The small rural town of Bonito, Brazil is quite unlike anywhere else in the country because this remote isolated community in the far west of Brazil is surrounded by a huge array of crystal clear waterways that are teeming with fish.
Bonito has been hailed as a huge ecotourism destination and until just a few decades ago, no one would have heard of the town, let alone driven for hours inland to find it.
Things have changed, and tourism here is exploding exponentially as visitors come searching for the beautiful jungles and to swim in the azure water.
It is well worth the long journey, and to help you to plan your trip, here’s our guide to visiting Bonito, Brazil.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Brazil (Travel Guide)
Plan A Trip to Bonito, Brazil
How to Travel to Bonito
Bonito is located in a remote corner of Mato Grosso do Sol state. Beyond Bonito, there is indigenous land and then Paraguay, making this one of the more isolated portions of the country to visit.
Bonito is a small place, and the closest major transport hub is found at the state capital of Campo Grande, which is a good 5-hour bus ride away to the east.
Campo Grande has bus connections across Brazil, however, Sao Paulo would be a good 12-hour drive, and Rio de Janeiro at least 17 hours.
There is an airport, however, located at Campo Grande, ensuring that flying in domestically is by the far the most convenient way to get here.
From Campo Grande, you can catch one of the regular buses to Bonito. With tourism surging, these are very regular and run throughout the morning until the late afternoon.
These buses leave from the main bus terminal, but if you are flying in, then there are also direct shuttle buses from the terminal straight to Bonito.
Bonito does have a small airstrip, however, flights are irregular, and won’t be the best value. The route from Campo Grande, overland, is by far the most popular and cost-effective mode of transport.
Ecotourism in Bonito, Brazil
Until very recently, Bonito was simply a collection of remote farms in the Brazilian hinterland, tourism had not been developed, and locals worked in agriculture.
The farmers, however, realized that the land they worked was exceptionally unique because the jungle supported a beautiful system of aquatic waterways, that Bonito is now becoming famous for.
Tourism began to be developed, but the locals realized that to keep things pristine and beautiful, they would need to focus on the development of ecotourism, to control visitor numbers and to keep things sustainable.
To this end, while the main street of the town has developed rapidly into a tourist hub, with many more restaurants, bars, and hotels than ever before, visiting the actual natural sights around Bonito is rigidly controlled by the local tourism authorities.
There are currently 38 ecotourism sites in and around Bonito and each site has strict limitations on the number of daily visitors allowed in.
The only way to buy a ticket for any given attraction is through a locally accredited travel agency, meaning the number of tickets that can be sold is limited each day.
To this end, it’s important that you purchase tickets in advance where you can. During public holidays and on weekends, things can easily be sold out, even weeks in advance.
Although annoying for travelers, it’s a welcome move that helps to keep the nature here pristine.
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Best Time of Year to Visit Bonito
As already noted, public holidays are best avoided when visiting Bonito. Generally speaking, the best time to visit Bonito is at the end of the wet season, when there isn’t so much rain, but the rivers and waterfalls are still full from the recent downpours.
The tropical climate means that during the long wet season, from December through to April, there is a lot of rain. The rivers can swell, but roads can be blocked in rural areas and you can expect to get very, very wet, all of the time.
The dry season which occurs during the cooler winter months between May and November can be a pleasant time of the year to visit, but you can’t expect the scenery to be at its best, unfortunately.
Best Things to do in Bonito, Brazil
Travelers visit Bonito for the rivers, waterways, waterfalls, and tropical jungle that’s found here.
You can swim, snorkel and even Scuba dive around Bonito, ensuring that there is a lot of action-packed activities to take part in. Here are our favorite things to do, and places to visit in Bonito.
Rio de Prata
Rio de Prata is one of Bonito’s most important eco-tourism attractions, and one of the most popular places to visit.
The ‘Silver River’ is one of the big draws of visiting, so make sure you secure a tourist spot as soon as you can when planning your trip.
The river offers absolutely crystal clear water, and the best way to experience this aquamarine underwater environment is to snorkel along its length.
The water is home to some of the friendliest fish in Bonito, and you’ll be swarmed by crowds of huge and inquisitive marine creatures.
Our top recommended tour of Rio de Prata: Recanto Ecologico Rio da Prata Admission Ticket including Trail and Snorkeling
Gruta do Lago Azul
The Blue Lake Grotto is an underground cave of epic proportions that’s guaranteed to overwhelm the senses. Hundreds of feet deep, the cave are flooded with beautifully clear, blue-tinted water.
You can snorkel, swim or even scuba dive deep down into the water, where in places you can even find the fossilized remains of ancient prehistoric animals.
Aquario de Natural
A short trek through verdant jungle brings you to Aquario de Natural, on the Baia Bonito river.
This marine preserve is one of the top ecotourism destinations in Bonito Brazil, offering visitors the chance to swim and snorkel with an array of local, friendly fish that live in the waters.
