All Good Vibes in Rio de Janeiro

Traveler: Mikaela Gauer – Photographer & Creative Producer

Where are you escaping? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

What was the purpose of your travel? The first time I visited Rio was on assignment for the 2010 Brazil issue of Trace Magazine, having spent time in other regions of Brazil prior to that trip. I almost immediately fell in love – not only is it breathtakingly beautiful but it possesses a sort of magical energy, a true soulfulness, that makes it unlike any place I’ve been. 


With how many people did you travel? I’ve visited Rio both for work and for pleasure, meeting up with local friends as well as exploring alone, but I love to share my passion for Rio with my travel partner in crime Dana Mathews.  

Where did you stay? And is there something special we should know about this hotel/house? I like to get the true vibe of the city by staying in different neighborhoods. Each area has its own unique feeling. I’ve stayed in an artist’s house in Jardim Botânico, a friend’s apartment in Botafogo, Phillipe Starck’s Hotel Fasano on Arpoador Beach – and each place has been special for different reasons. 


What did you most like about the trip? Rio is all about good vibes. All the little things make it special – local surfers on Leblon beach in the warm afternoon light, watching the sun go down behind the Two Brothers Mountains from Arpoador Beach, catching views from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, all the beautiful bronzed people in string bikinis – and of course sipping caipirinhas and dancing the night away. 


Could you share an unforgettable memory about the trip? One morning a Brazilian friend of mine took me to a surfing beach about an hour’s drive southwest from Rio. We arrived at Praia da Macumba, a secluded beach reminiscent of some of my favorite Hawaiian surf spots, just as the sun was rising. After the morning session, we ate acai bowels at a roadside café on Av Lucio Costa.  

Favorite restaurant(s) or food you have tried during your trip? Although not native to Rio, my favorite Brazilian dish is a Bahian seafood specialty called Mocequa. Also, all the fresh fruit at the local fruit & vegetable markets – oh, and the açaí is sooooo good – nothing in New York can even come close.


What are the must tries of the city? There’s so much to see, but I think these are a few essentials:

-Stroll through Jardim Botânico and stop atParque Lage for pictures

-Watch a soccer match on Copacabana

-Have lunch at Azul Marinho, the restaurant at the Arpoador Inn   

-Shop at Brazilian surf brand Osklen in Ipanema

-Get up close and personal with the Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado Mountain

-Take the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain just before sunset

-Dance the night away to Brazilian jazz, samba and dancehall in Lapa 

-Take public transportation! City buses and the Rio Metro will give you a good sense of where everything is and make you feel like a local.

 Any hidden secrets you could whisper to us? The cariocas are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet – make friends with a local and they will show you a side of the city you’ll never be able to experience otherwise. 


What are your travels quintessential? As long as I have clothes and a camera, I’m good. I shoot mostly with a Fujifilm X-Pro1 which is the perfect travel camera because it’s light and super durable. A compact film camera is essential for a night out on the town (I either bring my Yaschica T4 or a cheap disposable camera), and I have a waterproof phone case so I can Instagram from the waves… 


Would you go back? As often as possible.


Is there any tip that might be useful to know before going there? Rio is magical, but it can also be dangerous. Stay aware, especially at night as pickpockets tend to roam, and most definitely leave your valuables at home. No flashy jewelry, expensive camera gear, or even purses dangling off your shoulder. Travel smart and you’ll have a wonderful time! 


Next stop you would like to visit? I would love to explore more of Brazil as it’s a massively diverse country with so much to offer. I’ve recently become very interested in Uruguay, especially their food and design, and I’d love to backpack Patagonia. My next big trip will be a month traveling through New Zealand in November. I can’t wait to get off the beaten path and explore more beautiful landscapes!