If monkeys appeared in an animated movie named “Rio”, I am convinced, obviously, that this is an accurate representation of said city.
Animated movies are faithful and truthful fabrications of reality only in cute animated format, so we can watch them with our kids. Finding Nemo, UP, even Shrek (only metaphorical). Therefore, Rio must be the bonified truth that I duly based my Brazilian dreams and aspirations on.
When I first arrived in Rio I was sure of two things: it was hot, and I was going to be fending off monkeys on a daily basis. It was a whole month until I encountered my first monkey entourage. They weren’t by my apartment, balancing on the electricity wires, anywhere near the beaches, not even at Christo where I was promised by movie producers they would hoodwink me out of my Rolex and pearls.
Don’t fret though.
I’ve seen them and being having watched Jumanji every weekend of my childhood; my instincts know how to track them too.
Follow my 5 go-to monkeys’ hideouts and you’ll be fighting them off.
Duque de Caxias Fort trek
This is one less known by tourists and for me it has never disappointed. Duque de Caxias is a fort that sits at the top of the hill at the end of Leme beach (Copacabana). You must walk to the front of the military village in Leme and pay $R4 to enter. Follow the tarmac path that leads up to the top of the hill.
I personally love this trek because it’s exceptionally safe being located on site of the military barracks and since it offers you a unique viewpoint of Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain). The trek is low difficulty, less than 30 minutes to the top and not particularly steep. To be honest, you could take your nan to this one.
The botanical gardens in Rio are Momma Markham’s (Aka my mum’s) favourite spot and they truly are a breath of fresh air in the centre of a super busy city. Make a whole afternoon of it and don’t forget to grab mosquito repellent and your camera
You will pay 9 reais to get into the gardens (closed Mondays) and they shut at 17:30.
My highlights are the orchid greenhouse, the bee hives and the giant lily pond. Now let me tell you I am scared to death of stinging insects, but the great thing in Rio is bees have no stings!
Your joking right? No!
This is no time to go prodding your finger at them, but you can nosey right up to the hives and take a peek. My absolute fav is called a dog bee (no sting what-so-ever) and it literally follows you. It will constantly come back no matter what you do. I kind of wish my actual dog loved me that much…
Top tip: Take an empty water bottle to fill up at the drinking water taps located around the park.
This is a free-entry park next to Jardim Botânico. It is much smaller, but you have the opportunity to see larger species of monkeys here too!
Also, it’s a prime spot for brides to be taking pre or post wedding shots in their dress. A peculiar Brazilian tradition to witness pals.
In sum, there’s a restaurant and art school, children’s picnics, a teeny-tiny aquarium inside a cave and a weeny piece of castle (that’s where you’ll see the brides).
Keep your eyes peeled and watch those around you who will undoubtedly be pointing up at the treetops when the monkeys appear.
Pao de Açucar/ Morro da Urca
There’s no doubt that you will be marching to Sugarloaf during your stay in Rio, but I’m going to throw you a curve ball and suggest you skip the cable car.
What could possibly sway you to do that?
Saving yourself $20 and having higher monkey viewing chances might do. You can hike up Morro do Urca, the smaller hill next to Sugarloaf, where the first cable car stop is. You access the trail for free via Praia Vermelha. It’s a 40 minute tops hike, pretty straightforward with a few steep inclines. Like Duque it is on site of a military island, so no worry about the thieves.
On Morro da Urca there are shops, plenty of viewing space, seating, shade, toilets and even a rather up-scale restaurant. I promise you the next cable car stop on Sugar Loaf is no more special than this hike and you can spend the extra money on açaí while you are up there!
Last time I embarked on this trail I saw a rare species of toucan with my brother.
We were lucky, but you could be too!
I understand we are not all outdoorsy and what if it rains the whole time you are here? Tereze is a top-notch restaurant in Santa Teresa, where you kind spot monkeys, though bear in mind it is kind of pricey. Hey-ho, you’re on holiday, splash out.
The staff hang out pieces of banana and papaya on the tree trunks at the side of the restaurant. The little mites have learnt where they can get an easy meal and come swooping down in family clans to feast.
Santa Teresa is a big neighbourhood that has several boarders with the rainforest so it’s also quite possible to see the monkeys dangling from the power lines (like in the movie). Keep your eyes peeled.
This is my disclaimer…
I am not Alan from Jumanji. I cannot conjure up monkeys. Thus, there is not 100% promise you will see the monkeys (sometimes rain keeps them at bay). However, if you spend enough time snooping around in these places they are sure to make an appearance. Persist!