Ever since hearing about Iguazu Falls, the massive series of waterfalls that border both Argentina and Brazil, it has been on my bucket list. When I had a chance to join a press trip to Brazil with stops in both Rio and Iguaçu Falls, I was stunned. It honestly felt like a dream come true.
Naturally, I wasn’t alone in my quest to visit Iguazu Falls, Brazil. Over a million people pour into the Iguaçu National Park each year hoping to catch a glimpse of the might waterfall. And it doesn’t disappoint! Viewing Iguazu Falls, Brazil was one of the most breathtaking moments in all of my travels. I am truly hoping to go back with my kids someday so they can feel that same sense of wonder.
If you’re planning to visit Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side, I’ve got a ton of ideas for things to do other than see the falls. Foz do Iguaçu is a beautiful city that’s very welcoming to tourists. Whether you’re going alone, with friends, or with your whole family, here are some tips and ideas for visiting Iguazu Falls, Brazil.
You might also be interested in my other posts about Brazil:
Disclosure: I was invited to visit Brazil as part of a press trip with RIOgaleão Airport, Rio CVB, and Iguassu CVB among others. My accommodations, flights, meals, and entrance to attractions was covered by my hosts. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
A GUIDE TO VISITING IGUAZU FALLS, BRAZIL
If you’re flying from the United States, the best way to get to Foz do Iguaçu is via Rio de Janeiro’s RIOgaleão International Airport. If you have a layover, RIOgaeão has been recently refurbished and has excellent shopping, restaurants that give you an authentic taste of the city, and excellent VIP lounges if you’re willing to pay a bit extra to relax and enjoy your stay.
You’ll eventually land at Catarata International Airport in the city of Foz do Iguaçu which sits on the boarder of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. It’s a very family-friendly city, with many locals making it their home where they stay and raise their own families. Many of the locals work either in tourism or at Itaipu Binacional, the hydroelectric dam which straddles Brazil and Paraguay.
WHERE TO STAY
WHERE WE STAYED
Our group stayed at the Wyndham Foz do Iguaçu, which sits right on the Paraná River and is located 30 minutes from Iguaçu National Park. The Wyndham is also close to the downtown area, so if you’re looking to get out and explore the city, you’ll love the location.
We stayed in apartment-style guest rooms with dining table and chairs, a kitchenette, a tv and sitting area, and a comfortable bed. It was nice to have so much space to spread out and make a miniature home office for myself, since I was there on a press trip and needed to get some work done at times. The wifi was great!
The Wyndham Golden Foz also has both an outdoor pool and children’s pool, which makes it an awesome place to stay with your family if you’re taking your kids to see the Falls. We didn’t use the pool since it was rather cold when we were there, but we could see it from one of the glass elevators and it looked very relaxing.
One of my favorite parts about our stay at Wyndham Foz do Iguaçu was the breakfast buffet, which is complementary to guests of the hotel. I ate SO MANY pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) and ended up swapping my morning cup of coffee for their rich, sweet hot chocolate. What I wouldn’t give to be sitting at that breakfast table right now pounding carbs and sipping my hot chocolate while I read a book with no interruptions…
But I digress.
It’s a modern, clean hotel with everything you and your family need for a comfortable stay in Foz do Iguaçu.
If you don’t mind spending money on luxury accommodations, check out the Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas which is located inside Iguaçu National Park. Guests of the hotel can view the falls after the park closes to enjoy less crowds and a peaceful viewing experience.
The rooms are elegant and the pastel pink facade of the hotel will make for some excellent Instagram photo opps.
SEEING IGUASSU FALLS
Head to Iguaçu National Park where you’ll find the Visitors Center. This is where you can buy a ticket and board a bus to get to the short hiking trail along Iguazu Falls. There are quite a few lookout points with different views of the falls along the trail. At the end of the path you’ll be able to take a bridge out over the water to get closer to the falls. I would absolutely recommend wearing a poncho or light waterproof jacket since you’ll feel quite a bit of spray from the waterfall.
After the hike you can take an elevator up to the food court and restaurant where you can eat or grab a coffee or hot chocolate before taking a bus back to the Visitors Center.
Another way to see the falls is via boat on a Macuco Safari. Take a bus from the Visitor Center to the Macuco building to buy tickets for the tour. Once you have your tickets, you’ll board an electric tram which takes you on a short tour through the jungle. Most of the time you’ll be able to get out and walk to a waterfall, but our group didn’t get to do this because the tram ahead of us had spotted a jaguar!
Anyway, you’ll take the tram all the way down to the boat station located on the banks of the river. Here you can stow your valuables in a locker so they don’t get wet. You’ll also have the choice between taking the wet boat or the dry boat.
I highly recommend knowing what you want to do ahead of time so you can dress accordingly. It was unseasonably COLD when we were there. So cold that we didn’t even feel properly dressed when we were completely dry. We opted for the dry boat, because the people we saw coming back from the wet boat with one of the plastic ponchos were…still soaked. If you know you want to do the wet boat, bring a swimsuit, towel, or clothes you don’t mind getting wet, AND dry clothes to change into afterward so you don’t have to walk around in wet clothes.
I stowed my Nikon and my iPhone in the lockers and only brought my GoPro on the boat with me. It was awesome to be able to take video and pictures without having to worry about the spray from the waterfalls damaging my camera.
