Rio Hiking (tel. 021/9721-0594; www.riohiking.com.br) is Rio's adventure-sport specialist, offering a range of exciting outdoor sports that take full advantage of Rio's extraordinary geography. Rio Hiking offers hiking, rock climbing, rafting, ocean kayaking, cycling, hang gliding, horseback riding, scuba diving, surfing (with lessons), and rappelling. Depending on the sport, half-day adventures cost from R$80 to R$150, full-day adventures from R$150 to R$250, guides and transfer to and from your hotel included. The white water-rafting trip takes you to a river about 2 hours north of Rio with Class III (and sometimes Class IV) rapids. The descent takes about 3 hours. Cost is R$190. The company also offers 3-day trekking trips.
Rio Adventures (tel. 021/2705-5747 or 8204-7559; www.rioadventures.com) offers a variety of tours and adventure-sport options, including hiking, rappelling, hang gliding, tree canopy tours, and more. On the rappelling trip, you drive past Barra de Tijuca to beautiful Guaratiba, hike for an hour to a cliff overlooking an undeveloped beach, then rappel down a 377m (115-ft.) rock face. Then you hang out, swim for bit, and head back. Minimum age is 12. The tree canopy tour involves zipping through the tops of the rainforest trees in lovely Tijuca Forest. Cost for either tour is R$250 per person for two people, including transportation and lunch. With a bigger group the price goes down significantly.
Bicycling -- Rio Hiking offers two half-day guided bike tours of the city. The first involves an easy ride along the beachfront of the Zona Sul. The second, more challenging tour rides through the gorgeous rainforest of the Floresta da Tijuca. The tour costs R$150 per person.
Golfing -- Rio's only public golf course is out in Barra da Tijuca. Golden Green, Av. Conde de Marapendi 2905 (tel. 021/2434-0696), is a par-3, 6-hole course inside a private condominium but open to the public. The course is open Tuesday to Sunday from 7am to 10pm. The course is floodlighted for evening play. Greens fees are R$60 Tuesday to Friday and R$75 on weekends and holidays. One of the city's best courses (par-5, 18 hole) is the elegant Gávea Golf Club, Estrada da Gávea 800, São Conrado (tel. 021/3323-6050; www.gaveagolf.com.br). However, the club -- like virtually every golf course in Brazil -- is private. The Copacabana Palace Hotel and the Sheraton Rio Hotel are a few of the hotels that have an arrangement allowing their guests to tee off. If you are a golf fiend, check first with your hotel of choice for privileges.
Hang Gliding -- For a bird's-eye view of Rio's beaches and mountains, check out Just Fly Rio (tel. 021/9985-7540 mobile, or 2268-0565; www.justfly.com.br). Flight instructor Paulo Celani used to be an agricultural engineer, until he decided he'd much prefer to fly for a living. That was more than 20 years ago. Since then Paulo has soared in tandem with hundreds of people ages 5 to 85. There's no experience or special skills necessary, aside from a willingness to run off a ramp into the open sky. It's one of the most exciting things you can do in Rio, well worth the R$240 per flight, pickup and drop-off included. Tip: There's a 10% discount on the price if you call and book with Paulo directly. Also, if you are keen on flying, it's a good idea to contact Paulo on the day you arrive. As the activity is weather dependent (and what may be a great day for the beach may not be the best flying weather), you can let Paulo contact you when flying conditions are best. Rio Hiking also offers a very similar hang gliding tour, for a comparable price.
Hiking -- Rio Hiking offers guided hiking trips to most of Rio's peaks. The 4-hour Sugarloaf trip, which includes a short stretch of rock climbing, costs R$150. The 6-hour Pedra da Gávea hike offers terrific views, a waterfall in the middle, and an ocean dip at the end. Cost is R$200. Less strenuous is the Tijuca Forest tour, which involves a tour of the forest, stops at a waterfall and a couple of lookouts, and a 2-hour hike to Pico de Tijuca. Cost is R$150, with the option of returning via the fascinating hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Guides Denise Werneck and Gabriel Barrouin know Rio well, speak excellent English, and are a delight to be with.
