WHY NOW Caipirinha and samba keep the party going in Rio de Janeiro, no matter the season. Despite pounding rains that devastated certain Rio neighborhoods, the city’s famed beaches are relatively unharmed and attract plenty of bronzing Cariocas through May. Meanwhile, because the months between Easter and July are Rio’s low season, hotels slash prices by as much as half, and flights from New York City drop to about $700, which shaves another $300 or so from high-season prices.
WHAT TO DO Be sure to see Maracanã Stadium before the temple of Brazilian soccer, which was opened in 1950, receives a $280 million primping this year for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. A new subway stop in Ipanema makes the Hippie Fair — an open-air arts and crafts market held every Sunday in General Osório Square — that much more convenient. That leaves you just a few blocks from the beach, which should be empty come June as the whole city fixates on the World Cup in South Africa.
WHERE TO STAY Off-season deals exist all along Copacabana Beach. The new Arena Copacabana Hotel, with the requisite rooftop pool, is offering low-season rates from $156 for a double. For a less touristy area, the hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa has a swarm of boutique hotels, with some of the best views of the city’s skyline and rock formations. The recently opened Hotel Santa Teresa has 44 rooms starting at around 750 reais (about $440 at 1.7 reais to the dollar).
TO EAT Good luck getting a table at Aprazível (Rua Aprazível 62; 21-2508-9174; aprazivel.com.br) during the high season. But this Santa Teresa favorite, known for its sweet views, outdoor garden and inventive Brazilian cuisine, frees up in May. For something more casual, head to Chico e Alaíde (Rua Dias Ferreira 679, 21-2512-0028;chicoealaide.com.br), a recent addition to Leblon’s botequim scene. Its appetizers of shrimp and jerked meat may taste familiar to patrons of Bracarense (Rua José Linhares 85; 21-2294-3549); the two bars share the same chef.
DON’T MISS So you think you can dance? Before hitting Lapa 40 Graus (Rua do Riachuelo 97; 55-21-3970-1338; lapa40graus.com.br), a steamy samba lounge spread across three floors, learn a few steps. Carlinhos de Jesus Dance House (Rua Álvaro Ramos 11, Botafogo; 21-2541-6186; carlinhosdejesus.com.br) offers classes for beginners starting at 45 reais a person.