From what I had heard, Rio de Janeiro was the place to be for New Years Eve. I have recently made a tradition of traveling to a new place to celebrate the New Year so Brazil was an obvious choice. For people from Northeast America, you know how cold that time of year can be. December and January in Brazil is summer time which means warm weather and beaches! I stand by my decision!
CHRIST THE REDEEMER AKA CORCOVADO
What a sight! As you probably know, this is one of the most famous attractions in all of Brazil. El Corcovado sits atop a mountain peak in Rio that you have to take a very old tram to get to. I would suggest going first thing in the morning to avoid what becomes a huge line to get to. You do not need a lot of time up here, get up there, appreciate the statue, get your pictures in and get out. Definitely a must do.
I did a hike through Jungle Me and the hike was called Tijuca 'Big Circuit' (Peaks and Waterfalls). I really loved this hike. It wasn't too hard but obviously you need sneakers, work out clothes and a bathing suit. Bring some snacks for lunch atop all of Rio and soak in the views. At the end, there is a great waterfall that you can go in and have some fun. I definitely recommend the hike and company.
Two cable cars take you to the two peaks of Sugar Load. It is pretty beautiful. I ended up doing the later half of the day and stayed for sunset. You can see the city lit up from above, very pretty! The only thing to note is that there were no taxis at the bottom of Sugar Loaf when I got down, so it's dark and I had to wait for a bus. It was fine safety wise, but I didn't feel 100% comfortable.
NEW YEARS EVE IN RIO
Some tips in case you are going for one of the biggest events of the yea, New Years Eve! First of all, take the day of new years eve slow, I just relaxed on the beach. Save your energy vecause you will be up all night! All of the restaurants shut down at dinner time so people can be home with their families. If you want to have a nice meal out, plan ahead and go a little research on what is open to make a reservation. I stayed in for a NYE meal and bought all the ingredients to make Caipirinha's which were delicious and a great way to get the party started. I was close enough to walk to Copacabana beach. I brought a blanket, a backpack full of beer, champagne, caipirinah's etc. and just waited for the fireworks to start. The whole thing is an awesome time. Everyone wears white and I suggest you do the same! Some other traditions are to wear a color undergarment (mostly for the girls) that represents something you are seeking for the new year. Green=wealth, red=love, yellow=healthy etc. Locals are also put flowers and other offerings into the water after the fireworks. Another tradition is to jump over seven waves in the ocean and make seven wishes for the near year. All fun stuff! After the fireworks, you have a couple of options, to go to a club/bar or party on the beach. I chose the latter and walked back down to Ipanema where there were stages set up for music and partying but nothing too crazy. I ended up spending all night on the beach. It's also a tradition to jump in the water as the sun rises if you're up for it! This was one of the best experiences of my life, it will be for you too!
So if you didn't know, Brazil and Rio have amazing food! Of course it is a lot of meat which is fine by me :)
GELATO SAT'S, COPACABANA
If you ever watch Anthony Bourdain's show, he went here. It is a little hole in the wall type place where English is sparse. Feel free to point at things to order. There is a large grill built into the wall when you first walk in spinning chickens, beer etc. It is AMAZING. I went back for a second time because it was so good. Order some meat, some frech frieds if you want but you much have the broccoli 'infused' green rice. It is the best rice I've ever had in my life. They also have chicken hearts that were seriously good. I would suggest trying. Drink all of this salty deliciousness down with some cold beers and you will be a happy camper. This place should not be missed.
Location: Rua Riberio 7, Rio de Janerio
SANDWICHES ON THE BEACH, IPANEMA
Find the beach but with the Argentinean Flag- This place has amazing meat and chimichurri sandwiches. I stayed very close by this place so it wasn't inconvenint to find. Grab a sandwich and a Cahipirinha and lounge under an umbrella. #ahhh
Location: Posto 9, Praia de Ipanema (all of the beaches are marked with post numbers)
ACAI, A BRAZILIAN SPECIALTY
You probably already know what Acai is, but if you don't it's what many call a super food/berry from the Amazon. It is dark purple and all over Brazil. There are Acai bowls and shakes everything, get them as much as possible! It will refresh you from a night out and it is delicious. My favorite bowl was from a place called Cafeina Bistro.
The city of destination was already decided- Rio De Janerio. The next step was to decide what area and my first thought was the Copacabana Palace Hotel in Copacabana, Rio. This is a beautiful (yet a bit pricey) hotel but after talking to a few friends from the city and doing some research of my own, I quickly decided that I did not want to stay in Copacabana and that I would be better suited in Ipanema or Leblon. For those who don't know a lot about these locations, they are all beachfront and Leblon is furthest west, then Ipanema which has a beach that curves out into the ocean and the other side of that curve starts Copacabana. Leblon and Ipanema are a bit nicer with great night life and restaurants. Another tip to add is that hotel prices during New Years Eve in Rio are very expensive and most due specific packages including New Years Eve dinner etc. This was something I was not interested in so I decided to venture out to vrbo.com. This website stands for 'Vaction Rental By Owner' and I have always had good experiences. I found a great apartment in the heart of Ipanema that didn't cost an arm and a leg. The owner, was very helpful and friendly and the apartment was very clean and safe. There are tons of great options for places to stay but I definitely recommend Ipanema as your starting point!
Disclosure: Traveled Dec 2013-Jan 2014