Rio is well known for its carnivals. One of the most colorful events in Brazil, the carnival is an experience of a lifetime. If you plan your holidays during these festivities or at any other time, you will no doubt be making a trip to one of the numerous beaches surrounding the city. Whether you’re going to Rio de Janeiro to relax, party, see or be seen, there are so many different beach options that finding the perfect match can be a fun challenge for any tourist.
Here is a list of our top ten favorite beaches in Rio to get you started.
1. Copacabana Beach
Commonly referred to as the world’s most famous beach, Copacabana is affectionately nicknamed Princesinha do Mar (Little Princess of the Sea) and is also famously known as the inspiration for a Barry Manilow song that goes by the same name. Copacabana Beach stretches out over 2.5 miles of golden sand with turquoise waters and is one of the most recognized natural landmarks in Brazil. It draws millions of tourists to the country every year with Copacabana Beach seemingly always being full of people; it is the go-to spot for never ending action year round. Copacabana Beach has played host to 11 out of the past 15 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups as the official venue. On December 31 1994, New Year’s Eve celebrations on the beach featured a Rod Stewart concert with an audience estimated at 3.5 million people, making it the largest concert crowd ever. On July 28, 2013, the beach hosted the final event of the World Youth Day 2013 with about 3 million people in attendance including 3 presidents joining Pope Francis to celebrate a holy mass making it one of the largest religious gatherings in recent history. Once upon a time, the locations around the beach were considered some of the best neighborhoods in the Brazil until the 1970s, when the region declined in social scale and it is now known as one of the most overcrowded urban locations on the planet.
2. Leme Beach
Leme Beach is considered to be a quiet place to visit with some of the most amazing views of neighboring Copacabana Beach and the city of Rio. Although considered a smaller extension of Copacabana, Leme has a more relaxed and family friendly atmosphere. Sun goers bask in the rays while enjoying picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and enjoying some of the most stunning sunsets on display in Rio. Leme is the closest beach to Sugar Loaf Mountain; from here beach visitors can enjoy watching cable cars move up and down Sugar Loaf. The Morro do Leme (Leme Mountain) is located at one end of Leme Beach and is also a favorite fishing spot for locals. Also nearby is Forte Duque de Caxias (aka Forte do Leme) that is a military base open to the public, which was once a bulwark of protection for the city. Now a cultural center, it offers exceptional views of the mountains and nearby beaches. Visitors are also able to walk to the top of Leme Mountain (Morro do Leme) on a steep 800m trail that winds right through the Atlantic rainforest. At the top of the mountain is an 18th century fort providing some of the most breathtaking panoramic views imaginable of Sugar Loaf and the Cagarras Islands below.
3. Arpoador Beach
Hidden between Copacabana and Ipanema, you will find Arpoador Beach, which is popular with families and the more mature beach goers. Arpoador is mostly known for being one of the most popular metropolitan beach surfing areas in Rio. The beach has natural trails that are ideal for a morning or evening walk with splendid views of the coastline making it attractive for couples taking a romantic stroll, or families with children. You can climb the rocks around the beach as long as you have on a good pair of walking shoes. The base of the rocks is packed with large lights that illuminate the beach at night attracting surfers who show off their skills in the waves from dusk to dawn. Spectators often sit on the rocks that overlook the best surf areas to enjoy watching the many surfers that always draw crowds of visitors. The sunsets at Arpoador in midsummer attract even larger crowds to watch the sun setting over the sea, a rare event on a generally east-facing coast. During these nightly spectacles, onlookers tend to cheer when the sun disappears into the sea.
4. Praia do Diabo (Devil’s Beach)
Despite its name, Praia do Diabo, or the Devil’s Beach, is a true paradise with a wonderful environment surrounded by palm trees. This small yet beautiful beach is located just to the left of the rocks at Arpoador separating Ipanema from Copacabana. The serene waters attract swimmers and families looking for a quiet spot to enjoy the sand and sun for the day. The beach offers a great view of Corcovado, Copacabana Fort and Sugar Loaf Mountain. There are a number of restaurants and a few hotels along the beachfront to enjoy some guilt free local cuisine. There is also a rustic outdoor gym affectionately known by the locals as the Flintstones Gym that is great for working off any of your over-indulgences at the nearby eateries.
5. Ipanema Beach
Considered to be the “little Paris” of Rio, Ipanema is renowned for its vibrant social scene, art galleries, bookstores and movie theatres. Dubbed locally as the place where summer happens in Rio, Ipanema beach is the beach, to see and be seen. It has even been recognized by The Travel Channel as the sexiest beach in the world. Ipanema’s elegant developments and the surrounding exclusive residential area is known as one of the most expensive places to live in Rio with affluent neighborhoods full of wealthy residents. If you want to sleep in luxury then you have to stay at Fasano’s which has famously received such celebrities as Madonna, Beyoncé, and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to name just a few. Ipanema beach is bordered by Arpoador Beach on one end and Leblon Beach on the other end. Two mountains called the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) rise at the western end of the beach. In the winter the surf can reach nine feet and constant swells keep the water clean. Every Sunday the roadway closest to the beach is open to pedestrians only, tourist and locals use the opportunity to ride bikes, roller skate or join a match of beach soccer, beach volleyball. Foot-volleyball or just watch some Capoeira. Beer is sold everywhere, along with the popular Cachaça, a traditional Brazilian white rum drink made from sugar cane. At times a little too crowded, Ipanema beach is an iconic stretch of sand that has inspired poets and artists including Antonio Carlos Jobim, with his song “The Girl from Ipanema.” Considered as one of the main centers of beach activity for the city of Rio, there are many people walking throughout the beach offering things for sale and even services like relaxing massages. You can find almost anything you desire at Ipanema.
