What Tourists Need to Know About Rio de Janeiro's Beach Culture

In Rio de Janeiro, the beach is the center of life. This is the place where the rich and poor alike gather to relax, meet friends and play sports. No matter the reason for your visit to Rio de Janeiro, beach time is a must, even if it's just to soak in the beach culture and observe Rio's residents doing what they do best.  

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Choosing a Beach to Visit in Rio

Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
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Rio de Janeiro's beaches are divided by postos, or lifeguard posts, and just about every posto has a unique feature.

Postos 1 through 6 are located along Leme and Copacabana Beach and alongside some of the city's most glamorous real estate. The postos along Copacabana, postos 2 through 6, were the site of beach volleyball during the 2016 Summer Olympics. Posto 6 is also a popular place for stand-up paddleboarding and is the site of Copacabana Fort and the Historical Museum of the Army. This is also where the Olympic triathlon and marathon swimming events took place.

Posto 7 is the small beach called Arpoador, popular with surfers and families thanks to its quieter, more relaxed vibe.

Postos 8 and 9, located on Ipanema Beach, tend to be busy with younger crowds who gather here to socialize with friends in afternoons and evenings. You will find a gay-friendly area marked with rainbow flags.

Posto 10, another stretch of Ipanema, tends to attract the wealthy who live in the neighboring area, while Posto 11 (Leblon Beach) attracts an even more exclusive crowd. It is here that you should go to see celebrities in Rio, including some of Rio's wealthiest residents, including soccer stars and soap opera actors, who live in the mansions near the beach. Nearby Posto 12 includes a baby-friendly area, good for families with small children.

You'll soon notice that Brazilians love to practice sports on the beach. Beach volleyball and soccer are popular, but you'll also see the local invention, futevólei, or footvolley, which is volleyball played with the feet. 

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What to Wear on the Beaches of Rio

Most beautiful beaches in Rio de Janeiro
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Brazilians don't wear much on the beach. Women and girls always wear bikinis, and many women choose tiny bikinis that include triangle tops and a bottom that has slightly more coverage than a g-string. Men usually opt for a sunga--a pair of tight-fitting, square-shaped swimming trunks. Baggy swim clothes are uncommon. 

You'll quickly notice that Brazilians have little inhibition when it comes to hanging out on the beach in just their small swimsuits. People of all shapes, sizes, and ages do so (but going topless is a no-no). It's common for them to walk the famous sidewalks along the beach in just a bikini and Havaianas. 

Most Cariocas, as Rio residents are called, use a canga--beach sarong--or beach chair to sit on. Sarongs can be purchased on the beach, and some hotels in Rio offer beach equipment for free use or rental.

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What to Eat on the Beaches of Rio

what to eat on Rio beach
Jenna Francisco

Beach culture in Brazil includes all kinds of tasty beach snacks. Barracas, or tents, offer a range of healthy snacks and drinks.

Be sure to cool off with an agua de coco, or fresh coconut water, which is said to be an excellent way to hydrate after spending time in the sun. Rio locals also enjoy beach snacks like corn, açaí bowls with granola and bananas, grilled kabobs of cheese, nuts, and esfihas (flatbread with beef, spices, onions, or mustard greens). Typical beach drinks include the famous caipirinha and an ice-cold beer, usually a light Pilsner or lager like Antartica or Brahma. 

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Safety Tips for the Beaches of Rio

Leme Beach
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Most beaches in Rio de Janeiro are safe thanks to increased security and crowds. However, use common sense safety tips while visiting the beaches.

Don't leave things behind even for a moment--if you go in the water, ask a friend to watch your things. Avoid hanging out on the beaches at night, and avoid areas where there are few people. Don't bring valuables like expensive jewelry or cameras to the beach.