There are plenty of districts to explore once you touchdown in Rio, but if you’re a first-timer in Brazil, you’ll most likely end up in Copacabana. Tony might not tend the bar in this hemisphere, but you’re sure to fall in love with the beach. I certainly love it.
Stretching around the bay from Sugar Loaf Mountain and ending at the Rio Fort, Copacabana is a 4km-long arc of gorgeous beach, bordered by an endless stretch of listed high-rise apartments and hotels. While that might not sound great, I wouldn’t worry — you’ll be gazing out to sea (or looking at the insides of your eyelids) for the most part, plus it adds to the character of the area.
Rio, as with most cities, has some traffic issues, but that shouldn’t be a problem for you. There is a thoroughfare close to the coast, but there’s also a two-lane cycle route separating the traffic from the majority of it all. It’s a great way to get to the beach. All in all, there’s over 500 routes to explore, thanks to the Olympics. The cycle lanes were all put in to help tourists get around, and Rio is now one of the world’s best cities for cycling. Take advantage of the SAMBA Public Bicycle System, or even hire yourself a LIME electric scooter to whiz along the beachfront.
And the beach itself? Wow! The Brazilians are 100% set up for the beach. It’s on another level.
Some hotels offer areas with dedicated sun loungers, umbrellas, beach towels and maybe even some little extras like water or suntan sprays. Keep your eyes open for these little perks when you’re choosing a hotel to stay at. You’ll also have access to beachfront changing rooms, toilets (there’s a charge) and some basic restaurants to really give you that well-rounded beach day. The main beaches are also split up by 12 Postos — numbered lifeguard stations that’ll help you get your bearings if you go for a wander.
In between all of this, you do have a lot of beach vendors. Now, I know what you’re thinking… but they’re actually not here for the tourists, nor are they peddling Christ The Redeemer ‘tat’. They’re actually here for the locals, and sell more useful things. Like I said, the Brazilians do beaches on another level. Without moving from your recliner, you can pick up anything from water to cold beer, ice cream to sun cream, a new bikini, sunglasses, hot pizza or a bucket and spade. We ended up buying a football for a game on the beach… and paid on card to boot. If you’re up for it, you can even grab a paddleboard and spot some Copacabana turtles without moving more than 20 feet.
And for a change of pace, once you’ve had your morning sun you can grab your bike and follow the cycle route round to Ipanema. The views to the west from one of the afternoon beach bars as the mist hits the mountains is magnificent. Take another little spin on the bike to Postos 10-12 in Leblon, home to the rich and famous Cariocas, before heading back to Copacabana for the evening markets and beachfront parties. Welcome to ‘the hottest spot south of Havana’. Sorry. Barry!
Check out our holidays to Brazil if you fancy a trip to the Copa, Copacabana. (Yellow feathers in your hair optional.)