Our time with Alex (Don Blanquito) on the Favela Day Tour was the absolute highlight of our Rio de Janeiro vacation, and no doubt one of the most memorable experiences of the whole year. In planning this vacation, I struggled to think of an ethical way to see and learn about Rio's legendary favelas. I would not be comfortable participating in what some locals mockingly call the "gringo safari" i.e. , a busload of tourists gawking at those less fortunate. For this reason, I was intrigued by Alex's tour because it provides an immersive experience to learn about life in the favela firsthand from an actual resident. This hope was exceeded beyond my expectations. Exploring the favela with Alex felt less like a 'tour' and more like hanging out with a friend as he showed us his neighborhood and introduced us to his neighbors. We met a small business owner proud of his newly refurbished restaurant. We met parents cheering for their elementary school aged kids in a soccer match. Most inspiringly, we met countless adolescents and young adults who looked up to Alex as a role model, and we saw Alex check in with several young people for whom he had specific concerns. Over the years, Alex's unique ability to bridge cultural and socioeconomic divides has helped to bring investment and development to the favela. His exuberant, caring personality makes him a natural role model to young people, demonstrating hope and opportunity beyond the drugs and violence that, unfortunately, still have a grip on communities of decent people trying to make their way in the world, under challenging economic circumstances and generations of structural inequality. I was repeatedly impressed by the resilience, strength, kindness and joy expressed by favela residents who would be absolutely justified instead to express despair. Be prepared for a workout as you climb twisting staircases up the mountain, and be prepared not only for the incredible views but also to be moved and inspired to consider how you too might make a difference. Thank you Alex for introducing us to your friends and showing us your deep engagement in such a beautiful, vibrant community.
I met up with Alex for a tour of the Ladeira Dos Tabajaras favela, not knowing what to expect. Immediately, upon entering the favela I could tell that my guide had genuine connections with many of the community's residents, greeting them all as he passed by. We rode a motorcycle taxi up the steep, winding hill and began the official tour. Along the way Alex explained to me his connection to the people and how his adjustment in Brazil has been over the last several years. He explained his love of the favela and it's people and described the closeness between its inhabitants. To my surprise, the motorcycle did not take us up to the top and we had a ton of stairs to climb, which I did not mind because I had previously indulged in many Brazilian meals I needed to exercise away. On our way up the hundreds of stairs we came upon a woman carrying her brand new baby and groceries up the stairs, in the crazy heat. She exemplified hard work, strength and perserverence. We made a couple of stops to the children's play area/ bookstore and to the community basketball court, adorned with beautiful grafitti on its walls. The view from the court was amazing, allowing me a "view from the top" perspective of Rio De Janeiro, perfect for picture-taking. We then went to have a local meal from one of the women living in the favela. She ran a business out of her home and many delivery men in and out the house, picking up and delivering food, which was obviously in high demand. Alex introduced a meal to me called feijoada and explained its history. The food was amazing! We ate and engaged in talk with a couple of locals, with Alex bridging the language gap. Revitalized by the cold water, local drink called "Guara Plus" and the tasty meal, I was ready to make my descent to leave the favela. The people I encountered in the favela were full of energy and seemed to be happy. Alex did a wonderful job of making me feel secure and helping to understand people's perspectives, pointing out that this was a place of love, community and family. Alex was a pleasure and seemed to feel at home during the tour. It felt as if he was bringing me in as a friend he's known for years. I highly recommend this tour in order to give a different perspective of Rio, outside of the tourist attractions and beaches. I felt like I was in the "real" Rio and it was a beautiful experience
My boyfriend and I are educators in Arizona and were vacationing in Espirito Santo, Brasil for our summer break. We decided to travel to Rio for a couple of days to visit all the main tourist attractions. I had found Don Blanquito's website after googling 'favela tour at night,' since I didn't think were going to be able to fit the tour in during the day. After reading all the reviews and searching his name to make sure he was legit, I was convinced I wanted to book a tour with him! I emailed him to ask if there was any way to book a favela tour so last minute and Don Blanquito replied in less than 5 minutes saying he was available. We were able to take the tour in the morning before our flight back to Espirito Santo. We met Alex by a metro in Copacabana where we took a quick taxi drive up a narrow road. We didn't know what to expect but Alex immediately gave us a feeling of comfort and ease with his welcoming and cool attitude and his ability to speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese fluently. It seemed that all of the residents of the Favela knew him because they would greet him instantly wherever we walked. Alex is very knowledgeable and is able to give personal insight into a place where people know little about. He was so kind to take pictures of my boyfriend and I as we went on the tour. The tour took us all the way up to the top of the Favela where we had to climb many stairs to get there, totally worth it! We ended the tour by enjoying natural açaí down in Copacabana, where we had first started. As we were leaving so that Alex could catch a taxi for us back to our hotel he pointed out a famous jiu-jitsu master: Ricardo de la Riva. My boyfriend who practices jiu-jitsu in the states was psyched and we were able to get a picture together. It was the perfect ending to the tour! I definitely recommend anyone to book a tour with Don Blanquito, you won't be dissapointed! Look no further. Thank you Alex for the amazing experience.
