This material compliments of Rum & Reggae Guidebooks
Introduction to the Beaches of Rio
(Rum & Reggae's Guide to Brazil - Rio Chapter, 11/12/2005)
Focus on Rio de Janeiro: The Beach Culture
By 10 a.m. Ipanema beach is full of Brazilians sunning, surfing, playing futebol, weight lifting, hustling, drinking natural juice, or simply standing in the sun taking it all in. Beach life in Rio de Janeiro takes precedence over most activities. The beach is, for all cariocas, a place to get tan, show off one’s physique, make money, meet friends, and, above all, relax. It should be central to your visit.
Rio de Janeiro city planners (if you can call Rio “planned”) squeezed the city’s densely populated Southern Zone, or Zona Sul, between beautiful beaches and a chain of steep, rainforest-covered mountains. It is as if the mountains in the interior force human spillage out onto the sand to relieve the pressure from such a densely packed urban environment. So by noon on almost any day of the week in the Southern Hemisphere summer (December–March), there is little room to sit. Winter months (June–September) offer more space, but not much. Year-round hustlers, who sell fried cheese (queijo quente or queijo coalho), soda, beer, and tourist trinkets, manage to weave in and out of the crowd without stepping on too many toes or fingers.
There are five beaches worth a visit in Rio de Janeiro: Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Barra da Tijuca, and Prainha.