The beaches of Arraial do Cabo, 140 km from Rio de Janeiro, can absolutely compete with beaches of the Caribbean Islands, Southeast Asia or any place in the world that has beaches with crystalline water and white sand. Is the water cold? Yes! But on the other hand, it’s practically sunny all year round. And to complete the perfection of this place, the sun sets along the ocean.
Besides the beautiful beaches, Arraial has an Atlantic Forest National Park and offers numerous options of trails. If I still haven’t convinced you to get to know this paradise, just wait for my last argument: Arraial is a whale and dolphin route, which can be easily seen from the beaches. Convinced? Then let’s get to the tips to plan your trip.
When to go
As I said, Arraial has good weather practically all year round. But, especially in winter months from May to September, there is less rain. The temperature is pleasant and the people say that the water is less cold during this period, which is considered low season.
The high season is during summer months, December to February, which are the rainiest months.
We traveled there in mid-June, which is considered low season and was wonderful as the beaches were almost deserted, we had sunny days, although it was cloudy in the early morning and at night.
As the temperature in Arraial do Cabo vary between 18 and 29°C it is recommended to carry a cardigan for the evenings.
How to get there
Arraial is about 2h 20 driving from Rio de Janeiro and can be easily reached by car or bus. We rent a car in advance by RentalCars.com (search the best prices from the leading car rental companies, which belongs to the same group as Booking.com). We got the car at Galeão airport and headed straight to Arraial.
For those who drive by car, you have to include the costs for the toll routes. There are two toll roads along the way in one direction: one at the bridge between Rio and Niterói and another one at Via Lagos. Another important detail: the toll charge is more expensive on weekends.
However, for us it was worth renting the car, because we got a good price by booking in advance. Moreover, it made everything a lot easier as we arrived in Rio late in the afternoon and wanted to get to Arraial the same day.
But it is totally possible to get to know Arraial without a car as well. For those who choose to go by bus you can go with the company Auto-Viação 1001 . Buses depart from Rodoviária Novo Rio (Main Bus Terminal) various times a day. The trip takes between 3h05 and 3h40 by bus.
Where to stay
Arraial do Cabo has a good infrastructure for tourism, offering numerous lodging options. The central beaches, where you can do everything on foot, are Praia dos Anjos and Praia Grande.
We stayed at Praia dos Anjos in Pousada do Capitão, which offers good value for the money, with a good location, rooms decorated with a rustic or a beach style, well equipped with air conditioning, a minibar and a tv. The hotel has a swimming pool, sauna and the daily rate includes breakfast with a very large choice. The staff is very helpful and helped us organize our itinerary and to book the boat trip.
From the Pousada, we went on foot to practically all the places we visited in Arraial, except for Pontal do Atalaia, because it is located on a hill and we preferred not to go hiking, but it would be possible.
What to do
We stayed two nights in Arraial do Cabo but we wished to have more days as there is a lot to do. We share our 2-day itinerary with you here. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Trail to Forno Beach
It’s an easy 10- to 15-minute walking track that’s worth the view. Praia do Forno (Forno Beach) is one of the most beautiful in Arraial, with calm water and several stalls which offer beach chairs, umbrellas, tables and even WIFI. Also in Praia do Forno it is possible to rent kayaks and surfboards from Stand-up Paddle.
For those who have problems to walk or just don’t want to, it is also possible to arrive at Praia do Forno by boat. At the beginning of the trail, which is close to Praia dos Anjos, several boatmen offer the very short route.
Praia Grande (Big Beach)
After Praia do Forno, we continued to Praia Grande. It is also very beautiful and a little different from the other beaches of Arraial, with blue water and waves.
Praia Grande offers a couple of restaurants, bars and small shops. So, it is a good choice for lunch time.
But many people prefer to go in the late afternoon, because Praia Grande is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Arraial do Cabo.
Pontal do Atalaia
As we only had one chance to watch the sunset in Arraial (because the first day we arrived later in the evening), we chose to watch the sunset at Pontal do Atalaia, which is actually a condominium, but with free access. We arrived early, the afternoon was cloudy without a lot of expectation of a beautiful sunset, but as soon as we were parking we heard someone shouting “whale!”. We stopped the car and went to watch the ocean and had at least three humpback whales showing off, doing acrobatics. After zillions of photos (which weren’t so good), we went by car to Atalaia Prainha, where the famous staircase is, which we often see in photos of Arraial.
On the way to Prainha you can have a beautiful view of Praia dos Anjos and the city.
After the visit in Prainha, we returned to the same point in Pontal where we had seen the whales to watch the sunset. And what a spectacle! On one side, the clouds left the sun through to disappear into the ocean. On the other side, the whales continued to “show off”.
It seemed that our day was already more than perfect. However, when we descended from Pontal, we saw the full moon rising beautifully on the horizon.
During the winter months, Arraial is very quiet, without many options for nightlife, besides the restaurants. As it was close to our hostel, both nights we had dinner in restaurants near Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Church. I will recommend some in “Where to eat”.
For the second day, we booked the boat tour. The listed price for the tour that includes Praia do Farol, Gruta Azul (Blue Grotto), Prata do Atalaia and Forno Beach is R $ 60 per person. Walking along Praia dos Anjos where the marina is, you can get a discount. You need to pay an extra R $ 5 mandatory boarding fee, which is apart.
We chose to pay the listed price, but getting the different tour from Saveiro Don Juan, which had been recommended by Carla Boechat from the blog Fui, Gostei e Contei (I went, I liked and I told) and our hostel.
The big plus of Don Juan is that they leave at 9 am, 1 hour before the other boats, so they manage to get to the beaches when they are still empty.
The boat also has a great crew and great music (we saw other boats with very loud and weird music. = P). I won’t tell more details because later on I will make a post just writing about the tour. But I’m telling you to take the tour, because Praia do Farol is just accessible by boat and is one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen in the world.
The tour takes about 4 to 5 hours and the staff of Saveiro Don Juan will pick you up and bring you back to the hostel.
Since we had to return to Rio de Janeiro the same day we went on the tour and later in the afternoon we drove back to Rio. But if you have another night in Arraial, you can enjoy this day to watch the sunset at Praia Grande.
Where to eat
As well as hostels and hotels, Arraial has several dining options, ranging from self-services paying per kilo to restaurants with more sophisticated cuisine. The strength of the local gastronomy are the dishes with fish and seafood.
As I said, we know more about the restaurants near Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Church, two of which I can recommend are Saint Tropez and Tuga Cod. I liked the second one more, because it has a cozy and well-decorated atmosphere, good service (as I am vegetarian, even without having it on the menu, they prepared a special dish for me) and good food.
I left Arraial do Cabo already dying to return, I hope these tips can help you to get to know this Brazilian paradise! =)
Written in Portuguese by Karla Larissa
Translation by Juliane Boll