15 Free Things To Do in South Florida and the Keys

Florida Keys Dry Tortugas National Park Fort Jefferson

We recently bought tickets to go to Dry Tortugas National Park, and those tickets are not cheap. Add to that a few days in the Keys, and your budget will definitely feel the pinch. However, as we discovered, there were plenty of free (and almost free) things to do in our two weeks between Fort Lauderdale and Key West. There was one card in our wallet that helped us out the most- our military ID. Read on to find over 15 free things to do in the area.

1. Alligator Alley (Tamiami Trail)

It is free to drive across parts of both the Everglades and Big Cypress along the Tamiami Trail. You will see quite a lot of wildlife as you drive. If you enter the Everglades National Park at one of its entrances, it will cost you $30 per car. However, if you have a national parks pass, a military ID (retired and active duty both get in free now, plus up to 4 accompanying occupants), or a 5th grader, you can visit inside the park for free.

2. The Ochopee Post Office

This small post office is the tiniest post office in the United States. It used to to be a storage shed! It’s just off the Tamiami Trail, before you reach Everglades City if you’re heading west. Stop by and take a picture, it’s really cute. Yes, it still sends mail! Thanks to Charles McCool for suggesting this one- find out why this post office is especially important to him.

3. Clyde Butcher Big Cypress Gallery

For some stunning nature photographs, visit the Big Cypress gallery of renowned artists Clyde and Niki Butcher. Their gallery also features art from other artists. Outside their shop is a short nature walk, and you can usually see a gator or two in the pond by their parking lot.

Florida Everglades Clyde Butcher photography

4. Museum of the Everglades

This small museum in Everglades City is really good. From their beautiful pine floor, to their extensive array of information about how the Tamiami Trail and Everglades City came to be, this museum is not to be missed. The museum is free, but you can always drop a few dollars in their donation jar, they do appreciate it.

Almost free: Smallwood Store

If you’re already as far west as Everglades City, you might as well continue down the road the last few miles and visit Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee. This old building, perched on pilings, is a real treasure. Built in 1906 as the first general store in the area, this is an actual “Indian trading post”, also post office, restaurant, shoe repair, bank, and apothecary. It does cost $5 to enter, but I found it well worth the price to go inside and look around. The breeze coming through there off the water can’t be beat.

5. Big Cypress National Preserve

Although national parks have entry fees, national preserves and national forests do not. Be sure to stop in at the HP Williams Roadside Park and check out their board walk- we saw tons of gators in the waters. We also saw manatees at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park a bit further down the Tamiami Trail.

6. Loop Road Scenic Drive

Taking this narrow dirt road will add some time to your Tamiami Trail drive, but we saw so much wildlife here that it was absolutely worth it. Recently graded, the road parallels cypress swamps and features gators, herons, cranes, turtles, and more. Keep an eye out for barred owls as well.

7. Betsy the lobster

As you head south into the Keys, you can’t miss Rain Barrel Village, which features a huge (40 foot) sculpture of a lobster out front. Rain Barrel Village might look like a t-shirt shop and bar, but if you walk through to the back yard, you’ll find some lovely art galleries, glass studios, and shady spots to sit.

8. National Key Deer Refuge

It’s only open three days a week, but you can stop in and learn about the Key deer at the refuge on Pine Key. Like a lot of wild animals that live on islands, this species is smaller than deer found on the mainland. If the refuge isn’t open, you can turn into one of the side streets near there and probably spot some if you drive slowly.

Almost or maybe free: Zachary Taylor State Park

This fort on Key West is a Florida state park, but if you have a Florida State Parks pass- or a military ID- you can enter for free. The fort, which is a sister fort to the one at Dry Tortuga, is really interesting in how it helped shorten the Civil War by as much as two years. Free guided ranger talk at 11 am daily. The park also has a nice, sandy beach, where you can picnic or buy concessions.

9. Books & Books @ The Studios

If you’re a literary fan, you probably already know that Key West was the home of Ernest Hemingway for nine years. But did you know that author Judy Blume lives here as well? Visit the bookstore she runs with her husband, and be sure to check out the Key West history section.

10. Visit the sister shop of Hemingway’s Pilar at the Bass Pro Shop in Marathon

In 1933, Hemingway went on a fishing trip in this boat. He liked it so much that he kept the brochure, and had another one made! He named it the Pilar, and you can see it today at his house in Cuba. The original ship can be seen at the Bass Pro Shop in Marathon on your way down the Keys. You can also see this boat feature in the movie “Key Largo” as the Santana boat that Bogart sails at the end of the movie.

