10 Best Non-Touristy Things To Do In Rio De Janeiro, Brazil - Updated 2023

non touristy things to do in rio de janeiro

The dream holiday destination of Rio De Janeiro is the capital of the state by the same name in Brazil, and it’s also the second most populous city. This city is so unique in its culture and landscape that part of it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will find some other landmarks that have earned this coveted title. The city was built by medieval Portuguese in the 16th century as a capital city, thanks to the unmatched and mind-blowing natural beauty, where you feel you are in heaven. The evergreen vegetation and diverse flora and fauna will leave you in dreamland altogether. Even the architecture of the city monuments speak of the rich heritage. In such a dynamic place where you can’t decide what to do, we have hand-picked some non-touristy things to do in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

1. Visit the picturesque island of Ilha de Paqueta

Praia de Paquetá
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Halley Pacheco de... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the most scenic islands of Rio De Janeiro is Paquetá Island or Ilha de Paquetá, located in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro. The name means many pacas in Tupi language. The island is free from vehicles and it is gorgeous, as travel is limited to bicycles and horse-drawn carriages only. The island offers a serene getaway from the bustle of the city and the auto-free rule makes it a famous tourist spot for nature lovers. Colonial style buildings, beaches and lovely flora like baobab trees make up this island. Ferries leave from Rio to Paqueta all day so you can go on one.

Ilha de Paqueta

Address: Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro

Website: Ilha de Paqueta

Opening hours: 24 hrs

Price: Free

2. Explore the abandoned Skeleton Hotel

The spooky Esqueleto Hotel or ‘Skeleton Hotel lies in an abandoned area in the woods of Gavea and São Conrado in Rio de Janeiro. Tall tropical trees surround this hotel, which lies at the center of the forest. The construction began in 1953 and a 16-floor hotel was built, which was closed later due to bankruptcy. It is said that later, the hotel became a home to street dwellers and criminals. The stunning view of the ocean from atop the hotel is what draws the locals and tourists to the place now. You can trek up to the hotel and take the stairs to check out the property and enjoy one of the best sights and experiences here.

Skeleton Hotel

Address: Estrada da Canoa, 2439 - São Conrado, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil

Website: Skeleton Hotel

Opening hours: 24 hrs

Price: 0 USD

3. Admire the unusual architecture of Largo do Boticario

The lively Largo do Boticário Square is a famous attraction in Rio De Janeiro, located in the Cosme Velho neighborhood of the city. It is apparently one of the few places in the city from which one can see the Carioca River. Large colonial style houses owned by rich expats are found here, which has become a party spot for foreigners and tourists. The square has several other historic sites to visit, in addition to exotic rain-forest vegetation that dominates the place.

Largo do Boticario

Address: Beco do Boticário, 26 - Cosme Velho, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22241-120, Brazil

Website: Largo do Boticario

Opening hours: 24 hrs

Price: 0 USD

4. Listen to live Brazilian bands in Arco de Teles

non touristy things to do in rio de janeiro | listen to live brazilian bands in arco de teles
Source: nazishmunch on Instagram

The historical archway of Arco do Teles lies at the Praça XV de Novembro, in the center of the city of Rio de Janeiro Brazil. The 18th-century architecture reflects the rich cultural heritage of the city of Rio and thus a major architectural landmark in the history of the city. When it was originally built, it was a part of the former residence of the family Telles de Menezes, and now a famous attraction. Live bands keep playing music daily. If you are alone in Rio De Janeiro, you might want to visit this age-old mansion and click a few pictures.

Arco de Teles

Address: Praça Quinze de Novembro, 34 A - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20010-010, Brazil

Website: Arco de Teles

Opening hours: 24 hrs

Price: 0 USD

5. Enjoy the views of Rio de Janeiro from Mirante Dona Marta

Mirante Dona Marta
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rodrigosilvestri used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Located in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa in Rio De Janeiro is Mirante Dona Marta, which translates to “lookout” and is actually known as a viewing point. From here, you can catch incredible views of Rio De Janeiro, lush green forest with the white-sand beach below, along with the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf Mountain. So this is actually a place to click good pictures of all that Rio is known for. This observation point indeed offers panoramic and literally unparalleled views of Guanabara Bay and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon as well.

