Bonito is a city nestled on the Pantanal region of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. The city is of little note, but the surrounding region is known for spectacular clearwater river snorkeling, overall natural beauty and lush fauna & flora, and it is often regarded as a model case of sustainable tourism in Brazil.
Rich in calcium carbonate, which sticks to floating particles and makes them sink, the river waters of Bonito are crystal clear, often regarded as natural aquariums.
The region has two main seasons: dry and wet.
The wet season goes from December to March and sees lush green vegetation, high rivers, abundant flow on the waterfalls, and plenty of food for wild animals. However, rain makes the river water murky and there are less fish on the rivers due to their yearly migration known locally as piracema. Intense rain might close attraction sites and make roads difficult to pass. Also, this period coincides with the local summer and temperatures easily reach 35°C. From late December to early February the sun shines directly inside the Gruta Azul, making for a postcard-grade spectacular sight.
The dry season lasts from May to August and sees the crystal-clear river waters that made Bonito famous. Temperatures drop to milder figures, with warm days and fresh nights. However, waterfalls are not as exuberant and haze from nearby farms might be a passing issue.
- 1 Bonito Airport (BYO IATA). LATAM and Azul airlines serve the local airport, but there are only a handful of flights available every week.
From Campo Grande, bus company Cruzeiro do Sul runs four services a day, departing the bus station at 08:00, 09:00, 13:00 and 16:00 (no 08:00 bus on Sunday). The trip lasts about 5 hours, R$65. It's usually possible to organize a Campo Grande airport pickup through your accommodation, as the service is available even on the hostels.
From Foz do Iguaçu, in the past it was possible to take a bus to Dourados (2 buses a day, 10 hr) and then continue onwards to Bonito (2 buses a day, 6 hr), but the service on the first leg apparently was discontinued. The same can be achieved using a shortcut through Paraguay, leaving from Ciudad del Este to Pedro Juan Caballero, and then from Ponta Porã to Bonito.
From Corumbá, there's a daily bus at 14:30 operated by Cruzeiro do Sul.
Apart from buses, 15-seater-vans (e.g. by vanzellatransportes) operate between the pantanal (e.g. Passo de Lontro), Bonito and Campo Grande (e.g. R$ 100 for the trip Buraco de Piranhas - Bonito).
Fees and permits
Most of the attractions in and around Bonito are in private land. The entry fees and maximum number of daily visitors are set yearly by local governing bodies, and there are two types of prices: low- and high-season. The table of high season dates is published yearly, but in short it corresponds to the main Brazilian holidays, of which the most notable are:
- Summer school holidays: late December & January
- Holy Week
- Winter school holidays: July
All the entry tickets must be purchased through a licensed travel agency, which are linked to the main governmental system. There are reports this system goes off for the night, which makes last minute arrangements a challenge.
You need a permit to fish in the Pantanal region. The paperwork can be arranged with help of your hotel, and the fee should be paid at the local Banco do Brasil branch.
The town is small and walkable. However, most attractions are out in the countryside, usually accessible only by dirt roads. Travel agencies operate shuttle services to the attractions, but sometimes the transport fee costs as much as the entry ticket. Consider renting a car if you're not traveling alone. Otherwise, moto-taxis are available to most destinations.
- 1 Gruta do Lago Azul. A big cave (100 m (330 ft) deep) with a lake at the bottom of an incredible blue colour. Approximately 20 km (12 mi) from the city. R$36 + transport.
- Sucuri River. Similar to Rio da Prata; more beautiful landscape, less fish
- Buraco de Araras. huge sinkhole (diameter 500 m) with some 60-70 pairs of macaws populating the sinkhole; one can also observe armadillos, anteaters and falcons.
There are nice places to do snorkeling, explore caves, ride horses, and hike. While transportation and a guide is not always necessary, those wishing to use a guide should know that not all guides speak English, or in some cases, Spanish.
- Rio da Prata. Snorkel in the "Silver River". Amazing underwater landscapes and fishes. R$140.
- Rio Formoso.
- 1 Balneário Municipal. Rent bikes in the town center and go with the locals to sunbathe, play volleyball and swim in a river with a lot of fish. R$40.
The central area of Bonito offers supermarkets, pharmacies and stores with articles for adventure sports.
- [dead link] Agência de Turismo, Rua Luiz da Costa Leite, 2457, ☏ .
There are several places in the town centre for eating at reasonable prices. You also can try out local game such as jacaré (cayman) and fish from the local rivers.
The central area of Bonito has some nice places to relax and have a cold beer or some fresh natural juices. A recommended spot is the "Taboa" bar, in the main street, famous for its cachaça and creative drinks made out of cachaça mixed with local fruits.
Bonito is a popular destination inside Brazil, and it can be difficult to find rooms during Brazilian holidays. It is recommended to book your accommodation as soon as you are sure to go, especially if your stay includes a weekend.
- Eco Pousada Villa Verde, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Saida para Bodoquena, MS-178. Double rooms: R$70/90
- Hotel Pousada Calliandra, Rua 29 de Maio, 799, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Centro. Double rooms: R$62-100
- Camping Rio Formosa (next to the balneario municipal). Behind the camping there is a small track of 200 meters to the Rio Formosa, where you can snorkel if you have your own equipment, or just take a bath next to the gorgeous waterfall in the crystal clear water. R$10 per person.
- HI Bonito, Rua Lúcio Borralho, 716. Nice hostel, you can prepare most of your excursions from here. R$30.
- Eco Pousada Villa Verde, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Australian/Brazilian owners - English speaking. Tour agency in the Pousada to book your tours and transport around Bonito.
- Jubaia Lodge, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Muito Bonito Lodge, ☏ . Very nice lodge, with friendly atmosphere, close to the city center. The lodge is built around a court yard, where breakfast is offered. They are also very helpful when organizing transportation. R$45.
- Hotel Pousada Surucua, Rua Bongiovani, 860, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Double rooms: R$280/325.
- Hotel Pousada Bonsai, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Double rooms: R$100/125
- Wetiga Hotel, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Rua Cel. Pilad Rebuá, 679 Vila Donária.
- Hotel Pirá Miúna, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pousada Rancho Jarinu, ☏ . r. 24 de Fevereiro- 1985, Centro.
- Hotel Lago Azul, ☏ .
- Resort Hotel Zagaia, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Rodovia Bonito/Três Morros Km 0 Cx. Pos. 36.
- Hotel Fazenda Cachoeira, ☏ .
- Pousada do Grilo, Rua Luís da Costa Leite, 2457, ☏ .
- Pousada do Estudante, R. Luís da Costa Leite, Nº 2.100 - Centro, ☏ .
- Hotel Tapera, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Rod. Bonito/Guia Lopes da Laguna, Km 01.
- Hotel Paraíso Das Águas, Av. Cel. Pílad Rebuá, Nº 1.884, ☏ .
- Pousada Olho D'água, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Rodovia Bonito/Três Morros Km 01.
- Cabana do Pescador, Rua Bahia, 1462, ☏ . Anastácio (correspondência) - Vila Flôr - Rodovia Anastácio/Bonito Km 53.
- Gemila Palace Hotel, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Rua Luiz da Costa Leite, 2085 - Centro.
- Pousada Bonsai, Rua 15 de Novembro, 564, ☏ . Centro.
- Pousada Segredo, Rua 24 de Fevereiro, 2079, ☏ . Centro.
- Marruá Hotel, Rua Joana Sorta, 1173, ☏ . Vila Donária.
- Água Azul Pousada Hotel, Rua Santana do Paraíso, 554, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Centro, R$80 and R$55
- Fazenda Cachoeira, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.