Bonito is Brazil’s Ecotourism Mecca

Discover the 17 Must-Visit Tourist Attractions in Bonito MS.

Until the mid-1980s, the town of Bonito was a quiet farming town, a route for large cattle droves.

A little over a decade later, Bonito became the mecca of ecotourism in Brazil.

The city of Bonito, located between the Bodoquena mountains and the Miranda river, 285 kilometres from the capital Campo Grande and 140 kilometres from the start of the Pantanal, is one of Brazil’s main tourist destinations.

Bonito is known for its natural beauty and ecotourism activities. The city offers a variety of attractions, including crystal-clear rivers, caves, waterfalls and grottos, which provide visitors with unforgettable experiences.

Mapa de Regionalização de Turismo no Mato Grosso do Sul
Mapa de Regionalização de Turismo no Mato Grosso do Sul

In addition to the natural beauty that inspired the municipality’s name, what makes the place famous is the way the attractions are exploited.

In the forty or so rural properties that are open to the public, there are strict rules for the use of waterfalls, rivers, trails and caves, which are aimed at what is known as minimum impact tourism.

Some farmers have turned part of their land into environmental reserves and invested in training staff to cater for tourists.

Mapa Turístico de Bonito MS
Tourist map of Bonito MS

Visits to the most attractive sites can only be made in small groups, always accompanied by guides and by prior booking with the tourist agencies, so that the maximum number of people present at each attraction is controlled.

Some measures take visitors by surprise – for example, the ban on the use of insect repellent and sun cream for those who want to dive in the rivers – and can give them a sense of lack of freedom.

However, the precautions are justified: the region’s ecosystem is indeed extremely fragile, and there is no better solution for tourism to be both profitable and environmentally friendly.

As a result, Bonito has become a benchmark in the country’s ecotourism scene.

Life in the town of Bonito MS revolves around visitors.

The town centre has no special attractions, but the main street, Coronel Pilad Kebuá, has a wide range of services: inns, restaurants, internet cafés, souvenir and handicraft shops, tourist agencies and diving operators.

mapa de Bonito e arredores MS
map of the city of Bonito and surroundings MS

At night, when holidaymakers return from their excursions, the street is packed.

The most popular bar on Pilad Kebuá is Taboa, whose programme during holiday periods includes performances by forró groups.

In July, the Bonito Winter Festival is organised, bringing together nationally renowned artists.

There are accommodation options for all tastes and budgets in Bonito.

Most of the hotels are around the centre. A few cosy pousadas located near rivers and forests, away from the hustle and bustle, are more in keeping with the spirit of the region.

In the high season – January, February and July – tourists who haven’t booked in advance risk missing out on the unmissable programmes, such as trips to the Blue Lake, the River Plate and the Natural Aquarium.

To take the most recommended tourist routes, you’ll need a car.

Tourist Attractions in Bonito

Discover the 17 Must-Visit Tourist Attractions in Bonito MS

  1. River Floating
  2. Baía Bonita Natural Aquarium
  3. Sucuri River
  4. Formoso River
  5. Fish River
  6. Mimosa Resort
  7. Waterfalls Park
  8. Ceita Corê Farm
  9. Blue Lake Grotto
  10. Aquidabã Waterfall
  11. Anhumas Abyss
  12. Tree climbing
  13. Buoy-Cross on the Formosinho River
  14. Rafting on the Formoso River
  15. Municipal Bathing Centre
  16. Fiqueira Beach
  17. Macaws Hole

1. Floating in the Rivers

You don’t need to be very familiar with diving to enjoy the unique experience of ‘floating’ in Bonito’s rivers.

The most popular activity in the region is done with a life jacket – just let yourself be carried away by the current.

Flutuação nos Rios de Bonito MS
Flutuação nos Rios de Bonito MS

Underwater, the spectacle is breathtaking. Wearing masks, visibility can reach an incredible 50 metres. This phenomenon is due to the high concentration of limestone, a natural filter that breaks down impurities, leaving the water crystal clear.

The profusion of aquatic life is impressive.

There are around eighty species of colourful and large fish – such as piraputangas, dourados and curimbatás – swimming meekly alongside visitors.

On rare occasions, anacondas may cross your path, but without posing any danger.

