At this very moment, the exchange rate is hovering around the £1= R$5.8 mark. When I arrived in Brazil at the start of my internship last June, it was more like 3.75, so cocktails in paradise just got one hell of a lot cheaper! This isn’t obviously, great news for the Brazilian economy, which I sincerely hope will soon recover, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all make the most of the current prices to get to know this incredible country!
Lots of backpackers avoid Brazil as it’s got a reputation for being a lot more expensive than a lot of South America, and Bonito is on even fewer people’s lists as it’s still more expensive. It’s famous among Brazilian tourists but the word hasn’t yet got out to the international travelling community.
Bonito is relatively close to the borders with Paraguay and Bolivia, and many people stop off in Bonito on their way through from the Rio or Sao Paulo, before visiting the world famous Pantanal wetlands and then heading on either south to Iguazu Falls or East to the Bolivian border.
Bonito literally means ‘beautiful’ and it sure as hell lives up to it’s name. The region is crisscrossed by rivers with crystal-clear water bursting with exotic fish. These rivers have formed stunning waterfalls and there are also mind blowing caves to be explored. If you’re lucky you’ll also catch a glimpse of exotic wildlife like capybaras, anteaters, tapirs and even anacondas.
From June 2014- February 2015 I worked in tourism in Bonito and was able to visit most of the main attractions for free. At the time, the exchange rate meant that I thought the market prices of the activities were a bit steep, but currently both the prices of accommodation and the trips are much more accessible for those with a backpacker budget!
If you’re currently on a South American or Brazilian trip or planning one in the near future, make sure to factor in a few days in Bonito. There’s no where else like it in the world, and it might not stay affordable for long!
My top tips for a trip to Bonito:
Bonito HI Hostel. Hosteling International offerings can sometimes be a bit disappointing, but this one is bursting with character. It’s staff are all multi-lingual experts on the region and are brilliant fun to boot. They’ll help you plan your time in Bonito according to your budget and your priorities. By Bonito standards (population 20,000) it’s a bit of a walk from the town centre but it’s worth it!
Zapi Zen. This place was brand new when I arrived and I quickly made friends with the owners I was there so much! It offers light pizzas, wraps and salads and is a wonderful contrast to the meat-heavy cuisine served up in most restaurants in Brazil. Right in the town centre and very reasonably priced.
Casa do Joao. A hugely popular family run restaurant serving up traditional Brazilian dishes alongside some more experimental stuff, in a lovely setting. Well worth a visit if you fancy treating yourself, as this is one of the pricier options in town.
Taboa is the most famous bar in Bonito (not that there are many!). It’s bright yellow and has writing all over the walls, so you can’t miss it on the high street. They make all their own Cachaca (Brazilian rum) locally. This is also a good place for dinner, offering Brazilian ! Make sure you try a Caipirinha (cachaca, rum, sugar and ice), but don’t underestimate their strength! Taboa has live Brazilian music every night of the week and there’s always a party atmosphere.
Sera o Benedito. Just round the corner from Taboa is Bonito’s other main bar, which generally attracts more of a local crowd due to it’s slightly lower prices. They claim to do the best Caipirinhas in Brazil! Have one from Taboa and one from here and decide for yourself!
Balneario Municipal. The cheapest day out in Bonito. You can get there by bike from the town and spend a day enjoying the incredible waters of the River Formoso (Beautiful River).
Rio de Prata. A 2km snorkel down a river chock-a-block with incredible animal and plant life. Anacondas sometimes make an appearance in the water here, but they’re far less interested in you than you are in them!
Parque Ecologico Rio Formoso. This is where I worked for 9 months, as a tubing monitor. The tubing course takes you down 7 smalls waterfalls and rapids over 1.5km and is brilliant fun! The horse-riding route is also absolutely stunning. The price of your activity includes the use of the lake with stand-up paddle boards and a zip line!
Boca da Onca. There are lots of waterfall tours in Bonito, but this is the best! I defy you to hang on to any stress or feeling of unhappiness after a day here!
Abismo Anhumas. A 72m abseil into a Cathedral-like water-filled cavern where you can snorkel or dive before climbing back up a rope. Like going to another planet for a few hours. This is the most expensive activity, but it’s much less expensive at the moment, and you’ll never forget it!
Happy exploring! Give my regards to this slice of paradise!