Just left Buzios today after a 4 day stop there. Many folks are familiar with Buzios, but for those who aren't, it's a small peninsula known as “The Hamptons of Rio”. It used to be a small fishing village until Brigitte Bardot vacationed there in the 60's, turning it into a vacation sensation destination. It's hugely popular and even has it's own Pacha nightclub, of NYC and Ibiza fame (not that we really care.)
A quick back story on the second leg of our Brazil junket: We had booked two tickets on a backpacker bus called the Green Toad Bus, that was going to take us up the coast of Brazil for 11 days, stopping at points of interest (including Buzios) and ending in Salvador. The problem came when they notified us about two weeks before the trip that they wouldn't be running our trip due to low enrollment (it's shoulder season here). Oy.
Part 1 – You Only Live Once
Green Toad was so nice and helpful, and gave us suggestions on how to tackle it on our own. We booked the hostel in Buzios that they suggested, called the YOLO Hostel. Arriving into Buzios around 3PM on Thursday, we made our way to YOLO. Upon arrival, we were greeted by their staff, a young and friendly Brazilian couple who (thankfully) spoke some English. “Christopher?” they said as soon as we walked into the small, gated hostel complex. “Welcome. We have, ummmm, problem with computer and your room is no good for tonight. We do have 1 room, but with 4 beds. Tomorrow you move into double room. Okay?” We had planned to stay at YOLO at least 2 nights, maybe all 4 if they had space available and we liked it.
Okay, we said. No big deal. We can deal with bunk beds for a night. They gave us a quick tour of the hostel grounds. There was a common outdoor area with a small pool, a lounge area with bean bag pillows and hammocks, and a small bar where you could get cheap beers or sangria. Looked very cute on the website. But upon a closer look, the pool was covered in a layer of dead bugs. And the bean bag pillows had (stray?) cats sleeping on them. The indoor common space was a big L-shaped couch, browned and stained and slouchy all over. The walls were covered with movie posters from 80's (plus a "Yolo Baggins" poster, a picture of Frodo wearing Kanye sunglasses, naturally.) The shelves were filled with seashells and books, all covered in dust and dirt. It felt like a college dorm room crossed with an abandoned beach cabin.
The sweet hippie girl was the housekeeper and seemingly in charge of all cleaning. She showed us to our room, which was barren save for the two sets of bunk beds with bare mattresses. "Let me get your bed clothes,” she said, and returned with some nubby white sheets. As she put them down on the bed, she saw a few chunks of unidentified brown crusty crud on the mattress and said “Oh no, what is this?” and proceeded to pick it off with her nails and throw it on the floor. Good sign.
She left. We just looked at each other, unsure of our thoughts yet. We aren't usually super picky, for goodness sake we like to camp! But the room smelled like mildew. Not a faint scent, but an overwhelming odor that was repugnant. The mattresses were made of thin foam. The shower smelled like wet dog. The floors were so filthy, they turned our bare feet black. But the final straw was the BYOTP situation. Bring Your Own Toilet Paper. Luckily I had some tissues in my purse. Mom always said it's good to have tissues in your purse and boy was I glad to have taken her advice this time!
We decided to get out and enjoy the town, rather than our glorious accommodations. YOLO was not in a great part of town, and also far from the restaurants. The hostel manager told us we'd need to take a van into town from the main road, which costs $1. So we headed out to the main road. Just as he said, a white van stopped mysteriously for us, there were some other people in it, and a sign that said “Centro” on the dash, so we hopped inside. Indeed this worked, and we arrived in the center district 6 minutes later.
After dinner and some exploration, we headed back to the hostel. We arrived back to 2 guys sitting out by the pool playing loud techno music and drinking. Inside our room, the thin walls did nothing to keep the music out. The beds were so sketchy, I was SO grateful for the silk sleep sack that I brought with me. I climbed inside my clean cocoon, and shimmied up to the top of one bunk bed. The rickety bed swayed back and forth, and felt like it might buckle under my weight. Chris attempted to put the AC on. Broken. Maybe a good thing because the window was stuck open anyway. It started to pour outside. We thought that at least that might kill the party out on the patio, but they just seemed to move inside. And the rain made the environment even more damp. The room got muggy and so hot as the night progressed, Chris barely slept. Maybe we should have picked the bottom bunks for temperature control, but somehow it felt better being further away from the colonies of bugs crawling around the floor.
We awoke early to our dank and smelly room, and were 100% on the same page. Saving money by being here was just not worth it! We found a hotel in town that was 3X the price but the best we could do, packed our bags and left. Ironically, we used the concept of YOLO to get the hell out of YOLO.
We can't say YOLO is a bad place to stay. 23 year old Chris and Carrie might have had a blast. I bet tons of young backpackers have fantastic time there with the laid-back setting and convivial atmosphere, on the outskirts of a huge party town. But, like Barney Stinson learned, some things you just outgrow, and so this hostel experience gets filed under our Murtaugh list. We're just too old for that $h*t.
Part 2 – Back on track
The rest of our time in Buzios was just lovely. Our new lodging was just off the center of town, walkable to so many restaurants and beaches. It was called La Chimere, and if you're ever in Buzios, we highly recommend it. Clean as a whistle with a friendly staff and a small, pristine ultramarine soaking pool! The best part was the complimentary breakfast. Brazilian breakfast is the best meal of the day, in my book. A huge array of sliced meats and cheeses, a variety of fresh tropical fruits, and homemade breads of all kinds, from cheesy breads to buttery breads to fruity breads. It was served with 4 options for freshly squeezed juice and strong, delicious coffee.
We spent our days bopping from beach to beach, exploring the peninsula. Some were small and secluded. Others were crowded, with water sports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboard. Almost all beaches had makeshift bars and local vendors walking around selling everything from fresh oysters to fire-roasted shrimp skewers to coco gelado - a coconut water as fresh as it gets, served in mother nature's juice box.
The cool thing about Buzios is how varied the natural landscape is. It was tropical and lush, but also laden with cacti abutting the shore. There were beaches nestled between cliffs. These beaches ranged from white sand to pebble beaches, some rocky shorelines, and even one stunning red sand beach. Imagine a long stretch of coast that looks like it's made of raspberry sherbet. We scooped the red sand in our hands and let it fall through our fingers, and reveled at how pretty it was.
For anyone headed to Buzios, our favorite beaches were Praia Joao Fernandinho (small and secluded), and Praia Tartaruga (lively with good music and beach bars). Overall, we did not like the south side of the peninsula, which was the ritzy, posh side. The water was colder and the beaches more crowded. The houses on that side were INSANE though. Straight up mansions.
We had some good meals, but the only taste to note was a phenomenal dish at the Rocka Beach Lounge which was an über trendy joint near the surfing beach, which I think is best for lunch. You sit on deck atop these cliffs and watch the surfers ride the waves as you dine; it's truly pleasant. We had rare Argentinian mushroom stuffed with shrimp, drenched in a delicious yolky consomme. The mushrooms looked like the kind of wrinkled fungus you see in the woods, but don't eat because you're sure it will kill you. It was a truly unique taste and we loved it.
We also made our first travel friends here -- two lovely Brits named Mark and Helen, who had done a RTW journey 4 years ago! We stayed out late having caipirinhas and chatting about life and travel. Today we are sad to have left the sun, sand and safety of Buzios (crime there is not a big problem at all), but excited to be in to Salvador and drink in some more serious Brazilian culture and history. A short gallery of Buzios photos is below.