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 ten best cities for sunbathing

After you’ve been cooped-up inside all winter, that first day of nice weather at home feels like a gift from heaven. Clothes come off, frisbees start flying and the hardcore sunbathing begins. Even if it’s still cold where you live, the prospect of warmer days ahead looms large. In preparation for the endless days of spring and summer, here’s ten of our favorite spots for sunbathing around the world. Grab yourself a towel and some sunscreen and check it out.

10. Barcelona, Spain
Barceloneta Beach is ideally located at the water’s edge in Barcelona with fantastic restaurant and nightclub options at the nearby boardwalk. While the cleanliness of the sand has been an object of controversy in recent years, Barceloneta cannot be matched for its proximity to the many urban options that Barcelona affords. When you tire of the Mediterranean sun, there is Las Ramblas, La Sagrada Familia, Montjuic, Park Guell, and the smattering of architectural tributes to Gaudi.9. Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles offers a wide variety of beaches, from gritty Venice Beach to trendy, hip Malibu. For the best sunbathing, Zuma Beach in Malibu is the destination. A city surrounded by beach options, Zuma is one of the largest and most popular options in Los Angeles County; known for its long, wide stretches of sand and excellent surf. It consistently ranks among the healthiest beaches for clean water conditions in Los Angeles County. Grab a red one-piece and imagine yourself in a Baywatch episode.

8. New York, New York (tie)
Manhattanites know about Carl Schurz Park. This 15 acre parkland on the Upper East Side boasts a waterfront promenade built over FDR Drive. Sunbathing options abound with winding, shady paths, green lawns, waterfront views, a large playground for children, and two dog runs. Bring a towel and picnic basket, plug in your iPod to Astrud Gilberto and imagine you’re on Copacabana Beach.

8. Punta del Este, Uruguay (tie)
South Americans looking for an escape retreat to Punta del Este, an upscale resort town invaded by wealthy denizens of Buenos Aires and Montevideo from early November until late February. With a heady ancestral mix of Spanish and Italian descendants, this Southern Hemisphere destination is perfect for those seeking the “endless summer.” Punta has scenic coasts and beaches with the Rio de la Plata on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. All beaches on the peninsula have public access. Sunbathers have the option of choosing quiet and calm areas to others with strong waves and the requisite surfers, all with fine white or golden sand.

7. Bondi Beach, Sydney
Located 20 minutes from central Sydney, Bondi (pronounced “Bond-Eye”) is the quintessential beach abounding with sun, sand, and sensuality You’d be hard-pressed to find more heavenly bodies than on this half-mile stretch of paradise. Bondi is replete with a wide range of food, entertainment and accommodation options nearby. Here you’ll find fantastic waves, sunbathing models, year-round sun and the coolest beach-side vibe anywhere. And if you really want to blend in and look like an Australian, take a surfing class. Lets Go Surfing, conveniently located in Bondi, is one of the most professional surf schools in Australia.

6. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is certainly not a beach, and not anywhere near a very good beach. However, the banks of the Charles River come alive (and shirts begin to peel off) the moment mercury rises above 68. With a population of 1 in 6 attending any one of the many institutions of higher learning, this hip town has a great deal of young eye candy to enjoy without wandering too far from the dignified boundaries of Beacon Hill or the Back Bay. The Esplanade has miles of jogging and rollerblade trails, and an abundance of manicured lawns to enjoy your choice of literature from Isabel Allende to Emile Zola. After the sun sets, you may be lucky to enjoy a concert at the Hatch Shell.

5. Miami South Beach, Florida

It wasn’t long ago that South Beach was nothing more than a tawdry, tacky strip of forgotten beach land. South Beach has experienced resurgence in the past 20 years to become one of the “hippest” beach destinations in the US. The famous strip affords more miles of undulating sand and perfectly sculpted bodies than seems mortally possible. Beautiful bodies can be found on the beaches, but more so in the hotel pools that line the coast. At the end of the day, head inland a few blocks to the stylish clubs, restaurants and shopping along Lincoln Road, Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive.

4. Paris, France
Though not anywhere near a beach, Paris tops our list of “urban” sunbathing options. In 2002, Paris introduced “Paris Plage,” (Paris Beach), a free summer event that transforms the banks of the Seine River into 3 distinct districts. Those in search of a “traditional” beach (as “traditional” as one might find in a city of 3 million) should head between the Pont Neuf and Pont de Sully bridges. With classic French panache, this location features sand and grass beaches, parasols and chaise lounges–all free! Even the obligatory Le Hot Dog is served in French fashion–stuffed inside a baguette.

