Arraial do Cabo

Between the green hills that hug the undulating coastline and the turquoise water of the Atlantic Ocean you’ll find perfect white sand beaches in isolated coves. Arraial do Cabo competes with its neighbour Búzios for the most spectacular coastline in Brazil.

Below is a  brief overview of our favourite beaches in Arraial do Cabo. Praia is Portuguese for beach.

Praia do Farol

We climbed up the hilly streets to get a view of what is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil. First we saw the green mountain tops of Ilha do Farol (Lighthouse Island). After we got a little higher, we looked across the sparkling turquoise water to the white, sandy beach at its base. Praia do Farol looks like a good contender for its best beach title.

We had intended on visiting Praia do Farol, but the only way to get there is on a half-day boat tour which was a big deterrent for us. Dozens of boats were anchored in the water just off shore. Even from the across the bay we could hear music blaring and loud cheers from tourists on-board. We decided it was best for us to enjoy it from afar. In fact, that’s how we enjoyed a most of the beaches in Arraial.

The Brazilian Navy has a base on the island so in addition to the requirement needing to visit on a tour boat, there are a few other rules you must follow. Only a small number of people from each boat are allowed on the beach at a time and then only for a short period of time. As well food is not allowed.

Prainhas do Pontal do Atalaia

Across from Ilha do Farol is its mirror image. Prainhas do Pontal do Atalaia is a long, white strip of sand backed by a steep cactus-covered slope and fronted by water in the most gorgeous shade of turquoise. Two long stairways lead you down to either end. At low tide the two beaches are connected by a thin strip of sand, but at high tide they are two separate beaches. The setting is stunning and we only wish we had seen it on a less busy day. On the day we visited there were so many umbrellas, we couldn’t even see the sand.

The beach can only be accessed from a tour boat or by climbing down the long stairs. There are no hotels or restaurants nearby, but you can buy food and drinks on the beach.

Instead of joining the horde on the beach, we continued our walk and hiked up to the top of Morro do Pontal do Atalaia (Watchtower Hill). This hill is at the end of the peninsula and awarded us with views of amazing coastal scenery. Joining us was a guira cuckoo. It is the most interesting cuckoo we’ve ever seen. Its funky hairdo definitely caught our attention. Next we spotted a mom and baby lizard on the arid ground.

Praia Brava

The name Wild Beach is very apt for this idyllic spot. From the cliffs above we couldn’t see it. Even after we walked down a long staircase, the beach remained hidden. A vague trail took us across a granite slab toward what looked like a break in the rocks. Finally, we could see the hidden gem below. A narrow, deep inlet contained a small perfect white sand beach with rolling turquoise waves.

Getting to the beach is quite tricky as you have to downclimb the granite cliffs so it is definitely not for everyone. In addition, it is only a beach during low tide. At high tide the inlet is flooded by the sea and the sand disappears. All of this made it more special, and was our favourite beach in Arraial. This may be obvious, but there are no services at Praia Brava.

Praia Grande

At a whopping 40 km long, Praia Grande really lives up to its name. Praia Grande translates in English to Big Beach. It is close to town, but the strong surf means that it’s not as popular as the other beaches. With fewer people and this much space though, you’ll be guaranteed to find your own perfect spot. There area few kiosks that sell drinks and food and rent umbrellas.

Praia do Forno

We doubt this is the reason for the name Oven (Forno) Beach, but you get very hot climbing up to the top of the hill and then back down to reach the sand. From the top of the hill we had our first look at this very pretty beach. The theme of white sand, turquoise water and green hills continued with Praia do Forno. On the other side of the hill we looked back to see the city of Arraial do Cabo.  Like most of the other beaches, it was very busy and we didn’t linger for very long.

Praia dos Anjos

On the edge of the city is its least attractive beach. The sand is course, the water is filled with tourist boats and at the end are two huge casks belongings to the Barley Malting Company. Even with all of these reasons to avoid it, the beach was quite busy with families. There are quite a few snack shops on the boardwalk that runs beside it and several operators renting chairs and umbrellas.

Since both Arraial and Búzios are close to Rio, you may wonder which one you should choose to spend you vacation. Even though they are only 30 km apart, the two spots are quite different, so which you chose depends on what you’re looking for. In contrast to the tourist-ready town of Búzios, Arraial is a working, industrial city. There are restaurants but they are mostly fast food rather than family-style, sit down restaurants. Most cities we visited in Brazil have vibrant tourist areas with shops, restaurants and pubs. We didn’t find that in Arraial. 

In addition to the lack-luster town, many of the beaches are only accessible by boat or foot. This sounds romantic, but on the weekend, it’s not. Party boats continuously transport people between the small beaches making them quickly lose their charm. Maybe if you visit during the week, it would be less hectic, but when we visited it seemed as if all of Rio was crowded on to the little coves. Despite the crowds, we’re glad we didn’t miss the spectacular view in Arraial.

For comparison, you can read about Búzios here.

Where to stay and eat in Arraial do Cabo

Most restaurants and grocery stores are located near Praia do Anjos so this the most practical place to stay if you don’t have a car. If you do have a car, there are a few nice looking hotels high on the cliffs above Praia Grande or Praia do Anjos that have amazing views. 

How to get to Arraial do Cabo

Arraial do Cabo is only 165 km from Rio. Buses leave to and from Rio several times a day. There are inexpensive city buses traveling between Búzios, Cabo Frio and Arraial do Cabo. We used one to travel between Búzios and Arraial. We had our luggage and it wasn’t a problem, but we don’t know what would happen if the bus is full.

To read about our other adventures in Brazil click here.

Coming Next – Costa Verde – Ilha Grande

For pictures from other blogs go to Gallery at

To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.

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