Arraial do Cabo: Crystal Clear Caribbean Waters In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Arraial do Cabo: Crystal Clear Caribbean Waters In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Published January 25, 2021

One thing I love about the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro is that it has much more to offer than the world-famous city of the same name that serves as its capital. Along the state’s coastline are dozens of idyllic small towns that all have unique vibes and stunning beaches. To the east, you can find the historic gems of Paraty and Angra dos Reis (Ilha Grande). Further west of the city, you’ll find the resort towns of Cabo Frio, Armação dos Búzios, and Arraial do Cabo.

A four-day visit to Arraial do Cabo was my first exposure to the southeast corner of RJ state, and the beaches here are better than what you’ll find in Angra dos Reis or Paraty. That’s because the water is such a light shade of blue that you’ll think you were somewhere in the Caribbean!

Arraial do Cabo (pronounced “ah-hai-OW du CA-bo”) is about a two or three hour drive east of Rio (the city). If you’re planning on spending two weeks or longer in RJ state, I highly recommend scheduling two or three days to check out one of these coastal towns, and you can’t go wrong by choosing Arraial do Cabo. This post will explain what to expect and why you should go! I’ll highlight some of the beaches, mention a few tours, give my opinion of the town, talk about restaurant options, and end with a few tips.

Beaches

If you look at a map of Arraial, you’ll notice that there are about half a dozen main beaches. Some are only accessible by boat tour (more on that below), but most are easily accessible from the town center on foot. Here’s a quick overview of four of them.

Praia dos Anjos

This beach is adjacent to the town’s marina, and admittedly is the least impressive of all the ones mentioned here. Take a quick walk along the water, but don’t spend all day on this beach. Every other one mentioned below has nicer waters.

Praia dos Anjos behind the Arraial do Cabo town docks

Praia do Forno

Praia do Forno, which means “Oven Beach,” is accessible by a short hiking trail that starts near the marina and ends on the beach’s southern side. It takes about fifteen minutes each way, and there are some steps. The only other way to get to this beach is by boat as it’s surrounded by forests and no roads lead to it.

Normally, I’m quite cautious about hiking in Brazil because it’s notorious for being unsafe due to thieves, but this short hike has enough people walking along it throughout the day that it’s not dangerous. Arraial do Cabo has a lot of other hiking trails, but I wouldn’t recommend doing any other treks without consulting a local.

Prainha

Of the four beaches listed here, this one (pronounced “praiña” and meaning “Little Beach”) has to be my favorite! It’s easy to get to, and the color of the water is stunning!

A number of hotels are built right along the sand, and they all seem to set up umbrellas and chairs for their guests. I imagine some are also available for the general public to rent for the day. Because Prainha has beautiful water but isn’t a huge beach, it’s more crowded than the others in town.

Praia Grande

As the name suggests, this is the largest beach in town. In fact, it technically stretches on for miles and miles uninterrupted, well beyond the city limits of Arraial do Cabo. There’s a little scenic plaza right here that offers a good view, or you could venture down to the beach itself.

Since Praia Grande is the only west-facing beach in town, it’s undoubtedly the best place to catch the sunset. This is a much more pleasant time to visit anyways, since the beach is wide open with no shade. During the day, the white sand here can actually get pretty hot to the touch.

All About Tours

As mentioned above, a couple of the town’s best beaches are only accessible by boat tour. This is why you simply can’t miss booking one during your visit to Arraial do Cabo! I did two different boat tours to compare the experience between companies, which I’ll be discussing in a separate post [coming soon]!

The other type of tour you can do in Arraial is a buggy (jeep) tour. I’ll be discussing this in my separate tour review post as well. In short, the buggy tour is nice to do if you have an extra day with nothing planned, but it’s not a must.

The Town

This is the one less-than-positive comment I’ll make about Arraial do Cabo: the town itself isn’t super quaint. It’s by no means bad in any way, but there isn’t really a historic center or anything like that. Don’t let that stop you from visiting, though! The gorgeous beaches more than make up for it.

Dining Options

In terms of food, I found that the town had pretty standard Brazilian options. Needless to say, there were quite a few seafood restaurants. Everything I tried there was good, but I did notice while browsing online that a fair number of places had many negative reviews. I always take online reviews with a grain of salt, but it does suggest that restaurants in Arraial do Cabo could be hit or miss.