There are three rivers most recommended for floating:

  • Rio Sucuri
  • Rio da Prata
  • Rio Formoso

Each river has its own characteristics.

In all of them, there are facilities with guides and the necessary equipment. Some rules must be strictly observed to minimise the environmental impact on divers.

Each group, which must be accompanied by a guide, is made up of a maximum of nine people, who make the journey in single file.

There is a half-hour break between each group.

For newcomers, there are two important warnings: don’t drink the water from the nos, as the limestone and magnesium in it can cause intestinal disorders, and avoid touching the bottom of the water, so as not to cloud it and impair the visibility of your group and what comes next.

2. Baía Bonita Natural Aquarium

It is located in a private ecological reserve.

This is one of Bonito’s main spring tours, and you’ll be able to see a surprising number of piraputangas, dourados, curimbas and the aquatic vegetation of the Baía Bonita River during the float. The tour takes place in a wetsuit and snorkel mask.

After a five-minute walk from the visitor centre, you arrive at the spring known as the Natural Aquarium – due to the absolute transparency of its waters and the large concentration of fish.

Aquário Natural Baía Bonita em Bonito MS
Baía Bonita Natural Aquarium in Bonito MS

At this point the float begins, with a total distance of 500 metres, covered in an hour.

In addition to the river’s rich aquatic life, try taking off your mask and observing the riparian forest; capuchin monkeys often cross from one side of the Aquarium to the other.

This is a good programme for children and the elderly, as a boat accompanies the divers as a safety measure and an option for those who don’t feel comfortable floating.

At the end of the float, the walk resumes, with stops at points to observe animals in captivity – emus, caimans, anacondas, tapirs and marsh deer.

At the end of the walk, which takes an average of an hour and a half, there is a small museum with the bones of some species and explanatory texts about the region’s ecosystem.

It is worth noting the good facilities at the reception (toilets, restaurant, shop).

What makes the Natural Aquarium different

Due to the great diversity of fauna and flora, the main differential of the float in the Natural Aquarium is undoubtedly the experience of diving in a real giant aquarium. What’s more, this is the closest float trip to the centre of Bonito.

7 kilometres from Bonito, access via the BR-267 to Jardim.

3. Rio Sucuri

To get here, you have to take two zips: one ten minutes in the back of a truck and the other on foot, along a 500 metre trail through the forest, where you can see capuchin monkeys and various birds.

The route begins at a lookout point overlooking the Sucuri spring, a source of rare beauty that has been used as a backdrop for soap operas and television commercials.

Rio Sucuri em Bonito MS
Rio Sucuri in Bonito MS

Due to the fragility of the environment – the spring is shallow, with limestone slabs at the bottom – swimming is not allowed.

The river float, organised by the São Geraldo farm, starts 200 metres downstream, lasts an hour and stretches for approximately 1 kilometre.

After the tour, you can have lunch at the farm’s headquarters and explore the surroundings on horseback, bicycle or quad bike.

17 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to São Geraldo.

4. Rio Formoso

Here, floating on the Formoso River is less contemplative – and more adventurous.

It’s no coincidence that the programme is called Bonito Aventura. At times, the rapids and strong current can frighten those who are not familiar with the water.

The base for the tour is a kiosk with a restaurant serving homemade food, located on the banks of the Formoso.

After a 1.8 kilometre walk on an interpretive trail – i.e. with signs indicating the flora of the place and the animals that can be spotted – the river section begins, on a 2.2 kilometre course through its waters.

The whole tour takes around two and a half hours. There is also the possibility of scuba diving, at depths of up to 5 metres, lasting half an hour, without the need for previous diving experience.

6 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Guia Lopes.

5. Rio do Peixe

If you’re only staying a few days in Bonito, the Rio do Peixe, which runs through the Agua Viva farm, is a great option.

Along the trails and waterfalls, you’ll have the chance to see a variety of animals such as blue macaws, capuchin monkeys and several piraputangas in the crystal-clear rivers.

Rio do Peixe em Bonito MS
Rio do Peixe em Bonito MS

There are two trails that pass by no less than eleven waterfalls.

At the Água Viva headquarters, typical food is served on a wood-burning cooker. Hammocks hanging from a kiosk invite you to relax.

