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Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro
While there are notable sights and attractions throughout all of Rio de Janeiro, the overwhelming majority of its hotels are located in the city’s southern beach districts. The two beach neighborhoods with the largest clusters of hotels and resorts, Copacabana and Ipanema, offer distinctly different lodging scenes and advantages.
Copacabana was Rio’s hottest beach destination through the 1970s, and most of its existing resorts date back to that era or earlier. Its beaches are as nice as ever and it remains one of the most active resort communities in the area, but some of its accommodations may seem outdated to travelers with more modern tastes. As a result, amazingly cheap hotel deals in Rio de Janeiro can usually be found in this area, and its centralized location makes it a more convenient home base from which to explore the city. Ipanema, on the other hand, boasts a selection of more modern beachfront resort towers, high-end restaurants, in-demand nightlife destinations and upscale boutiques. Those seeking plush accommodations usually stay here, though the rates are a bit higher and transportation options to other areas are more limited.
Rio de Janeiro Hotel Tips
The most common lodging type you’ll find in Rio is the beachfront resort, but there is a great deal of diversity within this category. Price, modernity, proximity to the beach, amenities, access to public transportation and other key factors vary greatly. Though the accommodations in Ipanema are generally newer than those in Copacabana, both areas offer five-star options.
To find other types of hotels, you’ll need to investigate the city’s north side neighborhoods. Discount rooms are often found in the downtown area known as Centro. Santa Teresa offers several upscale accommodations in the highlands, away from the beach scene. Flamengo has nice hotels with waterfront views, but smaller crowds on the sand.
Rio de Janeiro Hotel Recommendations
If you want to go all-out for your Rio hotel experience, the Copacabana Palace has to make your list. Introduced in 1923, it is considered the first luxury hotel in all of South America, but it has kept up with the times through a series of contemporary renovations. Its modern, upscale amenities include two terrific restaurants, a full-service day spa, an extensive health club and one of the best outdoor pool scenes in Rio. Another top hotel in the Copacabana area is the Pestana Rio Atlantica, where the rooms are generally more affordable. Oceanfront views from this hotel’s finest suites are among the best on the beach.
In Ipanema, the Ipanema Plaza makes it easy to enjoy the area in style. Its location just a block from the heart of Ipanema Beach is convenient and ensures waterfront views, but it also means rooms are a bit cheaper than those located right on the sand. There are multiple levels of rooms to help you find the right balance between cost and luxury. Plan to make multiple visits to the popular rooftop pool.
If you would rather stay a bit farther away from the most crowded beaches, consider Solar de Santa in the hilly Santa Teresa area. This very comfortable B&B is charming and a great value, but it only has five rooms, so be sure to make your reservations far in advance. Because of its size, many families and other groups traveling together rent the entire property for their stay. On the southern coast, west of Ipanema, the Sheraton Barra Hotel & Suites offers a quieter beach scene in the Sao Conrado neighborhood. Though it’s a short distance from Rio’s center of activity, guests have convenient access to destination shopping centers and golf courses, and the busier beaches are just a short taxi ride away.
Rio de Janeiro Transportation
Driving in Rio de Janeiro tends to be a little more hectic than driving in the U.S., and parking is likely to be a problem in most areas of interest to tourists. With this in mind, you might be better off forgoing the rental car after your flight to Rio de Janeiro and opting instead for one of the many cheap taxis that wait outside the terminal. You’ll find that some taxi drivers offer metered rides while others prefer to negotiate flat rates, but the most reliable option is usually to purchase a flat-rate cab ride ticket from a kiosk in the terminal. Public buses provide even cheaper transportation from the airport to the beach areas.
Once you’re away from the airport, Rio’s extensive subway system is the all-around fastest and most convenient mode of transportation. The areas most frequented by tourists are all located along a single subway line that extends from Centro to Copacabana, eliminating any confusion that may arise from switching trains. Service ends at midnight on most nights and earlier on Sundays, after which taxis are the most reliable mode of transportation.