The vast and effervescent South American country of Brazil has plenty to offer on a cruise. Brazil’s ports of call are a contrast between colourful cities where you’ll feel the true spirit of Brazil, and quiet islands and peninsula beach resorts. Each offers backdrops of forest and undulating scenery that you can easily explore on top excursions in Brazil.
Though still one of the more unusual cruise destinations, many of Brazil’s must-see spots lie on its sparkling, sugar-sand coast, making the country perfect for touring by sea. From up-tempo Rio to the idyllic castaway isle of Ilha Grande, let’s take a closer look at some of Brazil’s best ports of call.
Rio de Janeiro
Guarded by the looming peaks of Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado Mountain – best-known for its dramatic Christ the Redeemer statue – the city of Rio de Janeiro is alive and kicking, 24/7.
From the moment you step onto the docks at Porto de Rio and take the short hop to Copacabana Beach, you’re immersed in a wave of colour, Samba rhythms and the welcoming smiles of the local people, or cariocas. Pick up some local jewellery at Ipanema waterfront, take the aerial tram up into the lush green mountains or catch a world-class soccer game at the Maracan Stadium – even if you’re here for a day, Rio and its charms will leave you hooked.
All the best cruises to Brazil will call at Rio, including those from Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises and Cunard. There are two must-see trips to make here, and they’re both up mountains, but don’t worry, little walking or climbing is involved. Firstly, an excursion up Sugarloaf Mountain involves a cable car in two stages. The first will take you to Urca Hill’s fragrant gardens and lookout points, and hop on the second to venture right up the 700 metre summit.
Almost twice as high as Sugarloaf, Corcovado Mountain has the city’s most famous landmark perched atop it – the Christ Redeemer statue. Take a 20-minute funicular railway ride through the Tijuca Forest up the mountain. It’s the largest urban forest in the world so the journey’s stunning and the 360 degree views of Rio from the summit are breathtaking.
Other exciting excursions include taking a city tour to neighbourhood districts like Urca, or to see Cosme Velho’s colourful neo-colonial homes and cobbled streets. You can even watch a samba show or take a shuttle to Copacabana or Ipanema for time on the busy city beaches.
Some 160 kilometres off the coast of Rio lies the island of Ilha Grande. But exploring its untouched rainforests, spotting marmoset and tamarin monkeys or just revelling in the quiet coves, you might feel as if you’re a million miles from anywhere.
The main order of the day here is relaxation, though you should take some time to try out the waters to dive for colourful tropical reefs around Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul. Or scale Pico do Papagaio (Parrot Peak) if you fancy a rock-climbing challenge. It’s also worth sampling some fresh-caught seafood at Abraao Beach – look out for the wooden bar in Canoas Restaurant, made from an old canoe.
Ilha Grande is a state park whose natural beauty has been preserved through limiting development and banning motor vehicles. That means that most guided excursions will be on foot, but you can walk to the peak of Pico do Papagaio in three hours.
For a flatter walk, take an excursion along the well-maintained nature trails with a guide who’ll help you spot hummingbirds, exotic butterflies and the resident monkeys as you go. And, as this is a peaceful island, some of the best excursions take in the secluded beaches and diving spots. Both MSC Cruisesand Norwegian Cruise Line stop at Ilha Grande on their Brazil cruises.
Santos and Sao Paulo
Sao Paolo is the largest city in Brazil and so it stands to reason that its port, Santos, would be the busiest port in Latin America. As well as the cruise ships that come and go, a large proportion of the world’s coffee, sugar and oranges passes through the port of Santos. You’ll find numerous references to the thriving coffee industry and a chance to discover the history of the trade at the Coffee Exchange Museum. Head inland to Sao Paolo itself on a tour to take in art, history, architecture across the ages and cultures, with a sprinkling of natural parks.
Another main stop on Brazil cruises, cruise lines including Royal Caribbean® and Norwegian Cruise Line run varied excursions that cover both Santos and Sao Paulo. In Santos you can check out the newly-opened Pele Museum, celebrating Santos’ footballing son with a guide. Or taste the sugar cane cocktail caipirinha in its birthplace at one of the tapas bars on Boqueirão Beach.
Take a guided tour of Sao Paolo for the impressive Western art collections at the Sao Paolo Museum of Art and the Gothic splendour of the Sao Paulo Cathedral. The huge skyline of 1950’s skyscrapers lining Paulista Avenue are remarkably pretty – and only second in luxury to new York’s 5th Avenue. Meanwhile, the Liberade District has the highest Japanese population outside of Japan itself, and you can visit the shops in Jardins. Your tour will also take in the architecturally significant buildings in green Ibirapuera Park.
With 30 white sand beaches, plus golf, shopping and surfing opportunities, Buzios has been dubbed Brazil’s St Tropez and is where many Brazilians choose to holiday. On a peninsula east of Rio, it has three main towns to explore – including the attractive Armação with its cobbled streets and the historic harbour town of Ossos.
For a relaxing pitstop take an excursion to the paradise beach of Tartaruga, located on the calm northern shore. Or head to one of the south eastern beaches for the best surf, joining one of the surf school tours.
Both MSC Cruises and P&O Cruises run tours where you can ride in an open-air trolley vehicle to see as much of Buxios as possible, including 12 beaches, two belvederes and numerous 17th-century churches. Or sail in a schooner boat to admire the surrounding islands, relax with drinks on the deck and get the chance to swim in the clear waters.
If you fancy checking out any of these incredible ports of call, take a look at our South American cruise itineraries.
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