16 Incredible, Best Tours in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Looking for the best Rio de Janeiro tours to experience during your trip to Brazil? Read on for my top suggestions!
Rio de Janeiro is one of the premiere cities of South America, and one that absolutely blew me away. It truly exceeded all my expectations. It’s a city FULL of unique things to see and do, a vibrant atmosphere, and located in an incredibly beautiful landscape.
You really could spend weeks in Rio de Janeiro before you experience all that it has to offer. But, since you mostly likely won’t have that long, I’ve curated the best tours to maximize your time in Rio de Janeiro.
16 Best Rio de Janeiro Tours
These are some of the absolute best Rio de Janeiro tours to experience during your trip. There is a ton of variety in these Rio de Janeiro tours, from full day city tours, to private tours, walking tours, bike tours, or hiking tours, cultural tours, and even fun experiences like cooking classes, sailing tours, going to a futbol match, taking a helicopter tour, or going hang gliding.
Basically, there is something for everyone on this list! Let’s jump in!
1. Half Day Tour of Christ the Redeemer and SugarLoaf Mountain
Rating: 4.85 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
This half day tour of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain is perfect for anyone who has limited time or just wants to hit the top sites in Rio very efficiently.
You’ll start the tour early in the morning to beat the crowds, and get picked up from your hotel in a deluxe van with a dedicated driver – you don’t need to worry about logistics of how to get to the destination or getting tickets.
You’ll start by visiting Christ the Redeemer, and then head over to Sugar Loaf Mountain. This is a small group tour, and your guide will share lots of interesting facts about the city and sites you are seeing – making the whole experience memorable.
Check rates and availability for this half day tour of Rio de Janeiro here
2. Private Customizable Rio de Janeiro Tour
Rating: 5 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
This Private Customizable Tour of Rio de Janeiro is perfect for anyone who wants to have a more tailor-made experience in Rio with the help and expertise of a tour guide, who can provide context and history of the city, and share personal recommendations.
What you do on this full day tour is totally up to you – your tour guide, Fabio, will help you plan and give suggestions, but you get to choose what to see and do, and how much time to spend at different sites.
This is a great way to experience the perfect itinerary in Rio with the help of a local, who will quickly feel like a friend!
Check rates and availability for this Private, Customizable Tour of Rio de Janeiro here
3. Walking Tour of Historic Rio de Janeiro
Rating: 4.89 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
The most “historic” part of Rio de Janeiro are the Centro and Lapa neighborhoods, and there are a ton of really interesting and beautiful buildings in this area.
This Walking Tour of Historic Rio takes you around to many of these attractions in Centro/Lapa, where you’ll admire places like the Teatro Municipal. the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Selaron Steps and Lapa Arches, the National Library, the Boulevard Olimpico, some beautiful churches, plus other lesser known spots and hidden gems to discover.
Plus, your tour guide, Lucemir, makes this tour more than just seeing sites – he shares his insider experience and local knowledge of Rio de Janeiro to really make the sites and locations come alive. He’ll also take many pictures for you on his camera so you have great memories of your time in Rio.
This Rio de Janeiro tour is definitely a great value and experience the Marvelous City.
Check rates and availability for this Walking Tour of Historic Rio here
4. Highlights of Rio de Janeiro Full Day Tour
Rating: 4.83 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
This Highlights of Rio Full Day Tour is perfect for anyone with limited time or who just wants to see all of the best of Rio de Janeiro without handing logistics yourself.
In this full day tour of Rio de Janeiro, you’ll drive in air-conditioned van by Copacabana and Ipanema Beach, then head to Corcovado Mountain to visit the stunning Christ the Redeemer Statue. You’ll also visit Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Selaron Steps and Lapa Arches, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the exterior of Maracana (the famous futbol stadium in Rio), and the exterior of the Sambadrome (where practices for Carnival take place).
Throughout the entire day, you’ll be with a tour guide who can share engaging facts and history about the places you’re visiting. Lunch at a Brazilian barbecue is also included in the tour.
Check rates and availability for this Rio de Janeiro Full Day Tour here
5. Helicopter Tour around Rio de Janeiro
Rating: 4.9 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
This Helicopter Ride Around Rio de Janeiro gives you a unique, birds-eye perspective of Rio’s coastline and her biggest attractions. This is definitely one of the Rio de Janeiro tours that is a big bucket list experience!
Head outside the city to the helicopter launch pad, where you’ll ascend into the air and fly down the coast of Rio de Janeiro, admiring the views of the sea and the hill-wrapped city as you approach the beautiful Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Then, finally head to Corcovado Mountain, where you’ll get to admire Christ the Redeemer from above! Seeing one of the 7 wonders of the world from the sky is definitely an experience you won’t forget.
Flight time lasts 30 minutes, which is pretty long for a helicopter tour, and gives you ample time to admire the city from above.
Check rates and availability for this Helicopter Ride Around Rio de Janeiro here
6. Hang Gliding from Tijuca Forest to the Beach
Rating: 4.97 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
A very popular activity in Rio de Janeiro is hang gliding or paragliding from the many hills around the city down to the beach.
