Long distances in Brazil can make family travel challenging, but the rewards are considerable: endless fun on sun-kissed beaches, walks in rainforests, boat and train rides, and abundant wildlife-watching opportunities. Best of all is the warm reception from Brazilians themselves – who go out of their way to make kids feel welcome.
Best Regions for Kids
Rio de Janeiro state
Funicular rides and scenic views in Rio city, island-exploring on vehicle-free Ilha Grande, wandering cobblestone streets and taking schooner cruises off Paraty. You can even get a taste of mountain scenery in Parque Nacional do Itatiaia, and visit imperial sites in Petrópolis.
Time-travel to the 18th century in the colonial mountain town of Ouro Preto, which is near an old gold mine you can visit. You can also ride an old steam train from São João del Rei to Tiradentes. Don't miss the Santuário do Caraça to take swims in waterfalls and see the maned wolf come in at night.
Lots of great food, music and street entertainment in Salvador. Catch the hydrofoil to car-free Morro de São Paulo for pretty beaches, a zipline and panoramic views from a hilltop lighthouse. Head inland for the canyons, waterfalls and swimming holes of Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina.
Brazil for Kids
Brazil is a family-friendly country that has a wide range of attractions for kids. Travel here with kids does require some advance planning, but most Brazilians will do their best to make sure children are well looked after.
Top Picks for Children & Families
Ilha Grande (west of Rio de Janeiro) A tropical rainforest-covered island, an old abandoned prison, boat trips, snorkeling, lovely beaches, howler monkeys – and all of it completely free from traffic.
Balneário Camboriú (Santa Catarina) This resort town has many attractions for kids, including an aerial tram, beaches and a roller coaster, all with proximity to the Beto Carrero World amusement park.
Porto Belo (Santa Catarina) Another laid-back resort spot in the South, Porto Belo has lovely snorkeling, plus a scenic nature reserve and eco-museum at an island just offshore.
Arraial d’Ajuda (Bahia) This low-key beach-lovers' town has the usual coastal attractions, plus you can rent a buggy for exploring sandy coastal paths around the area.
Foz do Iguaçu & Around (Paraná) The thundering waterfalls are quite family-friendly, with discount entry for kids, and kids stay and eat free all over town; there are also various wildlife adventures and boating activities.
Serra Verde Express (Paraná) This memorable train ride traverses lush forests with sweeping views down to the coast.
Bonito (Mato Grosso do Sul) Bonito has caves, lush rainforests, tree-top canopy walks and crystal-clear rivers that you snorkel down.
For general advice on traveling with young ones, see Lonely Planet's Travel with Children. Don't forget to arrange visas (if needed) before you depart.
What to Bring
If you plan on renting a car, bring your own car seats with you as availability is unreliable with most rental agencies.
Diapers (nappies) are widely available in Brazil. You may not easily find creams, baby foods or familiar medicines if you are outside larger cities. Bring insect repellent, sunscreen and other essentials, as prices for these things, are much higher here.
Baby food is available in most supermarkets.
When to Go
To beat the worst of the crowds, but still enjoy warm beach weather, plan on coming from November through January or late March and April.
Children under five typically stay free. Under 12s often pay half price. Cribs (cots) are not always available, so have an alternative plan before arriving.
Babysitters are readily available in most hotels.
Health & Safety
If you are planning a trip outside of the main coastal cities, you'll need to enquire about vaccines and anti-malarial medications (particularly for the Amazon).
Dining out isn't usually a problem, even for fussy eaters. Ubiquitous per kilo places are a good place for a meal: children will have a huge range of options, and you can get in and out without a lot of fuss. Familiar food – pizza, burgers, ice cream – is widely available, and sometimes takes fun new forms (pizza with chocolate, or with bananas and cinnamon). Food courts in shopping malls are excellent spots for quick meals.
Juice bars are handy for snack breaks. At these ubiquitous spots, you can order dozens of tangy juices, as well as grilled burgers, sandwiches, pão de queijo (cheese-filled bread) and other bites.
Most sit-down restaurants will have a cadeira alta (high chair), though few have menus for kids. Portions however are huge, so kids can share what their parents order. Bring crayons, paper or other amusement, as Brazilian restaurants don't provide these things.
Given the great size of Brazil, transport presents challenges. You'll either spend long hours on buses or have to rely on pricier flights. Sticking to one or two regions is the best way to keep your holiday hassle-free. Renting a car can save you cash and help you move about more efficiently.
Children typically fly free or pay half-fare for flights if under two, and pay 10% to 25% of the fare if age two to 12. On buses, it's all or nothing: they ride free if sitting on a lap and full fare if they take up a seat.
Many jungle lodges near Manaus offer fairly low-impact excursions, making them good for families with kids. High-water season may be best, as you do more canoeing than hiking. Black-water areas have far fewer mosquitoes and much lower risk of malaria.