Tips for enjoying Rio de Janeiro’s beaches without looking like a tourist

If you daydream of sunbathing on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, you probably have visions of looking tall, tan, young and lovely. But more often than not, you probably just look like a tourist. Thankfully, we have some tips that’ll have you faking the local carioca look in no time, so you can worry more about catching rays than robbers.

Choose the right posto
Some of Brazil‘s most famous beaches — Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon — are located in Rio’s Zona Sul, and their sections are divided by lifeguard stands called postos. The area in front of Posto 6 in Copacabana is crowded and touristy, while Posto 8, recognizable by the large rainbow flag flying over it, hosts a predominantly gay crowd. Postos 9 and 10 have a younger, more bohemian feel. Choose the posto that’s right for you.

Dress appropriately
For the gals, that means itty-bitty string bikinis (appropriately called fio dental in Portuguese) – all women of all sizes wear them so you don’t have to worry about stares. Guys can get by with a pair of boardshorts or speedos. Havaianas are mandatory for everyone. And please, keep your clothes on — or hop in a taxi to Rio’s only official nude beach, Abricó.

%Gallery-150759%Rent a beach chair or bring a kanga (sarong)
A borrowed hotel towel will make you a target in no time. On the more popular strips, beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent. Just sit on one, and someone will come to collect the charge, which should be no more than a few Reais. You can also lie out on a kanga (sarong) brought from home, or purchase one right on the beach. They also make great souvenirs.

Come with an appetite
Most cariocas don’t bring picnics or drink coolers to the beach. Instead, they take advantage of the hundreds of food vendors who make their way up and down the strip, hawking everything from cold beers to iced teas to sandwiches and empanadas. It’s a great chance to sample Rio’s famous street food.

Pay attention to the sunscreen meters
Rio’s most popular beaches post SPF recommendations based on the day’s weather for a variety of different skin tones. Pay heed: southern hemisphere sun is no joke, and nothing spells gringo like a red hot sunburn.

For more posts from Brazil, check out Gadling’s recent coverage of Rio Carnival 2012.