Many Rio visitors venture no further out from the shoreline than the famed beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema – but a wide number of boat tours offer an alternative perspective on the pulsating seaside city.
Sprawling favelas, raucous Carnaval, and beautiful bodies every which way you turn – Rio is a potent recipe for sensory overload. What better respite, therefore, then heading out on to the comparatively tranquil open waters on a boat tour? Lying in the narrow strip between Guanabara Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the city’s setting is tailor-made for scenic water-based excursions. We’ve picked out 5 of the best below.
Boat tour of Guanabara Bay
This 1.5-hour tour takes place aboard a modern catamaran and invites you to take in the eye-catching scenery of Guanabara Bay, the world’s deepest oceanic bay, and the many other attractions in the area. Departing in the morning from Marina da Gloria, you’ll cruise speedily out to sea, getting a look at places of interest such as Villegagnon Island, the beautiful Rio-Niterói Bridge and the Concha Acústica (Acoustic Shell). Before returning to Rio de Janeiro, you’ll see more remarkable sights that surround the shores of Guanabara Bay, such as Adão and Eva Beaches, Santa Cruz Fortress, and São João Fortress. A pre-tour breakfast onshore at Café Marinas can be added onto the experience and evening departures are also available. From $23 per person.
Boat trip with paragliding
For the real thrill-seekers among you, there’s the chance to combine all the majestic scenery of a Rio boat tour with the excitement of paragliding. You and your group will be directed to your ‘take-off’ spot by your guides before being kitted out with a life vest and harness, seated on the flight deck of the boat and clipped onto a parachute. Once fully secure, the boat will gently head out onto the water, and as the wind catches your parachute you’ll be slowly lifted into the sky where you can soak up the surrounding views from a memorable vantage point. More confident flyers can perform twists and turns during the ride. Tours last for a total of two hours, though only a portion of that is spent in the air. From $110 per person.
Sailboat tour with diving
Experience the charm of a sailing boat on this 3-hour tour that takes in some of Rio’s most renowned landmarks and attractions. Boarding mid-afternoon from a pier overlooking Guanabara Bay in the affluent district of Urca, you and your group of up to 15 guests will sail past the legendary peaks of Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado Mountain before moving on to Fort São João, Ilha da Laje, Fort Santa Cruz, and the beaches of Adão and Eva – with a stop for diving at the latter. During the tour, there’ll be complimentary beverages – including classic Brazilian caipirinhas – and snacks to enjoy. The activity ends back at your start point. From $50 per person.
Sunset sailing tour
Rio and its surroundings are a sight to behold at all times of day, but there’s nothing quite like the vistas over Guanabara Bay at sunset. On this 3-hour small-group sailboat tour, you’ll set sail from Marina da Glória and pass by three fortresses — São José, Lage, and Santa Cruz — on your way to Boa Viagem Island in Niterói. Cruise past Oscar Niemeyer’s striking Niterói Museum of Contemporary Art before sitting back to soak up the grand finale – a captivating Rio sunset. Throughout the tour, there’ll be complimentary snacks and drinks on board, including Caipirinhas, beer and sparkling white wine. For added exclusivity, the tour can be made private at an extra cost and hotel pick-up and drop-off are also chargeable options. From $62 per person.
Speedboat tour with sunset and beer
See Rio from the water with the wind in your hair on this exhilarating 3-hour speedboat tour. Leaving mid-afternoon from the above-mentioned pier in Urca, you and your small group of up 7 fellow passengers will be thrust out into Guanabara Bay, where you’ll be treated to views of Sugar Loaf and Corcovado mountains. From here, you’ll move on past the Urca coastline and Vermelha Beach, with its reddish sand and unique setting between two hills, and finally on to Adao E Eva Beach. Here, you’ll stop for diving and the chance to make use of inflatables in the water before heading back to the pier to bring the tour to a close. Cold beer, water and soda throughout the trip are all included. From $81 per person.