The water is cool, clear and clean, meaning visibility is always incredible. If you are not comfortable swimming, you can even take a glass-bottomed boat tour through this natural aquarium.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Brazil (Travel Guide)
Buraco das Araras
Although the Buraco das Araras is located far out from Bonito itself, at least an hour away, it’s worth the effort to see this phenomenal natural crater.
Part of a wider nature reserve, the 100-meter deep crater is covered in lush foliage, and uniquely, is home to hundreds of brightly colored, rare birds.
The crater itself is spectacular, but it’s these birds that really draw in visitors from across the world.
Visitors can hike around the rim, to different viewing points that offer superb panoramas and bird watching opportunities.
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The Abismo Anhumas is a huge cave that has formed deep beneath the surface of the earth.
The only way in or out is to rappel down a long rope into the center of the Abismo Anhumas, making this a trip for the thrill-seekers out there.
Once you are safely down below, wooden platforms have been built over the blue water that has flooded the cave, where of course, you can have a refreshing swim or snorkel.
Estancia Mimosa is a collection of 7 waterfalls that are found in the jungles close to Bonito. The tiered cascades are wonderfully green, and best viewed in the wet season to see them in full force.
The different tiers offer different opportunities for swimming, in natural, cool and refreshing water holes, and after the sweaty, humid jungle hike, it will be much appreciated.
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If you need a break from the water-based activities, then head above ground and into the trees by joining a Cabanas Arvorismo tour when in Bonito Brazil.
This high rope course takes you through the forest, as you make your way across elevated obstacles and along different ropes. There are zip lines, and you can end the tour by swimming in the nearby river to cool off again.
The Mysterious Lagoon is found around 50 kilometers away from Bonito and offers visitors the chance to dive or snorkel in one of the country’s deepest caves.
It’s the depth that gives the cave its real mysterious factor, with a large freshwater lagoon being found at the bottom.
If you are a diver, this is one of the best spots to head, as lots of algae can form on the surface during certain times of the year, making it not so appealing to snorkelers.
Divers though can simply dip on under the surface algae for spectacular underwater views.
Our top recommended tour of Lagoa Misteriosa: Lagoa Misteriosa Admission Ticket with Scuba Diving Experience
Rio Formoso Ecological Park
The beautiful Rio Formosa Ecological Park is one of the best nature preserves in the area and it makes for a great outing from Bonito.
The Formosa River forms the centerpiece of the park, and along its length you can snorkel or even go tubing, simply floating along the azure waters in peace.
The Rio Formosa Ecological Park is a haven for wildlife, and you can set off on a trek through the forest or along the river in search of unique species of birds and different kinds of local animals that call the preserve home.
Our top recommended tour of Rio Formoso Ecological Park: Rio Formoso Ecological Park Admission Ticket with Optional Activities
Our Brazil Trip
We discovered Brazil with G Adventures on their 15 day Wonders of Brazil Tour. This tour allowed us to see a side of Brazil that many tourists do not get to see.
Our trip started in Rio De Janeiro then went to Ilha Grande, Party, Foz do Iguacu, Bonito, the Pantanal ending back in Rio De Janeiro.
Our local G Adventures CEO guide was passionate about showcasing his country to us. We had G magical moment experiences we did not expect to have.
The Wonders of Brazil Tours is one of the best tours offered in Brazil powered by a 100% G Adventures ripple score.
G Adventures Ripple Score is an honest evaluation of how often they use local businesses and services on each tour.
We experienced this first-hand in Brazil by using locally owned hotels, locally owned tours and eating at locally-owned restaurants where the money we spent stayed in the communities we visited.
This not only helps them for today but helps them for future generations to come.
Check out the Wonders of Brazil Tour today by G Adventures.
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Trip Type: Small Group 10 - 12
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10 - 12
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Onward Travel From Bonito
Where can you go after you have enjoyed the amazing eco-city of Bonito? We suggest checking out the Pantanal. This was the next stop on our G Adventure tour of the wonders of Brazil and it did not disappoint.
No trip to Brazil would be complete without spending a few days exploring the largest wetland in the world, the Pantanal. It is bursting with wildlife and has adventure opportunities around every turn.
Our two days spent in the Pantanal were nowhere near enough time to experience everything this region of Brazil has to offer but at least we got a small taste.
If you have time I would spend a full week and fly into the very middle to get the best experience possible.
If you are traveling through Brazil independently check out this tour: 6-Day Pantanal & Bonito Experience
More on Brazil:
- 40 Bucketlist Things to do in Rio de Janeiro
- The Best Favela Tour in Rio: Defeating the Stigma
- Two Week Trip to Brazil Itinerary for Any Traveler
- Ilha Grande, Brazil: Ultimate Planning Guide
- Paraty, Brazil: Ultimate Planning Guide
- Pantanal in Brazil: Ultimate Planning Guide
- 16 Amazing Things to do in Brazil