The Rio Beach Experience

The beaches of Rio, with the mountainous backdrop, turquoise blue waves, and white beaches are beautiful and you don’t need to bring anything with you enjoy the beach! That pretty much sums it up.

ipanema twin peaks beach palms

Famous Copacabana

Here is the view of Copacabana beach  (you can see the waves crashing) from up high on Sugar loaf mountain:

the beaches from sugar loaf

 Another view of Copacabana:

view of copacabana

How the locals do it

To act as the locals – you walk over to the beach with a conga (sarong) and use this in place of a beach towel. This is actually really practical because when you shake it off at the end of the day, you don’t get particles of sand stuck in the little towel loops!


As soon as you arrive to the beach, a vendor will approach you to see if you want to hang out at their spot and offer you a chair and umbrella.


ipanema and stands

Full service on the beach – umbrellas, chairs, food and shopping

We negotiated the price and paid $10 Reais for a chair and umbrella. After making camp, you can expect someone to come by with a menu and bring you food, drinks and even coconut.


In addition to the food provided by the chair/umbrella stand people, there are other vendors walking around selling a range of goods, everything from shrimp to acai frozen dessert. It doesn’t end at edible delights – there are also congas, hats, jewelry and even bathing suits being sold!


Quick note on bathing suits

Yes, you do see a lot of dental floss (thong bikinis) on all shapes and sizes! People there are not shy and they are all clearly very confident 🙂 It’s not as though everyone there is a Gisele or Adriana (Victoria’s Secret Models), but they seem very comfortable in their own skin which is a beautiful thing –  an attitude which is a lot more positive then the North American culture with tabloid magazines and celebrities thinking they’re not skinny enough.


The sun was hot and the water was cool so it was very refreshing to alternate between the two. The waves were also fun and further down the beach is where people would go surfing. We went to the beach several times – even if it was to only hang out for an hour. It helped that we were staying really close by to be able to fully live this carioca lifestyle 🙂


Safety on the beach

I had read that some people got lured into a false sense of security while relaxing at the beach and had their phones and cameras stolen. This kind of theft could happen anywhere in the world and it’s key to keep your common sense. I saw people using their phones and taking photos with nice cameras and so I brought my phone and camera to the beach too. However, I made sure to wrap it in a towel and I didn’t leave it unattended.


My only negative experience was when some kids started pestering me for money. I couldn’t understand what they were saying and I wanted to be friendly, but it soon became apparent that they just wanted a hand-out. (By the way, after all the negative stories and warnings I heard about Rio, I was concerned about getting mugged, but this incident is the “worst” thing that happened).

There are so many people around on the beach anyway, I think you could always ask for help if you needed it. Especially from the people running the beach umbrella and chair rentals. We did end up telling them that the kids were bothering me and they offered to go talk to them. We said it was no big deal, but advised to keep an eye on them in case they started to harass other people.

Active on the beach

There are lots of different activities going on the at the beach with outdoor gym stations and nets for for team sports.

soccer nets

Iconic sidewalks near Ipanema beach


Many drink stands (alcoholic beverages too) line the street sides.

ipanme beach vendors

caipirinha stand

Another rumor we heard about the beaches was that they were empty and unsafe at night. I didn’t notice that at all. There were people playing soccer (futebol) at night and eating at the vendor stalls along the sidewalk. In front of Copacabana there is even a night market that sells shirts, jewelry and other souvenirs.

copacabana sidewalk

We found a churro stand that had churros filled with chocolate – that was delicious! We also went for many caipirinhas at the stands including one that advertised themselves as the “best in town”. Intrigued, we went for one and it was great! We noted the brand of Cachaça and ended up buying 3 bottles back! On our last night, we went for a run along the beach around dusk – barefoot in the sand – and that was one of my favourite memories from the trip!

bikes on beach sun setting on ipaname

Overall, the beaches were fun, carefree and safe! A great way to relax and do as the locals do while in Rio!

To view my Rio de Janeiro Flickr Photo Gallery, please click here


Read more on how to plan your own trip to South America (my Trip Planning post)


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