Near Pompidou Center, the area takes on a tropical flair, while in the northern reaches of La Vilette boating and water sport options abound. When the sun sets, enjoy many of free concerts offered throughout the season. Considering Paris already has nearly everything a visitor could want, we can now add the “Best City for Sunbathing” to the list.

3. Honolulu, Hawaii
With Diamond Head as an impressive background, the beach at Waikiki is a slice of Hawaiian heaven, offering great weather, good restaurants, and a two-mile stretch of fantastic, sandy beaches. Though Waikiki can be particularly costly (parking and food) and overrun with tourists, nearby Kuhio Beach Park is a quieter, more affordable option. The warm, clear, shallow waters cannot be beat. You may be fortunate to be present during the many events the beach hosts throughout the year, including surf competitions, hula dancing, outrigger canoe racing and outdoor performances. Don’t be tempted to lift one of the grass skirts to see if there’s some sort of vibrating mechanism underneath. These movements should not be attempted at home unless a chiropractor is nearby.

2. San Diego, California
In San Diego, the beach is a way of life, a source of pride and a defining influence in people’s lives. San Diego comes in a strong second due to the sheer number of beaches that run the length of an entire county, from its northern extremity at Oceanside to its southern border with Mexico. Additionally, with 365 days of perfectly balanced sunshine per year, San Diego can’t be beat. La Jolla, an affluent neighborhood with several stunning beaches, tranquil coves and foamy surf, is ideal for families.

Heading north, the exclusive communities of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Leucadia have dramatic coastlines and vistas. Film buffs will recognize the Hotel del Coronado from “Some Like It Hot” on Coronado Island. Your sunbathing may (or may not be) interrupted by troops jogging by as the San Diego Naval Base is situated nearby. When the sun sets, the many activities and pleasures of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, Mission Bay, and Sea World are at your doorstep.

1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio’s Ipanema Beach has long been considered one of the Sexiest Beaches in the World, Combining the very best any city has to offer with great restaurants, fashionable clubs, and world-class museums, the beach at Ipanema tops our list. Brash with Brazilian style, Ipanema sways to its own captivating rhythm. Somehow I must have gotten by the sensors on the beach which magically prevents anyone from entering with more than a single-digit body fat index. With bravado, the young, fit and beautiful Brazilians hold court one of the most enticing sunbathing destinations on earth.

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!

Sights Unseen

Don’t you just love when you seem to have hit the zeitgeist moment for a trip? We had been planning a trip that would take us through Rio when U.S. News & World Report ran its cover story on Sacred Places in the World with the Christ the Redeemer statue on the cover. Brazil trades as heavily (arguably, more so) on this iconic statue that literally lords over Rio’s beachfront as it does on ‘The Girl from Ipanema.’ Named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the sheer scale of the 125-feet tall Christ statue is a siren call to travelers who want to add a major landmark to their ‘been there, done that’ lists.

But Rio had its own plans on the day we arrived. We landed in the morning to a bright haze at Antonio Carlos Jobim Airport. Not serious cover but the clouds stuck like dryer lint to the surrounding mountains, most notably Corcovado, the one the statue rests on. We figured we could see it the next day before we left, but no such luck. While the sun broke through and turned Copacabana Beach into a sizzling white strip, a cove-curve away, Ipanema Beach remained covered, including the mountains above it.
This isn’t my first run-in with a legendary landmark going shy. A highlight of a cross-country drive in 2001, was to be my first visit to the Grand Canyon. We arrived the week before Christmas and as we drove the last miles up to the South Rim it started to snow. And snow. And snow. We reached El Tovar lodge on the canyon edge, in blizzard mode. Standing against the rock wall at the very canyon edge, I looked out to see … white. Not canyons shrouded in white, not valleys covered in snow. Just … white. We joked that the Canyon had stayed home on account of snow but it was with disappointment that we left without seeing it.

I couldn’t help but think of that day as our taxi careened through the Brazilian traffic, back to the airport for the next leg of our trip. We could see Corcovado, even the suggestion of a straight line like a statue’s base. I waited five more years before I finally saw the Grand Canyon and really, it was worth the second trip. What about you? Have you ever been thwarted — thanks to the weather or fate? — from seeing a landmark in your travels?