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.


The ultimate guide to Carnival in Rio: parties and parades

What’s Carnival in Rio de Janeiro without its lively parties and parades? Now that planning, packing, and logistics are taken care of, it’s time to think about the important stuff: your social calendar. In this second installment of the ultimate guide to Carnival in Rio, we’ll walk you through some of the main events.

Blocos and bandas

The essence of street Carnival in Brazil can be found in the festive parties that wind their way through the roads of Rio in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. These blocos (street parties) and bandas (Carnival bands) consist of drummers, dancers, and hordes of drunken participants, with a background of samba music. Meanwhile, an entourage of drink sellers purvey cerveja (beer) and caipirinhas (cocktail made of cachaça, lime, and sugar) to keep the crowd appropriately inebriated.

Perhaps the most legendary bloco is the Banda de Ipanema, which this year takes place on February 4th and 18th at 5:30pm. The gathering point is at the Praça General Osorio, and the parade generally goes on for several hours. Expect old-time marchinhas (traditional Carnival songs), flamboyant drag queens, and a particularly touching tribute to the late composer Pixinguinha in front of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Paz.

Cordão da Bola Preta is another popular bloco, drawing up to two million revelers dressed in signature black polka dots on white. This year, the event will take place on February 10th at 8pm and 18th at 9:30am, with a meeting point at Cinelândia.

A searchable list of blocos can be found on the website of Riotur, the city’s official tourism bureau. For the full experience, throw on a crazy costume, hide your valuables, stay hydrated (with both caipirinhas and lots of water), and hit the streets. You never know where you’ll end up!


Another way to experience Rio Carnival is at the city’s costume and black tie balls. The fanciest is the annual Magic Ball, held at the opulent Copacabana Palace Hotel. The ball attracts its fair share of Brazilian celebrities, but it’s also open to the public for the just-above-budget ticket price of $1300. This year, the event will be held on February 18th.

A more reasonable option are the balls held at Rio Scala, one of the city’s most popular nightclubs. With themes like Black Balls (featuring music from Cordão da Bola Preta) and Long Live the Beer! (self-explanatory), these balls are a bit more casual, a bit more rambunctious, and also a bit more accessible, with ticket prices ranging from $70-150.

Samba Parades

Last, but certainly not least, there’s the highlight of Carnival: the samba parades. Thousands upon thousands of spectators gather at the world-famous Sambódromo stadium to cheer on Rio’s samba schools as they put on performances with choreographed dances, elaborate costumes, decked-out floats, and of course, the rich sounds of samba music.

The best schools perform at the main parades on the Sunday and Monday of Carnival (February 19th and 20th this year). Unsurprisingly, these are the costliest parades to attend. If you live in Rio, you can purchase tickets relatively cheaply on the ground starting in January. Otherwise, you have a few options. If it’s not imperative that you get a good seat at one of the main parades, you can take your chances and wait until you arrive in Rio to purchase a ticket from a travel agent. Be mindful that this path becomes more difficult if you don’t speak Portuguese, and there are a significant number of counterfeit tickets floating around. Your other option is to purchase a ticket online through a registered travel agent like While the tickets are sold at a significant mark-up (think $200-300 for a good seat) this option was recommended to me as the safest bet.

If you’re not content to sit and watch, you also have the option of joining the parade by purchasing a special costume package through a registered travel agent. Your costume then becomes your “ticket” into the parade, and you get the chance to march with one of the participating samba schools. Bragging rights don’t come cheap, though; costumes can cost upwards of $500.

For more information on planning a trip to Rio Carnival, check out the first installment in this series: The ultimate guide to Carnival in Rio: planning, packing, and logistics. And stay tuned for on-the-ground coverage of Rio Carnival 2012 starting on February 17th!

[Flickr images via Sarah Ahearn, Rodrigo Soldon, Patricia Figuera,]

Head to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics!

It’s official: Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympics! This will be the first Olympics held in South America, so it’s about time!

Check out the gorgeous and sporty city of Rio de Janeiro in its official candidate commercial.

A few sport and travel-related facts about Rio and Brazil:

  • Beach culture: Locals and visitors alike enjoy the sun and the sand. Chill out on Copacabana Beach, or check out the waves at Ipanema, Leblon, Sao Conrado and Barra da Tijuca.
  • Leading an active lifestyle: Although Rio is first and foremost a beach culture, plenty runners and bikers exercise on the city’s pathways. Hikers and climbers also take pride in the Tijuca National Forest, located on the outskirts of the city.
  • It’s football, not soccer: Football reigns supreme all over Brazil, where its stars go by one name only (like “Pele” or “Ronaldo”), and the stadiums — particularly the famous Maracana Stadium — are packed with painted faces and screaming fans.
  • Famous landmarks: Rio lies in southeastern Brazil between the sea and the mountains, giving it a riverside city appearance. You certainly have seen photos of the the large Christ the Redeemer that sits atop Corcovado Mountain. The statue, built to commemorate Brazil’s first 100 years of independence from Portugal, gazes over the city toward Sugar Loaf Mountain, another city favorite that rises from Guanabara Bay.
  • Nightlife: …and talk about a city that never sleeps! Rio has plenty of great bars and clubs, most of which are located beachside at Copacabana and Ipanema.

Although Rio’s Olympics won’t be held for another 6.5 years, the wild celebration that ensued today after the host city was announced tells us just how ready Rio is to throw a party like the the Games have never seen. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait ’til the summer of 2016!