Get away from the hustle and bustle of Rio’s lively beaches and experience real tranquillity on the white sands of the surrounding picturesque islands.

With aching legs, sun burn and a hoarse throat after an incredible Carnaval I decided to flee the city for the day. My getaway of choice was a day’s boat trip in Arraial do Cabo, roughly two and a half hours drive away from the city of Rio.

Arraial do Cabo Day trip from Rio

Getting there

Getting there couldn’t be easier as with the tour I chose it’s all done for you. The mini van collected all of us from wherever we were in the city, mainly the centre and Zona Sul (there is also a meeting point for anyone further out). It’s an early start in order to get the most out of our time on the boat so I hopped on the minibus in the Centre at 7am. After everyone is picked up you set off over the Rio-Niterói bridge all the way to the port at Arraial do Cabo.

The boat

As you walk along the pier, the crew on the boat are waiting for you ready to help you hop on board. The boat is incredibly spacious with benches that line the outside and a block of high up mattresses in the centre all under cover to allow you a break from the morning’s sun. There is also the outside section at the front of the boat nearest the speakers that enables maximum enjoyment of the Brazilian music played throughout the trip. You’re introduced to all the crew before you set off out into the ocean. All day you have free bottled water on offer and you can buy beer, caipirinhas and soft drinks from the bar below deck. The music makes for a party atmosphere but this is by no means a boat just for young people. Our boat was filled with families, elderly couples, and groups of friends. I was on my own and managed to make friends not only with the crew but, as always, the friendly Brazilian passengers also. Throughout the tour the multi-lingual guide talks you through the beautiful surroundings and it’s impressive history.

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Arraial do Cabo The beaches and hills from the boat

Where you’re taken

On the boat tour from Arraial do Cabo we stopped four times: twice in order to dive into crystal clear waters and catch a glimpse of the extensive marine life with our snorkels, and twice more at two picture-perfect beaches. Both beaches are environmentally protected and therefore untouched with soft, white sand. Just what was needed in order to wind down after Carnaval.

Our first stop was out in the ocean to admire any marine life within view. Fortunately we saw many beautiful fish although my highlight was a school of bright pink jelly fish which were beautiful. Luckily we weren’t too close to them when stopped! I rented a pair of snorkling goggles for 20 reais at the beginning of the day and saw the most colourful array of fish of all shapes and sizes, it was wonderful.

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Arraial do Cabo Such beautiful landscapes

Forno Beach

Our first beach was Forno beach and is environmentally protected. It is untouched and we had to be ferried in on a dingy in order to not get too close to the beach with the boat. It was such a refreshing change to the fast pace of Rio’s beaches, we were the only people on the beach and there was nothing but crystal clear water and the white sand.

Blue grotto and Fenda de Nossa Senhora

On the way to the Lighthouse Island we passed the Blue Grotto, a beautiful large cave where the water inside is said to turn a dazzling blue when the sun hits it. The boat pulled up as close as it could and gave us a good a peak inside. Then we passed the Fenda de Nossa Senhora, a large rock with a gap in the middle within which has a replica of the statue originally found by a fisherman. The guide relays the mystical story of how the statue was found and is equally interesting as it is beautiful.

Arraial do Cabo Crystal clear water full of wild life

Ilha do Farol

Ilha do Farol or the Lighthouse Island was our last stop and it did not disappoint. Once again we walked across white sands but here we had a huge lighthouse towering over us. Once again, we plunged into the unspoilt and refreshingly cold seas and worked up our appetite for our late lunch back on the mainland.

The lunch, which was included in the tour, was a typical Brazilian buffet full to the brim with traditional Brazillian dishes as well as pasta and salad meaning there is something for everyone. After such an active day we all took full advantage and ate as much as we could. A perfect end to a day full of breath taking surroundings and the journey back to Rio flew by as all of us dropped off in the air conditioned coach.

After my day in Arraial do Cabo I feel rested and refreshed and ready to carry on my Carioca life and learn more about this wonderful city.

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By: Lucy Gavan, student of Spanish and Portuguese culture at the University of Bristol in England, currently living in Rio as part of an exchange programme with Rdj4u.