The owner of the property welcomes everyone personally, telling stories about the region and showing intimacy with capuchin monkeys and macaws – who come to eat out of his hands.

35 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Bodoquena.

6. Mimosa Resort

This is a two to three hour walk in which you can explore the waterfalls on the property. A 3.5 kilometre trail through native forest follows the course of the Mimoso River.

Along the way, there is a sequence of falls, some great for a refreshing swim, as well as platforms for jumping, small caves and viewpoints.

Estância Mimosa em Bonito MS
Mimosa Resort in Bonito MS

At the Sol waterfall it is possible to enter a small cave hidden behind the water column using a life jacket.

The Estância Mimosa farmhouse is simple and also offers typical Pantanal food prepared on a wood-burning cooker. For those wishing to relax, the property has hammocks hanging from kiosks located on the banks of a lagoon.

24 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Bodoquena.

7. Waterfalls Park

Located on the banks of the Mimoso River, this park has waterfalls that also belong to Estância Mimosa, on the opposite bank of the river. There is a 1.8-kilometre trail through the Atlantic forest with various bathing spots and viewpoints.

Regional food is served at the simple headquarters.

Parque das Cachoeiras em Bonito MS
Waterfalls Park in Bonito MS

Parque das Cachoeiras (Waterfalls Park) in Bonito MThe walk is worth it for the exuberance of the vegetation, especially the centenary bacuris.

17 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Aquidauana.

8. Ceita Corê Farm

One of the best farms in the Serra da Bodoquena, set in an area of 4,000 hectares, Ceita-Corê – a name that in Tupi-Guarani means ‘land of my children’ – has attractions of all kinds.

Fazenda Ceita Corê em Bonito MS
Ceita Corê farm in Bonito MS

The main programme is a 2-kilometre trail that passes the source of the Chapena River.

It’s also possible to go horse-riding among lush, century-old trees.

There’s also a lagoon full of birds, where you can watch the ‘fishing’ hawks.

A typical lunch on the farm is recommended.

36 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Bodoquena.

9. Blue Lake Cave

It is one of the largest flooded cavities in Brazil and also Bonito’s best-known attraction – it receives around 60,000 visitors a year.

The place lives up to its reputation, but there isn’t much time to enjoy the view, as the tour lasts just over an hour and the stay inside the cave is only 20 minutes, strictly controlled.

Gruta do Lago Azul em Bonito MS
Blue Lake Cave in Bonito MS

Access is via a short trail from the visitor centre.

Tourists descend 100 metres to a lookout point, from where they can see the lake, 85 metres deep and with waters that explain its name.

Fossils of extinct animals, such as the sabre-toothed tiger and the giant sloth, have already been found on this stretch of land. From December to February, a ray of sunshine enters the cave and illuminates the waters, providing a beautiful spectacle.

In addition to the lake, the rock formations on the ceiling and floor of the cave – stalactites and stalagmites – attract the attention of visitors.

In 1978, the Blue Lake was listed by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute. To visit the cave, you must wear trainers and a helmet, which is provided on site.

20 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the dirt road to Campos dos Índios.

10. Aquidabã Waterfall

With a drop of 120 metres, it is one of the highest in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

To reach it, you have to overcome a long and tortuous hike, which requires physical fitness and a spirit of adventure.

All along the route, which borders the Aquidabã river, there are natural pools and small waterfalls.

The journey to the Aquidabã Waterfall takes around four hours and is done inside the Baía das Garças farm, where you can have lunch.

Just a warning: the Aquidabã waterfall dries up completely during the dry season, between July and October.

48 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Campos dos Índios.

11. Anhumas Abyss

It’s a cave flooded by a lake that can only be reached by abseiling.

Those who want to visit it go through a training course for the descent – which also serves to assess whether the person is up to the challenge.

Abismo Anhumas em Bonito MS
Anhumas Abyss in Bonito MS

From the crack in the rock that leads to the cave to the lake, there is a 72 metre drop.

At the end, you reach a floating platform.

The lake is 80 metres deep, the size of an Olympic swimming pool, and is located inside a room full of limestone rock formations.

After the abseil, there’s a short boat ride with the right to swim in the lake; anyone with a scuba diving licence can go down up to 18 metres – just show your licence.

