I wrote information to guide your trip planning to Bonito. After all, Brazil’s most organized ecotourism destination requires advance booking and a certain investment of time and money. I already mentioned how boring some care is, but they are necessary for the preservation and responsible for giving international visibility to the destination.
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Some years ago I traveled to Bonito and told my experiences in articles around here. But last year I participated in the sensational Adventure Next Latin America tourism fair in Campo Grande (MS), and got updated on the destination. In fact, little has changed and the published tips remain valid. Today the options of attractions and services have increased, as well as the number of tourists. So, I’ve put together all the tips (mine and other travelers) in this space and include a step by step to optimize your trip planning.
The text continues after the recommended services at the destination.
Bonito: a guide to planning the trip
Follow these steps to optimize your time, and click the links to help you choose attractions and services:
- Determine your budget limit (if this is not a problem, ignore it!);
- Research and choose which activities you want to do;
- Make sure your favorite rides are running at the desired time and are the best time;
- Evaluate the above three items and see if all the conclusions fit your available time for travel;
- Only then buy the tickets and start making the reservations. But note, the most popular tours must be scheduled at least 1 month before or 6 months before if it is a holiday or high season.
- Set up a daily schedule with nearby locations on the same day to optimize transportation. It is important to know that prices are fixed and some are sold exclusively by local agencies, although you can do everything over the Internet. In addition, extra attractions, meals, and transportation are not always included.
- Finally, confirm that all bookings and reservations are correct before leaving.
When is the best time to go to Bonito?
I traveled in February and would better answer the question When not to go to Bonito? I even reported in the text “Where not to travel on holidays”, especially for those who go for the first time. Rain disrupted water transparency on most rides and brought in many mosquitoes (and repellents are prohibited before entering the water). Only the springs were crystal clear and two of the most famous attractions were closed: Blue Cave and Anhumas Abyss. On the other hand, the volume of water in the waterfalls makes the bath more energetic. The rainy season is in our summer, from December to March.
Lilian traveled in August and enjoyed the warm weather, visibility in dives and moderate volume of tourists for being low season. The dry season runs from May to September. To combine with a safari in the Pantanal, August and September are the driest and the animals are concentrated where there is water, that is, easier to see them.
The temperature of the rivers keeps the year-round average of 20 °C while the temperature outside the water varies from 15 °C to 25 °C. That is, worth all year, just avoid holidays like Carnival and New Year if you want to save money and patience after all, queues and prices increase.
July takes place the Bonito Winter Festival, usually in the last week of the month.
How many days to enjoy Bonito
The minimum indicated is 6 days considering two with no tours on arrival and departure. I stayed for 8 days and it was good in February, at other times there are more options for attractions.
What’s the best airport to go to Bonito?
There are direct flights to Bonito, but they can be much more expensive and are not daily. The other option is to fly to Campo Grande (capital of Mato Grosso do Sul) and get a shared van there (Lilian chose one that left her at the door), private transportation or rent a car (my choice).
How to circulate
In Bonito few attractions are near the city and there is no public transportation. The options are to hire a car with a driver, rent a car, transfer by van or rent a bicycle, respectively from the most expensive to the cheapest thinking about 2 people. If you are more people, rent a car is not that expensive and you have the freedom to come and go whenever and wherever you want. Just don’t fully trust the routes suggested by Google Maps, check the paths with locations so you don’t get lost as happened to us more than once.
Cycling is the most economical, but it takes a breath, as the nearest attraction is about 12 km round trip. Most are further away. Lilian used shared transport and liked not having to worry about the way and already getting to know the people of the group. I rented a car with friends, however, we chose different tours and opted for private transportation on some days. Rosa, our driver, was an excellent companion and I leave her phone +55 67 96699494.
Where to stay in Bonito?
If you are without a car, you should look for a hotel or hostel in downtown Bonito. It is easier to go out to dinner, walk at night and get to know the local shops. The attractions will be far away anyway, so the main choice will be for the desired infrastructure. I stayed in a basic hostel and my friends in hostel, none of us was satisfied with the choice. That’s why I recommend rating the reviews on Booking.com.
Nearby of Bonito there are interesting hotels and farms with their tours, it is worth evaluating the value for money of the services offered, especially if you are traveling by car or by private transportation.
Where to eat
Be sure to sample the local fish (such as pacu, guinea fowl and traíra), alligator meat and farm-style home-made buffets, some are truly on farms like those offered on some tours. The piranha broth is famous, but I found it quite bland.
