If you go
THE BEST WAY TO RIO DE JANEIROFROM LAX: Direct service is offered on Delta, and connecting service (change of planes) is offered on American, Continental, US Airways, United and Delta. Restricted round-trip airfares begin at $888.
WHEN TO GOCarnival 2010 takes place Feb. 13-16. The top 12 samba schools in the Special Group compete on Feb. 14 and 15, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Access Group parades Feb. 13; the Champions Parade is Feb. 20.
WHERE TO STAYMar Ipanema Hotel, 539Rua Visconde de Pirajá, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 55-21-3875-9191, www.maripanema.com.br. Doubles begin at $380.
Casa Beleza, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 2224-7403, www.casabeleza.net. Rates for the three guest rooms in this bed-and-breakfast start at about $121 but rise during Carnival. Breakfast is included.
WHAT TO DOSamba schools: Learn to dance with the locals at an escola de samba, where as many as 4,000 participants in each school prepare year-round to compete with other schools for Carnival titles and cash prizes.
Samba City: Check out costume workshops and float construction, get a samba lesson and see samba shows at Cidade do Samba, or Samba City, which houses the production units of the city's main samba schools. 60 Rua Rivadávia Correa Gamboa; 55-21-2213-2546; www.sambacity.info/cidade-do-samba.htm. Admission is about $5.50.
Volunteer: Contribute your skills to Iko Poran, a Rio-based organization that places volunteers in social service programs throughout the city. Your fee includes lodging and a monetary donation to a local organization. Parading with a samba school costs a bit extra, but you get to keep the costume. www.ikoporan.org