4 of the best things to do on a first-time trip to Brazil

1. Take a hilltop recce over Rio

Start with a flight over the all-singing, all-dancing Rio de Janeiro. On day one take the rack-railway train to the summit of Corcavado, with the city unfurling like an enormous map. At the summit, under the 100 foot span of the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer, enjoy the stunning view of beaches and rainforest, city and sea, lagoons and mountains.

There’s lots to see although much of the city’s architectural heritage was razed in a frenzy of Sixties development. One notable exception is the Sao Bento Monastery, an oasis of calm in the midst of the general frenzy and, of course, the iconic Copacabana Palace Hotel overlooking the beach.

2. Get a taste of Brazil’s St Tropez

Brazilians do beaches, not to mention bikinis, like no other place in the world. Consider spending two or three nights in the resort town of Buzios.

This upmarket stretch of coast is billed as the St Tropez of Latin America. Home to charming cobbled streets and some fantastic bars and restaurants, it’s just two and a half hours’ drive from the city.

3. See the greatest flow on earth

And one final must see is arguably the southern hemisphere’s single most impressive natural wonder, the Iguacu Falls. The vast majority of the 275 individual cascades are in next-door Argentina but Brazil has the classic view of the grand two mile horseshoe and the opportunity to ride by inflatable through the frothy waters and right beneath the falls.

4. Go wild in rainforests and wetlands

From there you could go to Manaus, which sits in the middle of the tufted green carpet of the Amazonian jungle. You can do a trip on the river from here, perhaps with a night or two at a jungle lodge, and even go to the opera. Manaus has an incredible 19th-century jewel-box of an opera house, modelled on the one in Paris with chandeliers from Venice and tiles from Alsace.

Wildlife enthusiasts should definitely add a trip to the Pantanal to their itinerary. Half the size of France, this vast expanse of savannah and wetland is home to some 600 different species of birds, the elusive jaguar, caiman, monkey, anteater, capybara, anaconda, otter and river dolphin.

When to go: As a rule of thumb you will find good weather in Brazil from August to March, whilst June to October is the best time for the Pantanal.

Long Island beats Florida for top spot

Long Island beats Florida for top spot as

Dr Beach reveals his best American sands

By Jo Tweedy

The beauty of the Hamptons is well documented - everyone from the cast of Sex and the City to JFK and F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby - has adored them. 

But would you put the the New York State destination above Florida, California and Hawaii when it comes to beaches? Well, the man who knows plenty about America's best coastal resorts has done just that.

Good enough for Gatsby: Main Beach in East Hampton, Long Island is loved by famous faces

Dr Beach: Dr Leatherman uses 50 different criteria to pick the best beach in the US

Dr Beach, aka Dr Stephen Leatherman, has released his annual list of the best beaches in the US and Main Beach in East Hampton has topped the list. 

The environmental scientist called the beach 'idyllic' saying that it was so highly regarded by the rich and famous that he'd "...seen even supermodels picking up litter washed ashore from the sea." 

"This beach was heavily eroded by Super Storm Sandy and subsequent winter storms, yet it has largely recovered. The proud pavilion at Main Beach was little affected because it was set back several hundred feet from the water’s edge. A great team of lifeguards stands watch, making this a very safe beach for bathing and swimming."

There is more to Dr Beach's final decision than just soft sands and lapping waves. The Dr uses a long list of criteria to decide on the winning beaches including areas such as water and sand quality and safety and environmental management.

A surfing nirvana: Kahanamoku Beach in Hawaii came second in the list

Kahanamoku Beach Waikiki in Oahu, Hawaii came second, followed by the nature reserve St George Island State Park in Florida. Both Hawaii and Florida fared well with three beaches each in the top ten.

Last year's winner, Coronado Beach in San Diego failed to make the grade in 2013. In fact, not a single Californian beach featured on the list.

America's best beaches according to Dr Beach

1.    Main Beach East Hampton, New York

2.    Kahanamoku Beach Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii

3.    St. George Island State Park Florida panhandle

4.    Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii

5.    Waimanalo Bay Beach Park Oahu, Hawaii

6.    Barefoot Beach Bonita Springs, Florida

7.    Cape Florida State Park Key Biscayne, Florida

8.    Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks of North Carolina

9.    Coast Guard Beach Cape Cod, Massachusetts

10.    Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina