Think jaunting to South America for a mini honeymoon is out of the question? Think again! One of the most geographically beautiful cities in the world, and a perennial favorite on "must-travel" lists, Brazil's Rio de Janeiro is the perfect alternative for a quick post-wedding getaway. Flights from the U.S. to Rio are no more than 14 hours (less than 9 from most East Coast locations) and generally take place over night, i.e. you'll be asleep the whole time. With virtually no time change (it's 3 hours at most depending on daylight savings time), there's no jet-lag to speak of and you don't miss a day traveling like you do to other international locations.
With the Olympics heading to Rio this year, the city is getting in top shape to receive millions of visitors. Head there before or after to take advantage of the friendly culture, breath-taking natural geography (mountains and beaches, oh my!), and the unbeatable caipirinhas. Bonus, if you make the trip during Brazil's winter months (our summer), you'll notice that airfare and hotels are much cheaper, but the temperature is ideal — not too hot, nowhere near cold, just right.
Here, our ideal three-day itinerary in the aptly named, Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City).
Day 1: Spend Your Day Like a Local
If you're flying in from the continental US you will most likely arrive first thing in the morning. Since time is of the essence staying in a convenient and centrally located area like Ipanema is the best bet and gives you the freedom to walk around.
If money is no object we suggest checking in to the famed Phillipe Starck property Hotel Fasano (if it's good enough for Gisele and Kate Moss!) located on Ipanema beach's main strip Avenida Vieira Souto. An unbeatable pool scene and luxury accommodations could be worth the price tag of the world class celebrity destination, if luxury travel is the the name of the game for you.
If fancy digs don't mean much to you, the modest and ideally-located Arpoador Inn down the street is clean, beach adjacent, and boasts a seaside breakfast where you can enjoy the tranquility of Ipanema in the morning while watching the surf (and the surfers).
Either way, this strip of beach will be your home for the next 3 days.
After getting acquainted with your hotel and surroundings, spend your first day doing as the Cariocas (how Rio de Janeiro natives refer to themselves) do. Head to the beach (Posto 9 is one of our favorites) and hit up one of the many barracas for beach service. You shouldn't pay more than $10 to rent two chairs and an umbrella. Go ahead and order a coconut water and some caipirinhas while you delight in the Ipanema surf and views of the Pedra da Gávea mountain (if you look hard enough you can see the hang gliders). Beach vendors are the norm in Rio and you won't want to miss hitting one up for some Mate (a Brazilian version of iced tea), *queijo coalho *(a ridiculously tasty grilled white cheese), an ice cream bar and biscoito Globo (don't ask just try, it's a Brazilian beach staple).
As the sun sets on Ipanema beach head down the leafy Ipanema streets to a botequim (aka a local corner bar) for a round of Chopp (tasty Brazilian draft beer that will go down like soda), and some pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread you'll want to guzzle down at every opportunity throughout this trip) to hold your hunger for a late dinner. When in Rio right? It may be a tourist attraction but we love the bar formerly named Veloso — now called the Garota de Ipanema bar. Tom Jobim wrote the song of the same name as he sat there and watched the "tall and tan and young and lovely" girl from Ipanema walking by.
Being ocean-side has its obvious benefits and one of them is unbelievably fresh sushi. Local favorite — and a favorite of celebs, Tom Cruise has been spotted dining here — Sushi Leblon is not to be missed. It might be one of the higher price tags you'll experience in town but very worth it.
After dinner head to the nearby strip called Baixo Leblon, on Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva between Rua Dias Ferreira and Rua Aristides Espínola, where a collection of open air bars will have you sitting around drinking Chopp and listening to the sounds of Bossa Nova until the whee hours.
See more: 20 Affordable Beach Honeymoons
Day 2: Some Sight Seeing and History is in Order
After a morning walk on the beach (there's nothing like the feeling of having Ipanema beach all to yourself), walk over to Polis Sucos (a favorite of Fergie, Jared Leto, Narciso Rodriguez and Naomi Campbell just to name a few) for a fresh juice and the best açai bowl you've ever had.
Head back to the hotel and get yourself ready to go for the day — this is Rio and often the day rolls into the night without you even noticing. Check in with your hotel on taking a tour to see the Christ the Redeemer statue. Between getting there (like any big city, traffic can be heavy), and making it up the mountain, and so many selfies you can't even count, this should take a few hours, but it's absolutely worth it. The view can't be beat and seeing the statue up close is really quite breath-taking. It's no wonder it was voted one of the New Wonders of the World in 2007.
After the long tour — and probably quite a bit of up-mountain walking — you'll no doubt be hungry.
File this under one of the do not miss restaurants in the world and the best meal you'll have in Rio. Aprazível, in the Santa Teresa neighborhood, features traditional Brazilian food with a modern take. Loads of fresh seafood and spicy flavors from the North give it the authenticity but new techniques and presentation make it a culinary masterpiece. Make sure to get a seat in the treehouse and make it a long lunch to gawk at the view.
After lunch, walk around the historic Santa Teresa area — the old restored trolley cars have recently started running again in this area — but keep on high alert, this is Rio after all and Santa Teresa is a notoriously dangerous mugging area. But wash your worries away with another caipirinha at the famous Bar do Mineiro. This is also a great area for souvenir shopping that doesn't feel overly touristy.
If hip drink scene is your thing, the Hotel Santa Teresa is exactly the place you'll want to frequent (it feels like walking into a Mario Testino photo shoot). The hotel's nothing like you would expect given the surroundings. Built on a historic colonial farm site amidst lush gardens and panoramic views of the city and Guanabara Bay, it's the perfect backdrop for a sunset cocktail and early dinner at the Restaurant Theréze. The hotel's bar, Bar dos Descasados, was voted the most romantic bar in Rio.
After dinner, you'll want to have a romantic night on the town with your husband right? Doesn't get more romantic than dancing the samba into the morning light with your new husband on the streets of Rio! Head to one of the big samba clubs in the ultra-hip Lapa neighborhood. We like Clube dos Democraticos, founded in 1867, for its traditional feel and animated crowd.
Day 3: One Last Beach Day
Head out early to one of the remote beaches south of the city past the neighborhood of Barra. Have your hotel organize a car service to drive you and pick you up — or get an Uber, they're aplenty in the city. If your new hubby is into surfing he'll appreciate the surfer's paradise offered by Prainha, Grumari, and Praia da Macumba. Like Ipanema, these desert-feeling beaches also offer chair rental, caipirinhas and ice cold beer brought right to your chair. Just make sure to bring cash as cards are often not accepted.
Leave the beach on the early afternoon side (you'll be well caipirinha'd by then) and make it up the mountains to lunch with jungle and ocean views. You'll feel like a local at Bira de Guaratiba, a traditional Brazilian restaurant located up the mountains from the beach, making you feel like you're completely immersed in the jungle. Order the passion fruit caipirinha, shrimp pasteis (the Brazilian version of an empanada), and the fresh catch of the day (some say Bira himself or his wife still fish for it every morning) or the moqueqa (a classic Brazilian seafood stew). The price tag is hefty but the portions extremely generous and the freshness guaranteed, so make it a nice long boozy lunch before heading back to town.
After such a long day, keep things mellow for your last night in town with dinner at the close-by Zazá Bistro. Request a seat upstairs where you can sit on the floor Moroccan style, for a unique, colorful and casually bohemian dining experience. The menu is clearly a reflection of the owners' travels (Middle Eastern, Spanish and Asian influences abound) and also their commitment to healthy, locally sourced foods. With inventive tropical flavors (fresh coconut water martini anyone?) the cocktail menu doesn't disappoint. These Cariocas sure like to have a good time!