6. Leblon Beach
Situated just west of Ipanema Beach, Leblon and Ipanema in fact share the same beach, just like Leme and Copacabana. The border is a shallow canal and park known as Jardim de Ala (Allah’s Gardens). The wealthy consider this beach as they’re own little oasis. While similar to Ipanema, but even more exclusive, Leblon is home to Rio’s rich and famous. The beach is quieter and more relaxed than the hip and trendy beach of Ipanema. Leblon is known for having a very bohemian atmosphere, with a very lively nightlife at its modern and trendy bars, nightclubs. Visitors can enjoy many luxury boutiques, high-class hotels and top gourmet restaurants. Families also really enjoy this beach thanks to an area called Baixo Baby located at Posto 12. It is a very large enclosed playground for toddlers and young children. The enclosure keeps the children safe and makes it easier for adults to keep an eye on them while relaxing in paradise. Meanwhile, everywhere you will find tourists enjoying a walk around the area choosing between Thai, French and Brazilian food and just relaxing with a snack while sipping a beverage.
7. Porto da Barra (Barra Beach)
Picturesque Barra Beach is one of the cleanest and largest beaches in Rio. Barra is a mere twenty-minute cab ride from Copacabana but it seems like a million miles away when you get there. It is a popular saying that no matter how crowded it gets at the beach, you will always find an amazing spot at Barra. Whether you love to surf or just soak up the sun, Barra is the place to visit. The beach is situated in a bay making the waters calm and refreshing while the gentle breeze from the Atlantic sea make this a wonderful reprieve from the hot summer heat. The placid water at the tip of the beach help make this an ideal spot for families to enjoy themselves with a small lagoon on the side giving shelter for children and beginners learning to surf. Both new and experienced surfers can enjoy the waves of Barra, which can be known to hit great heights during the high tide. You will find restaurants and small food shacks that supply delicious food and drink along the beach, which are usually well visited during summer weekends from December to March.
8. Recreio Beach
Recreio Beach is at the very west end of the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca. The atmosphere is laid back and a bit bohemian without all the crowds of Ipanema or Copacabana. Most of the visitors to this beach include the elite and wealthy of the area. It is also a popular spot for families, but of course Recreio Beach is an absolute favorite with the most serious surfers. Only recently developed, there are no skyscrapers or tall buildings overlooking the area. The soft white sands are also popular with the volleyball players as there are many volleyball courts set up along the beach. A local skateboard park near Pedra do Pontal is loved by youngsters as it is one of the most popular activity here, however there is also plenty of cycling in the area with many bicycle trails all over the beach and neighborhood. Recreio is a beautiful beach with a very gradual slope into the sea, which means you can go far out from the beach before you are fully under water. Locals recommend walking up the nearby rock formations for the greatest views. Standing on top of the rocks can offer you a magnificent picture of the beach and the green mountains. This rock formation also serves as a natural buffer between Recreio Beach and Macumba Beach. A little further down is Praia do Abrico, a nudist beach, which is a 4-mile stretch of sand that the naturists frequent. If you want to avoid the crowds this is a safe bet.
9. Prainha Beach
Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil it is easy to see why when you visit Prainha beach. The quaint bay of Prainha is absolutely symmetrical with rolling green hills at both ends and a coconut plantation in the middle. The somewhat rough waters of Prainha are ideal for surfing, but the fast and powerful waves that can reach up to around 3 meters are more suited for experienced surfers. Prainha beach is located right after the beaches of Recreio, so if you plan to drive down you will pass a lot of beautiful surf spots before you reach Prainha. The pristine white sands stretch for miles along the fresh Atlantic rainforest mountains, which lend much of its beauty to Prainha. The breathtaking scenery of Prainha provides the perfect setting for a vacation away from the crowds, except on busy holidays when it seems that every beach in Brazil is full. While Prainha remains a secluded beach during weekdays, weekends do tend to get crowded. In addition, it is a favorite spot for production crews to film parts of Brazilian soap operas, so don’t be surprised if you spot some local celebrities during your visit.
10. Praia Vermelha (Red Beach)
In the sands of Praia Vermelha, the Red Beach, you can be see both red garnet crystals as well as pink ones. However that is not the reason for its name, it is actually called Red beach because of the color the sand turns at sunset. Located between Morro da Urca (Urca Mountain) and Morro da Babilonia (Babylon Mountain), Praia Vermelha is a very safe area of Urca. It is seldom crowded and the natural scenery is breathtaking. Praia Vermelha has superb views of the rocky coastline from the shore. Because the beach is protected by the headland, the water is usually calm at the foothills of the Sugar Loaf Mountain. Beneath Morro da Urca, is a nice attraction where you can take good pictures of the cable car and the surrounding hills. There’s also a track surrounding the Sugar Loaf hill, on which you can have a nice view of ships entering the Guanabara Bay.
And just because we can’t seem to get enough of the marvelous beaches around Rio de Janerio, we would be remiss if we didn’t include what is arguably one of the most sensational beaches in all of Brazil and a place of incomparable beauty. So here is our final, extra pick in the list of our top favorite beaches of Rio. We saved the best for last.
11. Lopes Mendes Beach
Some say that just the hike through the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest to Lopes Mendes beach is worth the trip to Brazil alone. The Lopes Mendes beach in Ilha Grande is considered an absolutely must see and was recently voted as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by Vogue Magazine. It is a wide beach with pristine white sand and the crystal clear waters that make the jaw dropping scenic background looks like an image straight from a postcard. The water is shallow a long way out, making for good surfing conditions and the beach is usually deserted making this the perfect quiet getaway if you just want to relax while taking in the scenery and marveling at the true wonder of nature that is Lopes Mendes.