brazil

  • Sightseeing

  • Local Food

  • Local Culture

Views of the mountains in Rio.
Curator’s statement

There is no place like Rio de Janeiro. Indeed, its unique and diverse culture is reflected everywhere, in its people, food, religion, music, dance, arts, history or social. The blend of vibrant cultural heritage, iconic landmarks, lively festive soul, historical roots and stunning natural landscapes make Rio, a truly amazing destination. I am telling you, Rio is a VIBE! This city has a very special place in my heart. Afro-Brazilian heritage is an integral and vibrant part of Brazilian culture that I wanted to highlight in this itinerary. I crafted this itinerary for couples seeking a luxury experiential travel experience.

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay

MGallery Santa Teresa Hotel

A historic, 19th-century coffee farm and garden adapted as an urban retreat in the charming town of Santa Teresa.

Fora Perks
  • $50 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Pousada Literária de Paraty

Set in a historic colonial building, this boutique hotel offers a unique blend of comfort, art and literature. With its stylish accommodations, tranquil courtyard and a rich literary ambiance, Pousada Literária de Paraty invites you to experience the enchanting beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage town while enjoying a literary escape like no other.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Pousada Vila Pedra Mar

Experience the tranquility of Pousada Vila Pedra Mar Rio, where comfortable accommodations, scenic river views and warm hospitality come together for a relaxing and memorable stay in the charming town of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Unlock perks by contacting Colette to book your trip.

Day 1: Unveiling Santa Teresa's bohemian charm

A hill with Christ sign with city at its foot.

If you arrive early in the morning in Rio, begin your Carioca journey with a delightful traditional breakfast and a delicious açaí drink at Cultivar, to set the tone for the vibrant days ahead. Then go for a nice walk to the iconic Escadaria Selarón, a true masterpiece of colors.

Continue to explore Santa Teresa, the bohemian and artistry neighborhood, where colorful houses, lush gardens and creative energy await. Take a cool ride on its historical tram. As you explore its charming streets, you'll discover incredible art studios, galleries and quirky boutiques showcasing the diverse talents of local artists. Santa Theresa’s cool vibes will definitely transport you to a special era.

For lunch, indulge in local flavors undefined at Bar do Mineiro, a charming spot in Santa Teresa.

After lunch, check-in at your hotel in Santa Teresa and relax.

In the evening, indulge in a romantic dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Aprazivel, where the cuisine and atmosphere are just exceptional. I highly recommend to book in advance.

Day 2: Botanical beauty and Ipanema charm

City buildings with ocean and hills.

Early in the morning, head to The Corcovado for an awe-inspiring panorama that captures the essence of Rio. After enjoying the breathtaking views, make you way to visit Jardim Botânico, home to over 6,500 plant species, showcasing the unique and natural splendor of the city.

After this rejuvenated morning, have lunch at Junta Local, it is amazing open-air food market with up-and-coming local chefs and producers. Enjoy fresh and authentic food. It’s located close to Jardim Botânico.

In the afternoon, head to Ipanema Beach, Post 9 or 11 to socialize with Cariocas.

In the late afternoon, join a Caipirinha-making class in Vidigal, to master the art of this iconic Brazilian cocktail (my favorite cocktail, by the way.)

As the sun sets, enjoy a fine dinner in Leblon, savoring the local cuisine. You will have choices. There are many excellent restaurants.

Day 3: Taste and touch Afro-Brazilian heritage

An aerial photo of a beach and city.

Discover Afro-Brazilian culture through a culinary experience, by joining a cooking workshop, where you'll craft traditional dishes and learn the secrets of flavors. Savor your creations during lunch. Dive into the essence of Afro heritage by exploring a local community garden that's deeply connected to urban agriculture.

In the late afternoon, head to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf mountain) to admire the sunset and the breaktaking view on Rio from its heights.