My best girlfriend and I went on a night tour of the favela with Alex. It was very chill, low-key and awesome all in one trip! Wear your walking shoes cause we definitely got our Brazilian-booty exercise on, but it was tolerable and he tailored the tour based on what we wanted to do. Very safe and at ease. I met the greatest people through Alex ( cause he seems to know everyone) and had the most awesome tilapia! So good, I wanted to take some back to the hotel. Definitely a Rio highlight that you should try :)
One of the best tours I've ever taken in my life! Don is the man! Highly knowledgeable and very friendly. I'd recommend him 10 out of 10 times to anyone interested in getting an insider's view of Rio de Janeiro.
My last trip to Rio was filled with all things culture - strolling the beaches of Ipanema, visiting Christ The Redemeer, and dancing in the Lapa district.. The most memorable part though, was taking a tour of the Favela's with Don B. DB brings an interesting perspective to life in Rio. His knowledge, love, and appreciation for the city makes his tours an absolute must do! Walking through the Favela with a local is a game changing and eye opening experience. It was the best part of my trip! I loved it so much that I am suggested his tour to all friends, family, and co-workers that are traveling to the city.
On my second weekend in Rio, I met up with Alex on a rainy Saturday morning to tour the Ladeira dos Tabajaras favela. We met at a nearby metro station, proceeded up the winding road into the favela on the back of a scooter, and then hiked up further to several vantage points with great views of the city. Alex expertly navigated the narrow alleyways and steep staircases of the favela that he once called his home, all the while saying hi to old friends, and introducing himself to new ones. He knew how to appropriately interact with everyone that we came in contact with, and made them feel at ease with our presence. During our walk, Alex enlightened me on the way of life in the favela, before finally leading us to a small street café where we chowed down on a rotisserie chicken and shared a giant bottle of local beer. Touring the favela with Alex is an experience that I think you’d be hard-pressed to get any other way. Plus, Alex is a cool guy and an interesting character in his own right, which only made it more enjoyable. Highly recommended.
This tour is a must to see a side of Rio that most tourists probably aren’t exposed to. Alex (“Don Blanquito”) offers a unique perspective, as he’s Jewish and American yet at one time lived in a Favela as a funk singer. I had two concerns about taking such a tour: (1) that it wouldn’t feel authentic and that I’d feel like I was touring the favela like it was some zoo exhibit and (2) I wouldn’t feel safe. But the tour couldn’t have been farther from any of those two things. It seemed as if EVERYONE in the favela knew Alex. He had just appeared on a major Brazilian talk show a few days before our tour and everyone was saying hi to him – it was like he was a celebrity! He knew many of these people and there was a genuine connection with them. Everyone we ran into welcomed us with open arms – and I think Alex’s notoriety helped with that. For a small while, you felt integrated – and didn’t feel like you were just observing. Alex was more than accommodating and had several stories to tell – he has so many unique experiences and such a unique viewpoint that I was thoroughly entertained during the entire tour. A great way to spend a couple hours while in Rio --- very highly recommended! One of the more memorable experiences in Rio.
Alex is a super nice guy, who loves Rio and the Brazilian mentality. His favela tour is informative and save. He takes you to some cool lookout points inside the favela. Since he lives in the favela himself, he knows a lot of people and is greeting everyone and having a little friendly chat, the brazilian way. Go have a look around the favela and feel save having Alex as your tour guide. Cheers! Mel
We had the opportunity to meet Alex Cutler aka "Don Blanquito" while vacationing in Rio de Janeiro in February 2014. Alex was recommended through my good friend's friend of a friend. At first my wife and I were unsure touring Alex's home turf was a good use of our time, but in hindsight we were completely and utterly wrong. The tour was awesome and something we'd recommend anyone visiting Rio do. After exchanging various mails, we met Alex near Copacabana where he gave us an explanation of what was ahead of us. We then went up into Tabajaras on the back of some motorcycles, quickly making our way to the top. Once we got into the community Alex was like the honorary mayor, no lie he knew everyone in the street. It was fascinating watching him interact with the locals and showing three New Yorkers what the average day is like. We made our way through walking up into the neighborhood and taking some great pictures. We then refueled with good meal at a local joint, consisting of beef stew, rice, fiejoada and farofa. We chatted it up and learned more about Don Blanquito, he's got some great stories. Finally we took an old school VW van back to Copacabana, it was a rickety, noisy feel good ride. Once we were ready to call it a day, we said our farewells and ate some frozen acai, which is worth mentioning because it was delicious. We just want to tell everyone Alex is a stand up guy, he is friendly, outgoing and knowledgeable. Think of the tour like hanging out with your buddy in his hometown. Definitely a cool experience!