Casa do João is Bonito’s best-known restaurant and the experience was so pleasant that it yielded a text just for him. They have fish, alligator meat, hospitality, and craft store.
Tapera serves freshwater fish with plenty and a variety of seasonings.
Pastel Bonito has alligator meat on the menu as a filling of freshly fried pasta.
Things to do in Bonito
Bonito is the city with the best infrastructure and recognition in the Serra da Bodoquena region, which also includes activities in Jardim and Bodoquena. Pantanal can be included in the script for staying a few hours away. The tours are carried out in the rural areas of these municipalities, whose roads are well maintained, some of them with the beaten ground. In general, they are sites that have all the necessary structures to welcome the tourist and offer other activities besides the main one.
How to book the tours
Bonito is one of the most organized places in the world when it comes to ecotourism tours. No use getting straight to the attraction without having bought the voucher and scheduled time. You must first purchase from a travel agency or ticket sales website and arrange according to available dates and times. Local tourism has created an integrated system between all attractions and ticket sellers, so they can organize, maintain quality and limit the number of visitors per day to have the least environmental impact. Therefore, the most wanted crowd faster. And some close at certain times of the year for natural causes like the Mysterious Lagoon or the Blue Lagoon Cave that was with algae during my visit.
How to assemble the itinerary
Choose at least one float, Bonito’s must-see attraction, and then divide your time among other styles such as caves, waterfalls, trails, safari, extreme sports, and spas. Ideally, take one of each and complement the script with the activities you love to do. I recommend as many fluctuations as possible, even if similar, each place provides a unique experience.
If you do not book in advance, your first choice may be crowded on the busiest tours. Therefore, leave possible substitutions defined during the search.
The best of Bonito is the experience of floating in the spring and being taken in its natural course. A unique moment dedicated to observing the underwater world at your pace. All fluctuations are attractive half-turns that can be combined with extra activities offered by the property. There will always be an easy trail that leads to the starting point (some short and some slightly longer) through the riparian forest that protects and maintains the crystal clear waters.
Each tour includes a locker in the locker room, diving equipment (neoprene clothing and boot, life preserver, mask and snorkel) and one or two instructors. Some may offer lunch, some may not. Click on the red links to read my reports or go straight to ticket sales.
Rio da Prata is the most expensive and tiring, but worth the investment. The tip is to leave it last if you do more than one float. All the experiences are interesting, but they lose their fun after you have done the best.
Aquário Natural was the most colorful and alive flotation. It is especially suitable for children, the disabled and those who cannot swim. The river is shallow and the path is short. If you get tired, you can hitchhike in the accompanying boat or instructor’s assistance in the water. Even my group had a person with a diving phobia and the service with her was impeccable.
Sucuri and Barra do Sucuri take place on the same river of transparent water and gentle current. The difference is that the first one includes the source and the second one has a boat that goes a little further (cheaper and without extra activities). If it is the rainy season, opt for Sucuri because the springs have better visibility.
Nascente Azul is said to be similar to the River Plate, but without the tiresome part because it does not have the current. I would have done it if it were available during my visit.
Praia da Figueira and Hotel Cabanas also offer flotation activities, but the above-mentioned ones were not bough
Rappel and dive
I did not get to visit the Anhumas Abyss, which they say is a hard match with Rio da Prata among the best attractions of Bonito, but I leave the tip of the best time. Between late December and early February, the sun’s rays enter the slit and the effect should be perfect in the photos. The ride is the most expensive of all, lasts a day, and needs to take a capacity test days in advance. Those who are not certified for diving can snorkel and rappel from 72 meters.
Lagoa Misteriosa takes its name from the depth of 75 meters of an indescribable blue tone, visitors say, A pity to be closed during my visit. It is a place for scuba diving or snorkeling for half a day.
Boca da Onça is the largest waterfall in Mato Grosso do Sul and can rappel down.
Gruta do Lago Azul is on Lilian’s list of must-see tours and was also closed in February, unfortunately. Initial access is difficult for those with mobility issues, but the reward comes in the form of a blue lake amid stalactites and optical effects. You can’t dive, just watch and it lasts one turn.
Gruta São Miguel is the option to enter a cave when the other is closed. It has beautiful gardens, lookout to see the region, access is easier and begins with a treetop walk on a suspension bridge. Inside hide white bats and owls amidst different stalactites and formations. Just over an hour is enough for her, but if you already know other interesting caves, it’s unnecessary.