11. Ride the Duval Loop bus in Key West.

This bus stops at 16 points around historic Key West and is absolutely free. You can see their live map at kwtransit.com. A bus arrives every 20-30 minutes. Bonus: use your military ID to get onto the base and park for free at Trumbo Point gate- saving you $5 an hour or $40 daily on downtown parking fees. Stop #1 on the Duval Loop route is just one block from Trumbo gate.

Not free, but half the price: stay at the Navy Lodge

If you are active duty or retired military, you can stay at the Navy Lodge on Dredger’s Key for $135 a night- a huge saving from Key West hotel prices. You can call for a reservation starting 30 days out from your intended stay. But call as soon as you can- they only have 26 rooms.

12. Cool off at Truman Waterfront Park

It’s pretty hot in Key West, but there are some places to cool off. If you have kids with you, one excellent place is the Truman Waterfront Park. They have a splash pad there, and in Thursdays you can visit the Farmer’s Market from 2-5 pm.

13. Visit the Southernmost Point(s)

Of course you can’t visit Key West without visiting the southernmost point. Just walk down Whitehead Street until you get to the very end, and you’ll see the famous painted monument. But if you REALLY want to get to the southern point, you’ll need to go into the nearby naval air station, which is built in a mile of reclaimed land.

14. Wander up and down Duval Street

I don’t think it’s possible to visit very many of the bars, restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries without opening your wallet often, but it’s free to try! Even just people watching and reading all the funny t-shirts is a pretty good time.

15. Grab a book (or drop one off) at the Green Parrot’s Little Free Library

I hate trying to read on my phone or e-reader when I’m at the beach- a paperback works much better! If you need one, or finished yours and want to drop it off, I spotted several Little Free Libraries around town. This one at the Green Parrot is particularly well-located.

Borrow free snorkel equipment at Fort Jefferson:

Okay, so really this one isn’t free. It’s pretty expensive to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park. The only ways to get there are to sail your own boat, take a seaplane, or take the Yankee Clipper ferry, which will run you $200 per person. Be sure to take your national parks pass with you to get $15 off per person. However, they will provide a free breakfast, free lunch, and free snorkel equipment at the beach, as well as a free guided tour of the fort. We really enjoyed our day and felt in the end, it was worth the cost!

I’m sure there are more free (and almost free) things to do in South Florida, but these were some of my favorites. If you’ve visited the area, let us know your favorite things to do!

From Barbados to Barbuda: Easy Living in the Eastern Caribbean

There are over 7,000 islands in the Caribbean, and around 100 of them are populated. With a few weeks left in our year of exploring South America, we decided to finish off in the Caribbean. Of the 13 independent countries in the area, I needed to catch up on the last six, while Chris had a few select islands he wanted to not miss.

It’s not always easy to find direct flights between islands, so we used a combination of ferries, flights, and a cruise to get us to where we needed to be. You can read more about our quest for last-minute cruise tickets here. To find out which islands are connected via ferry, this ferry website turned out very useful. And to see which islands had direct flights to other islands, this Flight Connections website was our pal. The smaller airlines don’t always show up on Skyscanner or Expedia searches, so it’s sometimes worth taking a look to see which airlines fly to lesser-known cities.


From its crystal clear waters, to its sandy white beaches, Barbados is a great first stop in the Caribbean. We flew direct from Guyana to Barbados, kicked around for a week in Bridgetown and in Holetown, and then jumped on a cruise ship for a week.

Continue reading “From Barbados to Barbuda: Easy Living in the Eastern Caribbean”

Cruise the Caribbean with Last Minute Tickets

Barbados Marella cruise

After our fantastic success getting last minute, deeply discounted cruise tickets to Antarctica last year, we found ourselves in the Caribbean this spring with some extra time and an empty travel schedule. We decided to see if we could get last minute tickets to visit a few Caribbean islands.

The Caribbean was meant for sailing

As we were already in South America, one of the closest island destinations was Barbados. Looking on VacationsToGo, we saw several upcoming cruises departing from there. Some were sold out, but we wondered if we could find a last-minute cancellation ticket in the next few days. We happily found a direct flight, and within two hours we were landing on the island, surrounded by the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Early bird discounts (these sailings are next year) or last minute is the way to go

Barbados, as we quickly came to realize, is a huge hub for cruise ships, as well as flights from Europe and the US. At the airport, we saw a half-dozen Tui airplanes, as well as British Airways, American Airlines, JetBlue, and other smaller inter-island hoppers. With new camera kiosks at the arrivals terminal, we were processed into Barbados in just a few minutes. Once out of the airport, we could take a taxi into Bridgetown for $70 Bajan ($35USD), or walk across the street and catch a local minibus for $3.50 Bajan.

