For those of you who’ve ever taken a Spanish or Portuguese class, you already know that Bonito means “pretty” in both languages.
What you may not know however is that it’s also the name of a small town in the southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
When my travel plans allotted time for me to visit the place bold enough to call themselves “Bonito,” I jumped on the opportunity to judge for myself.
Here’s how I scored it (from 1 to Bonito)…
LOCATION – The first requirement for a place to be truly considered “pretty” is it’s physical location and how nice the surrounding area is. It just so happens that Bonito rests in the middle of lush countryside dotted with big white Brahman cows and tall palm trees. It’s equal parts country farmland and dense jungle. I took a long bike ride along the bright red dirt roads and can confirm, it’s pretty nice. 10 points.
THINGS TO DO – Secondly, there needs to be things to do, because after all, activities make the place. For this one, Bonito is second to none.
There are so many things to do in Bonito that I could have spent a month here and still not done them all. From diving and snorkeling in underground caves to hiking and rappelling in the forest, there are more than 30 tours in and around the Bonito area.
I decided to do the Rio da Prata snorkeling tour, simply because everyone I spoke with said it was a must. Succumb to peer pressure, I spent the morning floating through crystal clear spring water with more fish than a sushi buffet.
It felt like I was in the Caribbean rather than a river – Pretty awesome, 20 points.
WILDLIFE – What about wildlife? A beautiful place must have good wildlife, right?
After snorkeling with an abundance of fish in Rio da Prata, I went to Buraco das Araras to witness an equally impressive number of exotic birds.
Buraco das Araras is a giant hole formed by a collapsed cave that has become a perfect home for macaws, toucans and a variety of other colorful birds and animals.
To see the macaws in flight is absolutely Bonito, 15 points.
RELAXATION/FUN – While most people wouldn’t put these two actions together, the balnearios (public swimming holes/pools) of Bonito are built for both.
At Balneario do Sol, I unleashed my (not so inner) child by zip-lining and jumping off rocks into the water while friends watched from their relaxing lawn chairs.
Sun and fun – a winning combination anywhere. 20 points.
X-FACTOR – The town is tourist-friendly, yet authentic and charming. You can seek adventure or do absolutely nothing. The sun is warm, the rivers are clear and the waterfalls are plentiful.
I have to say, Bonito lives up to the hype and it’s name. Well done, 100 points!
If you don’t believe me, ask a local…
Check out more wildlife in the Pantanal