In the evening, get ready for the vibrant nightlife of Lapa. For a truly Brazilian experience, explore Rua Mem de Sá and Rua Riachuelo in Lapa and eat the delicious street food. Then go dancing at Carioca Da Gema, have fun, enjoy live music and let the rhythms of Brazilian music awake all of your senses.

Day 4: Embrace Afro-Brazilian Culture through history and samba

City at night time.

Brunch at the incredible Parque Lage mansion, surrounded by lush greenery and artistic vibes.

In the afternoon, deep dive into Rio's rich African heritage through a captivating tour of Little Africa. I highly recommend the exceptional tour led by Thais, which is available for booking on the Blackvoyageurs website.

As the evening sets in, head to one of the best and renowned Samba schools in Rio, such as Mangueira or Salgueiro, for an epic night! You will have to chance to see Passistas (women dancers) and Malandros (men dancers) perform, as well as a live drum band. You will be immersed in the Afro-Brazilian culture. And you can also dance Samba! Let the rhythmic beats of Samba carry you away. Samba is a powerful expression of joy, resilience and unity of the Afro-Brazilian community.

Day 5: Romantic retreat in Paraty

An old white church with people in the courtyard.

About a 3-hour drive from Rio, escape to the enchanting colonial town of Paraty (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) where lush rainforest, picture-perfect beaches and charm emanate from every corner, setting the perfect tone for a romantic getaway. Stay at the charming Pousada Literaria De Paraty located in the historical center.

Day 6: Romantic retreat in Ilha Grande

A beach with boats.

On Day 6, late afternoon, set sail for the paradise of Ilha Grande for an off-the-beaten-track island getaway, where secluded beaches and breathtaking landscapes invite you to unwind and create cherished memories with your loved one. Stay at the lovely Pousada Vila Pedra Mar.

Day 7: Island bliss and Rio lights

White sand with beach and green mountains at the back.

Relax and rejuvenate on the tranquil beaches of Ilha Grande, a true island paradise. Do not miss Lopes Mendes, one of the most unspoiled beaches in Brazil, which is only accessible by boat (and a short hike).

As the day transitions into night, return to the vibrant city of Rio and treat yourself to a memorable dinner with a tasting menu at Oro Restaurant.

Day 8: Rio's heritage and skyward soar

A wall of graffiti.

Let’s go for a cultural exploration to the Museum Historico Nacional, and learn more about Brazil's rich history. Then continue to the incredible 'Mural Etnias,' a world-renowned graffiti masterpiece celebrating Brazil’s cultural diversity. This site is really worth visiting!

In the afternoon, take off for a truly unforgettable moment with a 45-min helicopter ride over Rio de Janeiro. Rio2Fly offers great private tours for two.

After this epic experience, go to the iconic Copacabana for a nice promenade along the beach.

In the evening, dine at Cipriani, a smart and creative Michelin-starred restaurant within Copa.

Day 9: Rocinha - give back to community and sunset serenity

Sunset on a beach.

Spend the day making a positive impact by giving back to the community in Rocinha. I highly recommend experiencing a community tour led by someone born and raised in Rocinha. The tour named ‘The genuine ultimate Favela Tour’ can be booked through the Black voyageurs website. You will learn so much about the lives of locals in the favela, engage with them and experience a genuine cultural exchange.

At the end of the day, find serenity at Arpoador, where the sunset on Ipanema is simply stunning. Conclude your day with a delightful dinner at Térèze, for a perfect romantic night in Santa Teresa.

Day 10: Farewell

Outdoor market with stalls and people.

As your unforgettable Carioca journey comes to an end, take some time to visit a local market to pick up traditional crafts and souvenirs that will forever remind you of the vibrant spirit and rich experiences of Rio aka La Cidade Maravilhosa (The Marvelous City).

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Beyond the Ordinary: A Cultural and Experiential Guide to Lisbon, Portugal.

Travel Advisor Colette Gueye stands in front of a bright green and red door wearing a bright yellow dress

Travel Advisor

Colette Gueye Owona

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Rio de Janeiro.