Brazil has often been seen as a “grown-up” destination and it’s probably fair enough to say that you might not take your six-year-old with you to the Rio Carnival. Thousands of Brazilians do, of course, but it’s safe to say the whole experience might be a little overwhelming if it’s not something you’re used to: and that’s just for the adults! However, there’s a lot more to Brazil than Carnival, and provision for kids in hotels and restaurants is surprisingly good. The 2016 Rio Olympics and 2014 Soccer World Cup are the sort of events that Brazilians are hoping will bring this to the attention of families outside the country, and hopefully show the country to the world in a more family-friendly light.
So if you were going to take a family trip to Brazil, where might you like to consider that’s going to offer plenty for you and the kids? Well, first on my personal list would be the fabulous Iguazu Falls. On seeing these immense waterfalls framed by tropical jungle, Eleanor Roosevelt’s first reported comment was “Poor Niagara!” and most people certainly have their breath taken away by the sheer scale and power of the falls. It’s fantastic enough as an adult, but children are often especially impressed by this display of nature’s raw power. The falls form part of the border between Brazil and Argentina, and it’s worth allowing some time to visit both sides of the falls – the Argentinian side has walkways which let you get really close to the falls, while the Brazilian side offers some stunning panoramic views which give even the most amateurish photographer the chance for perfect photos. A firm family favourite on the Brazilian side is the “Macuco Safari” which takes you on a short hike through the rainforest down to the river Iguazu where you and the kids board inflatable speedboats that take you along the river to the very base of the falls so you can dash in and out of the spray.
Another location that’s always a favourite for both adults and children is the Pantanal. This enormous area of wetlands – about twenty times the size of the Everglades, or roughly the size of France – is one of the world’s great biodiversity hotspots and if any members of your family are animal-lovers then there is nowhere better (not even the Amazon) for spotting wildlife, from a bewildering variety of birds to the elusive jaguars. Partly this is because the Pantanal is even more diverse than the Amazon basin, but also because the nature of the terrain lends itself to actually seeing the animals properly. Obviously inside a rainforest light levels are low and most animals live in the thick tree canopies, whereas the more open terrain of the Pantanal allows much greater, almost safari-style, visibility. One of the real joys here is that most accommodation is in small family-run pousadas, which are often in former ranches. The atmosphere is usually very informal, and as well as the obvious hikes and boat trips, you can often enjoy horse-riding, swimming and snorkelling in the clear, warm waters.
All this is without even considering the miles and miles of stunning coastline which Brazil has to offer. From the surfing capital of Florianopolis in the south, to the vast sweeps of golden sands in the north, Brazil is blessed with some of the best beaches in the world. If you’d like self-contained resort hotels with purpose-built facilities then you have plenty to choose from, but my pick would be the little town of Paraty. Lying between Rio and Sao Paulo, Paraty was built in colonial times and still has the charming architecture of grand houses and small cobbled streets but today they are lined with galleries, restaurants and little cafes which are just perfect for sitting back with a nice Brazilian coffee – or an ice-cream, of course. In the area around the town the coastline is dotted with literally dozens of small coves where palm-tree lined beaches frame crystal-clear waters that are just perfect for swimming and scuba-diving. You can take boat-trips out to deserted tropical islands just off shore or even go for a cruise on a pirate ship so you can all live out your ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ daydreams!
If you’re the kind of family that likes getting out there and getting stuck into new experiences and new cultures – preferably with a little taste of adventure thrown in – then it’s really worth considering a trip to Brazil. From natural wonders to man-made spectaculars, there’s something for everyone and the people have got to be some of the friendliest on the planet, so whether you’re six or sixty, you get a great welcome wherever you go.
- Guest poster Dan Clarke works for Real Brazil Holidays, and when he’s not looking after his own not-quite-two-year-old, he’s planning his next trip back to the land of samba! We love to get reports from all corners of the globe. If you’d like to write a guest post, please email us at [email protected]