Here are a couple of the places I recommend.

1. Restaurante Casa da Piedra

Address: R. Santa Cruz, 4 – Praia dos Anjos, Arraial do Cabo – RJ, 28930-000
Website: https://casadapiedra.com.br/home/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/casadapiedra
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/casadapiedra/

This was a great place to grab dinner, and its location right next to the town’s boat tour dock is convenient. I enjoyed both the fish with rice and shrimp sauce and fresh mango salad I ordered.

Casa da Pedra has a nice open-air patio and even offered live music after nightfall. For good food and a casual atmosphere, this is the place to go.

2. Restaurante Saint Tropez

Address: Praça Daniel Barreto, 2 – Praia dos Anjos, Arraial do Cabo – RJ, 28930-000
Website: https://www.saintropez.com.br/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/restaurantesainttropez/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/restaurantesainttropez/

If you want a sit-down dinner experience that is still fairly casual, check out Saint Tropez. They offered a very extensive couvert (appetizer platter) complete with mussels, quail eggs, salami, cheese, butter, and bread. I also tried a fish curry with mango and yellow rice, which was very interesting and fragrant.

3. Quiosque Flor do Caribe

Address: Praia dos Anjos

Sometimes these beach kiosks can really miss the mark, but this one on Praia dos Anjos was quite good! I ordered fried fish with pirão, a kind of orange fish-based gravy that is often served with seafood in Brazil. Adventurous eaters should definitely try it if they see it on a menu, or it may automatically come with some dishes. You’ll often get fries and/or a salad with a lunch combo like this, too.

4. Restaurante Tio Dorp

Address: Praça Daniel Barreto n10 – Praia dos Anjos, Arraial do Cabo – RJ, 28930-000
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tiodorp/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/restaurantetiodorp/

I wasn’t sure if this restaurant would be good or not because it was pretty empty when I went, but it ended up being one of my favorites! I ordered octopus which was cooked perfectly and served with just the right combo of grilled potatoes and onions, white rice, and a small salad to balance out the meal perfectly. I also tried a cocktail and an appetizer of fried cheese, which were both equally good. Don’t pass this one up if you’re in the general area near Praia dos Anjos!

Tips

A visit to Arraial do Cabo is pretty self-explanatory, but here are just a few tips for a smooth visit.

Where to Stay

The town is fairly small and compact, so I don’t think there’s any “wrong” answers here. However, I stayed in an Airbnb a short walk from the marina and I’m glad I did, because boat tours leave early in the morning from here. If I didn’t stay here, I would’ve probably chosen a place near Prainha or Praia Grande.

Entrance to the marina

To browse Airbnb listings in Arraial do Cabo or anywhere else in the world, feel free to use the widget below!

Safety

In general, the town of Arraial felt safe to me as a solo traveler. There are some favelas but if you stick to the main streets in Centro and near Praia dos Anjos, you shouldn’t accidentally wander into one. Favelas are almost always located on hills and are easily distinguished from other parts of towns by their colorful cube-shaped brick houses, so this shouldn’t be a point of concern.

Walking around the main streets in Arraial do Cabo after dinner also felt safe, but I tend to stay in after about 9:00 p.m. if I’m in a town I’m not very familiar with in Brazil.

How to Get to Arraial do Cabo

I’m sure that there are many bus options to get to Arraial do Cabo from Rio de Janeiro, but due to COVID-19 I took an Uber both ways with windows down the entire time and masks on. Each ride cost about 300 BRL and took between two and three hours.

Who should visit Arraial do Cabo?

Rio de Janeiro has so many seaside towns near the capital that choosing only one can be tough. Options include Paraty, Angra dos ReisIlha Grande, Cabo Frio, Armação dos Búzios, and Arraial do Cabo. (This list doesn’t even include popular weekend getaway destinations that are further inland.)

What kind of a traveler should choose Arraial do Cabo? If you love amazing beaches but don’t need a historic city center, this is the destination for you. Words can’t describe how beautiful the water is here, and pictures don’t do it justice. It’s something you simply have to experience in person!

What do you think? Would you set aside a couple of days on a visit to Rio de Janeiro to see Arraial do Cabo? Leave a comment below and let me know! And if you’re headed out this way, be sure to check out my boat and buggy tour review post, too [coming soon]! Thanks for reading!

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This post was published on Jan 25, 2021

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