We were in RIO from Dec. 14-23rd. We stayed at the Best Western Sol Ipanema in Ipanema right across the street from Posto 9. We loved our hotel. There was a great breakfast buffet every morning which we took advantage of. The front desk reps were very friendly and 3 spoke perfect English. We took advantage of the air conditioning, the rooms were humid as well, air conditioning made it breathable. The hotel rents towels, chairs, and umbrellas, which we took advantage of.
Posto 9 beach is definitely where everyone goes. You could fill a stadium with how many people were there, it was crazy! Many food and drink vendors on the beach. Even cotton candy, my favorite. The boyfriend was very pleasantly suprised to learn that Brazilian girls wear thong bikinis. This is probably why he wanted to go to the beach everyday!
I gathered that Ipanema seems to be where the beach action is. Ipanema is also where a lot of the great shopping is. Ladies, you would love the shopping down there! Leblon seems to be more of where the bars and enertainment is.
We had no trouble walking at night. We did not get robbed. We made a few brazilian friends that helped us with our Portugese. We also purchased a little translation book for tourists at a book store. I would definitely recommend learning as much as the language as you can. I gathered that you are looked down upon if you can not say simple words or understand simple phrases. It also makes your trip more enjoyable, the people down there are great.
The food, amazing! We ate very good. We ate at Marquis one night (the seafood one) and it was very good. It's pricey, but if you love seafood, it is a must do. Porcao was also great. It is a meat rodizio with a buffet. It's pricey and we learned that Carretao is the exact same thing, just as good, at half the price. We at there 3 nights I believe. We had sushi at Dombri Edo (in the Everest Rio hotel). It was great sushi but not abundant on rolls. We learned that the California roll is not eel, but has mango in it, still very good. We ate at Margetto (I could be completely wrong on that name) in Leblon. It is a great little Italian restaurant. Very nice and reasonably priced. We also ate at Guapo Loco one night, which was okay. Bar de Betto has very good pizza and many other dishes. We also tried Polis Sucos. Juice bars are everywhere! We had the Tangerine and Watermelon, both very good. Grato de Ipanema was great. They have a specialty dish where you kind of cook your own meat, which was fantastic.
Brahma (Chopp) is definitely the best beer down there. The famous Brazilian drink (Ciprianna?) is perhaps the strongest drink I have ever triend, still very good though. We had fun bar hopping a night or two. We didn't do much night life. We visted Discoteca Help one night. We came home alone, as planned, haha, but wanted to experience it. We had a great time getting to know people and dancing.
We decided not to go on the Angra do Reis tour. We learned upon arrival that it was a 3 hour drive there and back. After flying almost 15 hours, NO WAY! We opted for a Favella tour instead with Marcelo Armstrong. Favella tours are looked down upon by the locals, we learned this fast. We are still very happy we did this. It was great just seeing how things have improved by hearing stories of comparison. It seems that many kids are now continuing their education to a later age because of the resources they have been given. We were driven to help and are still thinking of ways. It seemed that there is a lack of Portugese children books and I plan on purchasing some for our next trip, as well as some toys. We also did the Tijuacu jeep tour. The views were amazing and it was definitely an experience. We took a short (15 minutes) hike to a cave. We visited the Hippie Fair also. A lot of neat things to be found. We bought a beautiful painting of RIO.
We absolutely loved RIO. We are already planning our next trip for Carnival 2008 and plan to try to get our families to come with. We figure its enough time to really learn the language, which is a necessity. I cannot say enough about RIO, it is a place like no other, words cannot describe. We would love to move to RIO one day and are already planning how to do that.
I'm sure I have forgetten some things. I have to run off to work, but I will add if I think of anything else :)