When Brigitte Bardot escaped to the humble fishing village of Armaçao dos Búzios with her Brazilian boyfriend in the 1960s, a booming resort town was born. These days, this tiny peninsula has become Brazil's St.-Tropez, or The Hamptons to Rio's Manhattan — a playground for the rich and sexy who converge on its 23 photogenic beaches and countless posh restaurants and clubs.
You can make what you will of a Búzios break: Surf all day and dance all night, or eat, shop, and repeat (for the less active types). Come holidays and long weekends, you'll be jostling for tables with chic Cariocas descending in droves from Rio de Janeiro, only 100 miles to the west. But if you arrive on a quiet (but still warm and sunny) winter weekend like I did, you'll feel as though you've pulled a Bardot yourself and stumbled upon a beautiful little secret.
What to Do
Buzios is all about the beaches, and you could easily spend your whole trip hopping from one praia to another, each with its own distinct vibe.
Trendy Geribá is great for a surfing lesson, Tartaruga is lined with a riot of colorful beach shacks that promise to ply you with a steady supply of caipirinhas, Orla Bardot has a lovely promenade for a leisurely stroll (don't miss a photo op with a statue of Brigitte), Porto da Barra is known for its clutch of buzzy waterfront restaurants, and pretty Praia Azeda, tucked away in a cove at the foot of a cliff, has serene waters and can be nice and quiet if it's not a busy holiday weekend.
When you're ready for some action, head for the main drag of Rua das Pedras. The hefty stones that make up the street require a massive amount of effort to navigate if you want to avoid twisting your ankle. Opt for those Havainas; this is not a heels kind of town. But it's well worth the risk — the street is teeming with boutiques open late into the night as well as hot restaurants and clubs.
Privilege nightclub gets going around 3 a.m. and doesn't shut down till nine in the morning. The lively, open-air crepe shop and bar Chez Michou has been a Búzios institution for 30 years and is a great place to watch a soccer match among enthusiastic (read: fanatically passionate) patrons.
Where to Eat
Fishbone, a sprawling beach bar on Praia de Geribá, is the place to see, be seen, and dance during the day. Rehydrate with an antioxidant-rich açai juice that's so thick you'll need a spoon to finish it off.
Walk past the long row of quiosques on Praia da Tartaruga and head for the namesake restaurant on its far end for a hearty moqueca (fish stew) and pastel camaraõ (shrimp pastry). A daybed under the shade of a massive almond tree is a great spot for a sundowner.
For a beachside ode to gastronomy, opt for the refined menu at Rocka Beach Lounge on Praia Brava — get the octopus carpaccio and the passion fruit ice cream in custard.
If Buzios is the Hamptons of Brazil, Bar do Zé is its Nick & Toni's: a chic bistro with a high celeb-to-civilian ratio. Play it safe with the shrimp and mushroom risotto or get adventurous with sea bass cooked with banana. Either way, you can't go wrong.
Where to Stay
Cachoeira means waterfall in Portuguese, and I counted at least five secreted away at Cachoeira Inn, a lovely hillside retreat perched high above Ferradura Bay. Vivacious American owners Matt and Susan Marshall have injected the four-suite property with plenty of Asian flair courtesy their stints in Thailand, China, and Indonesia, so don't be surprised if you find yourself taking a dip in the pool under the watchful gaze of a Buddha statue. A lavish breakfast spread of fresh jams, juices, pão de queijo (cheese bread), and eggs made to order is almost as sublime as the panoramic views from the dining room.
Photos by Sarah Khan.