There are only 20 cities that can boast a beach as an attraction, but Rio de Janeiro has a wealth of them. Copacabana is where all the parties take place, and Grumari is a slice of paradise hidden among the mountains. But life is good on any of these top five beaches.
The Copacabana beach – named after the famous Copacabana Palace Hotel – is one of the best-known beaches in the world. More than half a million Cariocas head here at the weekend to relax. Foot-volleyball-playing playboys and ladies in the skimpiest of bikinis are most characteristic of this beach. Copacabana is for sport, sunbathing, flirting, dancing and making music. The four kilometre-long stretch of sand is the ideal spot to spend the day enjoying sun, sea and sand.
The more affluent inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro make their way at the weekend to the two kilometre-long white sand beach of Ipanema. On the boulevard there are various designer boutiques and small bars where the famous Brazilian caipirinha cocktail is served. A visit to the Garota de Ipanema Bar (originally the Velloso Bar) is not to be missed, because it was here that Tom Jobim wrote the text for the worldwide hit The Girl from Ipanema. The beach owes its fame not only to this summer anthem and its relaxed boulevard. Ipanema also has the most gorgeous sunset in the city with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background.
A few kilometres outside the centre of Rio de Janeiro is the surf Mecca of Prainha (or ‘little beach’). It forms part of a nature reserve and has not (yet) been overrun by tourists. The beach is in the shape of a half moon and is flanked on both sides by high cliffs. Thanks to this there is a very strong current and high waves, making it popular with local surfers.
About an hour’s drive from Copacabana is the hidden gem that is Grumari. This three kilometre-long dark sandy beach lies - like Prainha - in a nature reserve. Grumari is enclosed by high, green hills and immense rock formations, completely cut off from the inhabited world. The local populace loves to come here to escape the hectic pace of the city. Nor far from the beach is the old fishing village of Guaratiba, where various restaurants serve fresh-caught fish for lunch.
The Arpoador beach is known as one of the best places to surf in Rio de Janeiro. Surfers come from all over the world to Arpoador to ride its turbulent waves, which reach heights of between seven and ten metres before breaking on the huge rocks. From the rock formations you’ll enjoy marvellous views out over the city against a backdrop of mountains. In the evening the rocks of Arpoador are frequented by young couples enjoying a romantic sunset.