Bonito, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul state, is really a special place… one of the most beautiful in Brazil. The city has an amazing energy and everywhere you look there is a landscape, a colors, a texture that appear to have been placed there for only one reason: making our jaws drop to the floor in awe. The waterfalls, the trees, the plants, the animals and the rivers make this an amusement park for nature lovers. If you got excited and want to jump into this adventure, here are some basic tips on the dos and don´t of this little piece of paradise on earth. If you want to know more about the place, watch the videos listed in the end of the post.
Bonito is beatiful
In Portuguese, Bonito means beatiful… and the city really lives up to its name. Everytime you blink, is like if you were taking a picture, recording in the back of your head those images that appear to be taken out of a painting. In what other place on earth can you drive next to a tucan flying, or stop the car in the middle of the road for a tamanduá-bandeira (flag anteater) to cross, or watch a flock of macaws, or follow a family of monkeys, or, or, or…
Bonito is organized
Tourism in Bonito has a schedule, the trails have stairs, handrails, bridges and walkways. To go in any of the tours, you need a guide and a voucher acquired in one of the many tourism agencies of the city (some not really trustworthy, so be careful). Everybody there respects the nature, investing on a susteinable tourism. On the tours, safety is always on the agenda, dictating what we can and can´t do (which sometimes has a downside, meaning that you can´t just jump from a rock in that cool waterfall). The city is clean, organized and has nice restaurants and bars. The transportation there, made by taxis and mototaxis, is efficient and reliable… and so on.
Bonito is expensive
You didn´t think that, after everything I said, Bonito was going to be a cheap destination, right? All this exuberance, organization and nature conservation have a price, and it can be quite high. Some of the tours may cost more than R$ 500 (around US$ 230). What I can say is that it is worth every cent. If all the touristic destinations in Brazil had the attractives Bonito has, with the awareness that agents and locals have of the importance of tourism to the economy, the country would definetly lure more tourists every year. You will fill it in your pocket, but won´t regret the money spent.
Bonito has an airport, but it only operates two days a week (thursdays and sundays). Trip airlines fly there, but the ticket from Santos Dumont airport, in Rio de Janeiro, costs around R$ 1.750 (US$ 850). Another option is to fly to Campo Grande, the capital of Mato Grosso do Sul, and from there getting a van to Bonito, paying around R$ 100. The trip takes around 4h30m and the vans don´t always have a convenient schedule. My trip from Rio de Janeiro, for example, took 12h. I left Rio de Janeiro at 7h30m, made a stop in São Paulo and arrived in Campo Grande at 11h30m. The van only left at 3 PM and I arrived in Bonito at 7h30m PM. The service I used and recommend is Vanzela, but you can arrange the pick up with the hotel or hostel. If you want to try your luck, you can just arrive and check what time the next van leaves at the tourist information booth. There´s also the bus, leaving the station at 7h, 9h and 11h AM and 3h30m and 4h PM, but the trip takes 6 hours.
Where to stay
There are a number of options of hotels in the city and around, but as you should know, I´m a big fan of hostels ans stayed in a pretty nice one there. Bonito Hostel has good prices, excelent location, friendly staff, snooker, pool, camping area, private and shared rooms and their own tourism agency… I must tell my readers that I took this trip under an invitation from them, but if I hadn´t liked the place, I surely wouldn´t be saying nice things about them here. Oh, and another good thing about the hoste is that if you have a Hostelling International card, you will get good discounts on the tours.
The best way to get around in Bonito is by taxi or mototaxi. The trip inside the city costs R$ 10 by car and R$ 4 by motorcycle. These prices are ok, but it gets expensive when the tours are far from the city. As an example, the round trip to Boca da Onça Ecotour, which is around 60 kms from Bonito, cost R$ 40 in a van shared with other people. But the trip to Rio da Prata, since I didn´t have anyone to share the ride with and had to get a cab all for myself, was R$ 150 (plus the price of the tour there, which was R$ 110). So my sugestion is: try to organize everything, tours and transportation, before you get to Bonito, so you won´t have any last minute surprises. And if you are alone and the tour is not too far, always choose the mototaxi.
I have accounts in two banks in Brazil (Itau and Santander) and I had problems withdrawing money there. There are only Banco do Brasil and Bradesco branches in the city and, supposedly, you should be able to get money from your credit card in the ATM machines, but that wasn´t the case with me. Some dutch people I met there didn´t have any problems, but the best thing is to take some cash with you for the taxis, just in case. The other places accept credit or debit card, so you won´t have any problems.
You are going to need them for everything you do around there, so it´s a good idea to choose them well. If you are staying in Bonito hostel, no problem, they have their own agency and you won´t even have to leave the hostel to book your tours. Most of the agencies in the city do a good job and you won´t have problems going to Yagarapé Tour, Bonito Way or Bonitour… Since the price of the tours are set by the tourism council, there are no discrepancies from one agency to the other.
For safety, little kids are not allowed on the best tours of Bonito. So the best thing is not to take kids under eight years of age.
When to go
Bonito might be visited in any time of year, but the agencies recommend the trip between December and March. My tip is: run away from the high season… the tours are crowded and the prices, much higher. I went in september and, although the place hadn´t seen any rain for three months, the trees were green and the rivers and waterfalls, full. It was a bit cold (yes, 15 degrees celcius is cold for me), but only at night and in the morning and that didn´t stop me from going into the water or enjoying the tours. Besides that, I was always with small groups and avoided sharing the place with a huge crowd of loud people.
How long to stay
I spent five days there… and didn´t do everything I wanted. I guess four days is the minimun. There are tours that last the whole day (like Rio da Prata, Estância Mimosa and Boca da Onça) and they are a must go. If you stay less than that, you surely will feel you missed something.
Underwater camera renting
Many places around Bonito offer digital cameras with underwater housing for rent at around R$ 30 a day, including a CD with all your pictures and videos. If you don´t have a waterproof camera, renting one is really worth it.
Watch the videos from the tours in Bonito:
Bonito 4th part – Rio da Prata and Macaw Hole