About 100 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro lies Armação dos Búzios, or just Búzios for short, a picturesque seaside resort community featuring bright blue waters, radiant sunsets, rowboats seemingly plucked from watercolor paintings, trendy restaurants and shops (as always), and tourists. Lots of tourists. But whereas in Rio you will find a polyglot of sightseers and vacationers from across the globe, the tourists you are most likely to find in Búzios are Brazilians trying to get away from it all. Its most famous tourist, however, is French; the actress Brigitte Bardot put the tiny town on the map, at least for non-Brazilians, when in the 60s she visited her Brazilian boyfriend here. This certainly added to Búzios’ reputation as The Brazilian Riviera (because you’re not a resort town unless you’re “The Riviera of…” someplace). Today a statue of Bardot can be seen on the Rua das Pedras, the main shopping artery.
Búzios’ city center is dense and walkable, but its more than 20 beaches are spread out across a series of bays and peninsulas that together resemble a mapmaker’s ink spill, hastily filled in to save face. (Or so I imagine.) Car rentals are recommended, but you can get by using Búzios’ brilliant water taxis, which will take you to any beach for ten reais (about US $5) per person. They’re small motorboats and can generally hold up to four passengers, and they’re a lot of fun. In any case, you’ll need either to walk, drive, or take a taxi to get to a swimmable beach. Armação is the main beach near Rua da Pedras, but it’s more like a small harbor with a wraparound sidewalk for strolling, relaxing or dining at sunset. The other beaches we visited Ferradura Beach (by foot), which was gorgeous but cold, and Tartaruga Beach (by water taxi), which had much warmer waters.
Lodging can range from moderate to extravagant, but if you’re looking to save money, stay away from beachside hotels or anything right on Rua das Pedras. We stayed in Villa Baoba for about $100 per night. It’s about a ten minute walk from downtown, and has a warm, inviting atmosphere, comfortable outdoor pool and hot tub, and generous breakfast, as well as afternoon coffee and cake. In fact, we switched to Baoba after checking in to (and quickly checking out of) a nearby guest house that issues with mold, poor plumbing, and unclean linens. The staff at Villa Baoba were kind enough to give us a kind of honeymoon suite, with a private outdoor area, for one night.
Getting there: Buses depart Rio’s main terminal roughly every two hours between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Round trip tickets are around US $40 and the journey takes about 3 hours, including a stop for lunch. Coaches in Brazil, such as Auto Viação 1001, are clean, safe, efficient, and have commodes.