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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

The best tours to do in Bonito, Brazil, in 4 days

Bonito is one of my favorite ecotourism destinations in Brazil: it has a super professional tourism infrastructure  and the name of the place itself is a huge spoiler of what you'll find there - Bonito means beautiful in Portuguese. Nature has definitely been generous in Bonito.


Underwater image, with fish and a tree trunk. Rio da Prata, Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul.


Here on the blog, you'll find a lot of information about Bonito, including general tips on when to go, how to get there, how to organize the tours - as well as the million-dollar question for any parents, "at what age should we take our kids to Bonito", and much more


Attention: in Bonito all tours are in rural areas, far from each other, must be done within a guided tour and scheduled in advance.


In this post, I detail each tour we did in Bonito on 4 days, which I would say is the minimum to enjoy it well.


Could you enjoy Bonito in 3 days? Yes, of course! 2 days? Yes, if you plan and organize everything in detail and feel confortable in leaving some wonderful tours aside.


We went to Bonito during Carnival - in fact, I've gone to Bonito twice during Carnival: once before kids were born and once with the children already grown up. Although February is not the most recommended time of the year to go to Bonito, both times the weather was excellent and we had stunning tours.


The tours are listed below in the order we did them - it's impossible, for me, to rank them from best to worst, ALL activities are great and, with the exception of one (read to understand), I would do them again..


 

Other posts about traveling in Brazil


 

Itinerary overview of what to do in Bonito in 4 days:


Day 1: Snorkeling at Rio da Prata & Buraco das Araras


Day 2: Gruta do Lago Azul (Blue Lake Cave) & Eco Park Porto da Ilha with a boat ride on the Formoso River


Day 3: São Miguel Caves & snorkeling at Rio Sucuri


Day 4: Adventure trail at Boca da Onça


The order of the days can be changed to suit you better.


Woman in neoprene suit, on a wooden staircase leading to Rio da Prata, a river of crystal-clear water where it is possible to observe the fish. Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul.
Rio da Prata - even from outside the water, you can already see the fish


1 - Snorkeling at Rio da Prata (Recanto Ecológico Rio da Prata)


If I had to choose only one tour to do in Bonito, I would do this one. It's one of the most expensive ones, but believe me, it's worth every penny.


Imagine floating down a river of crystal-clear water, very calm, surrounded by many fish, fresh water, through beautiful cerrado vegetation, just enjoying nature without worrying about anything because at the end of the tour there will be a delicious homemade lunch waiting for you and the best dulce de leche you can imagine.

Not to mention the excellent structure of the place, competent and attentive guides, sustainability and all the confort you could find in a typical Brazilian farm.


One of the most incredible ecotourism tours in Brazil, in my humble opinion.


We arrived at the farm headquarters and our guide quickly called us for general instructions and helped us put on the neoprene clothing (including booties, all provided by the tour and included in the price). After a brief visit to the farm's vegetable garden, we went on an adapted truck to the beginning of the trail.



There began the tour, with a at walk of about 30 minutes through the riparian forest, with a stop at a beautiful spot to enjoy the scenery and take photos.


We arrived at Rio Olho D'água springs, a huge natural pool of crystal-clear water where you can see the water springing from the ground. Time to put on the mask and snorkel and float downstream in this immense natural aquarium of clear waters amidst fish and underwater plants for about 2 km, a true spectacle.


After about 3/4 of the floating , Rio Olho D'água joins Rio da Prata - if you want, from there you can continue on a boat, but of course, we kept on floating. The water in Rio da Prata is colder than in Rio Olho D'água, the river is deeper, and visibility is lower, but it's still worth continuing the float.


At the end of the tour, there is a deck where you can take a leap into the river, and from there the truck picked us up and took us back to the farm headquarters. We did the tour + lunch in about 5 hours.




2 - Buraco das Araras (Macaw Hole)


The Buraco das Araras is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating tours in Bonito.


It is also one of the easiest in terms of physical ability: the trail to reach the hole is absolutely flat and well-maintained, and the total route is less than 1 km.


This trail leads you to the edge of a real huge hole in the ground, with a diameter of 500m and a depth of 127m.


Technically called a doline, the hole is the result of the collapse of the limestone soil and forms an ideal habitat for the macaws, which find the necessary protection for their nests there.


About 60 pairs of red macaws live in the area. Our guide told us that, at one point, three Blue-and-yellow macaws arrived at the hole, two of them soon left, but one stayed, forming a pair with a red macaw (Red-and-green macaws - Ara chloropterus - and Blue-and-yellow macaws - Ara ararauna - are different species). In other places (such as the Bird Park in Foz do Iguaçu), the formation of these pairs has been observed, with reproduction, producing macaws with an orange hue, but there is still not much information about these hybrid macaws.



