Iguassu Falls is one of the must see natural wonders on earth. As a matter a fact, it was recently named one of the new 7 Natural Wonders in the world. It’s no wonder people make a point of visiting when traveling to Brazil or Argentina. But there are a lot more things to do in Iguassu Falls than simply marvel at their beauty.
Things to do in Iguassu Falls
People often pop in for a quick day trip to catch a glimpse of the massive waterfalls spanning 2.5 km with a total of 250 different cascades. They seem to forget that there is a thriving community in the town of Iguassu, plus an impressive surrounding jungle. If you give a little more time in Iguassu, you’ll come away from Brazil having one great adventure!
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We highly recommend taking the time to explore Iguassu Falls and spend a few days trying a some of these adventures. Let’s get started.
Jet Boat Safari
The Macuco Jetboat safari is the most fun you’ll ever have in rushing water. After a buggy ride through the jungle and a short hike on a rainforest path, you come to the calm Iguassu River where you board a powerful twin-engine jet boat.
This thrill ride takes you right into Devil’s Throat where you run rapids and drive right under the thunderous falls located on the Argentinian side of the border.
After getting thoroughly drenched, you’ll come out with a huge smile on your face knowing that you just survived going underneath one of the world’s largest waterfalls.
Read more about our Jet Boat Safari
Hike Bike and Paddle
You won’t see the waterfalls during this jungle adventure, but the Banieras Jungle safari was one of our favourite things to do in Iguassu Falls. The tour started off with a 10 km bike ride deep into the heart of the Iguassu Rainforest. Be prepared it’s one long and steady uphill, but the guide makes sure you go at your own pace. It’s not a race through the rainforest; it’s a leisurely ride.
Once you are as far away from civilization at you can get, you drop the bikes off at a footpath and continue on for an easy hike over raised platforms weaving through the jungle. With a mix of boardwalks, hard packed trails, suspension bridges and even a high lookout. This is an excellent hike for first timers and regular hikers alike.
The final adventure takes you on a thrilling jet boat ride along the Iguassu River where afterwards you have the option to kayak back to the dock. Do it! It’s so much fun to paddle around and you even get to go over a little bit of rushing whitewater water.
Parque das Aves
The Iguassu Rainforest is filled with exotic birds, but the chances of seeing them with your own two eyes are quite slim. The Iguassu Bird Park lets you see endemic species of Brazilian birds as well as a few from around the world.
Most of the birds in the park are rescues from wildlife smugglers trying to cross the border, or from places where birds have been mistreated.
The birds aren’t reintroduced back into the wild, but they do get to live out their days in peace and quiet in large and comfortable aviaries. Patrons can walk through many of the aviaries and feel the wonder as parrots, macaws, toucans and parakeets fly overhead.
Marco Das Américas
This is one of the up and coming things to do in Iguassu Falls as they are just starting to build attractions and turn Marco das Americas into a tourist site. Our guide Sebastian of Bliss Tours told us that it would be up and running by August in time for the 2016 Olympics.
Marco das Americas is where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet. It is the golden triangle. While standing on the viewing platform, you can witness the fork in the rivers Iguassu and Paraná meet. This is where all three countries come together.
South American Cultural Show
At the Rafrain Churrascaria restaurant, there is an excellent dinner and show where you can enjoy typical Brazilian food like a Brazil Barbeque, while watching talented performers take you through the history and culture of South America.
I’ll be honest, we weren’t sure if we would enjoy this or not, but we ended up loving it. The music was contagious and the performers were brilliant. There was the showstopper where a man performed a traditional skill of twirling solid balls around his head. He even twirled them at break neck speeds around a guests head!
My favourite was watching the capoeira dancers. These guys made flipping and turning in mid-air look easy!
Itaipu Dam Tour
It was once the largest Dam project on earth. It is now only second to China’s infamous Three Gorges. For sheer engineering genius, the Itaipu Dam is worth visiting.
