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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

Essential Guide to Visiting Bonito: The Paradise of the Southern Brazilian Pantanal

Updated: May 16


Man on a wooden deck by a crystal-clear river, with fish and vegetation visible on the riverbed and along its banks
Deck where the snorkeling in Rio Sucuri begins

Located in the southern region of the Brazilian Pantanal, Bonito (State of Mato Grosso do Sul) offers that mix of tranquility and adventure that few other places can provide. It boasts crystal-clear rivers, waterfalls, caves and grottoes (both dry and flooded), sinkholes, rock walls, not to mention the fauna and flora of the Pantanal, Cerrado and the Atlantic Forest (if I tell you the number of animals we spotted, you'll think we went on a safari!)


There are more than 90 attractions open to visitors, so check this post where I have curated the best to do in Bonito in 3 or 4 days.


 

INDEX to your Essential Guide to visiting Bonito - Southern Brazilian Pantanal:

 
Man wearing an orange T-shirt and a blue helmet, on a platform for observing the Gruta do Lago Azul in Bonito, MS. The cave features numerous stalactites and a side with turquoise blue water. In one corner, a staircase carved into the rock is visible.
Gruta do Lago Azul (Blue Lake Grotto)
 

Other posts about travel in Brazil:

 



How to Go on Tours in Bonito, Brazil


  • Bonito boasts one of the best tourism infrastructures in Brazil — extremely organized and high-quality. It’s one of those places that rivals any other ecotourism destination in the world. Rest assured, you’ll only face difficulties there if you want to.

  • In Bonito, all attractions are in rural areas and are distant from each other. You’ll need your own car or to hire a van service. The roads to the attractions are gravel roads, but all are in good condition, and we easily managed to get there with an economy car.

  • All tours are guided, in small groups, with full attention to safety norms and respect for the environment. Follow your guide’s instructions fully and adhere to the principle: leave only footprints, take only memories.



  • The tours have all the facilities you need: bathrooms, changing rooms, Wi-Fi, snack bars, and in several places, restaurants. However, do not rely on cell phone signal—though availablein some spots, it is weak and unstable. In the town of Bonito, cellphone coverage is 100%.


  • Bonito is a major destination for domestic tourism, but it also attracts many foreign visitors. Many guides are fluent in English and Spanish. We speak fluent Portuguese, so we had no communication problems, but we encountered Germans, French, Americans, and Japanese tourists. They were all enchanted by the beauty of Bonito and participated in all the activities without any issues.


  • Bonito is the most well-known town in the Southern Pantanal and has the best infrastructure, but the attractions commonly attributed to Bonito are spread across other town in the region, such as Jardim and Bodoquena, in what is called the Serra da Bodoquena. We stayed in Bonito, and I suggest you do the same.


View at the end of the Adventure Trail Boca da Onça, with a valley and a river in the background.
View at the end of the Boca da Onça trail

When to visit Bonito, Southern Pantanal, Brazil


Bonito can be visited year-round.


Located in the heart of the southern Pantanal region, Bonito is hot—very hot—throughout the year. Expect maximum temperatures around 35°C (95°F) and minimum temperatures that rarely drop below 18°C (64°F).


During the winter months (from May to September), temperatures tend to be a bit milder but far from cold. The lows can drop to around 14°C (57°F), but it still gets hot during the day. So, be prepared and bring a hat, sunscreen, and everything you would for a summer trip.


What changes throughout the year in Bonito is the rainfall. In the summer, especially from October to March, it rains a lot. January and February mark the peak of the rainy season. In winter, the rains take a break but still occur.


It is usually recommended to visit Bonito during the dry season, from May to September, when the rivers are clearer, rain doesn’t disrupt tours, and wildlife is easier to spot.


But if you, like us, aren’t afraid of rain (😂) or can only travel in January and February (🙋🏻), don’t think twice and go to Bonito even "outside the ideal season"—you won’t regret it.


We went during Carnival, in February, and it was perfect. It was my second time visiting Bonito during the Carnival holiday, and I don’t regret it. It was hot and cloudy, but we had a fantastic time.




How long to stay in Bonito, Southern Pantanal, Brazil


Oh, that's a tough question to answer 😂 Personally, I'd stay in Bonito indefinitely, until I got tired of all the natural beauty (or until my money ran out, which would definitely happen first).



If you have more time, even better! A week would be great to explore the best attractions in the Bonito region and Serra da Bodoquena. Check out the post detailing the activities we did in the four days we were in Bonito. At the end of that post, you'll find a list of more activities I wanted to do but didn't have time for.


But even if you have just 2 or 3 days you can enjoy A LOT. Take a look at our suggestions and check out the details of each activity to choose your favorites.




How to get to Bonito, Southern Pantanal


Bonito is about 260 km from Campo Grande Airport, which is connected to major Brazilian airports, including São Paulo (both the domestic airport Congonhas and the international airport Guarulhos, codes CGH and GRU), Brasília, and Cuiabá.


