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Rio de Janeiro: City of Beaches

Find Your Perfect Beach Scene
Rio de Janeiro: City of Beaches
With their dramatic views and vibrant culture, Rio de Janeiro’s beaches draw travelers seeking sun, scenery, and a taste of the Carioca lifestyle.
By Arturo Lezcano, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Diego Berruecos
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    Find Your Perfect Beach Scene
    Find Your Perfect Beach Scene
    While you’ll feel welcome on every shore, each of Rio’s famous beaches has a unique vibe. Ipanema’s Posto 9 is where the young, wealthy, and tanned go to see and be seen. Leblon is popular with families, while Arpoador and its rocky crags draw surfers, fishermen, and couples hoping for a kiss. On the sands of Copacabana, you can watch the rich and famous—or at least the very wealthy—traipse in and out of the famous Belmond Copacabana Palace hotel.
    Photo by Diego Berruecos
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    Family Time on the Beach
    Family Time on the Beach
    Spending family time on the beach is an important tradition in Rio. All along the sand, you’ll find low-slung nets, intended for child-size games of volleyball or futevôlei (volleyball played with the feet instead of the hands). The international language of childhood allows visiting kids to easily join a pickup game with local little ones. For even more recreation, head to Leblon Beach's Baixo Bebê, where inflatable kiddie pools and a large, enclosed playground offer an alternative to the strong surf. You’ll know you’re there when you see a line of strollers on the black-and-white-tiled beach sidewalk.
    Photo by Ana Schlimovich
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    The Beach as a Work of Art
    The Beach as a Work of Art
    Stroll along Rio’s beachfront sidewalks, and you’re likely to run into Edgar Allan Poe, the Pope, and even Santa Claus—or at least their sandy twins. Talented sand sculptors frequent Rio’s shores, creating celebrity look-alikes, sleeping dragons, and miniature versions of the city’s famous landmarks. For the most impressive work, head to Copacabana Beach, where you’ll see things like delicate castle spires towering four feet above the ground, and the sandy arms of Christ the Redeemer floating over a miniature Corcovado Mountain. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch a sand artist in action.
    Photo courtesy of Forte de Copacabana
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    The World’s Prettiest Gym
    The World’s Prettiest Gym
    On the shores of Ipanema, the sparkling sea serves as a backdrop for what can only be described as the world’s prettiest gym. Head here to watch—or join—a pickup football game, and you’ll quickly understand why Brazil has more World Cup victories than any other country. Even the amateur players are amazing. Also keep an eye out for games of futevôlei (volleyball played with the feet instead of the hands) and frescobal (similar to paddleball). Rio’s beaches are even popular with runners and power-walkers, who cut through the sand in bathing suits and bare feet.
    Photo by Ana Schlimovich
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    Car-Free Sundays
    Car-Free Sundays
    On Sundays, the roads along Rio’s beaches are closed to traffic until the early evening, allowing pedestrians, bikers, and rollerbladers free rein. Rent a bike and enjoy having normally jam-packed roads all to yourself. Pedal past dance parties, street musicians, and vendors selling beer and coconuts while taking in the beautiful landscape. Then, pay a few reals to see how you compare to the tightrope walkers prancing across slack lines strung between the palm trees on Copacabana Beach. The traffic-free days are popular with families, and you’ll see several generations cruising the city together on two wheels.
    Photo by Sávio Martins
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    Surf with the Locals
    Surf with the Locals
    Whether you want to join the fun or just watch, you’ll find plenty of surf spots in and around Rio. The swells of Arpoador are the most popular in the city, so get there early to avoid the crowds. You can also find fairly consistent breaks near Leblon and Ipanema. Just outside Rio, Macumba and Prainha beaches are well known to wave riders. If you’re new to surfing, join a local school like Rio Surf n Stay, which provides gear, a few lessons, and simple overnight accommodations so you can hit the beach first thing the next morning.
    Photo by Ana Schlimovich
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    Enjoy the Beach Without Getting Wet
    Enjoy the Beach Without Getting Wet
    Sun worshipers who don’t want to get wet or overly sandy can take refuge at the small kiosks that line Rio’s beaches. Ranging from funky shacks to modern steel-and-glass structures, the stands offer a place to grab a chair, a bite, and a beer while working on your tan in view of the jagged coastline and shimmering sea. If you’re near one midday, enjoy a quick lunch of crepes, sandwiches, or fish patties covered in a mysterious but delicious spicy sauce. After dark, join the sizable crowds that gather around popular, well-lit kiosks like Deck Zero Nove in Copacabana. 

    Photo by Ana Schlimovich