We wouldn't dare attempt to disspell the romantic images of Rio that will be immediately confirmed if your flight comes in over the bay; the beaches (which have been immortalized by popular culture), the peaks overlooking the water, the welcoming figure of Christ, the bronzed bodies... it's all enough to leave quite a first impression. But once that slack-jawed, glazed-eyed euphoria wears off, is there enough substance to keep you going? The answer is indubitably yes.
The aforementioned beaches, particularly the social centers of Ipanema and Copacabana, are a good a place to start as any; but the beach is also a great place to land if you want to see Rio from a most exhilarating perspective, a hang glider. Other great views can be had after hiking or scaling Sugarloaf or Corcovado Mountain, both of which provide the reward of this gorgeous city spread out beneath you. Then again, some great waterfalls and shorter hikes can be had in the transplanted Tijuca Forest behind Corcovado, as well as the Serra dos Orgaos range about an hour north of the city, which is home to some cool rock formations, including the iconic Dedo de Deus (God's Finger). Some parks in the city also include Flamengo Park and Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, which is a 7.5 km lake around which you can walk or cycle.
We'd have to assume, since you're in Rio and not in the Swiss Alps, that your interests lie more in enjoying the sunny coast than being pinioned to an ice wall. Because as you can see, there is a lot more of that sunny coast-style adventure. You're in the right place? Good.
Both east and west of the city, there are plenty of ocean-side destinations where every activity above, below, and beside the water can be enjoyed freely. Cabo Frio and Arraial do Cabo are great day trips, while Ilha Grande is a rainforest island that appeals to the escapist, and the Buzios Peninsula is for those who like a huge party atmosphere with their beach loafing.
Excited? Look at our individual adventure listings, tour operators, and related travel pictures and videos and start figuring out how you can turn your Rio adventure into reality.