In this Hang Gliding Excursion, you can choose to do either hang gliding or paragliding. You’ll meet up with the flight team at the tour office, where you’ll be prepped for the flight. Then, take a quick drive up the mountain to the launch station in Tijuca National Park.
You’ll get some brief instructions, and then take flight with your expert pilot! Glide over Rio de Janeiro, getting an incredible vantage point of the city from above, and then gently land on São Conrado beach.
Go Pro pictures are included in the cost of the flight. No prior experience is necessary and it’s very easy for a novice to go paragliding or hang gliding – the instructor/pilot does all the work and you get to enjoy the ride and the views!
Note: This is an activity that can trigger motion sickness. If you are susceptible to that, and this is your first time going hang gliding or parasailing, plan accordingly.
Check availabilty and rates for this Hang Gliding Adventure Over Rio here
7. Futbol (Soccer) Game with a Local
Rating: 5 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
Brazilians LOVE their futbol (aka soccer) and going to a futbol match in Rio is one of the most exciting and authentic experiences you can have in the city.
While in theory you could get tickets and go by yourself to a game, it’s actually kind of hard to do this. We were not able to find any information about game schedules online before we left, so we ended up going to the game with a local futbol enthusiast when we were in Rio!
This was awesome for several reasons – first, he handled all of the logistics with getting tickets. Second, we got to sit with all the local fans of the team, where the energy is SUUUUUUPPPPPPER high and everyone is cheering and singing all night long – its a whole vibe!
In this tour, you’ll meet up with your new local friend, and hang out with fans in the pubs outside the stadium before the game, where the atmosphere is already really energetic and pumped up, and people are already singing and waving flags.
Then, head into the stadium to watch the match, with the companionship of your local friend to help explain things to you as necessary and cheer alongside you. Whether you like futbol/soccer or not (it’s actually generally not a sport we personally choose to watch), this is an experience that is not to be missed in Rio!
⚽ Check prices and availability for this Brazilian Futbol Match Experience here!
8. Santa Marta Favela Tour
Rating: 4.85 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
Favelas are crowded, very poor neighborhoods, usually built up into the hillsides of Rio. Favelas are all controlled by gangs or the mafia, where they sell drugs and machine guns are carried openly. Favelas are definitely a place to avoid… except if you’re on a tour. Tours of favelas are very safe and incredibly interesting, as you get to see a completely different side of Rio.
This Santa Marta Favela Tour is one of the more famous, and safer, favelas in Rio. It is built on the Dona Marta Hill and is in a fairly central location in Rio de Janeiro.
The owner of the tour and the guides are either residents of the favela or live nearby and are frequent visitors to it. The guides are obviously well-known and liked by almost everyone in the community, and they will tell you the fascinating history of the favela, and some of the challenges they face today.
You will also see and learn about the community services offered in the favela, and how residents are working to improve their neighborhoods and take care of each other. This is an incredible cultural tour in Rio de Janeiro
Part of the proceeds of the tour are reinvested in the community, and the tour is done in an ethical way – focusing on the community and the history, and not “gawking at poverty.”
Santa Marta Favela is also particularly noteworthy in Rio thanks to Michael Jackson. The singer recorded part of his music video for his song “They Don’t Care About Us” in the Santa Marta favela. He recorded on the tennis court near the top, in some of the alleyways, and at a little square near the top of the favela, which today has a mural and a lifesize statue of Michael Jackson.
Check availability and prices for this Tour of the Santa Marta Favela here
9. Rocinha Favela Tour
Rating: 4.74 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
As an alternative to the Santa Marta Favela Tour mentioned above, you may also choose to do a Tour of the Rocinha Favela. The Rocinha favela is the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, and is much, much bigger than Santa Marta. However, it is farther away from the center of Rio and doesn’t have the fun Michael Jackson moments.
Still, some visitors prefer to visit the biggest favela in the city. This tour is done by locals who live in and associate with the favela on a daily basis, and will teach you a lot about what the community is like and the history of the favelas in Rio.
The tour is careful to not be a “gawking at poverty” kind of experience, and part of the proceeds from the tour are used as a donation for improvements in the favela. Like with the Santa Marta favela, I would ONLY recommend visiting a favela as a part of a tour (it’s not safe otherwise).
Whether you choose to visit the Santa Marta favela or the Rocinha favela, this is one Rio de Janeiro tour I would recommend for just about everyone. (I would not recommend it for anyone with mobility issues, as there are a ton of stairs to climb. These tours might also not be suited for children, if you don’t want them to see guns).
Click here to check prices and availability for this Rocinha Favela Tour
10. Hike & Rock Climbing Sugar Loaf
Rating: 4.98 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
This Mountain Hiking and Climbing Tour Up Rio de Janeiro gives you a completely different and secluded experience on one of Rio’s top attractions. Instead of taking the cable cars up like everyone else, you’ll head around to the back of the mountain with an expert rock climbing guide.
