Bespoke Brazil specialist Ellie explores the highlights of a stay in Bonito, a picturesque and off-the-beaten-track eco-tourism destination in Brazil – the perfect addition to a luxury holiday in the remote Brazilian countryside.
Bonito is often labelled the eco-tourism model for Brazil. This small town in the southwestern corner of Mato Grosso do Sul has few attractions of its own, but the natural resources of the surrounding area are spectacular, and local authorities have taken the high road in their regulation and maintenance of these striking natural attractions. Highlights include caves containing subterranean lakes and amazing stalactite formations, beautiful waterfalls and incredibly clear rivers surrounded by lush forest where it is possible to swim eyeball to eyeball with hundreds of fish species. Bonito is the perfect off-the-beaten-track addition to a trip to Brazil.
Here are some of our favourite things about Bonito:
An Easy Addition to the Pantanal
Visiting Bonito is best combined with a trip to the southern Pantanal, as it is located just a few hours drive from most lodges in that area and has an easy route back to the airport at Campo Grande. A trip to the Pantanal exploring the vast central wetlands of Brazil in search of its emblematic wildlife species (jaguars included), pairs particularly nicely with an adventurous stay in Bonito exploring caves, hiking to waterfalls and river snorkelling.
You will have the chance to spot a whole new variety of wildlife in Bonito, especially many fish and bird species. This combination is a wildlife-lover’s dream and an opportunity to see some of the most remote parts of western Brazil, really easily! If you happen to not be keen on going to the Pantanal, you can still, of course, visit Bonito. The town is accessed via a short flight from São Paulo to Campo Grande, and a three-hour drive into the wild.
Rio da Prata
Rio da Prata is a stunning crystalline river filled with hundreds of varieties of fish, making it the perfect spot for freshwater snorkelling. You can get there by following a trail through verdant forest, observing birds and other wild animals along the way. Snorkel inside an immense natural aquarium of transparent waters, rich in plant and animal life. The Recanto Ecologico Rio da Prata was recently voted the ‘Best Tourist Attraction in Brazil’ and is a hidden gem of nature tourism in the country, well off-the-beaten-track.
Buraco das Araras
The Buraco das Araras is a huge sandstone crater, a geological formation resulting from the collapse of bedrock boulders creating this enormous cavity of about 500m in circumference and 100m deep. Here you can hike on a trail around South America’s largest sinkhole, enabling a panoramic view of its interior where red-and-green Macaws and other exotic birds build their nests. You will be able to spot a lagoon inside, and if you’re lucky, the caimans that live there. A truly spectacular sight for all wildlife lovers.
Gruta do Lago Azul
Another one of Bonito’s showcase attractions is the Gruta do Lago Azul (Blue Lake Grotto). This vast cavern contains an underground lake that, when illuminated by the sun’s rays, takes on an otherworldly hue of blue. Here you will have the opportunity to contemplate the unusual rocks, all-natural geological formations, with a magical variety of different forms and sizes as well as enjoy the view of one of the biggest flooded caverns in the world. To get there, you need to traverse a trail which descends 100 metres and go down 300 steps via a rustic staircase to the lakebed.
Another fun activity you can do in Bonito is visit the Rio Formoso where you can float along the river in an inflatable ring. You will descend a mile-long stretch of the river through light rapids and stretches of calm water. It is the perfect way to spend a relaxed morning or afternoon with your family or loved ones in intimate contact with the surrounding natural splendour.
Boca da Onça Waterfall Hike
A visit to the Boca da Onça Waterfalls is a day to remember. The tour to the falls includes a walk on a trail through the pristine forest, passing by more than ten crystal-clear waterfalls, the scenic Salobra River and bathing ponds in natural pools. The highlight is the indescribable Boca da Onça waterfall, near which you will also be able to go for a swim. It is 156 metres (512 ft) high; making it the state’s highest. It also offers a breath-taking view of the Bodoquena mountain range.
Where to Stay
Our favourite hotel in Bonito is the Hotel Santa Esmeralda. Located 11 miles from Bonito, the hotel offers rustic-chic accommodation with a spacious garden and a bar. The hotel is located on the banks of the Rio Formoso with stunning waterfalls and picturesque natural pools nearby. The hotel features beautiful landscaped grounds, a sun terrace and a relaxing outdoor pool. Guests at Hotel Santa Esmeralda can enjoy a half board meal plan and the on-site restaurant serves a variety of local dishes. At the hotel, you can get involved in all of the activities listed above as well as other outdoors activities, including walking trails, diving and kayaking trips.
Are you thinking about visiting Brazil? Learn more about Bonito here and contact us today to speak to one of our travel specialists about your tailor-made holiday.