Tortuga Tur & Saveiro Don Juan Tour Reviews (Arraial do Cabo, RJ, Brazil)
Tortuga Tur & Saveiro Don Juan Tour Reviews (Arraial do Cabo, RJ, Brazil)
Published January 27, 2021
Are you the kind of traveler who loves going off the beaten path and exploring local communities that friends back home have almost certainly never heard of? If you are, then you need to make a note of Arraial do Cabo for your next visit to Rio de Janeiro! This small town located about 160 km east of Rio is known for its sparkling Caribbean waters and laid-back vibe.
Arraial do Cabo (pronounced “ah-hai-OW du CA-bo”) is compact and walkable, but a couple of the town’s best beaches are only accessible by boat tour. This post will review two boat tours I went on, compare them, and at the end I’ll provide a quick summary of a jeep tour, which is another way to get to know Arraial.
If you’re curious about the town itself and what you can expect overall, check out my comprehensive guide using the image link below! Otherwise, let’s get started on these tour reviews!
Boat Tour #1: Don Juan Tour
This company also goes by Saveiro Don Juan. Their booking office is located here, and the price of the boat tour per person is 100 BRL per person (as of January 2020). I’m sure you could purchase tickets online, but I bought mine in person at the office. One thing I loved right off the bat is that the office doubles as a cafe. Even though you have to be there early if you opt for the morning tour, you can get coffee and a small breakfast before heading over to the docks as a group.
When you get to the dock, you’ll need to bring cash to pay the 10 BRL marina tax. This is true no matter what company you book with, and employees should inform you of this when you buy your tickets.
A tour guide will direct you to the boat. Since there are a lot of different companies and vessels at the dock, it’s best to keep a close eye on your guide until embarking. You’ll have to submit the slip of paper you got when you paid the 10 reais as tax, so don’t throw it away until you get on the boat.
Stop 1/4: Praia do Farol
On this tour, our first stop was Praia do Farol (Lighthouse Beach). Because this beach is located on Ilha do Farol (Lighthouse Island), it’s one of the beaches that can only be accessed by boat tour. It’s also possibly the most picturesque spot in Arraial do Cabo, nestled between the lightest shade of ocean water you’ll find in this region and gently sloping sand dunes behind it.
Note that you’re not allowed to bring anything except a phone (and a mask during the pandemic) to this beach. That’s because it’s a protected natural reserve, so even flip flops aren’t permitted. If you’re going to bring your phone, you might want to purchase one of the waterproof necklace-style cases that are sold around town and at the marina for between 5 and 10 BRL.
Stop 2/4: Gruta Azul
After this stop, the boat will bring you around to Ilha do Farol’s rocky southwestern coastline to see some grottos in the rocky shore as well as the Fenda de Nossa Senhora, a massive break in the rocky cliffs that shelters a statue of a saint. At this stop, we didn’t disembark or swim, so have your cameras ready.
Stop 3/4: Praia do Pontal do Atalaia
Next, you’ll be given some time to explore Praia do Pontal do Atalaia. This beach is on the mainland. Based on Google Maps, it looks like it might have some dirt roads and hiking trails that lead out here, but it’s much simpler to see this beach as part of the boat tour.
At this stop, you can purchase drinks or snacks from a number of vendors, so bring some cash with you if you’re interested.
Stop 4/4: Praia do Forno
The fourth and final stop on this tour is Praia do Forno. This beach actually is easily accessible on foot from the town center, but the boat will drop the anchor somewhere in the bay and allow guests to swim for a bit. In comparison to the two beaches mentioned above, this one isn’t as spectacular, but it’s still nice to be able to get into the water to cool off for a bit.
Finally, the boat returns to the docks and passengers can go on their way.
Boat Tour #2: Tortuga Tur
The itinerary for the other company I tried called Tortuga Tur was very similar to the one for Don Juan. They have a corporate office closer to the docks where you can buy tickets. This tour was cheaper at only 70 BRL per person (in January 2021). Although they were just slightly more conveniently located, Tortuga Tur did not have a cafe at their meeting point.
No matter which company you book with, remember to bring cash for the 10 BRL marina tax. The boat for Tortuga is shown below. One thing I really liked about this one was that it had an upper deck, which Don Juan’s vessel did not. This, along with the cheaper ticket price, meant that Tortuga offered a better deal, although the 30 BRL difference is only about 5 USD and some change at the time of writing.
