Blame it on Rio.
Photo source, above image
Whether or not you’ve descended upon the beaches of Rio de Janeiro alongside the other throngs of Olympic supporters soaking in Carioca (local) life from August 5th – 21st, our guide to the area’s best beaches, bikinis and hotels will have you there in spirit – and hopefully, in-person on your next getaway. But first, a few Brazilian beach basics before getting sunkissed on the sand:
1. DO wear a bikini, and if you want to look like a local, get ready to flash those cheeks. Cariocas rarely wear full coverage bikini bottoms.
2. DON’T go topless. As skimpy as their suits may be, Brazilian women prefer to keep them on.
3. DO get your man to wear a sunga, a fitted boxer brief or trunk-style swimsuit.
4. DON’T bring a towel to the beach. This is the same as planting a giant tourist stamp on your forehead. Cariocas bring cangas, large, quick-drying sarongs that double as beach “towels.” (Men, on the other hand are expected to sit their sunga-clad tush directly onto the sand.) Don’t have a canga? Don’t worry – you can scoop one up from one of the many vendors you’ll see within minutes of arriving to the beach.
5. DON’T feel the need to bring food, drinks or hardly anything else with you to the beach. DO feel free to purchase everything imaginable from snacks, sandwiches and fresh acai bowls to water, beer and caipirinhas, even bikinis and aforementioned cangas, from passing beach vendors. Barracas (vendor stalls) lining the beach will also rent umbrellas and beach chairs which, unlike towels, are considered acceptable beach gear.
6. When in doubt, DO Blame it on Rio.
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Barra da Tijuca
Beach: The heart of this year’s Olympics games hosting the Olympic Park, Olympic and Paralympic Villages and a number of media and press centers, this sprawling stretch of sand is the longest of Rio’s beaches at a whopping 18km. A nice alternative to the hectic Zona Sul beaches, expect to find well-to-do locals (and right now, Olympians) sunbathing as well as partaking in a number of active pursuits, including surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing and body boarding. Barraca do Pepe in front of Posto 1 is where you’ll find the most action, but head past and you might just find a slice of Barra beach all to your self.
Stay: La Suite by Dussol, a glamorous, 7-suite cliffside hideaway situated between Barra and Leblon in the residential neighborhood of Joatinga. Artfully appointed rooms lead out onto your private balcony where you can take in panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding beaches, the iconic Christ the Redeemer statute, forest of Tijuca and more.
From left: House of Au+ORA Magical Mystery Tour Bikini Top ($30.00) and Sun is Shining Bikini Bottoms ($30.00) in Sugardaze/Coconut, HatsbyOlivia Customizable Pom Pom Floppy Sun Hat ($65.00), Bali Blue Fringed Pareo Canga in Brazilian Ribbon Print ($18.98)
Beach: Home to Rio’s most upscale and exclusive real estate, expect to find a mix of affluent Leblon residents and families, Brazilian celebrities and in-the-know tourists soaking in the sun at Postos 11 and 12 (numbered lifeguard stands) on this chic, calm, and family-friendly beach. A view of the stunning Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) mountains adds a dramatic backdrop to the south end of Zona Sul.
Stay: Marina All Suites. In addition to its prime location in the heart of upscale Leblon, this chic 5-star hotel boasts 42 modern suites all with ocean views, an open-air cocktail bar, sauna, and a glass-enclosed panoramic rooftop pool. Ed note: we have personally stayed here and can vouch for every 1 of those 5 stars.
From left: Fleur du Mal Triangle Bikini Top ($128.00) and Lace Back Bikini Bottom ($98.00) in Black/White Eyelet Stripe, Moda Operandi “Woke Up Like This” Straw & Leather Panier Marche Tote ($175.00), Bali Blue Fringed Multicolored Rio De Janeiro Pareo Canga ($18.89)
Beach: Home to the hip and trendy, there’s a reason Ipanema’s been dubbed as the sexiest beach in the world – and why it inspired Antonio Carlos Jobim to write the 1962 bossa nova classic “The Girl From Ipanema.” Rio’s most attractive alongside well-heeled tourists descend upon this fabled beach hotspot, particularly Posto 9 for the young and beautiful, Posto 8 for a bustling LGBT scene, and between Postos 9 & 10 for a mostly local mix of students, young professionals and above all – a bevy of bronzed bodies.
