South America Trip (Aruba, Panama, Brazil, Argentina)

It’s been a while since I’ve used this blog – between travels, work, and life, things have been busy! That said, it seems to be the best way to capture the memories of our recent trip to South America (social media doesn’t do it justice). So, here goes!

Over the past few weeks, Jake and I traveled with family and friends through the Caribbean (Aruba), Central America (Panama) and South America (Brazil and Argentina). We went from sunny 90-degree days in Aruba filled with beaches and tropical drinks to chilly spring weather in Buenos Aires filled with all of the steak and Malbec.

The reason I love travel is that it changes your perspective, and this trip probably did so more than any past trips that I’ve taken. I’m still in awe by the warmth and hospitality shown by all of the people we met, and hope to take some of that with me as I settle back into my routine. There’s no way that I’ll capture all of the amazing memories and adventures in one post, but I’ll do my best.

Included links and descriptions for places I would recommend (left out the parts that I would not!) 🙂

Aruba

View from our Hotel in Aruba (Ritz-Carlton Aruba Resort – thanks to the husband’s hotel connections). Aruba has some of the best beaches that I’ve ever been to. Beyond the turquoise colors of the water, the water is shallow and few waves make it easy to swim or do water activities. We did some paddle boarding and took lots of beach walks!
View from a beach walk – super soft white sand …*sigh*
We visited Island Yoga, the yoga studio of one of my favorite yogi’s of all time (@yogagirl Rachel Brathen)! The class was AMAZING, the studio is beautiful, and the Nourish cafe serves smoothies and healthy snacks with an adorable back patio. They also have SUP yoga if you’re up for a challenge.
Got acai and poke bowls at Eduardo’s Beach Shack, about a 15-minute walk from the hotel!

Panama City, Panama

We had a 24-hour layover in Panama on our route from Aruba to Rio, so decided to make the most of it. Having no expectations or real knowledge about this place, we were pleasantly surprised! Panama is a beautiful country with lush jungle and mountains, but Panama City is a contrast of old colonial buildings and historic squares, with brand new skyscrapers and modern architecture.

View from our hotel (Waldorf Astoria Panama) – thanks to husband’s connections AND the exchange rate for this one.
Since we had 24 hours, we asked the gracious concierge to basically plan our time in Panama City. He sent us to this rooftop bar (Casacasco) with views on all sides – we could see the old town square, mountains, ocean, and alleys filled with political graffiti.
So begins the trip of red wine!
Had dinner at Caliope – which serves traditional cuisine with a modern twist. Here I am eating pumpkin gnocchi (I know, I know – but they swore it included local ingredients).
We couldn’t leave Panama without seeing the Panama Canal! It was actually really cool and worth seeing. There’s a cool museum and a guy with a mic narrating the whole process of a ship passing through (with added excitement as if he were a sports commentator).

Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo)

Sigh… Rio de Janeiro was absolutely stunning. I’ve never been to a place with such unique geography – with city, ocean, mountains and urban jungle all packed in. We did a tour of the city starting with views from Christ the Redeemer and ending with Sugarloaf mountain (below).
Apparently Christ the Redeemer is one of the new wonders of the world, and I can see why! It is a HUGE statue and you can see it from all over the city. The statue is part of Parque Nacional da Tijuca.
So hard to capture how stunning the view was…
Next on the tour we visited the Selaron Steps. A local artist (who lived above the steps) started collecting tiles from all over the world and claims to have one from every country.

A few music videos have been filmed here, too! Snoop Dogg and Pharrell’s “Beautiful” and The Black Eyed Peas “Don’t Lie“.
Views from Sugarloaf mountain.
We had lunch at the famous Copacabana Hotel – which became well known in the 1950’s and is still beautiful today.
Took a tour of Maracana Stadium which has several claims to fame. It was built to host the 1950 World Cup and has hosted two World Cups and the Olympics.
Murals on the Olympic Boulevard. This is down the street from the Museum of Tomorrow (all built for the Olympics).
The Museum of Tomorrow was definitely one of the coolest museums that I’ve been to! It’s very modern and interactive. The exhibits are all about human society and sustainability (climate change, sustainable agriculture and the future of humanity).
The Museum also had an amazing cafe with all local/sustainable produce. Pictured: roasted sweet potato with mangoes, okra and onions.
One of the many favelas in Rio. While there’s a ton of beauty in this city, there’s also a ton of very vivid inequality that’s hard to miss. We fortunately felt safe most of the time, but definitely noticed a strong police presence in most tourist areas and near the favelas.

(Have to give Jose photo cred on this one!)
Sao Paulo!

Again thanks for the photo, Jose 🙂
We stayed at the Four Seasons in Sao Paulo (I know, life is rough). Here we are having dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Neto (which was amazing).
Beco de Batman (or batman alley). This was my favorite neighborhood in Sao Paulo! This alley is filled with colorful murals and graffiti, near a neighborhood with tons of cafes and cute shops.
Municipal Market of Sao Paulo! I think I died and went to heaven here… never in my life have I seen so many fresh fruits (many I had never heard of!) The vendors offer you samples of everything – my favorite was the dates from this place topped with fresh, juicy strawberries. Fortunately I brought some back with me!
Another new-to-me food: sugarcane. We tried this in juice form, as it seems to be a popular street food. This was taken in the Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade (which has the biggest Japanese population in the southern hemisphere).
View of Sao Paulo from Liberdade Japanese market.
Coffee Lab (popular coffee shop that was recommended to us). It was filled with plants and had a unique menu.
Tan Tan Noodle Bar – veggie ramen was delish! The others said the ramen noodles were just okay, so maybe just stick to the veggie option.
Quintal deBetti – a huge outdoor space with a central grill pumping out dry aged steaks and grilled everything. This was probably the coolest and most unique restaurant we went to!
Yes, that is an ENTIRE grilled garlic! Since I’m not a steak-eater, I opted for the veggie tray and let me tell you – it did not disappoint! Also my first time trying grilled palm.
Hotel spread to welcome us to Sao Paulo, thanks to our gracious hotel hosts.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires was the city I was most excited to visit and I was not let down. Pictured here is the “Pink House” or the President’s house. We took a history tour of the capital area and it was super interesting to learn about the current political/economic situation in Argentina.

Basically, their currency (peso) is at a record low level. I won’t get into the details, but basically this made our dollars go VERY far (think: $2 beers and $3 cross-town cab rides).
San Telmo (the neighborhood where our hotel was)
Taken at our hotel (Anselmo Buenos Aires, Curio in San Telmo)
Happy at the San Telmo Market! Read why it’s amazing here.
San Telmo Maket: A foodie’s paradise. We had coffee and breakfast at Coffee Town everyday (known for specializing in South American coffee blends).
My mom with all of the fresh produce!
The biggest avocado’s that I have ever seen!
San Telmo also has a Sunday flea market in the square, which was right outside our hotel! At night, there was tango dancing in the square.
My dad, being the craft-beer lover that he is, checking out Blue Dog – a craft-beer bar with Argentinian brews. We also went to a drum show after this, La Bomba de Tiempo!
Visited the MALBA (or Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires Malba).
On our last night, we saw a tango show which was nothing short of amazing! The dancers use the entire restaurant as their stage and we had front-row seats.
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