Just by coincidence, I booked my Tortuga tour in the afternoon and did Don Juan in the morning. I’ll talk a bit more about which one I recommend in the section below. Under normal circumstances, most companies appear to offer both time slots to choose from. Note that availability may be reduced due to COVID-19.
On this tour, our first stop was the rocky grottos and sea caves on Ilha do Farol. It was the same deal: a quick stop for pictures but not enough time to check it out on foot or go for a swim.
After this, we disembarked for a while on Praia do Farol, followed by Praia do Pontal do Atalaia. And just like with Don Juan, the final stop was also the opportunity to swim or relax while anchored offshore near Praia do Forno.
Regardless what company you book with, you’ll want to dress as if you were headed to the beach. Bring flip flops, a swimsuit, sunscreen, a mask during the pandemic, and possibly a towel or a change of clothes. Don’t expect to stay dry unless you’re okay never leaving the boat, which is technically an option.
In order to get from the main boat to shore at Praia do Farol and Praia do Pontal do Atalaia, all tour companies use small motorized dinghies. Note what your dinghy and your tour guide look like. There are going to be a handful of them on the beaches and it can be easy to lose track of them.
Furthermore, pay attention to how long you have on each beach. Employees appear to do headcounts before moving on from each stop, but you don’t want to be the person to hold up the boat because you lost track of time. If you don’t understand the announcements in Portuguese, ask for help! Employees will almost certainly be able to translate into English and Spanish!
Snacks and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, are served for an additional cost on board both companies’ boats. You can also purchase something to eat from a vendor at Praia do Pontal do Atalaia.
Expect the boats to have a professional photographer or two, but know that they are contractors who you have to pay if you want to purchase any of the shots they take. They are unfortunately not there to take pictures of you with your phone. I personally just asked other passengers to take photos free of charge.
A Comparison of the Tours
In general, I really liked both tours. I can’t really say that one was better than the other, but Tortuga was slightly cheaper and their boat with an upper deck was an added bonus. I don’t think you could go wrong by booking with either of these companies.
Another interesting question is whether you should book a tour in the morning or afternoon. Although there are tradeoffs for both, I have to say I think morning is better for a number of reasons. Although being out the door by 7:00 a.m. was a little rough, the beaches are less crowded in the morning. It’s also still a bit cooler for the first hour or two of the tour, although by noon it can already be quite hot.
If you care about taking pictures, the natural light is definitely better on Praia do Farol in the morning. In contrast, it’ll be easier to take good shots on Praia do Pontal do Atalaia in the afternoon. In my personal opinion, the color of the water in the bay is a little more impressive in the morning. It’s a stunning light blue all day long, but it tends to be just a shade darker in the afternoon.
The main drawback to booking a morning tour is that you might wake up to cloudy weather. For an afternoon tour, you have the option of trying to buy tickets once you’ve confirmed that it’ll be a nice day, although this might be more difficult if you’re trying to do so on a weekend.
Jeep (Buggy) Tour Summary
Don’t forget that buggy land tours are also a common offering in Arraial do Cabo! I chose to do one with Tortuga Tur, which cost 200 BRL. However, the Jeep looked like it would accommodate up to three passengers, so if you’re in a group you could split that cost. Here’s a quick overview of what we did.
After leaving the Tortuga Tur main office, we drove to the edge of town to see the southern end of Praia do Pontal. This is too far from the town center to walk, and I wouldn’t have thought to check this beach out on my own, but it was pretty amazing. The dark blue water here is totally different from the beaches that are part of the boat tour itineraries.
We continued to go further north along the shore before eventually heading back.
The last stop was Mirante da Boa Vista, a scenic viewpoint overlooking Praia Grande on the western side of town. Although you can technically get to this lookout without a tour, it’s on the edge of a small favela. If you’d like to visit the Mirante without a buggy tour, I would at least recommend hiring an Uber to get there and back instead of walking up and down the hill.
After this, we headed back to the office. This Jeep tour was nice but I would personally say that it’s optional. In contrast, I highly recommend doing at least one boat tour during a visit to Arraial do Cabo.
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I hope that this post will help guide visitors to Arraial do Cabo in the right direction! Are you in town and shopping around for the best deal? Have you been to Arraial do Cabo before? Leave a comment below and let me know! If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them! Thanks for reading, and bon voyage!
This post was published on Jan 27, 2021