The beaches of Rio de Janeiro are the stuff of song and legend—80 miles (129 kilometers) of sparkling, sandy, mountain-backed shores that border this marvel of South American civilization. For the best of Rio’s sun, sea, and sand, these are the beaches you must visit.
Immortalized in bossa nova song, Ipanema Beach (Praia Ipanema) is one of Rio’s two most famous beaches, along with Copacabana. This chic stretch of sand attracts throngs of locals and visitors in equal numbers, with various social groups congregating in different sections of the beach.
Copacabana’s 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) shoreline framed by Sugarloaf Mountain is the stuff of postcards. Arguably the city’s most picturesque beach, Copacabana is almost always buzzing with activity, making it one of the best spots for people watching with a caipirinha in hand or joining a game of beach futebol (soccer).
Barra da Tijuca Beach
Barra da Tijuca, the longest of Rio’s beaches, spans 11 miles (18 kilometers) and is known for its water sports, attracting surfers, bodyboarders, kitesurfers, and windsurfers with its consistent waves. This sun-soaked beach gets busy on the weekends, but it’s rather quiet on weekdays, especially compared to its more famous counterparts.
Vermelha might just be Rio’s most underrated beach. While small, this stretch of reddish sand in a protected cove at the base of Sugarloaf offers calm, clear waters for swimming and a mile-long hiking trail along the rocky Brazilian coastline.
Arpoador sits sandwiched between Ipanema and Copacabana, easily recognized by the large rock jutting into the waves. This somewhat quieter beach is popular for catching a sunset over the Atlantic—and is also known as the birthplace of surfing in Brazil.