We live in São Paulo and took a TAM flight from Congonhas (CGH) to Campo Grande (CGR). Upon arrival, we rented a car and drove straight to Bonito, completing the trip in about 3 hours and 30 minutes. The road is a single lane, in good condition, well-signposted, and toll-free. If you prefer, there are many shuttle services available between the airport and Bonito.


So, besides the flight time, plan for an additional 4 hours to get from the airport to Bonito. Depending on your flight schedule and how much time you have available to explore the region, you might be able to fit in an activity on the day of your arrival or departure. For example, on our departure day, we did the Boca da Onça tour in the morning and then headed straight to Campo Grande.


There is an airport in Bonito (BYO), but it has limited commercial flights. When we visited, there were Azul flights on the Bonito-Campinas (VCP) route twice a week and GOL flights from Congonhas once a week. Unfortunately, these flights never coincided with our available dates, but if they work for you, they are worth considering. Even though these flights might be more expensive than those to Campo Grande, the time saved and the cost of ground transportation should be factored in.


For those on a road trip, Bonito is 350 km from Corumbá (near the Bolivian border), 630 km from Presidente Prudente (State of São Paulo), and 650 km from Rondonópolis (State of Mato Grosso).





Getting Around in Bonito and the Serra da Bodoquena


As mentioned earlier, all the attractions in Bonito are in rural areas and are quite spread out. It's essential to have a car, hire a van service, or join a tour that includes transfers between the different attractions.


To reach the tour sites, you will travel some stretches on paved roads, but the remainder of the journey is on gravel roads. These roads were in good condition when we traveled (during the rainy season), and our economy car (the cheapest available) handled all the routes without any issues.


Wide view of the Buraco das Araras in Bonito, Southern Pantanal, Brazil. The rocky walls of the sinkhole are visible on the ground, surrounded by lush green vegetation, with a small lake in the background under a cloudy sky.
Buraco das Araras (Macaw Hole)

Where to stay in Bonito, Southern Pantanal


We stayed at the beautiful Pousada Olho d'Água, a charming inn with spacious rooms, comfortable mattresses, a pool, a lovely garden, and even more delightful hammocks. I highly recommend it without hesitation. The only downside is that it's a bit far from the town center, so if you don't have a car, it's a good walk or you’ll need to call a taxi.


In downtown Bonito, there are numerous options. If your budget allows, try the Pousada Arte da Natureza—some friends stayed there and absolutely loved it. For a more economical choice, Pousada Cheiro de Mato and Pousada Papaya seem to offer great value for money.


If you're the type who loves resorts, Zagaia Eco Resort is the best in town. However, in my honest opinion, staying at a resort in Bonito is completely unnecessary.


If you need accommodation in Campo Grande for an early morning flight (as we did), or if your flight arrives late and you need to stay overnight before driving to Bonito, I recommend the Aeroporto Plaza Hotel. It’s a very simple and fair hotel located right in front of Campo Grande Airport. Just cross the avenue, and you're already in the airport's departure lounge.





What to do in Bonito in 4 days


This itinerary includes a bit of everything the region has to offer: snorkeling, caves, trails, and waterfalls. It’s perfect for a 4-day trip and can be adjusted to fit 3 days or extended to include more activities if you have 5 or 6 days:



Day 2: Gruta do Lago Azul & Eco Park Porto da Ilha with a boat tour on the Rio Formoso



Day 4: Adventure trail in Boca da Onça


You can rearrange the order of the days to suit your preferences.


In this post, I detail each of these tours, sharing our opinions on what makes them special, and suggesting other activities. Check it out! (spoiler: don't miss the snorkeling in Prata River)



Map of Attractions


This map includes all the tours we did, the inn where we stayed, the restaurants we enjoyed, and other points of interest in the region.


How to Use the Map: Click on the top right corner of the map to open it in Google Maps. In the menu on the left, you’ll find descriptions of various locations. Clicking on each one provides information and details like links and addresses.


To save the map to your Google Maps account, simply click the star below the map's name.


Once saved, you can access it on your phone or computer by opening Google Maps, going to the menu, selecting "Your Places," then "Maps," and finding it listed among your saved maps.



In this post, I explain how to use Google MyMaps to plan a trip—worth checking out!


Where to eat in Bonito


Restaurant Juanita: Don’t miss it—the grilled pacu is simply divine. It’s worth the wait if there’s a line.


Pantanal Grill: We had a delicious meal here one night.


Quintal Pantaneiro: For a quick meal between tours, we stopped at this buffet-style restaurant - if you want to try the Brazilian "quilo", where people go for the everyday lunch, that's the place. It’s great value for money.


Zapi Zen Pizzaria and Pizzaria Venus: For pizzas, we tried both. I preferred Pizzaria Venus, but Zapi Zen is also popular, with pleasant sidewalk tables.


Casa do João: Highly recommended, but when we tried to go, the wait was too long and our kids were very hungry, so we couldn’t stay.





Other Posts About Traveling in Brazil




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