Brazil has over 4,500 miles (7,242km) of coastline and beach culture is a huge part of being Brazilian. The tanned, scantily-clad locals love to live it up under the sun, embrace chill out time and enjoy life from the shores of their sunny country. You can sit and inhale the salty air from a comfy spot under a parasol with an icy caipirinha in hand, dive into the sand in a rigorous beach volleyball game or cruise the waves on top of a surfboard. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll have fun and a good laugh joining the locals in their playground.
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Copacabana Beach, Rio
The most famous beach in Brazil is the crescent-shaped curve packed with surfers, families, scenesters, old folks and everything in between. It’s a vibrant and fun atmosphere with views on each side. Sugarloaf Mountain looms over you to one side, the old Fort Duque anchors the other end. You can easily send a few days here, just chilling out and grabbing a chopp (draft beer) from one of its many beach bars. Or enjoy a refreshing coconut water straight from a freshly-chopped coconut while checking out the sports games peppering the coast—Copacabana is lined with volleyball nets and football courts. And don’t miss the promenade that hugs a 2.2 miles (4km) of the beach, full of walkers, joggers and rollerbladers strutting their stuff in the sun.
Ipanema Beach, Rio
Ipanema is considered Rio’s chicest and cleanest beach and is surrounded by an upmarket neighborhood of the same name. It first became famous in the 1960s after Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Morais penned the song “The Girl from Ipanema,” and these days, it’s a popular spot the spend the day for both locals and visitors. The beach reflects Rio’s diverse culture, with some sections full of skinny, mega tan, well-coiffed souls, while other areas attract hippies and have a bit of an alternative scene. Yet another spot is known to be where the favela kids hang out and another attracts families and super-sport types. There’s also a well-defined gay section. But everyone is welcome anywhere.
Do note that the beach is also known for its strong undertow. There are lifeguards on duty, but if you avoid swathes of people-free waters and swim where the locals do, you’ll be fine.
Located four hours south of Rio, Ilha Grande had many lives before it became the tropical beach hideaway it is today. First, pirates hung out there, then it was a leper colony and finally it became home to a prison, which contained inmates until the 1990s. These days, it’s a quiet escape from the day to day—motorized vehicles are not allowed on the island, so the loudest thing you’re likely to hear is kids playing, music thumping from a hopping beach bar or visitors laughing while sipping the country’s ubiquitous caipirinhas. Its sleepy main village, Vila do Abraão, is a mellow spot to base yourself and explore the Ilha Grande’s many palm-fringed beaches and the rest of the island terrain is a designated state park. It’s an easy place to indulge in some dedicated lounge time, but many opt to hike up to the 3500-foot (1067m) summit of Pico-do-Papagaio (Parrot’s Peak—from some angles its top resembles a parrots head and beak). The trek takes roughly seven to nine hours round trip.
Trindade Beaches near Paraty
Located roughly 30km south of the colonial town of Paraty, the Trinidade beaches are some of the most popular on this stretch of Brazils coast. It’s an easy hop from Paraty—frequent buses make the journey is under an hour. A bunch of beaches here will compete for your attention: Praia Cachadaço is long and fairly quiet, but still has a few restaurants, Praia do Meio has great waves and attracts surfers. You can also opt to hike 20-30 minutes from the beaches and go on a slide and waterfall adventure. Pedra que Engole is a cluster of two big stones with a gap in between. Water cascades over the rocks forming a little slide you can go down—you feel like the rocks will swallow you up but it’s safe and heaps of fun! Next to the slide is Poço Fundo falls, a little waterfall that tumbles into a deep well, where you can take a refreshing swim beneath the waterfall and in the pool of water.
Porto Barra in Salvador de Bahia: This buzzy beach is situated in Salvador’s Barra neighborhood, and it’s a stunner upon arrival: a pretty white church sits on one end, an old colonial fort on the other and calm, turquoise waters beckon you in between. It’s often compared to Sydney’s Bondi Beach or California’s Venice Beach, and there’s a lot of action here—expect to see fishing boats coming in and out, teenagers (and adults) checking each other out, serious beach volleyball matches and boisterous beach vendors hawking everything from fresh fruit popsicles to shrimp and cheese kebabs. This is an extremely popular urban beach and in summer it’s tough to see the sand among the crush of parasols and scantily-clad people, but in winter it quiets down significantly. Linger late in the day—the beach faces west and offers spectacular sunsets.