Arraial do Cabo is a small city (population approximately 26.000), located in the Lakes Region of the state of Rio de Janeiro, near Búzios. It is recognized as the best diving spot in the state, with clear turquoise water beaches.
You can reach Arraial do Cabo from the state capital, Rio de Janeiro. Rio's the site of Galeão/Tom Jobim International Airport, which receives lots of international flights. You can rent a car in the airport and drive for about two hours to Arraial do Cabo, through the following the roads: Ponte Rio-Niterói, RJ 104, RJ 106, RJ 132 and RJ 102. The roads around Arraial have frequent speedbumps, some of which are not marked and hard to see at night. Note that (like elsewhere in Brazil), car rental requires a passport, and car rental agencies won't accept copies.
Another way of going from Rio to Arraial do Cabo is getting a bus in Rodoviária Novo Rio (Rio's tourism bus terminal). Auto Viação 1001 has several daily departures to Arraial do Cabo. The one-way ticket costs about R$ 65, as of February 2015.
As of January 2020, Uber works well. Most supermarkets, shops and dive schools are located on the high street Rua Leonel Mouro Brizola. The 1001 bus stops here behind a gas station.
The beaches are stunning. Praia do Grande is largest but the water can be cold compared to elsewhere in Brasil. Praia do Forno is to the north of the town. Praia dos Anjos has a marina and a couple of restaurants. Praia Brava is located on the other side of the peninsula, and is accessed via steep crumbling steps and a short cliff walk. If driving, there is space to park 5 cars on the road. It is often deserted but for some surfers. The water here is cold.
There are no significant sites in the town except for two local churches: Igreja Sagrado Coração de Jesus, and Igreja Nossa Senhora dos Remédios.
You can take a boat tour to the nearby beaches, departing from Praia dos Anjos. If you go to the north end of the beach, you'll see tour vendors offering boat tours, or just ask at any dive shop. During the weekend, the beaches are pretty crowded, especially in high season. Find a tour that leaves early in the morning, so you can see the Grota Azul, renowned for the intense blue color of the waters around it. Unfortunately, diving or snorkeling are not allowed at Grota Azul. Some tours depart later in the day (2pm - La Barca I), but they only go to 2 or 3 beaches, and not to Grota Azul. Boat tours also drop by Pedra do Macaco (The Monkey Stone), a rock resembling a gorilla face.
Arraial also has several hikes and lookout points with spectacular views of the beaches and the ocean:
- The Ponto de Observação dos Pescadores lookout point overlooks Praia Grande and can be accessed from a trail starting at the south end of Praia Grande
- Mirante do Pontal to Atalaia is 10 minutes south-east from Ponto de Observação dos Pescadores and offers views of the ocean
- The confusingly named Pontal to Atalaia is further south-east, near the Pedra do Macaco
There are several dive schools located in Arraial; some speak English.
- SeqQuest Sub, Av Leonel de Moura Brizola, 61 (They have two offices. Go to the one on Av Leonel de Moura Brizola, 61.), ☏ (reservations via WhatsApp also in English). Large boat. The dive site is Saco de Cherne. Some divemasters speak English. BRL 265 for a 2-tank recreational dive, including equipment rental, breakfast and snacks, and GoPro photos/videos (less if paying cash).
- Sand' Mar, Rua Epitácio Pessoa, 21 L 02 - Praia Grande, ☏ . First and most known scuba diving operator in town.
- Princesa Supermercado - small supermarket
- Bacalhau do Tuga
- [formerly dead link] Orlanova Boutique, Av. Roberto Silveira, 2 - Praia dos Anjos, ☏ . Clean modern hotel with spacious rooms, free parking, breakfast and Wi-Fi.
- Hostel Villas Boas, Rua Villas Boas, 440, ☏ . Offers free Wi-Fi, pool, breakfast. Dorms at R$50.
- Pousada do Timoneiro, Avenida Getúlio Vargas, 103 - Praia Grande. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Very nice hotel. Ask for a discount if you're a certified diver.