At the bottom of the hole, there is a quite peculiar ecosystem. There lives a yellow-bellied caiman, an anaconda, and a howler monkey, along with other small animals. The carnivores feed on animals that fall into the hole and birds that dare to fly lower, while the monkey just hangs out there, sometimes climbing trees and managing to leave the area, but always ending up returning.


Our guide also told us about the history of the hole, which I found very curious. The hole was officially "discovered" in 1912 and for a long time was used as a dumping ground for trash and human bodies. In the 1970s, the first military expedition rappelled to the bottom and removed 3 tons of garbage and remains of 23 human skeletons. There is the carcass of a car under the trees, and it is estimated that there are bodies from the Paraguayan War and fossils from the last Ice Age.


Today, Buraco das Araras is a Private Natural Heritage Reserve (RPPN), protected and only visited with local guides.


The complete tour takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes, and like us, I recommend that you do it on the same day as Rio da Prata, due to the proximity of the two locations.




3 - Gruta do Lago Azul (Blue Lake Cave)


The Gruta do Lago Azul (Blue Lake Cave) is the postcard of Bonito. Unmissable.


It's a contemplative tour, starting with a gentle walk to the cave entrance, followed by a descent of approximately 200m down a staircase embedded between the cliff and the rocks.


As you descend the stairs, what appears to be an ordinary cave with a dull dark lake at the bottom unfolds as one of the most iconic images of Brazil. It's impossible to remain indifferent to the gradient turquoise blue of the lake, framed by the rock formations sculpted by water over thousands of years, forming various speleothems (stalactites, stalagmites, curtains, columns, etc.).



Our guide explained that the water in the lake is transparent, and the shades of blue result from the sunlight, but even on cloudy days (like the one we went), it's possible to see the beautiful blue hue, and there's no specific time that's better or worse. Any day and time you go, the spectacle will be there to be appreciated.


The cave has a 40m diameter opening, and the lake is 90 meters deep. It is the habitat of a species of blind albino crustacean about 9mm in length and harbors fossils of animals from the last Ice Age (Pleistocene period, between 1.8 million and 11,000 years ago), such as the giant sloth and the saber-toothed tiger.


The guided tour of the Blue Lake Cave took about 1 hour and 30 minutes.



How about researching your accommodation in Bonito? We stayed at Pousada Olho d'Água and loved it - check availability and rates in this box



4 - Ecopark Porto da Ilha and boat ride on the Formoso River


When I first visited Bonito, at the beginning of the 20th century (yes, it's been a while 😅), this place only offered the boat ride and a small restaurant. Today, Eco Park Porto da Ilha is a complex with various activities: it offers river tubing, duck tours, stand-up paddleboarding, a natural pool with a waterfall and deck, and facilities including a restaurant, bar, changing rooms, and more.


The boat ride we took is the main attraction of the area. There are about 10 boats, each carrying 12 people, descending 5 km down the Formoso River, passing through 3 small waterfalls and 1 rapid. It's a contemplative and fun ride, and the excitement comes from splashing water from one boat to another. It's a ride suitable for all ages. We saw an anaconda just a few meters from the boat.


It's not allowed to bring cell phones or cameras on the ride, only GoPro cameras on chest or head mounts. There are photographers along the route, and you can buy the photos afterward, but we didn't think it was worth it.


Although it was one of the kids' favorite rides, I don't consider it a must-see (but I still did this ride both times I visited Bonito). The location, despite having good facilities, was a bit different from the others we visited, due to the crowds and some confusion when organizing the tour - which is understandable since about 120 people depart together (the other tours are usually maximum 10 to 20 people in each group).




5 - Grutas de São Miguel (São Miguel Caves)


São Miguel Cave is a dry cave with beautiful geological formations: stalactites, stalagmites, columns, travertines, coralloids, and lighting that highlights the beauty of the place. You feel like you're walking through a fantasy world.


I found it to be a pleasant and peaceful tour, which started with a 200-meter walk on suspended bridges through the cerrado forest, followed by an easy and flat trail for a few more meters. Our guide made a stop for us to peek at the cave from the outside, through an entrance not open to visitors, and then we walked to its main entrance.




After descending a few steps, we walked 160 meters through the cave, amidst the most beautiful geological formations, with plenty of photo opportunities. On the way out, we spotted some bats that live in the cave.


Surprisingly, the kids enjoyed São Miguel Cave more than the Blue Lake Cave because here it's possible to walk among the formations (of course, respecting designated paths and not touching anything).





6 -  Snorkeling at the Sucuri River Springs


The Sucuri River is considered one of the clearest rivers in the world and has been the setting for soap operas and various TV shows. When you arrive there, you'll realize that all this reputation is well-deserved.


The tour follows the same scheme as the snorkeling at Rio da Prata: after putting on the neoprene suit and grabbing mask and snorkel, a 4x4 took us to the beginning of an easy trail of about 500m through the riparian forest, stopping at some beautiful spots along the way for photos.


