I thought I’d have a hard time finding the right bus from Cabo Frio for a start, but the 30-minute trip was super easy. We sped off on Rodovia General Alfredo Bruno, the road that follows Cabo Frio’s main beach, without stopping every five metres like on the way to Búzios. Hell, I even had the exact change (six reais) and a seat, lucky me.
I wasn’t sure where to stop once we passed “Prainha,” the first small beach. I was aiming for Praia Grande, which I assumed was the biggest beach, thank you Brazil for descriptive toponyms.
“This is not Praia Grande,” the old woman sitting next to me warned when she saw me taking a picture with my phone. “It’s Prainha.”
I had guessed as much. It was definitely a “small beach.” Lovely, though, and jam-packed.
Then she got off and I still had no idea where I was supposed to stop for Praia Grande. Oh well, the roundabout would do, one of the streets was bound to take me there.
I found it easily following the main road. I mean, this is a beach that kind of extends all the way to Rio de Janeiro, you can’t really miss it. And it’s… absolutely gorgeous. White sand, clear water and a single powerful wave hitting the beach every few minutes. The water is unusually cold—Cabo “Frio,” indeed—but who cares when it’s 30⁰C.
I spent some time on Praia Grande, then I decided to explore the town and maybe check out one of these beaches everybody is talking about—Arraial do Cabo is most famous for several hidden beaches with the whole Caribbean package, white sand and turquoise water.
But first, I had to cross the town. Suddenly, I did feel like I was in the Caribbeans or in Central America, in Panajachel or Caye Calker, maybe. Arraial do Cabo is chaotic and messy. There are just too many people and too many cars for such a small town, too many side streets you probably shouldn’t take, too many main streets with too many tour operators and too many swimsuit shops.
On the plus side, if you need beachwear, Arraial do Cabo is a good spot to shop, I suppose.
Still, I was glad I wasn’t staying in Arraial but in Cabo Frio. Beaches may be relaxing, but the town isn’t.
Case in point, I ended up at the main pier, boat terminal and marina, a strange place where fishermen also operate taxi boats and where hundreds of people line up to take short booze cruises. I gave up on the idea of the “passeio de lancha” because I didn’t feel like being stuck on a boat for four or five hours with a bunch of drunk people. Instead, I took a taxi boat to Praia do Forno, hidden behind the hill. This is one of the best beaches around and it’s a true paradise.
I came back to Arraial do Cabo three or four times and eventually, I learned to navigate the city and hike to Praia do Forno. This town is actually an amazing place with plenty of hidden gems.
Let me tell you about the day I ended up doing some urban exploration on top of a hill overlooking Praia Grande…