If you want an off-the-beaten-path favela with someone who has actually lived the favela life, then this tour with Don Blanquito/Alex Cutler is the one for you. First of all, he's super nice and is a font of information. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the favelas, given their past notoriety and recent pacification, but I definitely didn't want to go on something that felt like a zoo tour of the locals. This was the complete opposite; it felt like we were stepping inside instead of just observing from the outside. It was really fantastic to get Alex's view on the history of the favelas, the daily ins and outs of living in one (like how the locals get running water), and also what it takes to move into a favela and become accepted by the locals. The tour quickly morphed from Alex taking us around this "scary," unknown place into him introducing us to his home and neighborhood. It was exactly what I wanted and more. The highlight was the amazing views he showed us at the top; well worth the agony of climbing all those stairs! Tip: Have Alex take you on a night out in Rio if you want experience the nightlife. He also has the best restaurant recommendations! Thanks Alex!!!
Okay....so I wasn't quite sure what to expect from A-Rio B-Don Blanquito C-Favelas in general. WOW---I was blown away. Rio is a city like nothing I have seen before, Don Blanquito/Alex Cutler is a true gem and favelas aren't just an area that are housing some 11 millions people in Brazil they are cultural hot beds, a way of life for many, rich in activity and a neighborhood that bleeds families, friends, fun, daily activities and a hustle and bustle that I have never experienced before! Going with Alex as our tour guide we were able to navigate areas that two American females would not be able to venture solo---the narrow streets, friends and family and pulse was experienced ONLY because we were with him. He gave us history and background stories, explained his own personal story about how he ended up living there and how in the Portugese speaking country of Brazil he found his home in Rio de Janiero. Truly remarkable. Highly recommend!!! Elise Peterson
In the ten days I spent traveling through Brazil, the afternoon I spent with Alex stays with me as one of the fondest memories of the entire trip; from the first pick-up on a motorcycle taxi to the incredible lunch and spectacular views from his favela, I saw a side of Rio that would have been absolutely impossible without Alex. Everything was handled with a fantastic feeling of spontaneity without ever feeling unsafe. Alex has an amazing story and is truly an ingratiated member his community - if you are looking to see an even more beautiful side of Rio, you want to spend a couple hours with him.
This tour was one the real highlights of my trip to Brazil. I've known Alex (Blanquito) since we were in elementary school in Los Angeles so when I decided to visit Brazil, it was a no-brainer to meet up with an old school buddy, especially an interesting guy like Alex who has made a career for himself as a rapper in Rio. He had his driver pick us up from our hotel and bring us to the base of his favela. We walked (up) to a bunch of great view spots, grabbed a drink, checked out some local hangouts... All the while everyone in the neighborhood was very friendly, many sporting "don blanquito" shirts and calling out his name. He's a celebrity in the area and on great terms with everybody. Tour ended with a great meal at his place: beef milanese, chicken, breaded fish, with rice, beans, drink... perfect after climbing lots of stairs. Anyway, I can't recommend the tour enough. You can go to Rio and just sit on Ipanema and Copacobana beach all day, but you'd be cheating yourself, and only seeing a whitewashed tourist version of the culture. With Alex you see how real people live. I will personally tell all my friends that visit Rio that they must not miss this tour. Don B is an entertaining and engaging guy and the tour made me realize that what I thought about favelas was outdated- it never felt unsafe, unfriendly, or even dirty. Nowadays- if you go with Don B- you can have a safe, enjoyable, and beautiful little excursion capped with a great local meal.
Me and 2 of my buddies took the favela tour with Dr. Blanquito, it was a great once in a lifetime experience. We got a great workout as we walked through the favela and up the stairs until we saw stunning views of all of Rio de Janeiro. We all felt like we blended into the experience as it seemed like Dr. Blanquito knew every person who passed us by. The history behind the favela was intriguing, and the food was some of the best we had anywhere in the city. All in all it was a 10 out of 10 experience, and next time I go to Rio I'll do it again!