Mirante Dona Marta

Address: Estr. Mirante Dona Marta, S/N - Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil

Website: Mirante Dona Marta

Opening hours: 24 hrs

Price: 0 USD

6. Have fun at the outdoor party in Viaduto de Madueira

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Quem lembra desse show brabo com o @raeloficial que rolou lá em casa? Tbt de respeito né #tbt #viadutodemadureira...

Posted by Viaduto de Madureira on Thursday, July 30, 2020

In Madureira, you can enjoy Viaduto de Madureira, which is one of the oldest dances in Rio de Janeiro. The Dance Charm of Viaduct of Madureira is famous for dance workshops, and hip hop with the best DJs playing their sets. You can also join special dance workshops that are organized on the request of patrons, and learn basic moves, positioning and even improve on your health. If you are alone in Rio De Janeiro, don’t miss one of these workshops and classes.

Viaduto de Madueira

Address: R. Carvalho de Souza, 211 - Madureira, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 21350-180, Brazil

Website: Viaduto de Madueira

Opening hours: Sat & Sun: 10pm - 5am

Price: 50 USD

7. Hike to Pedra do Pontal

Praia e Pedra do Pontal
Source: Photo by user Fwellisch used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The small island of Pedra do Pontal is tucked between Recreio dos Bandeirantes Beach and Macumba Beach. The island is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of trail that disappears during high tide. The trail is short and not very steep, thus easy to climb. It begins at Post 12 of Recreio dos Bandeirantes from where you have to walk on the sandy beach. A supporting rope is there all the way to ease your climbing. From the trail, you can also catch a sight of the beach as well.

Pedra do Pontal

Address: Rio De Janeiro

Website: Pedra do Pontal

Opening hours: 24 hrs

Price: 0 USD

8. Tour Santa Marta Favela to learn the local culture

non touristy things to do in rio de janeiro | tour santa marta favela to learn the local culture

Santa Marta is known for trips to favelas in Rio, which was formerly known as a no tourist zone. As you drive uphill where Santa Marta is located, you will feel the untouched culture of Santa Marta with clear blue endless skies and sunny days. The favela was a maze of stacked houses and narrow alleys tumbling down the steep Rio hillside. You can book a guided tour to understand the life of favelas and take you to the cable car that in turn takes you to the top of favela, where you can spot Christ the Redeemer, the Sugar Loaf, Praia de Botafogo, Lagoa Rodrigues de Freitas and the entire district of Botafogo. Favela is known to have been visited by icons like Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Jackson, so why miss?

Santa Marta

Address: Botafogo and Laranjeiras, Rio De Janeiro

Website: Santa Marta

Opening hours: 9am - 6pm (daily)

Price: 0 USD

9. Go hand gliding from Tijuca Forest National Park (from USD 169.0)

If it is adventure and an adrenaline rush that appeals to you, then you can’t miss going hand gliding from Tijuca Rainforest National Park, the world’s largest urban forest. The vast expanse of the forest makes up part of the larger Atlantic rainforest that runs from the south of Brazil to the north. It is absolutely biodiverse and one of the best places to be. You will be mesmerized by the beauty of this park, with dozens of waterfalls, viewpoints, hikes, peaks and monuments. It separates the west of Rio from the north, south and central areas, so you can only imagine the size. Glide over this natural heaven that is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals.

Rio de Janeiro Hang Gliding Experience from Tijuca Forest

Duration: 2 hours

201 reviews

10. Try scuba diving in Buzios (from USD 90.0)

Your trip to Rio De Janeiro will be incomplete without going scuba diving at Buzios. It is not only the most famous place in Rio, but also the most visited and sophisticated. The place has a fairly small number of inhabitants and it lies around 1.5 hours from Rio. Visit the world of sea life in clear Buzios water, which is like a large aquarium in the sea. The best points for diving are João Fernandes, João Fernando, do Forno, Azeda and Azedinha beaches, with small depth and Ilha da Âncora, where the visibility is of about 12 meters.

Diving for Beginners and Accredited - Búzios RJ

Duration: 4 hours

97 reviews

Lots of places to visit

We know that when there are so many places to visit in a destination, it is difficult to decide. This list includes most of the attractions that are stunning and free to visit. The cultural epicenter of Brazil has more such options to consider. If you have experienced any of these things to do in Rio De Janeiro, please share your experience below.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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