Praia de Ipanema
Pedro Kirilos/RioturPraia de Ipanema

The best beaches in Rio de Janeiro

Whether you’re a sunbather, a surfer, or just looking to chill by the shore, Rio's coastline has something for everyone. So, pack your beach bag and let’s hit the sands!

Renata Magalhães
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"From Leme to Pontal, there’s nothing quite like it," as Tim Maia once said. We couldn’t agree more and would even add Praia Vermelha in Urca and Praia do Flamengo, which now and then graces us with swimmable waters after years of being off-limits. The truth is, Rio's coastline boasts stunning beaches for all tastes – some are always crowded, while others are mostly frequented by locals or surfers. Not everyone knows this, but there's even a nudist spot for the more daring. Sure, Copacabana draws tourists from all over (and rightly so), but there are other seaside gems worth exploring during your stay.

Did you know? Rio has 27 lifeguard stations managed by Orla Rio, the concessionaire responsible for over 300 kiosks on the beaches. Designed by architect Sérgio Bernardes, these stations are iconic landmarks offering public bathrooms with showers and serve as great meeting points.

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The best beaches in Rio de Janeiro

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After a long history of pollution due to its location in Guanabara Bay, “Caribrejo” (a nickname likening it to the Caribbean) is now safe for swimming. This is thanks to rerouting the Carioca River, which used to channel sewage directly into the bay. The beach offers a paradise-like setting with a stunning view of Sugarloaf Mountain and plenty of kiosks for sipping coconut water or a cold beer. It's less frequented than other South Zone beaches, but that’s changing fast.

Tip: Great for sports, both on land and water, including the trendy bike boat where you pedal on the water.

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With its reddish sand, Praia Vermelha is one of the city’s most scenic beaches, boasting calm waters—a rarity in Rio. Nestled below Sugarloaf Mountain, you can see the cable cars going up and down while you sunbathe. The military presence ensures a safe and family-friendly environment.

Tip: Check out the Gago Coutinho trail for a green path up to the lookout. Nearby restaurants are good, but Terra Brasilis stands out for its view and cuisine.

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An extension of Copacabana Beach, Leme is a calmer stretch of the South Zone’s coastline. Its wide sandy area is a hangout for a cool crowd, including musicians, fashionistas, nightlife enthusiasts, and cannabis fans. Sometimes, the waters are so clear and calm it's called “Leme de Noronha,” a nod to the Pernambuco paradise.

Tip: Visit the Mureta do Leme, known as the Fishermen's Path, for acai with whipped cream and photos with a statue of writer Clarice Lispector. Also, the Leme Fort offers an eco-trail with stunning views.

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The "Little Princess of the Sea" earned its nickname from a song by João de Barros and Alberto Ribeiro. Copacabana Beach attracts tourists worldwide, especially on New Year's Eve with its massive fireworks and live performances. From the classic Portuguese pavement to the diverse crowd, it’s a must-see.

Tip: Visit two military forts with amazing sunrise and sunset views. Don’t miss Café 18 do Forte at the Copacabana Fort for a breakfast beyond the traditional colonial style. The area is packed with hotels, bars, and restaurants for every taste and budget.

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Left of the Arpoador Rock, this lesser-known beach is accessed by foot, via a walkway and plaza. It's a local favorite for relaxed beach games like frescobol and water sports like surfing. The small sandy area surrounded by coconut trees is perfect for sunbathing.

Tip: The name possibly comes from its powerful waves during high tide, so be cautious even if you're an experienced swimmer.

 

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A favorite among locals, this beach is always buzzing. Fun fact: the first public bikini appearance in Brazil was here in 1948. The beach starts at a rocky formation, perfect for stunning photos. It’s common to see people applauding the sunset—a divisive tradition, but universally beautiful.

Tip: Check out the Alalaô Kiosk, the first art and sustainability-focused kiosk on the coast, often featuring live music. Visit the nearby River Gallery for a variety of trendy shops.

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Known for the striking contrast between the sea and Morro Dois Irmãos, Ipanema Beach was just voted one of the world’s best by Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice. The waters are usually clear and calm, earning it the nickname “Brazilian Caribbean.” Made famous by the song “The Girl from Ipanema,” you can find a statue of composer Tom Jobim near Arpoador.

