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Insiders' Guide to Rio

Brazil-born designer Paula Hermanny ping-pongs between San Diego, where she runs her company, Vix Swimwear, and Rio de Janeiro, where her beach and resort-wear lines are made. Here are her picks for couples honeymooning in South America's steamiest city.

Check into ...

Hotel Fasano. My house is nearby, so I go there quite a bit. It has a super-cool restaurant and bar, and a rooftop pool with gorgeous views.

If that's too pricey ...

Marina All Suites is a boutique spot with contemporary rooms in Leblon, one of the best neighborhoods for shopping.

Whichever you choose, be sure to spend some time in ...

Ipanema, famous for its vibrant beach culture and amazing people-watching. Every Sunday there's a street fair that's filled with vendors, called Feira Hippie -- pick up a pair of handmade strappy leather sandals.

For world-class surfing ...

Head to Arpoador, between Ipanema and Copacabana. But I love it because it gets the most sun in winter.

If you want something secluded ...

Visit Prainha, a beach not too many people know about. It's far from town, wild, and just beautiful. Grab lunch at Bira's, a wonderfully rustic restaurant. They do a great moqueca de peixe, which is a traditional fish stew.

Speaking of seafood ...

Satyricon in Ipanema probably has the city 's best -- and many celebs, like Madonna, have eaten there.

For a memorable night out ...

Get yourself to Scenarium in Lapa, where you can listen to sophisticated samba. Or, hit Zozo in Urca for dinner and, later, dancing. Mingle with real cariocas [Rio residents] at Baixo Gavea, which is like a fun street party with everyone drinking caipirinhas or beer -- Skol's the best -- outside.

Then day-trip it to ...

The town of Armacao dos Buzios, which has beautiful beaches (though the waves can be strong) and shops and cafes lining Rua das Pedras, or "Stone Street." Try Bar do Ze at Armacao Beach, in front of the Brigitte Bardot statue.

If you're thinking of marrying here ...

Hotel Santa Teresa, formerly a coffee plantation with a beautiful farmhouse, would be perfect for an intimate ceremony. For a big, glamorous event, I'd choose Parque Lage, which was originally a palace given by a count to his opera-singer wife in 1920. Today, it's an art school you can rent after class lets out.

Bring back ...

Anything from Osklen -- it was founded in Rio, and the clothes have a relaxed elegance that matches the city 's spirit. Natura's skincare products are also incredible. They use fruit and nuts from the Amazon.

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