[I]t is known that Sugar Loaf is one of the must-see sites in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In fact, this impressive hill is the second most visited attraction in Rio, second to the Christ the Redeemer Statue atop Corcovado Mountain. Both should be visited when visiting Rio as the views complement each other.
Despite the number of Sugar Loaf visitors being close to 2 million per year, very few Brazilian and overseas tourists take time to explore the beautiful surroundings near Sugar Loaf, such as Pista Cláudio Coutinho.
Pista Cláudio Coutinho is a 1.2 km (1,300 yard) oceanside pedestrian pathway offering great views over the Atlantic Ocean, unique perspectives of Sugar Loaf and of Vermelha Beach (a tiny beach popular with local families due to its calm waters).
Besides, when taking a stroll at Pista Cláudio Coutinho, pedestrians usually come across local fauna such as butterflies, birds, and marmosets (non-aggressive cute little monkeys).
The adventurous and reasonably fit visitors can take the opportunity to hike (from Pista Cláudio Coutinho) for about 25 minutes to the top of Urca Hill, from where one can witness great vistas of Rio de Janeiro, including Guanabara Bay, Botafogo and Flamengo Beaches, Downtown, Santos Dumont airport, and other sites.
This pedestrian pathway is open every day from 6 am to 6 pm. Since Sugar Loaf opens only at 8 am, this is a great spot to explore before or after visiting Sugar Loaf.
The gate to the path is at only 200 meters (218 yards) from the Sugar Loaf ticket office and cable car ground station.
In addition, Pista Cláudio Coutinho is surrounded by military institutions, therefore it's a safe area to walk.
Not feeling like walking? Then, Vermelha Beach (right next to the entrance to the pedestrian pathway) might be the spot for you before or after visiting Sugar Loaf.
This beach is very small, so it can get a bit too crowded on sunny summer weekends.
However, on weekdays is the perfect place to watch the gondolas go up and down Sugar Loaf, while sipping a refreshing coconut milk, and getting a tan for Rio de Janeiro's vibrant nightlife.
About the Author: Madson, a native Brazilian, has been working as a Rio de Janeiro tour guide since 2004. Since then, he has guided more than 4,500 visitors from more than 40 nationalities on his private tours. See photos of Rio on his website TourGuideRio.com.