If you’re looking for a day-trip or weekend getaway from Rio de Janeiro, there are several excellent options right on the city’s doorstep. Either side of the bustling hive of activity that is Rio are two very popular tourist destinations, almost equidistant from the city. To the east is Arma?ão dos Búzios – shortened to Búzios for simplicity’s sake – a vibrant beachside town packed with nightlife and activity. To the west, an hour further from Rio than Búzios, is Paraty, an old colonial port town brimming with history and natural attractions. In terms of price, the two are fairly comparable (both at the upper end of the scale), so when making a choice about which is right for you, you will need to consider what it is you want from your visit.
This resort was popularised by Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s, and today a statue of the actress can be found in the town. Bardot is also credited with making famous the bikini – and you can expect to see plenty of these on show in town as well. With around twenty beaches scattered along the popular peninsula, lazing in the sun and partaking in the occasional dip in the sea (as well as scuba diving and surfing for the more active traveller) are the order of the day.
When the sun goes down, the town really comes to life. Famed for its raucous nightlife, there are a multitude of bars and clubs, generally open from around 10pm until the early hours. In high season (November – March and June – July) the town is packed to the rafters, especially during the peak month of December. Come prepared to party!
A little under 250km in the opposite direction from Rio, Paraty is a seaside port town first colonised by the Portuguese in the mid-17th century. Used as the principle harbour for exporting gold from Brazil, the town is crammed with quaint cobbled streets, picturesque churches and heritage etched into the very stones of its historic centre.
In the surrounding area you will also find many gorgeous beaches, lush waterfalls, dense rainforests and over 300 islands. The latter can be visited by boat on one of the many trips offered at the seafront; the clarity of the water also makes it a popular spot for snorkelling and diving. Though there are a number of bars in Paraty, the nightlife is considerably lower-key than in Búzios and there aren’t really any out-and-out nightclubs to speak of. Rather it is a beautiful spot to enjoy a cocktail or three while gazing out over the sparkling crystalline waters of the bay.
Less than 100km from Paraty is the gateway to one of Brazil’s truly beautiful hidden gems, Ilha Grande. Just an hour and a half drive to Angra dos Reis and a short ferry ride will take you to the big island; if you have enough time in your itinerary, I definitely recommend squeezing it in.
Which should you choose?
Whether you pick Búzios or Paraty will depend entirely on your personal circumstances and expectations from the visit. Do you want to party the night away and spend the following day recovering on the beach? Búzios is your place. Or would you rather soak up a little Brazilian culture, visit antiquated landmarks and relax instead of romp? If so, Paraty should be preferred. Whichever you choose, you’re guaranteed to pass some of the most unforgettable days of your life on Brazil’s southern coast.