Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul: 4 days of a road trip in Brazil
January 1, 1970
by Mar Ilha
Bonito’s photos are amazing! I know it looks like paradise. You will see only a few photos of my own, and they are not pointing at the water. My trip wasn’t what I expected. I will tell you something about my experience of travel to Bonito and Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, then you can decide if you really want to go there and what you can do. But first I think you should understand a little about the context of my trip and what I was looking for at the time. Bonito has a number of beautiful spots however I quit faster than I had planned (and I don’t regret that). I still recommend going to Bonito, if this is your plan. Maybe you can just do some adjustments.
“I still recommend going to Bonito, if this is your plan. Maybe you can just do some adjustments”.
My way to trust in a testimony I read amongst the dozens of others is to try perceiving what the past experience of travel is and the life experience, balances and what the goal for the trip is I’m reading. How can you decide if the hostel I stayed at is really bad if the review is so great? How can you know if what is important to me to define a good meal is the same to you? It’s like hearing about the same trip from two friends, one likes to camp in nature and listen to the birds, the other one likes four star hotels in the big cities. If they go to trekking together with a guide it’s possible no one would like the trip but with a little luck the second friend might like the trip. Or if they go to a trekking in a virgin forest, the chance is just the first friend will like the trip.
This was a road trip. I’m Brazilian, live around Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, and agreed to meet a foreign friend, from Austria (but Turkish), in Bonito. We met 2 years ago in Ecuador; spend 1 week travelling together on occasion. She was in Brazil to end-job-travel/backpack and for sure we should meet again in my country. She doesn’t want to go to cold weather climates, and my city is a beautiful island yet in July it’s not the best tourist place. Then I decided one destination, one which I wanted to know about for a long time: Bonito.
I tried finding someone who could go with me, but was unsuccessful. It needed to be a cheap trip. Beyond that, it was 1,500 km to cross alone. I placed an advert about blablacar in Brazil. [TIP] It’s a system where you offer a ride for a fair price when everyone shares the cost. I was a blablacar passenger before in Canada and Italy. Now I was able to be the driver and putting the first route in, I secured 8 passengers in 3 steps. It’s pretty safe because all involved have details registered in the system, as well as the routes. It was good enough to pay the gas and road fee for my first goal.
The Bonito problem is as follows: it’s too expensive and it’s necessary to book all tours with groups and guides. You need to pay for everything and you need to decide by just looking at the book in the guide’s store and booking all of your trip before starting in exactly one hour with a random group. For me, it was a nightmare. Both, my friend and I, like freedom on vacations, not to be babysat.
We stayed in a cheap hostel (R$40/p.n) called Catarinos’s guesthouse. You can only sleep there, but not spend any other time there. It’s an ugly place without privacy. There are always old guys sitting in the passageway looking at you (we are women traveling alone). They have a diverse breakfast but no good food. And the shower is a typical shit Brazilian’s shower (the water is not satisfactory). They have high reviews, but my friend said that they asked her to write a good review during the first day that she stayed there.
“Rio da Prata: a tour for everyone!”
The tourist downtown area was 4 squares by one “avenue”. It is a scenic place and just doesn’t fit in with the city,
however there are good looking shops and bars. Interestingly, we had the best meal outside that specific area in a local snack bar: espetinho completo. This meal consisted of a steak stick, farofa, rice, beans, manioc and vinaigrette. We ordered one and it was enough for both of us. I don’t remember the name of the place, we tried to get there again and we were not able to find it. But this was the best and cheapest meal we had in Bonito, something around R$10/person. The TIP here is: you can find cheap meals in Bonito, just go beyond the fancy places as the meals are not so good there.
It’s not important where you book your tour because all places have the same price. The attractions are in private areas and the places they have on the tour structure have nothing to do with that, the agency just books it. I don’t remember exactly but I think we paid something like R$190 for the Rio da Prata (silver river) tour and R$160 for the Lago Azul (blue lagoon). [TIP] I strongly recommend “Rio da Prata”: you float for 2 hours in crystal clear water feeling like a lucky fish. Don’t worry: I’m not able to swim well but still had a great time, and my friend who is a good swimmer and has experience in diving around the world also enjoyed it. This is a tour for everyone! Furthermore, I listened to people speaking very highly of the blue lagoon in the morning, during the silver river tour, but I just feel like I had spent too much money and time already. I could have done that without regret if this wasn’t so expensive. We took a really short trek (less than 10 minutes) and then down the stairs at a hole – the lagoon – where you went to swimming but if you are not an experienced diver you cannot do much.
Both tours we did are in the same farm; this place is beautiful, cozy, very well maintained with heavenly hammocks, birds, horses and more. They have a famous lunch. We weren’t able to try it because we didn’t have much time until it was time to go down to the lagoon, and it’s recommended to eat light before swimming, but when we got back I tried the cheese and it was amazing. I strongly recommend trying the food and letting me know what you think about it afterwards.
When we got out of this dream farm, we took 50km offroad and experienced a spectacular sunset. We didn’t want to stay offroad at night just by ourselves with my C3, as it’s not an offroad car, and we didn’t have any cell phone signal in the area. However the best landscapes were in the offroad stretches we did. Even if get offroad in the next day had cost to us burst a tire (we were just looking for a place to fish and cook our lunch – however, we do not lunch this day, we get a pizza for dinner in Campo Grande). It’s end this part of the trip.