Tip: On Sundays, the roads close to cars until 6 PM, making it perfect for walking or biking.

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An extension of Ipanema, Leblon is quieter and a bit more upscale, reflecting its status as one of Brazil’s most expensive areas. Prices for chairs, umbrellas, and snacks are higher, but it’s a great spot for families with kids, featuring the Baixo Bebê area with activities, toys, and amenities.

Tip: At the end of the beach, near the Vidigal climb, there’s a lookout with a stunning view of the Leblon and Ipanema coastline.

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Attracting those seeking tranquility, São Conrado is also popular with surfers for its good waves despite a history of pollution. Stretching over 2 km with fine, soft sand, it’s framed by mountains, including the imposing Pedra da Gávea. On the right, known as Pepino Beach, you can watch paragliders land from Pedra Bonita or even book a tandem flight.

Tip: The revamped kiosks are a hit, particularly Barthô for late afternoon drinks and Qui Qui for its loyal crowd and great food.

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Often overlooked, this beach is inside a gated community but open to the public. Its 300-meter stretch can be walked in under ten minutes, and during high tide, it becomes inaccessible. Known among surfers and artists for its clear waters, it also forms a natural pool perfect for kids.

Tip: After sunbathing, a 30-minute walk takes you to the Mirante da Joatinga, adorned with colorful tiles. Bring your gear, as vendors only appear in peak season.

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At the start of Barra Beach, this vibrant spot is popular day and night, ideal for a beachside stroll before hitting nearby kiosks and bars. The famous Barraca do Pepê is a youth hotspot. The area’s bike paths are perfect for cycling, and it’s common to see kite and windsurfers in the morning and late afternoon.

Tip: Close by, Ilha da Gigóia offers a rustic vibe and many dining options, accessible by boat. Try Ocyá for fish or Gioia Cucina Italiana for amazing pasta.

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With nearly 15 km of coastline, Barra Beach is often voted a favorite by cariocas. Its stunning combination of open sea, islands, restinga vegetation, and mangroves is breathtaking. The calm waters sometimes resemble a pool, while other days bring perfect waves for surfers. The many kiosks and high water quality make it a top choice.

Tip: The bustling Avenida Olegário Maciel is lined with shops and bars, always lively even on weekdays.

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For those wanting to escape the South Zone chaos, the Reserva is a wild, extensive, and sparsely populated beach between Barra and Recreio. It’s within the Marapendi Environmental Reserve, featuring soft white sand and restinga vegetation. The clean but chilly and strong waters attract surfers and families alike. Alongside Prainha, it's one of the few to receive the Blue Flag, an international eco-certification.

Tip: Come prepared as there are few vendors and kiosks.

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While the buzz is around Posto 12, this beach remains quieter and less crowded than its South Zone counterparts. It hosts various surf and bodyboard competitions and offers stunning views surrounded by the Atlantic Forest. The Portuguese pavement returns here, adorned with fish designs instead of Copacabana’s waves.

Tip: Visit the Chico Mendes Municipal Nature Park to see endangered species and enjoy picnic spots and trails.

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Packed with kiosks and vendors, the Pontal de Sernambetiba beach, known as Macumba, has calmer waters near the rocks, but it’s still a surf and longboard haven. Fine, light sand makes it ideal for beach volleyball or relaxing. The car-free Sundays create a pleasant leisure area.

Tip: At low tide, a narrow path leads from the beach to a rock formation, and the one-hour climb offers a breathtaking view.

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Rio’s only nudist beach, Abricó, is within the Grumari Environmental Protection Area. It has a wild feel, with lush greenery and rocks. A staircase leads to a bar area, and heading left, large rocks mark the nudist section. Managed by the Abricó Naturist Association, which ensures adherence to international naturist rules, they are present on weekends.

Tip: While the association ensures naturist etiquette on weekends, you may encounter clothed visitors during the week. The waters are rough, and there are no vendors.

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Known for its giant waves, this surfer-favored beach is over 2 km long with stunning green surroundings and preserved restinga vegetation. It’s far from crowded, offering calm and peace to those seeking it. It’s part of an Environmental Protection Area, so keep an eye out for wildlife and respect the rules.

Tip: Reserve early and bring everything you need; food kiosks close before sunset. Nearby Prainha offers similar beauty and surf appeal.

 

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