Stay: Fasano Rio. Designed by Philippe Starck and inspired by bossa nova, this 1950s-meets-contemporary addition to the Fasano hotel dynasty is the place to see and be seen. After catching some zzz’s on your 300-thread count Egyptian linen bed (all 89 rooms come equipped), enjoy the view from your private balcony of what is arguably one of the sexiest stretches of sand worldwide.
Beach: Hidden between Ipanema and Copacabana, Arpoador beach at Posto 7 is lesser-known to tourists – which is just fine with the Carioca surfers, paddleboarders and hippies who call this idyllic cove home. After a long day in the surf, join the crowds climbing up on the beach’s large rocks to take in and cheer the panoramic sunset over the Dois Irmãos peaks.
Stay: Hotel Arpoador, a six-story laid back pick laying claim as the only hotel from Copacabana to Ipanema that doesn’t have a busy street running in between the hotel and the beach. Minimal -yet-welcoming rooms take you seamlessly from sleep to sun & surf, then to a well-deserved cerveja bem gelada (very cold beer) from the property’s open-air beachfront bar.
From left: Rip Curl Sun Warrior High Neck Bikini Top ($49.50) and Luxe Hipster ($46.00) in Dazzling Blue, Rip Curl Women’s Wetty Long Sleeve UV Tee ($44.99), Neutrogena CoolDry Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 ($8.99), Bali Blue Globo Biscuits Pareo Canga in Red/Yellow ($18.98)
Beach: This famed and history-riddled 4km stretch of sand has seen it’s share of ups and downs – going from Hollywood grandeur in the 1920s & 30s to seedy in the 70s & 80s to back on the rise again. Expect a mix of locals and tourists soaking in the sun on this laid-back beach, where you’re bound to find Cariocas kicking around a soccer ball, practicing capoeira or playing beach volleyball. While sipping a Brazilian beer or caipirinha from a beachside barraca, take in the sight of cable cars running back and forth up nearby Sugarloaf Mountain.
Stay: The iconic Copacabana Palace, a symbol of retro Rio glamour welcoming a mix of tourists, locals and the rich & famous alike since its doors first swung open in 1923. After lounging poolside followed by cocktails at the Copacabana Piano Bar, try not humming yourself to sleep to the tune of Barry Manilow.
From left: Basta Surf Samoa String Bikini Top ($54.00) and Tie-Side Bottom ($54.00) in Tangerine, ShopShade Acrylic Lucy Shields in Orange with 100% UV Protection ($80.00), Bali Blue Fringed Pareo Canga with Brazil National Flag ($13.40)
Beach: The perfect day trip or weekend getaway out of Rio, a 2 1/2 hour drive northeast takes you to chic Búzios, a small fishing village put on the map in the 60s when discovered by one Brigitte Bardot. Today this paradise-filled peninsula is considered by many to be the best beach destination in all of Brazil, offering a lively yet charming scene dotted by bobbing fishing boats, cobblestone streets, idyllic coves and a choice of 26 different beaches.
Stay: Casas Brancas, a stylish, welcoming and relaxing hillside haven just a 5-minute walk from the center of town. 32 rooms exude the feel of a chic Mediterranean residence, many with terraces and a picturesque view of Búzios Bay.
From left: Ashley Graham x swimsuitsforall Double-Cross Siren Bikini in Red ($109.00), Karena + Katrina Beach Waves Sea Salt Texture Spray ($23.00), Bali Blue Fringed Pareo Canga with Multicolor Mosiac Print ($18.98)