Every ride on the local minibus or full bus costs $3.50 Bajan. They accepted USD as well.

We stayed near Bridgetown in a cute AirBnB cottage for the first couple of days so we could assess the port situation and talk to people about their cruising experience. Could you just walk up to the port and pay money and get on a boat? Maybe in days past you could, or in other ports you still can, but not here. Without a ticketed itinerary, they would not let us through the security check. We chatted up some local taxi drivers, and got some good intel (more than one cruise ship a day, but the season was winding down- it generally runs from November to April in this part of the Caribbean). We went to get some lunch, and while we were enjoying our ice-cold Deputy beers at The Bird Bar near Carlisle Beach, we met some Brits and they told us about their Marella cruise, organized by Tui.

You can also charter smaller boats when island hopping, but we were looking for all-inclusive cruises for this adventure. Maybe next time!

That evening, we utilized the Cruise Time Table website to drill down on any boats that would be sailing in and out of the Barbados port. The great thing about this site is that you can look at cruises that are mid-sail, not just ones that depart from your chosen port. In many cases, you can embark or disembark on a cruise that is already in progress- but be sure to phone up the company and ask them directly before you purchase your tickets. As long as their port has customs and immigrations processing, the ship’s agent at that port of call can generally help you out (you may find yourself boarding with some of the entertainment crew, as they frequently swap out mid-sail).

This site can be a wealth of info!

Using this website, we found some options for the next few days. One MSC cruise that visited seven islands was showing up as “sold out”, but when we phoned them, they told us to check back each day to see if there was a cancellation (they do not do a “hold” list). The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection sailing had a nice itinerary… but cost $1000 a day. Another boat was a two week cruise that began and ended in Barbados, but it was a German cruise company, and aside from the safety announcements, German would be the main language spoken on boats. The best option for us was a Marella cruise, which is operated by the British company Tui. Their 2,000 passenger boat visited six islands, began and ended in Barbados, had an all-inclusive alcohol package, and had availability for a sailing in two days. We could take the boat for one week, or add a second week with a different itinerary. We phoned them up, and half an hour later we were booked. For less than £650 each (just under $750), we had transportation for a week, all our meals, two pools, and our own cabin steward!

Even our monkey, George, was pampered on our cruise

The key to booking a last minute cruise, flight, rental car, or activity is really being flexible. In reality, we could have started and ended our cruise at any port. We just had to pick an island and start searching. Obviously, Miami is a great port to try your luck. But don’t rule out Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, or Barbados! If you’re already overseas, make sure to download Skype, and put a few bucks in your account, so you can make phone calls (or talk to your cell company about their overseas plans). Don’t be afraid to just call up the cruise lines- we spoke to a few and there were no wait times or queues. They had very friendly agents (like airlines used to have). And one final tip: if you think you have a great cruise lined up but need to secure a flight to get there ASAP, remember that most major airlines will allow you to cancel a flight in the first 24 hours (in the US it is a law). So book a quick flight, book your cruise, and get going!

All aboard!

The Guyanas (And Suriname) (Which Used to be Dutch Guyana)

Guyana French Guiana and Suriname flags

Contrary to the rest of South America, independent travel through Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana is more rare, and there’s less information out there that is current and helpful. Chris and I (Deah) traveled through the region in March 2023. A fascinating mix of cultures, religions, and economics, these three countries are not for the faint of heart, but is quite interesting and worth visiting.


The “land of many waters” is one of the least populated countries in South America, and is covered by dense forests and several rivers. After being colonized by the Dutch and the British, it achieved independence in 1966. In the last five years, vast amounts of oil have been found off the coast, causing a boom in the economy (and high inflation). Local and cheap, delicious street food such as Nasi Gorang, or Trinidadian doubles can be found on every corner. High priced, air conditioned restaurants that take credit cards and cater to the oil company crowds are fewer in number, but still dotted around town. Local GT or Banks beer are always ice cold.

