When you visit Brazil, you quickly learn that São Paulo is for business and Rio de Janeiro is for pleasure. To that end, Rio de Janeiro is also known for its seaside location as well as the giant Christ the Redeemer statue which overlooks the city from the top of Mount Corcovado. You can also see the granite-peaked Sugarloaf Mountain with its cable cars and sprawling shanty towns (also known ass favelas). However, Carnival is not to be missed! The Carnival festival draws more than two million visitors with its parade filled with samba dancers, colorful floats, and flamboyant costumes. Beyond Carnival, though, the beaches are one of the greatest attractions people have to Rio. We have some personal favorites, as well.
You might not be the girl from Ipanema and you don’t need to be, but you may feel like her when you visit this glorious beach which covers the waterfront of the affluent Ipanema neighborhood. Easily recognized in photos because of the Dois Irmãos or Two Brothers mountains at the end of the beach, Ipanema Beach has constant swells from the ocean which helps keep its clear light-blue water clean. Listed as The Travel Channel’s sexiest beach in the world, Ipanema is also known for its amazing sunsets which often elicit applause from evening beach-goers.
As the song goes, ‘music and passion are always in fashion’, and this is true at what is arguably Rio de Janeiro’s most famous beach. Popular with tourists and locals alike, Copacabana sits in the shadow (not that there are too many shadows, mind you) of Sugarloaf Mountain. Though it can be crowded, there are a few spots with some extra elbow room, like Leme which is a quieter, family-friendly area. Copacabana Beach is well-known for its annual New Year’s parties when the sands fill with revelers ringing in the new year with live music and fireworks.
A great spot for more than sunbathing, Recreio Beach is popular with surfers and body boarders. Plus it is only 40 minutes away from Ipanema or Copacabana by car. Tourists don’t tend to visit Recreio which means it’s a more laid-back experience. On the edge of the jungle, Recreio is home to casual restaurants which offers a nice break from the hectic atmosphere of Rio – though you will find crowds on weekends and holidays.
Another beach popular for surfing and bodyboarding, Joatinga gets the best sun in the morning and the tide rises dramatically in the afternoon reducing beach real estate. Generally described as isolated and quaint, one thing that deters people from a visit to Joatinga Beach is access. You will need to traverse a steep footpath from the road down to the beach. It’s worth the short 20-minute drive from the Ipanema area as well as the climb down the footpath and even that hike back up.
Prainha Beach is for those of us who do not worry about popularity or being in the ‘now’ place. With golden sand, a mountainous backdrop, and great waves, Prainha is a nice spot for serious beach relaxation. Watch out for those waves, though, this beach doesn’t have life guards.
It’s difficult to make a short list of stunning beach to visit in Rio de Janeiro because they’re all stunning. These, though, are our favorites. So, pack your beachwear and don’t forget the sunscreen.
If the crowds in Rio de Janeiro are too much for your taste, try a private island instead!