Jeep Tours -- Although we always thought they looked kind of goofy, the open jeep tours are incredibly popular with visitors to Rio. The most popular tours visit the Tijuca Forest combined with a visit to the Corcovado -- R$125. There are also tours to the hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa, and to the favela of Rocinha. For information and bookings call Jeep Tour (tel. 021/2108-5800; www.jeeptour.com.br).
Sea Kayaking -- Get out onto Guanabara Bay. Rio Hiking organizes kayaking tours from Praia Vermelha at the foot of the Sugarloaf, traveling out to one of the small islands just off the coast for some snacks and snorkeling. Cost is R$160 for a half-day tour, including transfers, refreshments, and English-speaking guide.
Surfing -- Rio has a number of good spots to catch the waves. And if the waves aren't as big as in Hawaii, the water's certainly warmer than Vancouver Island. The surfing beach closest to the main part of Rio is Arpoador Beach in Ipanema. Waves are between 1 and 3m (3-10 ft.). São Conrado Beach is off and on. Sometimes there are good 2m (6 1/2-ft.) waves, sometimes it's dead. Out in Barra de Tijuca the main surf beach is Barra-Meio, a 1km-long (1/2-mile) stretch in the middle of the beach (around Av. Sernambetiba 3100). Waves average around 2m (6 ft.). Carry on down that same beach another 6.5 to 8km (4-5 miles), and you come to Macumba-Pontal, a 2.5km (1 1/2-mile) beach with waves up to 3m (10 ft.). If you've brought your board and just need transport, there's a surf bus that departs the Largo do Machado at 7, 10am, 1, and 4pm and goes along Copacabana, Arpoador, São Conrado, and Barra de Tijuca as far as Prainha, past Recreio. Call to confirm departure times (tel. 021/2539-7555 or 8702-2837; www.surfbus.com.br); tickets cost R$4 each way. If you need a board, Hot Coast, Galeria River, Rua Francisco Otaviano 67, loja 12, Ipanema (tel. 021/2287-9388), rents short boards, fun boards, and long boards for R$40 a day. You need to book ahead if you want a board on the weekend.
If you're looking for lessons, a surf school is conveniently located in Ipanema. The Escolinha de Surf Paulo Dolabella (tel. 021/2259-2320 or 9814-9702 mobile) is in front of the Caesar Park Hotel. The regular lessons are Tuesday and Thursday from 8 to 10am and 3 to 5pm, but you can also arrange for a lesson on the weekends or other days. Drop-in rates are R$60 per hour, including the equipment. However, like true surf dudes, they rarely answer phones; it's best to go find them. Rio Hiking (tel. 021/9721-0594; www.riohiking.com.br) offers the most hassle-free option, a half-day surf lesson with an English-speaking instructor, plus gear and transportation for R$200. In Recreio de Bandeirantes, Surf Cades (tel. 021/2490-3271; www.surfecades.com) offers group and private lessons (R$60/hour). The EBC (Escola Bodboarding de Copacabana; tel. 021/2236-6676; www.escolabc.com.br) offers private bodyboarding lessons on Copacabana beach; each 90-minute lesson costs R$80. Contact Flavio Brito (tel. 021/8855-1774) for more information.
Trekking -- Rio Hiking offers a number of guided 2- to 3-day treks in the mountains or rugged coast around Rio. Particularly recommended is the 2-day trek in the Serra dos Orgãos National Park (R$440), where the Atlantic rainforest is pristine and the views extraordinary. Avid hikers will certainly enjoy the spectacular hikes in Itatiaia National Park. Located about 3 hours from Rio, on the border of the states of Minas Gerais and São Paulo, the park is home to the highest peak in the state, the 2,787m (8,000-ft.) Agulhas Negras. This 3-day trip takes you to some of the region's best scenery and includes a visit to the waterfalls in the lower part of the national park, a full-day hike to the highest peak in Rio state, and on the third day a 4-hour hike to the stunning rock formations of the Prateleiras (shelves), with an optional rappel. This 3-day package costs R$660 per person and includes accommodations, food, specialized guides, and transportation. All you have to bring are sunscreen, hiking boots, warm clothes, and a raincoat.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.