Praia Vermelha is one of Rio’s smallest beaches but also one of the most scenic. Tucked inside a protective cove that keeps the waves at bay, the beach is covered in coarse sand with a slightly reddish hue. Flanked by the spires of Morro da Urca and Morro da Babilonia, Vermelha Beach offers ground level views looking up at Sugarloaf Mountain. To reach the top of the iconic peak, ride the cable car from Vermelha Beach to the top of Morro da Urca, before transferring over to a second car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Or, to combine a hike with the ride to the top, a steep trail ascends Morro da Urca from the sands of Praia Vermelha, which is accessed by walking the paved walking trail that leads away from the beach. Known as the Pista Cláudio Coutinho, the trail offers stunning vistas and photo ops looking back at the reddish-hued beach, and for a Rio moment you’ll never forget, visit the beach in the hour before sunset to watch as the fading sun illuminates the cliffs and the shoreline in red.
The easiest way to reach Vermelha Beach is by hiring a private taxi, and the kiosks in the park across the street offer affordable food and drinks. The water here isn’t great for swimming, although it’s the sand, sun, scenery—and Sugarloaf—that draw nearly all of the crowds.