We floated 1800m along the crystal-clear waters of the Sucuri River, always surrounded by many, many fish, and with impressively beautiful underwater flora. Not to mention the capuchin monkeys we saw playing in the trees along the river, and two otters that I spotted near the end of the flotation.


The tour includes a support boat throughout the course, but needless to say we let ourselves be carried by the current and floated until the last permitted centimeter.


If you're only going to do one snorkeling tour, I would have a hard time saying which one to choose between Sucuri River and Rio da Prata. Both are amazingly beautiful and well structured; at Rio da Prata, we saw a greater variety of fish, more springs, and loved the diving spot at the end of the route, but Sucuri River won my heart for the beauty of the vegetation and the incredibly clear water.


There's a restaurant on-site (if I'm not mistaken, it's à la carte - we didn't eat there because we did the tour in the afternoon and had lunch in town).





7 - Boca da Onça Ecotur


Boca da Onça Ecotour is a complex with various activities, mainly trails and rappelling.


We did the Adventure Trail, which consists of a 4km walk through preserved forest passing by ten waterfalls and five natural pools where you can swim - the Monkey Hole Waterfall is amazing, I recommend using the life jacket (available there, no extra cost) to enjoy the waterfall bath without stress.


The trail ends at Boca da Onça Waterfall, the tallest in Mato Grosso do Sul State (156 meters) and the highlight of the tour, it is truly spectacular! Take the opportunity to havea refreshing bath in its pool, because next, 886 steps (yes, eight hundred and eighty-six steps) will take you to the top of the cliff, where there's the rappelling platform and beautiful views of the valley, and then to the truck for returning to the visitor center.


Those who don't want to tackle the 886 steps can leave halfway and take the truck, but will miss the last two waterfalls. Even with a bad knee, I faced the stairs and I must say, I don't regret it.


At the visitor center, a delicious breakfast and lunch are served (it was included in our tour).


We did this tour on our last day in the morning. We left our hotel Pousada Olho D'Água at 7 am, went to Boca da Onça and from there we went straight to Campo Grande, where we stayed at the Aeroporto Plaza Hotel - a very simple and fair hotel, located right in front of the Campo Grande airport, perfect for those who, like us, just need a clean and comfortable place to sleep in Campo Grande and catch an early flight the next day.



What about taking the opportunity to research available accommodations in Bonito? Click on the box and start your trip right now:



Other tours in Bonito


Bonito has more than 90 tours open to visitors, and even if you have more time, you won't be able to do them all. Based on recommendations from friends and talking to other people on tours, I've made a list of what I intend to do next time I visit Bonito:


Abismo Anhumas: It is said to be the most spectacular tour in Bonito. We didn't go this time because I thought the kids (11 and 12 years old) wouldn't have the physical capacity, but I was wrong - a friend of my daughter went and loved it!


Salobra River Canyons - Eco Serrana Park: Due to lack of information about it, I didn't include this tour in the itinerary, but upon arrival, we realized it must be sensational.


Lagoa Misteriosa (Mysterious Lagoon): A sinkhole filled with water, with snorkeling and incredible views, open for visitation from April to October because during the rest of the year, visibility conditions are not good.


Rio do Peixe: A walk through the forest with waterfalls and natural pools, great for all ages.


Other shorter snorkeling tours include Nascente Azul and Aquário Natural (both have other attractions on-site).


In addition, there are several leisure resorts in the region (Eco Park Porto da Ilha is considered one of them), such as Nascente Azul, Jardim Ecopark, Praia da Figueira, Refúgio da Barra, Estrela do Formoso, and others, all of them with attractions for all ages.


Bio Park is a shelter for wildlife and a sanctuary for rescued animals that cannot be reintroduced into nature.


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


Where to stay in Bonito


We stayed at Pousada Olho d'Água, which I highly recommend without hesitation. It's one of the most charming guesthouses in Bonito, with excellent service and delicious breakfast. Take the opportunity to check availability and prices:





Map of what to do in Bonito, Brazil, in 4 days


Click on the map below to view all the tours we did and the accommodations and restaurants we recommend.



How to Use this Map: Simply click on the tab located in the top left corner of the map to access various layers, including points of interest and routes. You can choose which layers to view by selecting them in the corresponding check-box. For additional details about specific points of interest, click on the corresponding icons on the map.


To save this map to your Google Maps account, click on the star icon next to the map title. To access it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, tap on the menu button, go to "Your Places," select "Maps," and you will find this map listed among your saved maps.


In this post, I explain how to use Google MyMaps to plan a trip, it's a very useful feature, worth knowing!



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Pin for Pinterest. Photos of Bonito, MS, showing macaws, diving, and deck over Rio da Prata. It says "What to do in 4 days in Bonito, M.S." www.danae-explore.com


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