Getting There

You can fly directly to Guyana from Panama (Copa Airlines), Trinidad and Barbados (Caribbean Air), Miami (American airlines), and New York (various). You can also arrive by overnight bus from Manaus/Boa Vista, Brazil, and by shared taxivan from neighboring Suriname (there is only one morning ferry per day so plan accordingly).

Entering by ferry from Suriname, the kind border guard offered to snap our picture

Capital City Sights

Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, is… difficult. It is crowded, lacks sidewalks, has open sewer ditches teeming with trash and mosquitos, and has a reputation for muggings. If you exercise some basic caution, you should be able to spend a day of two there and enjoy the National Park (feed the manatees!), the National Museum (don’t miss the prehistoric giant sloth on display), and Stabroek Market (which is also where the busses and taxis congregate to get a ride out of town). The St George Cathedral, in the center of the city, is a point of pride. If you’re going out for dinner after dark, take a taxi. We were told by multiple locals that we should not walk around after dusk.

The National Museum; Stabroek Market; St George’s Cathedral; the National Library

Big Ticket Items

It is highly advisable to plan in advance to get out of Georgetown. Many people stay at an eco-resort along the Rupununi River (you will need your own transport or to contract an airport pick up with your lodge) near the border with Brazil. You can also take a flight to see Kaieteur Falls- the flight is by charter only, and costs $2,500 for 8 seats. You can contact Touring Guyana or Evergreen Adventures and ask if they have a single or perhaps two seats available on a charter flight, which only go on weekends, it appears.

Photo courtesy of our friend Chris F, who was lucky enough to get a last seat on a flight to Kaieteur Falls


Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America, and the most densely forested in the world. After several years of warfare, the British and the Dutch made a trade in 1667 that resulted in the Netherlands retaining control of Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, while the British retained control of New Amsterdam, which became New York. Having lost their colony in north-eastern Brazil to the Portuguese, the Dutch West Indies Company was desperate to hang on to its profitable sugar plantations in “Dutch Guyana”, which relied on slave labor to make a profit. Most of the people living in Suriname today are descended from the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, escaped and freed slaves, and Indonesian laborers brought to Suriname by the Dutch.

Built by the French in 1640, expanded by the British in 1651, and traded to the Dutch in 1667, Fort Zeelandia survives today as a museum

Getting There

Direct ways to get to Paramaribo include a KLM flight from Amsterdam; GOL from Manaus, Brazil; Surinam Airways from Guyana; and a few Caribbean Islands such as Curaçao, Trinidad, and Cuba. You can travel by shared van/taxi to Georgetown, Guyana, and to the border of French Guyana, at which point you can take a ferry or small boat across the Maroni River.

Current as of 04/23, here are some local transport and tour operators for the area that we found responsive on WhatsApp

Capital City Sights

Downtown Paramaribo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating back to the late 1600s. The wooden, white-washed Dutch architecture features in several historic buildings, many still in use. There are plenty of guesthouses and local eateries with Indonesian, African, Caribbean, and spicey Creole dishes, washed down with a cold Parbo beer or fresh ginger-lemon juice. Sundays are a bit quiet and it’s harder to find an open restaurant. Less dangerous than its neighboring capital city of Georgetown, visitors will still want to exercise some caution when walking around downtown. There is a fairly high homeless population, and muggings do happen on a regular basis.

The “Wooden City” of Paramaribo

Big Ticket Items

There are a few day trips that can be taken from Paramaribo, as well as some overnights. Dolphin/sunset tours are popular, and you can go horseback riding. We took a day trip to Brownsberg Mountain, near the Brokopondo Reservoir. From there you can hike to two waterfalls and see the rainforest, and either stay in cabins at the reserve, stay overnight at Stone Island, or return to the city late in the evening. There is a tour desk at Zeus and Zo, and 24Hostel can help set you up as well.

It’s a steep climb down but worth the hike to visit Irene Vos

French Guiana

French Guiana is not an independent country- it is a department of France (the second largest), and is covered 98.9% with forest. The city of Cayenne was established in 1643, and for 150 years Guiana was a slave colony, producing sugar, until France abolished slavery shortly after the Haitian rebellion. By 1804, the French were using Guiana as a penal colony, which had a very high mortality rate due to the climate and the brutal treatment of prisoners. Only in 1952 was the last prison camp shut down in French Guiana.

