When a city gears up for the Olympics, you can bet that you will return will memories that last a lifetime. But where there is the Olympics, there are crowds, so escape the madness with a day trip from Rio de Janeiro to discover some truly special green spaces. The real contest in Brazil is choosing between some of the most stunning, pristine landscapes as green travellers are spoilt for choice. Whether it’s diving, beaches, hiking trails or simply a swim you’re after, here are five of the best day trips from Rio:

Brazil, Igreja do Bonfim Angra dos

Church of Bonfim Angra dos Reis. Photo: Luís Fernando Lara/ Visit Rio

Arraial do Cabo: Lagoons, beaches and a stunning coast

Arraial do Cabo is located in the Lake Region, 140 kms from Rio de Janeiro. With azure waters and some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Brazilian coast like dunes, sandbanks, lagoons, beaches and headlands – you may just ditch your plans and stay her for the rest of your holiday!

Some of the best diving spots in the country can be found in Arraial do Cobo as it’s home to a diverse marine life – there are turtles, Atlantic Goliath groupers, squids, stingrays and even dolphins who live in harmony on the isles of Farol and Porcos, on the sandbags of Cherne and Cordeiro, the Forno beach, on Ponta d’Agua and on Gruta Azul.

Also, it boasts of some the best seafood in the country! While there, take a boat ride to Farol Beach, considered one of the most beautiful in Brazil. Finally, the sunsets at Pontal do Atalaia are truly special.

Good to know: 140 kms from Rio. Average temperatures in the summer hover around 25°C and winter temperatures from 17°C to 23°C.

Leonardo Shinagawa via Flickr. CC by 2.0

Leonardo Shinagawa via Flickr. CC by 2.0

Búzios: Brigitte Bardot’s paradise love

When Brigitte Bardot visited the seaside resort Armação dos Búzios – or just Búzios in 1964, she fell in love with this peninsula. Back then it was a simple fisherman’s colony – now there is a movie theatre named after her and also the seaside boardwalk, called Orla Bardot, where there is a life-size bronze statue of its most famous poster girl.

One of the most well-known seaside resorts, Búzios is an 8km-peninsula circled by islands and stunning beaches. The Buzios coast has beaches like Geribá ideal for surfers, while João Fernandes and João Fernandinho are perennial favourites. For serenity, go to Azedinha, while the calmer waters of Ferradura are very family-friendly. Take a boat tour around the region, including the Feia and Rasa islands that have some amazing diving spots.

You can find designer shops, bars, nightlife and fine dining in Rua das Pedras. In July, catch the Jazz & Blues Buzios Festival, one of the big events of the year.

Good to know: 170 kms from Rio.

seaside resort Búzios in Brazil

Búzios Photo: Karendesuyo via Flickr. CC by 2.0

Ilha Grande: The biggest isle in Angra dos Reis

Angra dos Reis has 365 islands peppered throughout a sea of green and crystalline waters and 2000 gorgeous beaches – an eco-traveller’s delight. With panoramic views of the Atlantic Forest and the emerald green sea, it offers fantastic opportunities for diving. With a large amount of shipwrecks and an abundant marine life, the Angra Bay is one of the best diving spots of the southeastern coast.

A traditional maritime procession held on the first day of the year is one of the biggest events in the city. Ilha Grande, the biggest and most famous isle of Angra features 86 beaches spread out throughout its 190 sq kms. To get there, take an hour-long boat ride from the Angra port.

Explore the Atlantic Forest by trekking and hiking, and lose yourself along the many trails with choices – from hills, mountains, streams, rocks, slopes to beaches. The highlights are Lage do Guirri (Ponta de Castelhanos), Jorge Grego Island and Meros e Naufragios Island. On the oceanic side, one of the visitors’ favorite beaches for surfing and diving is the Lopes Mendes beach. On the sandy, almond tree-lined Feiticeira Beach, walk to the inviting 15 m tall waterfall, with natural swimming pool and slide.

Good to know: 160 kms from Rio. Take the boat from Angra port to reach Ilha Grande 

Jurubaíba beach, Ilha da Gipóia, Brazil

Jurubaíba beach, Ilha da Gipóia. Photo: Luis Fernando Lara

Niterói: Home to an incredible landmark with a view

Designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, Niterói is home to the curvy MAC – Contemporary Art Museum. This iconic saucer-shaped landmark, situated on a cliffside above Guanabara bay, offers panoramic views of Rio. MAC “rises” from the ground on a single cylinder base which shoulders the whole building, anchored by a huge foundation.

Follow the path along the shore called Caminho Niemeyer. Visit the Santa Cruz Fortress in the Jurujuba neighborhood for more stunning views and the Parque da Cidade park – the ecological reservation area of the city located atop the Viração hill for a panoramic view of Lagunas, the Oceanic Beaches, all the Niterói neighborhoods, and the open sea. The Park has two ramps for hang gliding and paragliding, so you’ll find many lovers of the adventurous sport gathering here.

The 1,200m-long Icaraí Beach is the city’s most well known. Relax under the shade of almond and coconut trees, and gaze upon the Pedra do Índio rock, the Pedra de Itapuca rock, the MAC museum, Christ the Redeemer, and the Sugarloaf. The Itacoatiara Beach, a surfing paradise, is 700m long with clear blue waters. Prainha, a family friendly beach, is sheltered from the waves and kids will love making a splash in the calm waters.

Good to know: 10.5 kms from Rio

Museum of Contemporary Art, Niterói by Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil

Museum of Contemporary Art, Niterói by Oscar Niemeyer. Photo: Leonel Ponce via Flickr. CC by 2.0

Paraty: Wander the Cobbled Streets of a Historical National Landmark

Paraty, declared a Historical National Landmark, is one of the most charming detours from Rio. The city was founded in the 18th century, when it was the focalpoint for distributing the gold that came from Minas Gerais. Squeezed between the sea and the mountain, it still preserves the houses of that time in the Historical Center. Among its historical architectural gems, you can see colonial manors, churches from the 18th and 19th centuries and streets cobbled in “pé-de-moleque” stone by slaves, where only pedestrians are allowed.

Explore the alleys of the Historical Center for its charming inns, lively bars and traditional restaurants. It’s also home to the FLIP (Paraty International Literature Festival) and the Pinga Festival, the most well-known events of the city.

Paraty is located in a bay with clear blue water and has several beaches untouched by development – some aren’t even urbanized and have fishermen villages. Take a boat ride for some excellent diving in the neighboring islands. On the Paraty-Cunha road, there are many natural pools that are formed by beautiful waterfalls and are perfect for bathing like Pedra Branca and Tobogã. Trindade village attracts the young and the carefree with its wild beaches that are accessible via trails like Sono and Cachadaço.

Good to know: 10.5 kms from Rio

Paraty - a day trip from Rio, Brazil

Paraty makes for an easy day trip from Rio. Photo: Karendesuyo via Flickr. CC by 2.0

Tell us about your favourite escapes from Rio. Leave a comment or share this post on Facebook with your recommendations.