The Ultimate Guide to Rio de Janeiro: Non-Touristy

If you’re looking for a truly fun time, Río de Janeiro is the place to be. It may not be the capital of Brazil but it sure is the most talked-about city. It’s not for nothing. If you’ve been there, you know why. This city is nothing but positive vibes. 

We’ve all heard something about Rio. Its idyllic beaches, beautiful scenery, insane wildlife, and of course carnival. Everyone has seen clips of the city during the carnival. People look like they’re having the time of their lives. 

Even if you can’t go during carnival time, a joyful trip is guaranteed. The incredible scenery, lively energy, and vibrant culture make for a captivating place. It would be hard to not love it. 

Río de Janeiro has a special quality. It’s a relaxing destination with a big city’s fast-paced excitement. 

When walking through the streets of Rio, you feel a carefreeness that I haven’t experienced elsewhere. Like all your worries are out the window. While simultaneously feeling awake and excited about life. 

The only thing you’ll worry about when visiting Rio is having as much fun as possible.

Having a fun time won’t be an issue in Rio. There are so many things to do that you won’t know where to start. Everyone knows about the Christ Redeemer statue, Ipanema, and Copacabana. We want to give you some recommendations of things to do that you may have not heard of. There are many amazing things to see & do that don’t get the attention they deserve. 

For that reason, we created this list for you of things to do & see in Rio that aren’t super touristy. 

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Rio de Janeiro

Take a Favela Tour

It’s a cool way to connect to a different side of Brazilian culture. The natural wonders of the city are incredible, but there’s more to Rio than that. 

You’ll get to see a side of Rio that you wouldn’t find in any other area of the city. 

Santa Marta is a good option. It’s where the “They don’t care about us” Michael Jackson music video was filmed. As well as the Fast & Furious movie, so it’s one of the most famous favelas. That means you’ll find tour guides available there, or you could even go alone. It’s a big tourist destination so it’s pretty safe. 

Rio de Janeiro

Go on a hike

Brazil is famous for its natural wonders. Rio de Janeiro may be one of the biggest cities in the country. You may think that equals a concrete jungle. But, when it comes to natural beauty, it doesn’t fall far behind.

If you’re looking to admire the wildlife in this city, hiking is the best way to do it. At the end of most hiking trails in Rio, the view overlooks beaches like Ipanema or Copacabana. Along with the Christ Redeemer Statue. 

Basically, if you want to see some of the best views of the city, you should go hiking. Another upside is you’ll get some exercise while enjoying the beautiful scenery. You’ll need the movement after all those brigadeiros I’m sure you’ll be having. 

Our personal favorite hiking trails are: Rock of Gávea (Pedra da Gávea), Two Brothers (Dois Irmãos), and Telegraph Rock (Pedra do Telégrafo). 

Rio de Janeiro

Go Hang Gliding or Paragliding

Going Hang gliding or paragliding is one of the coolest things you can do in Rio. You’ll get a perspective of the city unlike any other. There’s something special about the view of Rio from up high. 

Plus, these activities are what Rio is all about. Pure fun and excitement.

Whether you go hang gliding or paragliding depends on the weather. If it’s rainy, hang gliding is not recommended. That’s because the unpredictable weather could cut the experience short. So, it’s not worth the risk. 

If you’re lucky enough to have nice sunny weather, you can choose between either. But, make sure to ask the people working there. They’ll tell you which of the two experiences is best when you visit.

Rio de Janeiro

Visit the Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico)

Hiking is not the only way to enjoy nature in Rio. If you’re a more relaxed nature lover, the botanic garden is for you. There are thousands of exotic plants to admire. You could even have a picnic with a great view of the Christ Redeemer. 

Many animals live there. Capuchin monkeys are a common sight. They’re the cutest, be on the lookout for them. If you’re very lucky, you may even see some sloths. 

They sometimes host cultural events like concerts, concerts, or exhibitions. Make sure to check if there are any scheduled when you go. You wouldn’t wanna miss them.

Rio de Janeiro

Go Bike Riding through Barra da Tijuca Beach

If you want to experience the city on wheels, Barra da Tijuca Beach is perfect. There’s a bike lane set up so it’s an easy & safe spot to ride through. 

The area is pretty. There are many bars, restaurants & live music. So, if you get tired of riding you can join the fun or stop for a drink any time.

Rio de Janeiro

Check out the Ethnicities Mural (Mural das Etnias)

The ethnicities mural by Eduardo Kobra, a Brazilian street artist, is the largest in the world. It has the world’s Guinness record for that. It’s over 3000 meters long. 

You can find it in the docklands area in Rio, along the Olympic Boulevard. It’s located close to the Rio Art Museum & the Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã). Two of the most famous museums in the city.

Rio de Janeiro

Hang out at Leblon Beach

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Rio, I think of beaches. Brazil, in general, is known for its beautiful beaches & all-around nature.

We all know Ipanema and Copacabana as the most famous beaches in the city. But, Leblon beach is definitely worth a visit too. Especially if you’re not a big fan of crowds. It’s way less crowded than the more well-known beaches. And, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful beach in Rio. 

The area surrounding it is filled with cute stores & restaurants. So, if you get sick of swimming you can shop or grab a bite.


Rio de Janeiro

The best way to get around Rio as a tourist is by subway. It has subway lines that will get you pretty much anywhere. Touristy areas especially will be easy to get to by subway. 

It’s the fastest & easiest way to get places, you’ll avoid traffic. That way you won’t lose any time you could use to explore the city. 


There is a famous Brazilian phrase that goes: “O melhor do Brasil são os brasileiros”. It translates to “the best thing about Brazil are Brazilians”. I wholeheartedly agree. The people are what makes this place so special. 

Brazilians are a curious bunch. You’ll be walking down the street and they’ll randomly turn around to ask you questions. Like they’re truly interested in your life. They make you feel welcome and at home in their country. 

In general, Brazilians are warm, friendly, and very fun. If you let them, they’ll show you a good time. If you want to truly experience Rio, connecting with locals is the way to do it. 

The best place to go if you want to connect with locals is in a bar. So, get your party outfit on and head there to find all your new Brazilian friends. You won’t regret doing so. 


If you’re looking for pure fun, Rio is the perfect destination for you. As you can probably tell, it’s an active trip. Most of the fun things to do include being outside in nature & getting active. It’s less a place you go to visit museums or admire architecture & more about being out and about enjoying nature. 

Not that there aren’t cultural activities because of course there are. But, the main attraction of the city is the natural wonders it offers. That being said, it’s still a city. And that’s the really cool thing about it. It’s a huge city where you don’t miss out on the beautiful wilderness the country has to offer. 

You’ll feel a constant connection to nature. 

If that sounds like something you’d like, definitely give Rio a visit. We don’t take responsibility if you don’t want to leave though. It can be an addictive place for sure.

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  1. I wasn’t in Rio for too long so I only did some of the touristy things. This city definitely has a lot to offer. I wanted to do a favela tour but was advised against due to unrest at the time I was there.

  2. Rio looks incredible. I bet hang glading over the city was amazing. I love that it has both city and jungle. Sounds like a perfect combo.

  3. Ah, these all look like great things to do in Rio de Janeiro! That mural looks incredible! I’d love to see it in person! I also love hiking and visiting gardens when I’m travelling so those look like great activities too! Thanks for the awesome guide!

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