Manaus is the gateway to the Amazon and is surrounded by 2 million square miles of jungle. Comfortable hotels start at only $63. On top of the vast array of options for seeing wildlife, you get a more authentic view into the lives of Brazilians than you might find in Rio since fewer tourists venture the 1500 miles away from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. No matter how you want to see the wildlife of the Amazon ecosystem, you’ll find it, but you won’t be bored in the city, either. Manaus sprang up after a rubber boom in the 1800s, and rubber barons had money to throw around at projects like building the opulent Teatro Amazonas, a European-style opera house that is still in use and offers daily tours.