Most of the time you’ll be free hiking/scrambling on the rocks, but there will be a few times that you’ll actually need to hook into ropes to make it up. Don’t worry though – no prior rock climbing experience is necessary, and your guide will make sure you are perfectly safe.
Enjoy the incredible views over Rio de Janeiro when you reach the top, and then take the cable car back down to the base of the hill. This way you still get that classic experience of riding the cable car, but also the incredibly unique and secluded experience of being in nature on the mountain by yourself as you climb it.
This is for sure an off the beaten path adventure tour in Rio de Janeiro, and is good for people of most physical abilities.
Check rates and availablity for this Mountain Climbing on Sugar Loaf Tour here
11. Brazilian Cuisine Cooking Class
Rating: 4.7 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
In this Brazilian Cuisine Cooking Class, you’ll get the chance to learn first hand how to create some of Rio de Janeiro’s best dishes. Under the direction of Chef Simone, you’ll work hands-on to create a 3 course meal, that you will then enjoy together at the end of the class.
Chef Simone is very friendly and personable, and effortlessly keeps everyone involved and engaged in the class. Learning about the flavors used in Brazilian cooking and the history behind the meals and dishes used is a high point in the class.
We’ve done several cooking classes all over the world, and they are always so fun! Plus, you can never beat the tastiness of a home-cooked meal prepared under the direction of an expert chef!
Check rates and availability for this Brazilian Cooking Class here
12. Hike to Pedra de Gavea
Rating: 4.95 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
This Hike to Pedra de Gavea Tour is one of the best Rio de Janeiro tours for people who want an adventure activity totally off the beaten path, plus epic views over Rio. After meeting up with your guide, you and a very small group will head to the western part of the city, to hike through Tijuca Forest up to reach the famous Pedra de Gavea rock.
This is a fun, but fairly intense hike, which involves hiking, some scrambling, and even a bit of rock climbing with gear! No rock climbing experience is required, as your guide is a professional, who will take you through the rock climb (using certified gear) to help you reach the top safely.
At the summit, you’ll enjoy incredible panoramic views over Rio and the sea, and the sense of accomplishment of conquering the hike!
Check current prices and availabiltiy for this Hike to Pedra de Gavea Tour here
13. Bike Tour Around Rio de Janeiro
Rating: 4.83 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
This Biking Tour Around Rio de Janeiro is a fun way to get a somewhat different experience in Rio. You’ll be on the streets, so you’ll get an immersive experience like a walking tour, but get to cover ground quite a bit faster than you would if you were walking.
You’ll bike at a leisurely pace for four hours around Rio on this small group tour, seeing many different sites and stopping regularly for pictures and to learn about what you’re seeing. Your expert guide will keep you safe, as they lead you through the streets of Rio. You’ll visit many top attractions, as well as hidden gems and local favorites throughout the city.
Click here to check rates and availability for this Rio de Janeiro Bike Tour
14. Sailing Excursion in Rio de Janeiro
Rating: 4.93 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
In this Sailing Tour in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll board a 40 foot yacht with a small group of travelers, plus your captain and assistant, and head out into the waters surrounding Rio. Enjoy seeing Rio from a unique vantage from the sea, including the ever popular attractions of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain. After sailing the coast for a while, you’ll get the chance to jump off the boat and swim in a protected bay area.
Snacks and drinks are provided, and the captain provides commentary on the views you are seeing and the experience on the sea.
Choose from a daytime excursion or a sunset excursion – both tours last for 3 hours.
Check prices and availability for this Sailing Tour in Rio de Janeiro here
15. Rio de Janeiro Street Art Tour
Rating: 4.9 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
This Rio de Janeiro Street Art Tour takes you to some of the most interesting, beautiful, and famous pieces of street art in the city, led by a knowledgeable and entertaining guide.
Of course, you’ll visit the Mural Das Etnias – the biggest graffiti in the world that debuted before the 2016 Olympic Games. But you’ll also get very off the beaten path, as you roam around the city, looking and dozens of pieces of street art and graffiti.
Your tour guide is incredibly friendly and engaging, sharing little anecdotes and tidbits of information about Rio as you discover gems around the city.
Check rates and availability for this Rio de Janeiro Street Art Tour here
16. Carnival Backstage Tour at Samba City
Rating: 4.8 of 5 ⭐ | Read all reviews here
If you’re not in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, the next best way to experience the excitement of the holiday is by taking a backstage tour at Carnival City.
During this tour, you’ll get an up close and personal look at what goes on to create Carnival in Rio – including seeing and learning about the elaborate parade floats and costumes, and getting to try on some of the incredible carnival costumes,. You’ll also learn about the history of Carnival in Rio, get a quick samba lesson by a professional, and finish it all off with a caipirinha, Rio’s favorite drink.
Check rates and availability for this Backstage Tour at Carnival City here
Best Rio de Janeiro Tours – The Wrap Up
I hope this list helps you plan out your perfect vacation in Rio de Janeiro, full of fun moments and activites!