Going to the favela with Don B was great! He's lived in the favela for the past few years and is a loved member of the community there. Going around the favela with him was like going around with a very entertaining friend. He's made a name for himself by becoming a rapper, and lots of people in Rio know him from the music scene. We discussed the history, politics, and everyday life stuff regarding the favelas. It was very edifying, and we had a great time learning about how he got started when he first moved to Rio and integrated into the local community. At the end of the tour, we went to his house to have some of the most delicious chicken/fish and rice we've ever had on our trip. He even gave us pointers about nightlife and other things to do during the rest of out trip!
Don Blanquito AKA Alex AKA A Must In RIO! My husband and I were lucky enough to have a friend refer us to Alex prior to our trip so we had him lined up well before our arrival in RIO. Alex brings a local flavor to everything you do from a simple taxi ride to a grand tour. Alex's enthusiasm about the city is contagious, he truly loves RIO and is very knowledgeable about MANY things from the history to the common everyday happenings. A tour of a favela is an absolute, positive must do while in town and there's no way to do this without Alex, he lives in a favela so he can casually get you through with no issues at all...in fact he knows every damn Carioca (local folks ;))walking the streets and will introduce you. He was a great resource for restaurant recommendations, including taking us to an amazing one with a fantastic view up in Santa Teresa. YUM. This is not a typical boring/awkward tour guide experience...you will be engaged from the minute you shake his hand. See RIO through Alex's eyes and I promise you will not regret it. He shared his personal life with us and we have a new friend for life down in Rio. Big Thanks to ALEX. Caroline & Jacob
I recently traveled to Rio with four friends and we had the pleasure of spending two days hanging out with Alex aka Dan Blanquito. Alex was gracious enough to take us on a tour through his favela, which is perched above Copacabana. It was a fascinating experience and we had the opportunity to interact with many locals as well as take in the incredible sights. Alex is an affable guy and made us feel right at home. We even had lunch at his apartment. The next night, Alex hosted us at a local nightclub where he and some other musicians were performing. This was by far one of the highlights of our trip and few tourists have the opportunity to experience the "real" Rio. If you find yourself in Rio looking for a real cultural experience, give Alex a call. He will make your trip!
Where to begin, Alex should be listed on every travel site as a "must-do" in Rio. Myself and three friends were wrapping up a couple weeks in South America, (Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Florianopolis, and ending in Rio;) keeping with the spirit of the trip we wanted to SEE the places we were visiting, not just the sights offered up on postcards. Enter Don Blanquito! Any apprehension we had about visiting the Favelas with an American was immediately dispelled within our first few minutes. Zig-zagging through the narrow streets, we came across a group of 10 or so guys. Before I was able to realize two of them were sporting Don Blonquito tank-tops, we heard the shouts of praise, "BLONQUITTTTTOOOO!" The man has earned the respect of his neighbors, and in doing so can take you through an area most visitors don't get to experience. We never once felt unsafe, unwelcome, or as though we were the standard tourist. He shared insightful knowledge of his favela, the evolution of favela's in Rio, a bit of his own personal experience and how he arrived there (fascinating,) and struck a perfect balance of intelligent and funny. We were so pleased with the tour, we agreed to have Alex take us Lapa that evening. For those unaware, Lapa is an area in Rio where people take the party from bars and clubs to the streets. I presume some foreigners venture there themselves, but it definitely was a HUGE advantage having Alex there with us. He explained the "scene," worked with vendors and bartenders getting us drinks (mannnny drinks,) took us to a bunch of different spots we would not have known about, and again made the experience SO MUCH more pleasurable in feeling completely safe the entire time. In summation, no matter how long your trip to Rio, or what you planned on doing, find a way to take advantage of Alex's services. He is the reason your travel, meeting new, interesting, and cool people in new, interesting, and cool places. Thanks again Don Juan!
First of all, Alex also called Don Blanquito, is a great person to meet. He is nice, open and very welcoming and also I felt super safe with him. On top of it, he is a great singer (rap) & we were lucky & got a CD of his songs :) Besides, the Favelas tour was great. We did it on our first day in Brazil and I recommend it :) It was real. We didnt feel like tourists who come and "visit" or "observe" how is the favela (some tours operator do it like they would visit a zoo) but we really felt like we were meeting with a friend who was living there; we had food there and met locals. Besides, favelas are not as dangerous as they used to be in the past so we really didnt fell scared at all anytime. Conclusion: alex is great, the tour is great too & it's not possible to get a better view of Rio than from a Favela ! Merci Don Blanquito. Johanna from Paris