From slave labor to a penal colony, French Guiana’s past is dark

Getting There

Flights to French Guiana are limited. You can fly on Air France from Belém, Brazil, starting in May. There are also direct flights to France and to the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. You can take a shared taxi/van from Suriname (ferry across the Maroni River at Albina/St Laurent du Maroni) or from Maçapa, Brazil (ferry across the Oyapak River at Oiapoke/St George).

Take the official ferry, or a small boat across at St Laurent for $5/€5

Capital City Sights

Cayenne is not a huge city, although half of French Guiana’s inhabitants live there. It does not have a functioning bus system, but there are shared taxi/vans that cycle in and out of the Petit Gare. Inside the downtown area, you can see the fort, the cathedral, two museums, and a city market in just one to two days. Cayenne does not have a deep water harbor, so there are no commercial shipping boats or cruise lines that visit here. The food here has a more French influence, as well as Vietnamese. Some very tasty food trucks gather around the Palm Garden in the evenings, and families eat al fresco.

At the Museum of Guyanese Culture in Cayenne

Big Ticket Items

Many visitors to French Guiana go on a package vacation from Europe that includes an Amazonian ecolodge or resort. Aside from that, the town of Kourou seems to be the main attraction. Here you can tour the Guiana Space Center, or if you time it just right, watch a rocket launch from the European Space Agency. From Kourou you can also take a sailing ship to visit the Salvation Islands, which used to make up the prison camp when it was a penal colony (note: Devil’s Island itself is now a nature preserve and does not allow visitors). If you can’t get to the islands, you can also take a tour of the Prison Transport Museum at St Laurent du Maroni, made famous by Henri Charriére’s book Papillon.

Chris at the Prison Transport Camp, French Guyana

And that, in a nutshell, are the Guyanas (and Suriname). We spent five days in each one, but to be honest, a month in each (or a few thousand dollars) would get you closer to really seeing all the corners. But who has the time? For us, it’s out of South America, and a flight to the Caribbean and some fun in the sun next.

Tudo Bem in Brazil

brazil, manaus street art

After a couple of weeks at home visiting family and friends, we found an extremely reasonable flight to Brazil using our American Airlines miles (only 20,000 points? Let’s go!). We landed in Manaus, a city buried deep inside the jungle on the Amazon River, a thousand miles from the ocean. Our priorities included seeing the city of Manaus, spending some time in the jungle, visiting Rio de Janeiro, and hopefully seeing one other city in Brazil as well.


Manaus is a city that, simply put, should not be there. Who builds a huge city in the middle of a rainforest? And models it after the capitals of Europe, in a time when every single item has to be sent by ship across the ocean and up the river? Rubber barons, that’s who. Founded in 1669, the city really blossomed during the time when British rubber barons used the rainforest (and slavery) to reap profits from the rubber plants they found there. By the 1880s, the rubber boom had made Manaus landowners rich, and they wanted all the comforts of the cities back in Europe, including a grand opera house, a cathedral, homes, and servants. To this day, the opera house in Manaus is one of the most famous in the world, built Italian Carrera marble, French bronze work, Italian Murano glass chandeliers, a crystal-studded curtain made by Tiffany. It sat 700 guests, and even included a rudimentary air cooling system, as well as rubberized bricks and padded Damask walls to block out the sounds of the horses and carriages outside. The floors, made of rainforest hardwood, are still original. After reading about the Manaus opera house years ago, I knew I had to visit. And at only 20 reals/$4 USD per visit (half price for Chris!), it’s a bargain tour.

The Manaus Opera House

The rest of Manaus is an interesting place, too. We wound up spending two hours in the Manaus City Museum, thanks to a docent there who really made the history come alive for us. The city boasts three palaces as well; the Palacio Rio Branco, Palacio Rio Negro, and the Palace of Justice. In addition, the Municipal Mercado, based on a French ironwork building, is another fantastic sight to check out. It’s across the street from the river port, teeming with container ships, sightseeing cruises, and steamships. These are constantly traveling upriver into the Amazon, or downriver to Santaram, Belem, or the Atlantic Ocean.