After all this comes the hardest part: returning to the surface with the same ropes used for the descent, a task that requires enormous physical effort.

The equipment provided by the agencies that take visitors to the Anhumas abyss – which is close to the Lago Azul cave – follows international quality standards.

22 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Campos dos Índios.

12. Tree climbing

There are two places to practise this activity in Bonito: the Ybira Pe (wood path, in Tupi) and the Arvorismo Circuit, both of which are similar.

Arvorismo em Bonito MS
Tree climbing in Bonito MS

The activity consists of ascending ropes to platforms set up at the top of trees up to 20 metres high and, from there, overcoming wobbly rope bridges, stretches of zip line, steel cables, rappelling and other obstacles.

During the journey, it is interesting to observe the forest from the perspective of the treetops, from where you can see many birds, bromeliads, orchids and vines.

Ybira Pe is located on the banks of the Formoso River, and the Tree Climbing Circuit in an area of cerrado and Atlantic forest.

Ybira Pe: 8 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the BR-267 motorway to Jardim.

Tree Climbing Circuit: 12 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Aquidauana

13. Buoy-Cross on the Formosinho River

The programme – little publicised and only recommended for those who want to experience stronger emotions – begins at the Cabanas hotel, 6 kilometres from the town, where life jackets and individual buoys are provided.

Bóia-Cross no Rio Formosinho em Bonito MS
Buoy-Cross on the Formosinho River in Bonito MS

The 1 kilometre route takes 50 minutes, passing several waterfalls, rapids and backwaters. 7 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Guia Lopes.

14. Rafting on the Formoso River

Despite being called rafting, the activity that takes place on the Rio Formoso is actually a peaceful boat trip.

The starting point is a simple kiosk located on the banks of the Formoso River.

Rafting no Rio Formoso em Bonito MS
Rafting on the Rio Formoso in Bonito MS

Rafting on the Rio Formoso in BonitoMThe safety precautions leave something to be desired, as helmets are not provided – although there is no danger.

The 7-kilometre route passes three small waterfalls and two rapids and ends at Padre Island, where there are other rapids that are great for swimming.

The programme lasts an average of two and a half hours, with stops at the Formoso backwaters.

12 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Padre Island.

15. Municipal Bathing Centre

One of the few attractions in Bonito that doesn’t require advance booking or a guide.

The Municipal Spa is located on the banks of the Formoso River and is very popular with local residents.

Balneário Municipal de Bonito MS
Bonito Municipal Bathing Centre MS

The infrastructure includes dozens of huts – serving fish and drinks – sand football and volleyball courts and benches for relaxing in the shade of centuries-old trees.

7 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to Guia Lopes.

16. Fiqueira Beach

With white sands and transparent waters, this artificial spa is located in a former limestone extraction area, where the rains gave rise to a lake.

Praia da Figueira em Bonito MS
Figueira Beach in Bonito MS

The place is named after an existing fig tree, the top of which protrudes over an area of 1,000 square metres.

There are sports courts, a trampoline, sun loungers, flotation masks and a bar by the water. Guides are not required.

14 kilometres from Bonito. Access via the road to São Geraldo.

17. Macaw Hole

The Macaw Hole is 500 metres in circumference, 160 metres in diameter and 100 metres deep. It is a place where many birds live, especially the Scarlet Macaw.

Buraco das Araras em Jardim MS
Buraco das Araras em Jardim MS

The walk takes in an interpretive trail of around 900 metres around a depression in the ground carved out of red sandstone, the colour of which contrasts with the green of the vegetation on the edge and serves as a background.

From the viewpoint you can see the flight of the scarlet macaws that visit the site during the day.

Buraco das Araras is located on the Alegria farm in the municipality of Jardim, Mato Grosso do Sul.

It’s about 50 km from the centre of Bonito to the attraction.

When to go

The best months to visit Bonito MS are April, May, September, October and November.

The rainy season starts in December.

In winter the temperature reaches 15°C and the waterfalls have little water.

How to get there

From Campo Grande, the best way to Bonito is to take the BR-060 motorway towards Sidrolandia as far as Guia Lopes da Laguna and then take the MS-382 motorway.

Some warnings: bumpy stretches of road, excessive rainfall in January and February, which can muddy the rivers, and ticks in the dry season from May to September.

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