The boat you take to the falls is a speed boat, and one leaves about every 15 minutes. You get right up close and personal with the powerful falls, and even closer if you’re on the wet boat. It’s a really cool experience to get a sense for the sheer amount and sheer power of water of Iguaçu Falls.
WHAT TO DO IN FOZ DO IGUACU
Once you’ve done the falls, there’s actually still plenty to do in Foz do Iguaçu to keep you busy for a few days.
PARQUE DAS AVES
Parque das Aves is a bird park in Foz do Iguaçu where visitors can view over 150 different species of birds in the Atlantic Rainforest. You’ll see flamingoes, toucans, scarlet ibises, hummingbirds, macaws, parrots, and so many more. As you walk along the guided paths in the park, you’ll see all kinds of habitats and birds moving freely inside them.
We also did the Backstage Experience where you can feed baby flamingoes, scarlet ibises, and toucans while the park is closed to other visitors. You get to go to restricted areas and hear lots of insider information about how the park works. We also got to hold a macaw and enjoy snacks and juice in a private area. Kids are welcome, and kids 3 and under are free, and everyone else pays around $50 USD (R$ 200).
We also had a chance to participate in the Forest Experience, which is a ceremony conducted by the Guarani people around a bonfire. It was really cool to hear them talk about their traditions and culture, and they fed us a traditional meal (which was delicious, by the way). This experience is about $67 USD (R$ 250) and is only open to adults 18 and over, and 16-17 year olds are welcome with adult supervision.
THREE BORDERS LANDMARK
The Three Borders Landmark was one of my favorite experiences of our time in Foz do Iguaçu. There’s an obelisk the colors of the Brazilian flag overlooking the Paraná and Iguazu Rivers. Across the rivers you can see the shores of Argentina and Paraguay where there are similar obelisks in the colors of their own flags. It’s a little bit surreal to be standing where you can see three great South American countries at once!
The Three Borders Landmark in Brazil has a playground for kids and a restaurant where you can grab a cup of hot chocolate or coffee and some snacks. There’s also a Ferris wheel which makes a great spot to watch the sunset.
ITAIPU BINACIONAL HYDROELECTRIC DAM
When I first heard that we were going to a hydroelectric dam, I was a little bit disappointed. This sounded like the last thing I wanted to be doing when we were surrounded by so much natural beauty and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
The tour ended up being pretty fascinating and actually very scenic. We learned about how Itaipu Binacional was created by an agreement between Brazil and Paraguay to harness the power of the river they share, the Paraná River, to create electricity for their countries. Our guide explained how the work and management are all always split 50/50 between the two countries so there is never a power imbalance.
The views of the Paraná River from the dam are pretty spectacular, and besides touring the building itself, we got to cross over to the Paraguay side, too! (Check another country off my list! Just kidding. I don’t really count that as visiting Paraguay).
If your family is feeling adventurous, try kayaking in the Iguazu River with Aguaray Eco Esportes. They’ll guide you through a kayaking adventure (the water was very calm and we didn’t go too far), then once you get back to shore, you’ll have a short hike where you can bathe in a waterfall. It’s a pretty fun way to get to see the beautiful natural surroundings from a different perspective.
One of the most breathtaking, memorable moments of my life was seeing Iguaçu Falls from above in a helicopter. We took a short helicopter tour with Helisul (which is actually just across the street from the Parque das Aves). The panoramic views of the falls were so incredible they honestly almost brought me to tears. I would say my first helicopter ride ever was a success!
BRAZILIAN FOOD TALES
Brazilian Food Tales is not just a restaurant. It’s an experience where you get to learn from and interact with Chef Fabio del Antonio. He’s truly a renaissance man who speaks three languages, plays and serenades you with multiple instruments, cooks mouthwatering food from surprising ingredients, and is generally a great conversationalist with entertaining stories.
His passion for Brazilian cuisine is enough to make anyone excited about the 6-course meal that you get to enjoy during the experience. I’ll be honest. I was actually a little bit nervous because I’m a pretty picky eater with a very plain palate, and I didn’t want to offend this renowned chef. I made a pact with myself that I would try everything at least once (like I make my kids do), and keep an open mind.
I LOVED everything we ate, and the only thing stopping me from asking for more was the fact that we ate SIX COURSES. And that they kept filling up our wine glasses after every 3 sips. My goodness, it was a culinary delight but the company and conversation and everything we learned about the history and culture of Brazilian food was even better.
CROSS THE BORDER TO ARGENTINA
The last night we were in Foz do Iguaçu we crossed the border to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina for a night of wine, food, and good company. It took about 45 minutes to get our passports checked at the border, then we were off to The Argentine Experience, a dinner party where you can learn how to make an Argentine-style empanada, a Mala Beca cocktail made from Malbec, juice, simple sugar, and lime, and mate, the traditional Argentine tea drink.
I can’t remember ever laughing so hard or having so much fun. They really know how to put on a party while still educating you on Argentinian cuisine. Very fun, very informative, but definitely not for kids.
If you still want to get that Argentina passport stamp you can skip The Argentine Experience and simply check out the city of Puerto Iguazu.
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I hope you get the chance to see the amazing natural wonder that is Iguazu Falls. You won’t regret it, and you’ll walk away with some beautiful memories.
You might also be interested in my other posts about Brazil: