Rio de Janeiro has a little of everything for a traveler: luxury hotels, nightlife, samba, soccer, forests, and much more. But perhaps the city's greatest attraction is its beaches. The beaches of Rio de Janeiro are not just beautiful; they're also a place to soak in Brazilian beach culture. This is where Cariocas love to relax with friends and family, sunbathing, playing futevolei, and enjoying an ice cold beer or coconut water. Expect crowds on the weekends, but look for some of the city's lesser-known beaches on weekdays when you just might find few visitors despite being in a city of 7 million.
One of the city's best-known beaches is Ipanema, made famous worldwide with the Bossa Nova classic "Girl from Ipanema." Located along the luxury apartment buildings of the neighborhood of the same name, Ipanema beach is perhaps the chicest beach in the city. Both safer and cleaner than its neighbor, Copacabana, Ipanema beach is a great place to catch the sunset but not for swimming due to the undertow and large waves here.
Praia da Copacabana (Copacabana Beach) is where the action is. This long stretch of beach runs along the Copacabana neighborhood of high rise apartment buildings and hotels. This is where locals and tourists alike come to play. Come here to watch Cariocas relaxing and playing beach sports both in the day and evening (the beach is lit and has a police presence, making it a relatively safe option).
This crescent-shaped beach is located just a short drive past Barra da Tijuca southwest of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Come here for the clean sand and water, natural beauty and tranquility, especially on weekdays. The nearby fish restaurants are a great choice for lunch.
Barra da Tijuca
This long stretch of white sandy beach spans about 8 miles, and thanks to its sheer size, it's less crowded and cleaner than some of the city's better-known beaches. Check out kiosk number 1, where a young, in-the-know crowd tends to gather. Despite its location outside the city center, Barra da Tijuca will be at the center of the action in 2016 when many Olympic events will take place here.
This small beach in the city of Rio de Janeiro sits under Morro da Urca, one of the granite slabs next to Sugarloaf Mountain. Due to the fact that the beach is protected by the hills, the water here is generally calm, but it's the views of the surrounding hills that are this beach's main attraction.
Praia de Grumari (Grumari Beach) is located about 20 kilometers west of the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Thanks to this beach's location outside the city and inside a nature reserve, you'll find a rustic beach, one that's cleaner and more peaceful beach than those inside the city (except on weekends when locals pack this beach in an effort to get away from the city).
To get here, you can take a public bus from the city to the nearby Recreio dos Bandeirantes. If you drive, you'll need to take a small winding road past the beach of Prainha.
Leme is actually a section of Copacabana Beach, located along the easternmost kilometer of Copacabana. This section is a bit calmer than the rest of Copacabana, meaning that you'll see families relaxing here along with the more fashionable locals and tourists. Grab a beach snack or coconut water at one of the beach kiosks and settle in to soak in the views of the nearby morros (granite hills that bookend the beaches) and locals playing soccer.