This two-hour tour takes you into the facility where you see how the Iguassu River’s water is harnessed for energy. All three country’s; Paraguay, Argentina and Brasil benefit from this hydroelectric dam. Keep your hard hat on because you even get to take an elevator deep down to the depths to see the power station and feel the heat generated by the surging water.
Itaipu Lake Sunset Tour
When visiting the dam, book a sunset tour afterwards. Leaving from the same spot, the Itaipu Sunset tour is a pleasant way to end the evening as a catamaran takes you and about 200 more of your good friends to the centre of the lake to enjoy sunset.
Who would have thought there’d be such a giant Chinese Temple in South America? But the Chinese Temple in Iguassu is a beautiful display of typical Chinese architecture and folklore. Big Buddha Statues line the yard surrounded by massive guards. You can get a map from the gate to explore on your own, but if you go with Bliss Tours, they’ll be able to inform you of everything that you see.
There is also a mosque that you can visit and learn about Muslim culture. An Imam is on hand to talk to you should you have any questions and you are free to enter. Make sure to respect the Muslim Culture and wear long sleeves and pants, otherwise you can rent a sarong for a very minimal fee. (like 50 cents I believe)
Views of Iguassu Falls
Okay, I know I said there are a lot of things to do in Iguassu Falls besides viewing the water falls, but you have to make sure you give them ample time too.
The best way to explore Iguassu Falls is to stay at least one night at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas inside the park. It is on the expensive side, but it is the only hotel in the National Park and by staying here, you have access to the trails along the falls and the catwalk leading into the horseshoe at sunrise and sunset.
Iguassu National Park opens at 8:00 am and closes at 5pm, so if you are not staying at the hotel, you have no chance of witnessing sunrise or sunset over the falls. We were out at the crack of dawn and until after dusk exploring Iguassu Falls virtually on our own. We only saw one or two other people at the falls so we were free to photograph and explore in solitude. It was an incredible experience.
If you don’t stay inside the park, there are several options to view the falls. There is an excellent viewing point at the main restaurant where you can see them from above, plus take an elevator or footpath down to the catwalk to see them up close.
Enjoy these video views of Iguassu Falls
Give yourself time to go for a hike as well. Iguassu Falls spans 2.5 km and there are walking trails along the gorge where you can see all the waterfalls that line the canyon along the way.
Eat at a Brazilian Barbeque
While the Rafrain Churrascaria put on a great show, I wouldn’t say it had the best food of all of Iguassu. If you want to experience and authentic Brazilian Grill, try eating at Palazzo Grill and Buffalo Bronco Steakhouse.
A Brazilian Barbeque consists of entering a restaurant filled with food. The meal starts off with a massive smorgasboard of salads, pasta, meats, breads, cheese and even sushi before the main meal begins.
Make sure not to stock up too much on food, because men will bring around endless cuts of prime meats to shave off at your table. From prime rib, steak, lamb, chicken and every cut of beef you can think of, they’ll be forcing you to eat as much as possible.
Try the deep fried cheese balls too. Mmm, that was one of our favourite dishes.
As far as helicopter tours go, this wasn’t our favourite of all time. But if you want to see the falls from above, this is the only way to do it. This company has the market cornered, so they don’t give the best service, and the ride is very lopsided. If you don’t sit on the right side, you’ll end up not having the worst views.
Our flight was a very quick 10 minute journey with no safety briefing or information about what we were going to see. I was luckily seated at the front with the pilot and had the best view and best side of the chopper. The other customers weren’t so lucky.
Dave had the seat right behind the pilot and he didn’t get any real clear views of the falls. Normally helicopter flights give each side equal time to see the view, but our pilot only circled around once for the left hand passengers to see. The right were SOL. (S*%^ out of Luck)
Where to stay:
If the Belmond Hotel Cataratas is out of your budget (which it is for many, but remember, you should budget for at least a night there) try the Recanto Cataratas Thermas Resort. This is a family hotel close to town that has a thermal swimming pool, dining options and gym. It also offers tours and excursions to Iguassu Falls.
There are several flights daily to Iguassu from Rio de Janeiro.