Gruta São Mateus is a newer attraction that has pleased tourists mainly for the attention of the guides. It is similar to the previous one with the addition of antique museum.
Birdwatching and animal life
Buraco das Araras was an old cave where the roof collapsed and today houses hundreds of macaws, about 200 between August and November. On a rainy February, I saw about ten huddled and soaked. But the photos on sunny days make me want to come back at the right time. The tour lasts almost two hours and the best times are early morning or late afternoon. In addition to bird watching, there are giant trees, interesting scenery, and pineapple from the savanna, a type of pineapple. Can cancel if the weather forecast is bad or not, at least provide a good raincoat.
Recanto Ecológico Rio da Prata and Estância Mimosa offer birdwatching within their properties. As well as horseback riding also available at Parque Ecológico Rio Formoso and Rio Sucuri.
Jibóia Project is one of the few nightlife attractions in the city of Bonito. Even if you are nearby, you can walk before going out to dinner. It is a show where the presenter and snake maker Henrique demystifies the fear of snakes because they are ugly and cold, and explains their importance to the environment. The highlight is the moment of the photo with the snake around the neck.
Fazenda São Francisco is the closest to the Pantanal and the furthest from Bonito (160 km). In the morning there is a 4×4 car safari and hiking. After the typical farm lunch, a cabin trip with piranha fishing and birdwatching.
Balneários are the river beaches for relaxing, floating or taking a nap listening to the noise of the waters. There is a bar, changing room and activities.
Balneário Municipal is very close to Bonito and full of piraputanga fishes. Both me and Lilian opted for this one, the cheapest.
Praia da Figueira brings a better structure that includes kayaking, sun loungers, paddle boats, and paddle boards. There are also quad biking, scuba diving, and boating options.
Balneário do Sol is the most suitable for families with children for its structure.
Balneário Ilha Bonita is the most wooded and the name makes the pun for being the largest island of Bonito. There are zip lines and trampolines.
Trails, waterfalls and tree climbing
Although almost all tours involve short trails, the most interesting is between one waterfall and another.
Boca da Onça Eco Tour is the name of the park where you can make the longest trail in Bonito. It is about 4 km through native forest, a waterfall circuit, bathing opportunities, and an 800-step staircase. The most enthusiastic can hire rappelling in the package or spend the rest of the day at the pool. The tour is a day with lunch included.
Rio do Peixe offers waterfalls circuit with stops for bathing, transparent good jump and zip line. In the end, the owner makes a show introducing us to the animals that live there like monkeys and macaws. The tour lasts the day and the farm-style lunch is included in the package.
Estância Mimosa and Parque das Cachoeiras share the same waterfall circuit with stops for bathing. The difference is the charm of the headquarters of the former and the zip line option in the latter, I visited only the headquarters of Parque das Cachoeiras. Both serve farm luncheon which must be purchased on a reservation and the duration varies as you wish, you can go for a shift or stay all day. Bird watching and horseback riding can be hired as an extra at Mimosa Resort.
Fazenda Corê offers the second-longest circuit of waterfalls (4 km) with stops for bathing before lunch included in the package. In the afternoon visit to a flooded cave and bath in the spring.
Ybirá Pe is a tree climbing circuit on the banks of Rio Formoso. The treetop route reaches 20 meters in height by 8 km.
Boia-cross and inflatable boat
There are adventures of boia-cross and inflatable boat in Rio Formoso. I did the latter thinking it would be rafting, but the river was too full to have strong emotions. The best thing was to have gone in an animated group that waged a water war with the other boats. Each activity requires one shift.
Hair care tip: Take a comb, shampoo, rinse-free cream and get off the dips with a neater look.
What to bring in your backpack: swimsuit and underwear to change at the end of the rides, towel, waterproof camera, moisturizer, waterproof bag, light jacket, hiking shoes, and insect repellent to use on the way out.
When it rains 50 ml the night before, some tours are not worth it. The water is muddy and cloudy for about 2 days. The springs remain good as long as it doesn’t rain more than 80 ml, locals said.
Attention to the time zone, in some periods of the year, it will be one hour earlier than the official time of Brasília.
To know the position of all locations mentioned in the text. Items in blue have been checked by us, in green are recommended by other travelers.
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