The City Market

We spent one of our Manaus days sightseeing the Amazon River. We started the day swimming with the pink dolphins that only live in this region, near the meeting of the rivers that make up the Amazon. Then we went “fishing” for pirarucu fish, followed by a pretty good lunch, featuring all kinds of fish from the river, stews, farofa (toasted cassava), various nuts, fruits, and side dishes, plus a dessert made of coconut and acai. Afterwards we walked along an elevated boardwalk through the forest, encountered some tiny monkeys, and marveled at butterflies and gigantic water lilies. The last stop of the day was a replica of an indigenous village. While it is not “illegal” to go visit Amazon indigenous villages, they are quite far away (like several days by boat), and you have to have permission from the military and from the village elders, and in short, they don’t really like visitors. However, some people who have left their tribal homelands have created tourist/cultural centers near Manaus, and you can visit those. We watched some dancing, saw how the huts and houses are made, tried foods like toasted ants and manioc, and I got to hold a sloth, while Chris held a cayman. Although super touristy, it was also an interesting way to catch a glimpse into the lives of these seldom-seen people.

Animals of the Amazon

Amazon Jungle Expedition

Manaus was very interesting, but the main reason people go to Manaus is to book a tour to stay in the Amazon jungle. We booked with Amazon Authentic Jungle Tour, and they set us up with a small group to head out for five days, four nights. We stayed at a lodge on Lake Mamouri, and each day we had a morning excursion (by foot or by boat) and an evening excursion (usually by boat). We really enjoyed the whole trip. We got to go piranha fishing, cayman spotting, and dolphin spotting. We also did a lot of bird watching, including several species that only live in the Amazon, such as the huatzin bird. We walked through the rainforest and learned about walking palms, acai trees, Brazil nuts, and other forms of palm trees. We sampled cupuacu (custard apple), lime, coconut, avocado, tucuman, and guava. We watched our guides, Carlos and Jefferson, show us how to make a thatched roof from a palm frond, and how to use the formalin from ants to disguise their scent when hunting. We visited a local village and saw their school and their church. Over the course of our days in the rainforest, we toured both terra firma and várzea (the flooded forest). When we visited it, we were in the middle of the wet season- from the beginning of the wet season to the end, there will be a difference of eight meters of water.

Exploring the Amazon rainforest

When we returned from our river trip, we lucked out, because for the next two nights, the city of Manaus celebrated what they call “Carna Boí”. It is a combination of two festivals, marking the end of the Carnaval season, and the beginning of the Boí Bumbá (Beat the Bulls), an indigenous celebration. For two nights, dance teams and singers take the stage at the Sambódrome, along with flags, elaborate costumes, musicians, and of course the huge crowd singing along. It begins at 7 pm and the last group takes the stage at 2 am. We went one of the two nights, and we were glad we did! What a fun night!


Rio de Janeiro

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the north of Brazil, but of course you can’t visit this country without going to Rio de Janeiro, so made sure to leave time to spend a week there. On our first day we booked a walking tour, so we could see the National Library, the theater, and the cathedral. We learned about the history of the Portuguese royal family, who came here during the Napoleanic wars, marking the first time a European state has ruled from one of its colonies.

Brazil Rio de Janeiro

After a couple of days in the center of the city, we rented an apartment at Copacabana beach, and started working on our tans. When we weren’t swimming in the ocean or walking on the beach, we sampled drinks such as caiparinhas (made with cachaca, lime, and sugar), ate some local foods like feijoada (bean stew), churrascaria, and picadinho (meat stew).

A beach vendor at Copacabana Beach

We also visited Sugarloaf Mountain, taking the cable car to the top, to take in the view of Guanabara Bay and the city’s famed beaches. On another day we rode the cog train up through the Tijuca Forest, the largest urban forest in the world, to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue at the top. Although Rio has an excellent bus and metro system, the taxis and Ubers are so inexpensive here, we just used our Uber app and for $2-$3 we could visit these sights, or Ipanema Beach, without breaking a sweat.


Hopping northward from Rio to our next country, Suriname, we stopped in Fortaleza for a few days to explore the capital city of the state of Ceara. Reminiscent of South Beach in Miami, the city features miles of sandy beaches, and dozens of high-rise condo buildings fronting the beach promenade. At dusk, parents, children, runners, bikers, and walkers use the car-free promenade to get in their daily workout, and then eat at a beach-side cafe or shop at one of the dozens of stalls selling hats, bikinis, coverups, and more. We also visited the Ceara Museum of Sight and Sound, and the Ceara Cultural Arts Center. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of attractions here- although our time at the beach was our main focus.

The beach promenade of Fortaleza

The Metropolitan Cathedral

Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world, and there’s just no way to see it all in one month. Happily, we had already visited Iguazu Falls when we were in Argentina/Paraguay. Hopefully this trip is just a start in exploring all that this friendly country has to offer. For now, we are heading north, so keep an eye out for our next blog post, which will cover Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana.