Manaus, the gateway to the Amazon, was our last stop in Brazil after the beaches of Buzios and the World Cup matches in Rio.
We spent four days in Manaus, where we watched a World Cup game at the new Arena Amazonas, mingled with the locals at the FIFA Fan Fest, went on an Amazon boat trip, toured the famed Opera House, and relaxed by our hotels infinity pool. We needed it to beat the heat and humidity.
A taxi between the airport and the city is about $30. A decent meal in a good restaurant will set you back around $100 for two people. The cheapest boat tour was about $90. The city bus tour with no English guide is $4a
The Meeting of the Rivers
So why do tourists flock to Manaus? It’s the Amazon. There are so many things you can do from the simple and touristy Meeting of the Rivers, where the dark waters of the Rio Negro meet the sandy waters of the Amazon, to more serious tours, like two- or even multiple-day cruises and expeditions.
You can stay in the jungle tree-top hotels, swim in the Amazon with piranhas (don’t worry, its safe), travel to see local tribes and their habitats and rituals, and even take a 21-day cruise to Bolivia. The list of things to see and do in the area is extensive.
Instead of downtown, stay in the upscale Manaus suburb of Punta Negra. Our hotel, the Park Suites, was located right on the Rio Negro, next to a very nice beach.
Go to downtown Manaus and tour the Opera House, walk around the central square, and book your tours.
The tour operator will pick you up from the hotel and bring you to the port where you depart for your adventure. Or you can book a tour and depart from Punta Negra, but expect to pay almost twice for the privilege.
Only 40,000 Miles
How can you make your trip to the Amazon affordable? Use miles and points. We flew to Manaus from Rio, but only because we went to Rio first for the games. American Airlines has direct flights to Manaus via Miami.
Since Manaus is located in north Brazil, the flight time is much shorter than to Rio only 5.5 hours, and availability is usually quite good. If you fly in low season, between May 1 and 31 or between August 16 and November 30, the roundtrip will only cost you 40,000 miles.
The Park Suites hotel where we stayed belongs to the Club Carlson family, and we enjoyed it for only 56,000 points for four days. It is not a luxury hotel, but the view from our room and the infinity pool were amazing. The area is very popular with the locals, and there are many inexpensive food kiosks on the street as well.
The miles and points I used in Brazil for flights and two hotel stays in Rio and Manaus saved me at least $3,000. Everything was a little costlier during the World Cup, but the only reason we could afford going was that our flights and lodging were taken care of thanks to miles and points. Score!