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.
- Minas Gerais
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 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 zip line 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.
Dining out isn't usually a problem, even for fussy eaters. Ubiquitous por-kilo (per kilogram; self-serve restaurants that sell food by weight) 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 (though you'll need to bring your own car seats).
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.
With beautiful beaches and verdant rainforests, Brazil has some pretty obvious appeal for the younger set. You can also find excellent special attractions in many areas, such as amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, and train and boat rides.
Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro stateA tropical rainforest-covered island, an old abandoned prison, boat trips, snorkeling, lovely beaches, howler monkeys – and all of it completely free from traffic.
Porto Belo, Santa CatarinaAnother 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, BahiaThis low-key town for beach lovers has the usual coastal attractions, plus you can rent a buggy for exploring sandy coastal paths around the area.
Foz do Iguaçu & Around, ParanáThe thundering waterfalls are quite family friendly, with discount entry for kids and various wildlife adventures and boating activities. Kids stay and eat free all over town.
Serra Verde Express, Paraná This memorable train ride traverses lush forests with sweeping views down to the coast.
Bonito, Mato Grosso do SulBonito has caves, lush rainforests, treetop canopy walks and crystal-clear rivers that you snorkel down.
Nature & Wildlife Encounters
Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro This lush space in Rio has short walking trails, plus a playground, a small fishpond and a good outdoor cafe; it's also a great spot to see monkeys.
Pousada Santuário do Caraça, Minas Gerais Watching wolves arrive for a nightly feeding in an enchanting corner of southeastern Brazil.
Pantanal Nature, Cuiabá Spying monkeys, caiman, macaws and loads of other wildlife with this top-notch operator that offers special family trips.
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 items 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, while 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 antimalarial medications (particularly for the Amazon).